Russia and Eastern Europe, Security

Is Ukraine Going Too Far?

In the last couple months, Ukraine has successfully pushed back against Russia’s invading forces. It retook a large chunk of territory around the northeastern city of Kharkiv. It is on the verge of recapturing the only major city—Kherson in the south—that Russia has occupied since February. Ukrainian forces have also targeted airfields in Crimea and… Continue reading Is Ukraine Going Too Far?

Russia and Eastern Europe

Is Putin in a Corner?

When a country starts casting around for 60-year-old veterans to send to the front, you know that something’s wrong. All hands don’t go on deck unless the ship is foundering. It’s not yet clear whether the Russian ship of state is taking on water. But its military effort in Ukraine is obviously at the SOS… Continue reading Is Putin in a Corner?

Russia and Eastern Europe

Learning from Gorbachev’s Failures

Last year in Moscow, at a performance of the play Gorbachev, the audience gave a standing ovation to the two remarkable performers who played Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa Gorbacheva. The applause became even more thunderous when the performers identified the frail old man in a box seat. A spotlight illuminated Gorbachev as he… Continue reading Learning from Gorbachev’s Failures

Russia and Eastern Europe

The Weaponization of Food

When Russia bombed the port in Odesa last week, it was not an auspicious beginning to the new deal on grain exports. If anyone believed that this agreement between Moscow and Kyiv would have some positive spillover effect on the war grinding on elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian military surely destroyed that wishful thinking. International… Continue reading The Weaponization of Food

Russia and Eastern Europe

Vladimir Putin: Global Gunman

On one side are the dead: 10 people in a Buffalo grocery store. On the other side is the mass murderer who shot them. Why is the media so focused on the survivors of the Buffalo shooting and the stories of the victims? Why haven’t journalists given the gunman an opportunity to tell his story?… Continue reading Vladimir Putin: Global Gunman

Russia and Eastern Europe

A Just Ceasefire or Just a Ceasefire

The United States was not the first major power to dream up the idea of destroying a country to “save” it. But in the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon and his tiny brain trust of one—policy henchman Henry Kissinger—elevated this brutally cynical approach to the status of all-encompassing strategy. What began as the destruction of… Continue reading A Just Ceasefire or Just a Ceasefire

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

No Victory Day

Imagine an Olympic final in basketball, not unlike the one last summer between the United States and France. The score is tied in the final minutes, and tension is mounting among the flag-waving partisans in the stands. France is in possession of the ball when something strange happens. A sudden fog descends upon the play.… Continue reading No Victory Day

Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

The Universality of Ukraine

The Russian war in Ukraine has dominated headlines in the United States and Europe. It has been presented as a generation-defining event and as a pivot in geopolitics that will cleave world history into a before and an after just like September 11. Much of the world, however, is not transfixed by developments in central… Continue reading The Universality of Ukraine

Russia and Eastern Europe

After Putin

A failed military intervention. The genocidal killing of citizens. Economic isolation by the international community. The arrests of anti-war protestors at home and the shuttering of independent media. Any one of these factors could mark the end of an ordinary political leader. Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin has not only weathered these challenges, his popularity… Continue reading After Putin

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

The Five Plagues Testing Humanity

Once upon a time, the tutelary gods of nationalism and internationalism met for a chat. They had a superb perch above the clouds. From there, they could see everything happening on the Earth below and they set to arguing, as they so often did. Sophia, the goddess of internationalism, began by proudly pointing to the… Continue reading The Five Plagues Testing Humanity

Russia and Eastern Europe

Ending the War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has a very clear strategy for ending his war in Ukraine. He intends to wipe the country off the map. Initially, he’d hoped to do so by seizing Kyiv, replacing the government, and absorbing as much of Ukrainian territory into Russia as he thought feasible. Now, after the resistance of the Ukrainians, he… Continue reading Ending the War in Ukraine

Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

Why Ukraine Matters

War has been pretty much a constant in human affairs. If you’ve managed to avoid direct contact with war for your entire life, you are extraordinarily lucky in world-historical terms. The Cold War that kept the peace across most of the Global North was accompanied by nearly non-stop proxy wars between Moscow and Washington throughout… Continue reading Why Ukraine Matters

Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

No Pasaran: Ukraine 2022

The last surviving member of the International Brigades that fought the fascists in Spain in the 1930s died last year at the age of 101. Josep Almudéver Mateu, born in France, remembered going into battle without any ammunition for his gun. Five kilometers into his march to the front, he was finally able to cadge… Continue reading No Pasaran: Ukraine 2022

Russia and Eastern Europe

Putin’s Cold, Cold Strategy

In his speech on Monday evening recognizing the independence of the disputed eastern territories of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin called Ukrainians “our comrades.” He identified them as “not only colleagues, friends, former colleagues, but also relatives, people connected with us by blood, family ties.” Pity the poor people that Vladimir Putin considers family. It’s like discovering… Continue reading Putin’s Cold, Cold Strategy

China, Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia and China’s Dirty Partnership

The leaders of Russia and China are joining forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics to show solidarity with his largest trade partner at an event that the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia are boycotting diplomatically. The statement that Putin signed with Chinese leader Xi Jinping confirms their… Continue reading Russia and China’s Dirty Partnership

Europe, Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Helsinki 2.0

The European security order has broken down. You might think that’s an overstatement. NATO is alive and well. The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe is still functioning at a high level. Of course, there’s the possibility of a major war breaking out between Russia and Ukraine. But would Russian President Vladimir Putin… Continue reading Helsinki 2.0

Russia and Eastern Europe, Security

The Ukraine Crisis Is an Opportunity to Reshape U.S.-Russia Diplomacy

Heading into its second year in office, the Biden administration has been hit hard by rising inflation, another pandemic variant and a stalled agenda in Congress. As it struggles to salvage things, the administration can little afford a major international conflict—especially after finally winding down the 20-year fiasco in Afghanistan. That’s precisely the risk in… Continue reading The Ukraine Crisis Is an Opportunity to Reshape U.S.-Russia Diplomacy

Russia and Eastern Europe

The End of Dissent

I am a foreign agent. Because my program at the Institute for Policy Studies receives some funding from a German foundation, I qualify as a suspect person—according to the “foreign agent” law in Russia. As part of this law, any institution or person that the government deems a “foreign agent” has to make a declaration… Continue reading The End of Dissent

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

Protests at the Pump

The first major protest of the post-Communist era in Eastern Europe was not about corruption. It wasn’t about disappointments with democracy. It was about gas. In October 1990, furious at the new liberal government for raising gas prices by 65 percent, taxi drivers in Hungary set up barricades and established roadblocks that brought transportation to… Continue reading Protests at the Pump

Environment, Russia and Eastern Europe

Russian Green Deal: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

In October 2021, the Russian government finally released its plan to achieve carbon neutrality—by 2060. That’s 10 years after the target date most other countries have adopted. The plan relies more on offsets—like forests that absorb carbon dioxide—rather than significant cuts in emissions. But for the world’s fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide—and the world’s… Continue reading Russian Green Deal: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Russia and Eastern Europe

War with Russia?

First, let’s be clear: Russia already invaded Ukraine. At the end of February 2014, Russian soldiers without insignia seized key facilities in Crimea and then helped secessionists in eastern Ukraine some weeks later. Crimea is now under Russian control, and a civil war continues to flare up over the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk… Continue reading War with Russia?

Russia and Eastern Europe

The Trouble with Transitions

It was supposed to be the greatest transition of modern times. Practically overnight, a dirty, inefficient, and unjust system that encompassed 11 time zones was to undergo an extreme makeover. Billions of dollars were available to speed the process. A new crew of transition experts came up with the blueprint and the public was overwhelmingly… Continue reading The Trouble with Transitions