Eastern Europe

  • Ukraine Needs Carrots and Sticks to Fight Corruption

    There is no silver bullet when it comes to defeating systemic corruption in any country.

    Despite many opportunities, Ukraine has failed to achieve economic success due to its entrenched corruption which offsets the positive effects from many of the hard-earned and difficult reforms we have implemented since independence.


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  • An Exemplary Life

    On January 23, Ukrainian-Briton Nadia Diuk passed away. This was reported on Facebook by her sister, who wrote that Nadia had died at home after a long battle with cancer.

    The previous day, President Petro Poroshenko bestowed the Order of Princess Olga (III degree), one of Ukraine’s highest honors to Diuk, who had dedicated her life to serving the cause of Ukraine.


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  • Why the Hungarian Link in Russia’s Grand Strategy Is Overblown

    Editor’s Note: This article is a response to Stephen Blank’s essay, Putin’s Energy Strategy Is More Ambitious than You Think, which we published on January 4, 2019.  

    Energy policy is a crucial part of Russia’s strategy to maximize its influence in Europe and divide the European Union. As highlighted by critics of Russia’s assertive energy strategy in Europe, the two flagship Russian-sponsored pipeline projects, Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream, are much more than business: they are also geopolitical tools aimed at increasing Russia’s leverage over Central and Eastern Europe. However, an increasing number of articles in the West falsely portray NATO member Hungary as a satellite state within Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grand European strategy. These claims are misplaced.


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  • Five Key Takeaways from Davos 2019 for Ukraine

    "No other event has the same global appeal," commented Andy Christie, private jets director at Air Charter Service, predicting up to 1,500 individual private jets flights to be made in and out of this year’s Davos summit. Top global business leaders, political leaders, economists, celebrities, and journalists turn up year after year to the World Economic Forum to discuss the most pressing global issues.

    Ukrainians came well prepared to Davos this year. Here are my five key takeaways from Davos 2019:

    1. Ukrainians are getting their act together in marketing their country

    Ukraine has changed, but it has struggled to convey the depth of change to the global business community. That now seems to be improving. This year at Davos, Ukraine was presented professionally and eloquently. It was some of the best investment promotion that I have seen Ukraine perform.

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  • Ukraine’s Slow but Steady Strangulation Is Taking Place in Plain Sight

    Russia’s war against Ukraine is about to enter its sixth year, but many remain in denial over the true nature of the conflict. There is still widespread international reluctance to acknowledge the global significance of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, leading to a preference for the kind of euphemistic language that blurs the lines between victim and aggressor. This ostrich-like approach to the realities of the new Russian imperialism was on display during German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s recent visit to Kyiv, where he called on “all sides to contribute to de-escalation.”

    Maas was apparently untroubled by the absurdity of urging Ukraine to de-escalate its own invasion and dismemberment. Indeed, it says much about the current climate that one of Europe’s top diplomats felt comfortable coming to the capital of a country fighting for its life and delivering a lecture on the need for moderation.


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  • Here’s How to Nurture Risk-Taking Among Ukraine’s IT Sector

    Ukraine is a country of opportunity and talent. Home to one of the fastest-growing IT industries in the world, Ukraine has over 4,000 technology companies and about 2,000 startups. In 2018, investment in startups reached almost $300 million. Additionally, the country has roughly 184,000 software developers, and Ukrainiansregister over 12,000 patents annually for various inventions. There is no shortage of talent.

    However, almost all of these people do work that boosts the economies of other countries. Rather than invest time and effort on their own initiatives, most IT workers are working on projects based outside of the country’s borders. The end products ultimately do not benefit Ukraine.

    Why is this happening? There are many reasons, and some are economic or political. But the main problem resides in psychology.


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  • Are Things Really Changing at Ukroboronprom?

    Pavlo Bukin has been on the job for nearly a year, and he’s in good spirits. It’s not the most enviable position: he’s the general director of Ukroboronprom, the state-owned defense company, and has been charged with cleaning up the company and making its business practices market friendly.

    Ukroboronprom (UOP) has serious reputational issues. Ukraine’s leading anti-corruption watchdog calls it a monster. In 2017, Ukraine’s National Anticorruption Bureau accused company officials of stealing $6 million in a deal to supply aircraft parts to Iraq’s defense ministry. It also faced accusations of putting old engines in forty tanks in Lviv and selling them as new at full price. These schemes, especially during a time of war, do not endear the company to the public.  

    When we met for coffee in Kyiv in late November 2018 and I mentioned these cases, Bukin didn’t get defensive. The straight-talking executive admitted that overhauling UOP is “not an easy task,” but said he’s got a plan and is already making progress.

    He was upfront about corruption and explained that introducing market wages for executives and factory workers is the only solution. “The best remedy for corruption is a good level of wages,” he said.

    Defense experts both in and outside of the country are cautiously optimistic.


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  • International Support Urged For Ukraine in Face of Russian Aggression

    “There is a war going on in the middle of Europe. A very hot war,” according to Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s vice prime minister for Euro-Atlantic integration, who urged policy makers to confront this “uncomfortable truth” about Russian aggression.

    Speaking in a panel discussion hosted by Ukraine House Davos in Davos, Switzerland, on January 22, Klympush-Tsintsadze said: “Ukraine needs to be given a hand, a shoulder, or some engagement to help against Russian aggression, especially in the year of elections.” Ukraine is gearing up for presidential elections on March 31.


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  • Who Wanted Boris Nemtsov Dead? New Book Offers New Look at Evidence

    Boris Nemtsov was a good friend of mine. He was jollier and more outgoing than most. Unlike most of Russia’s reformers, he abstained from wealth, bravely choosing to live modestly as an opposition politician. He could work with anyone while maintaining good values. On February 27, 2015, he was murdered just off the Kremlin.

    John B. Dunlop, a renowned historian of Russia at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has just published a book, The February 2015 Assassination of Boris Nemtsov and the Flawed Trial of His Alleged Killers. Dunlop meticulously describes and documents the investigation and the court proceedings over 191 pages.

    The book starts with a presentation of the murder and its investigation, followed by a chapter about the trial. The remaining seven chapters offer different versions of what really happened. This structure is reminiscent of The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. Dunlop lets all sides speak in their own voice in long quotes. The book starts slowly and gains momentum. Nothing is what it first seems. The book’s ultimate insight is that careful study of available evidence offers great opportunities to understand what goes on in Putin’s Russia. This is Kremlinology at its best.

    At first glance, the murder does not appear complicated.


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  • Ukraine Emerges from Isolation

    Transportation links provide advance warnings as to where a society is going physically and mentally.

    Until five years ago, all of Ukraine’s roads led to Moscow. Now they go west.


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