Eastern Europe

  • Is the Ukrainian Army Worthy of Greater Investment?

    Last year Washington finally gave Kyiv the javelin missiles it had been begging for. But the javelins are mostly symbolic and won’t change much on the frontlines. For more than six months, Washingtonhas been talking about giving Ukraine additional arms to improve its air and naval defenses. These arms are more likely after Russian ships attacked Ukrainian ones in November 2018. Some experts have put togetherlists of equipment that the United States could easily give or transfer.

    But before we get ahead of ourselves, Congress may wonder if the Ukrainian army is any good and whether the funds will go to waste. Is the Ukrainian army worthy of greater investment? 


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  • Ukraine’s Leading Presidential Candidates (Minus Poroshenko) Promise to Fight Corruption

    In Ukraine, demand for a genuine fight against corruption is still extremely high. According to recentsurveys, voters name corruption as one of the three biggest problems in Ukraine. Nine out of ten Ukrainians consider grand political corruption the greatest threat to the country, while 80 percent are convinced that the main reason for corruption is a lack of accountability. A majority of Ukrainians say that the president bears the largest responsibility for the fight.


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  • Why Zelenskiy Is the Only Decent Choice for Ukraine

    Ukraine’s presidential elections present a difficult choice for those who want to see the country of 44 million finish what it started in 2014. Sadly all reliable opinion polls indicate that experienced reform candidates have no chance of winning. Former Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko currently stands at around 8 percent and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi at 4 percent. It is highly unlikely that either will significantly increase their appeal in the coming six weeks.

    Two candidates with long experience in Ukraine’s politics have a chance of making it through the first round: President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, they have poor reform credentials.


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  • Geers Quoted in Politico on How Ukraine Became a Test Bed for Cyberweaponry


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  • Why a Zelenskiy Presidency Would Be a Disaster for Ukraine

    The world is in turmoil, Russia occupies part of Ukraine, reforms in Ukraine still have a way to go, and democracy is in retreat in much of Europe.

    One would think Ukrainians would be worried. One would think they would want an experienced person at the helm. Instead, they may be about to elect the 41-year-old television comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as their next president.


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  • How Ukraine’s Leading Comedian Pulled Ahead in Polls

    On February 7, hundreds of Facebook users in Ukraine posted videos with red nose filters. Everyone ended up looking like a clown, and that was precisely the point. Ukrainians are clowns because they’ve allowed the country’s political elites to rob them blind, keeping salaries and social benefits low. This was part of a flash mob started byVolodymyr Zelenskiy, a Ukrainian comedian and the surprise leader in the latest polls for the presidential election slated for March 31.  


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  • Ukraine Has Reached a Tipping Point

    Elections may be on the horizon, but I firmly believe that reforms will continue through 2020 and beyond. Now that Ukraine has enshrined EU and NATO accession as the fundamental direction of the country, whoever comes to power, Ukraine’s pro-western economic development and orientation cannot be reversed.


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  • What the Death of the INF Treaty Means for Kyiv

    On February 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Pompeo said Russia had violated the treaty for years. The next day, the State Department notified the Russian embassy and the embassies of the other treaty parties, including Ukraine, of the US intention to withdraw from the treaty. President Vladimir Putin that same day said that Russia also would suspend its treaty obligations.

    Unfortunately, the INF Treaty is headed for demise.


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  • What Putin Must Hear in Munich

    The international community is preparing for the annual Munich Security Conference, which will host more than 500 guests, including forty heads of state and government. I too will attend. Before the conference, I spent part of the week in Kramatorsk, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine, which underwent Russian occupation but was freed by the Ukrainian army. Four years ago, on February 10, Kramatorsk was fired upon by a Russian Smerch Multiple Launch Rocket System in a salvo of attacks with prohibited cluster warheads. Seventeen people were killed, and sixty-four were wounded. 

    In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, we spoke about Ukraine’s recent decision to adopt a constitutional amendment, which consolidates Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and the importance of uniting efforts so that no one can prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and the EU eventually.

    When I go abroad, I am always asked about the status of the ceasefire. Here I don’t have good news. A ceasefire at the contact line, as envisioned in the signing of the Minsk arrangements, has not become a reality. Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin still maintains the fiction that his country is not involved in the Donbas, Russia is undoubtedly the aggressor state. Putin hopes for a more pliable president after Ukraine’s spring presidential elections.   

    In Kramatorsk, we visited checkpoints, which function as de facto borders within a sovereign state. When Ukraine modernizes these checkpoints and increases the number of heating stations, waiting rooms, and windows for border guards, people told me that they fear that these checkpoints will remain forever. Here they understand the new global order has rapidly changed.


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  • When a Pencil Is a Rocket Launcher: How We Talk about War

    In Kyiv, the wordkarandash (pencil) is an ordinary word one might encounter in an office supply store or an elementary school. But in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has killed more than 10,000, displaced another 1.7 million, and injured thousands of civilians,karandash means something else. The Ukrainian military uses it to describe 122-millimeter grad rocket launchers.


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