Eastern Europe

  • Ukraine’s Presidential Election: How a Comic Secured the Most Votes and Won a Ticket to Round Two

    The outcome of the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on March 31, in which a TV comedian received almost twice as many votes as the incumbent president, is a reflection of the level of “disenchantment” with the “state of domestic affairs,” according to John E. Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a former US ambassador to Ukraine.

    It showed that “while the country has united strongly to oppose Kremlin aggression, people hoped that the Revolution of Dignity would lead to major changes domestically and an improved standard of living,” Herbst said, referring to the 2014 revolution that led to the overthrown of Viktor Yanukovych’s government.


    Read More
  • Whoever Wins Ukraine’s Presidential Race, Russia Has Already Lost

    It’s election season on Kremlin TV, but the presidential campaign receiving wall-to-wall coverage from Russia’s federal channels is taking place across the border in Ukraine. This is hardly surprising. Moscow’s obsession with all things Ukrainian is well-documented and reflects the centrality of information operations to Vladimir Putin’s five-year hybrid war against Ukraine. What’s interesting about this coverage is the absence of a preferred pro-Russian candidate. Instead, the Kremlin is focused on discrediting the electoral process itself. While the spectacle of a dictatorship accusing its neighbor of democratic shortcomings may at first glance seem absurd, this strategy makes perfect sense. With no chance of achieving a favorable result, Russia is simply getting its excuses in early.


    Read More
  • Who Gains From Using the Far-Right in Ukraine’s Elections?

    TheG-7 wrote to Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov about the threat to Ukraine’s presidential election from the far-right National Corps political party and National Militia civic organization, both led by Andriy Biletsky with whom he has had a long relationship. The G-7 warned, “They intimidate Ukrainian citizens, try to usurp the role of the National Police in ensuring the security of elections, and damage the national and international reputation of the Ukrainian government.”


    Read More
  • Time to Play Hardball on Reforming Ukraine's Security Service

    In June 2018, Ukraine’s parliament adopted the Law on National Security, with the help of the United States and other international partners, including NATO and the European Union. Among other things, the law set the frame for the functions of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and opened the door for comprehensive reform of that institution. The Rada now should move to adopt a new law on the SBU to implement real reform of the security service, whose roots go back to the Soviet KGB.

    SBU reform is a vital matter of national security for Ukraine. An attempt was made to reform the SBU in 2016, when a working group including international partners developed a concept to align the agency with NATO standards. Unfortunately, it failed to gain traction.


    Read More
  • The Kremlin’s Top Eight Lies about Ukraine’s Presidential Race

    On March 31, Ukrainians go to the polls to elect their sixth president. An openly pro-Russian candidate is unlikely to win. However, Moscow is watching closely and cares about the outcome. What is it saying about the election? We analyzed the most widespread Kremlin manipulations about Ukraine’s presidential election on Russian state-controlled media in March. We selected examples from three Russian state-owned websites with high ratings: Channel One Russia, RT, and Ukraina.ru.


    Read More
  • Omega

    Editor’s note: This short story describes a hypothetical future war in Europe between Russian and NATO forces using advanced technology.
    Read More
  • What to Expect from Ukraine’s Completely Unpredictable Presidential Election

    On March 31, Ukrainians will select their sixth president. The election is seen a referendum on the incumbent Poroshenko administration and his record since the watershed Euromaidan Revolution that decisively moved Ukraine onto a pro-Western path. Polls put political newcomer Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the lead, with Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko fighting for second place. The top two candidates will face off in an April 21 runoff. Here are five predictions about the first round.


    Read More
  • Some Things Never Change

    Ukraine’s presidential election is less than a week away, and no candidate will win outright with fifty percent. Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy leads in the polls and will certainly be in the run-off election on April 21. The big question is whether he will face incumbent President Petro Poroshenko or former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Poroshenko leads Tymoshenko by less than 2 percent, so the race is tight.    

    Poroshenko is counting on several things to put him into the run-off.


    Read More
  • The Real Russian Candidate in Ukraine’s Presidential Race

    On March 22, nine days before the Ukrainian presidential election, Ukraine’s pro-Russian presidential candidate Yuriy Boyko went to Moscow to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev without prior announcement.

    It’s strange for a presidential candidate to visit a leader of a country with which it is at war, but that was only the beginning of this extraordinary meeting, much of which was broadcast on Russian state television. Everything was wrong with it.


    Read More
  • Real Advice, Not Platitudes, Keeps Kyiv on Reform Path

    We read with interest Adrian Karatnycky’s piece “Viceroys in Kyiv.”  We respect Mr. Karatnycky but have a different perspective. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. We each served as the American ambassador to Ukraine and, in that capacity as well as in other positions in the US government, urged our Ukrainian counterparts to move on reform—both in private and public conversations. We were not viceroys; we acted as partners.

    To be sure, Ukraine is a sovereign democratic state (Mr. Putin’s view to the contrary notwithstanding).  Putting in place the structures of a modern European state requires tough and often politically painful decisions. Ultimately, Ukraine and Ukrainians are responsible for making those decisions and choosing their reform policies. 

    We are also mindful that Ukraine has now entered its sixth year of a war of Russian aggression. The continued fighting in the Donbas makes adopting reforms much more difficult. Indeed, that is one reason why the Kremlin keeps the conflict simmering. Moscow does not want Ukraine to succeed. But the war with Russia does not make reform impossible; in fact, it makes reform even more important. The war is not an excuse for foot dragging.  By adopting economic and political reforms, Ukraine becomes better able to resist Russian pressure.

    As a general rule, diplomats ought to tread carefully when commenting on domestic developments in their country of assignment. That does not mean, however, that they should not speak out. Ambassadors have a right—indeed, a responsibility—to speak out.


    Read More