• 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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  • In the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Western Dissension Opens Doors for Putin

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    While the West continues to support efforts to democratize the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), shifting international trends threaten to slow the momentum. Increasing confrontation among Western leaders—evidenced, inter alia, by the outbreak of protectionist trade policies and Donald Trump’s dissociation from G7 positions at the June 2018 summit in Quebec—can have unintended consequences across the EaP region, which needs Western harmony if it is to align with Euro-Atlantic visions of common values and security.

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  • The Last Missing Piece to Make Ukraine Truly Independent

    One of the biggest differences between Eastern and Western Europe is the role of the church. On paper, they are separate, but in Eastern Europe, tradition trumps the law and the influence of the church is immense. In Ukraine, the church is the most trusted institution, which is a good thing, but the fact that one of its strongest branches openly sympathizes with Russia means that the secular world can’t choose to ignore this issue any longer.
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  • Good News: IMF to Return to Kyiv in September

    Last week Ukraine’s finances didn’t look so promising and a fall fiscal crisis was entirely possible. Many worried that Ukraine wouldn’t satisfy the International Monetary Fund’s three main demands in time to receive a $1.9 billion tranche before annual budget debates begin. The IMF had been demanding an Anticorruption Court, market prices on gas for households, and a budget deficit target of 2.5 percent. Ukraine passed an Anticorruption Court bill that satisfies the IMF, but it has not met the second and third conditions.

    However, things changed this week.

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  • Why Peace in Ukraine Cannot Wait

    The war in eastern Ukraine grinds on, forgotten by many. There’s no obvious way out. The ceasefire agreements have been continuously broken, high-level dialogue between Russia and the United States stopped months ago, and the unarmed OSCE monitors in conflict zone are continuously harassed. Some analysts suspect that Moscow is waiting until March when Ukraine holds its presidential election. The Kremlin wants to see who the next president will be before taking any new steps, and time is on Russia’s side.

    But time is not on Ukraine’s or the European Union’s side.

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  • How the United States Can Combat Russia's Kleptocracy

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    Over the past eighteen years, Vladimir Putin has perfected a peculiar style of rule in Moscow. A product of the KGB, Putin quickly appointed many of his siloviki colleagues to senior positions in the government shortly after coming to power. Once in office, his associates enriched themselves by looting state resources and seizing vulnerable private resources. The quest for economic gain also opened the door to cooperation between senior government officials and organized crime.

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  • Ellinas in Cyprus Weekly: Follow the Flame

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  • Ukraine’s Got Less Than a Month to Clean Up Highest Court

    By the end of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency in February 2014, virtually all vestiges of judicial independence had been eroded in Ukraine, together with any public confidence in the justice system. Three years later, only a small number of the most corrupt judges have lost their posts. It is rightly difficult to dismiss judges, but it should be at least as difficult to appoint compromised judges. That was the theory behind promising new procedures for ensuring transparency and open competition for vacant Supreme Court judge posts. In practice, this has proven much less possible, and civic groups have mobilized to prevent yet another rejiggering of a reform-resistant status quo.

    In 2016, the Verkhovna Rada adopted legislation that strengthened the role of the Supreme Court; it laid out steps to ensure a renewal process of its judges through competition. Applications were invited for the first 120 Supreme Court vacancies in November 2016, and full profiles of all candidates should have been posted almost immediately on the official website of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, but they weren’t. The Commission has claimed that it lacks the resources to do so; however, it has been equally reluctant to provide information in response to formal queries.

    The Commission’s resistance is particularly disturbing in light of the detailed information about the competition and candidates gathered by the civic initiative Chesno.

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  • Ukraine’s Rails, Roads, and Ports Throttle Economic Recovery

    Ukraine’s favorable location gives the country immense potential as a regional transit hub. The country’s infrastructure, however, is in such a bad shape that it is not only unable to service international traffic, but has difficulties meeting the economy’s everyday needs.

    Following two years of GDP decline, Ukraine finally demonstrated signs of economic recovery in 2016. Whether the recovery continues to gather momentum depends on continued progress in agriculture and metallurgy, which constitute the backbone of Ukraine’s economy. Both rely heavily on efficient infrastructure to bring commodities like grain, iron ore, and steel to consumers inside the country and to ports for export. The country’s growing infrastructure bottlenecks became more evident last year, as a bumper crop of grain coupled with a decline in world prices meant increased transportation needs to secure agriculture revenue. Because of a constant shortage of railroad cars and limitations on heavyweight trucking over Ukraine’s roads, farmers faced losses struggling to move crops to ports for exports from overloaded silos. Ukraine’s railways, roads, and ports all require serious investment and reforms.

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  • From Fake News to Fake Opinion

    A few weeks ago, a colleague asked why I was a part of an organization called the Center for Global Strategic Monitoring (also known as the CGS Monitor). Despite working in foreign policy for seventeen years, I had never heard of this organization. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my photograph and biography listed on the CGS Monitor website as one of their “experts.”

    I immediately began searching the website for contact information to request that my name be removed. However, it became clear that there was something fishy about this website. Not only was no mailing address given; the only email contact to be found was a ubiquitous “info@” address. My email requesting that my name be removed has never been answered and the website continues to list me as one of their experts.

    As a political consultant in Kyiv and a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, I follow politics in Eastern Europe closely. I also maintain a blog on Ukrainian politics and provide political risk analysis for personal clients. Over the last three years, I have witnessed the massive Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine, and have seen firsthand the effects of the war in eastern Ukraine. Like everyone else, I have observed the recent “fake news” phenomenon. But the CGS Monitor website takes fake news and introduces a new element: “fake opinion.”

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