Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia: A New Start?

It’s winter in Russia, which is not a season for the faint-hearted. The pandemic is still hitting the country hard, with the number of new COVID cases hovering around 20,000 a day, which has cumulatively put the country in the global top five in terms of infections. Under these inauspicious conditions, if you are brave… Continue reading Russia: A New Start?

Russia and Eastern Europe

Making America Unsafe Again

Donald Trump is all about boundaries. At a personal level, he doesn’t like touching strangers for fear of infection. Politically, he makes no long-lasting close alliances. And geopolitically, he obsesses over strong borders: big walls, more stringent immigration requirements, tariffs on foreign imports. But Trump is nothing if not a walking contradiction. For a guy… Continue reading Making America Unsafe Again

Russia and Eastern Europe

Putin Proposes, Trump Disposes

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin is proposing a new constitution. Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump is disposing of the old constitution. The first is a demonstration of power meant to showcase the unity of the Russian political system behind a strong leader. The second is an act of desperation that reveals the… Continue reading Putin Proposes, Trump Disposes

Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump’s Fantasy Ukraine

In fantasy sports, participants draft their own dream teams out of the rosters of existing players. That’s what Donald Trump has done with Ukraine. He and his advisors have created a fantasy team involving a number of key players, including the Ukrainian president, the former U.S. ambassador, and the former vice president’s son. Then they’ve… Continue reading Trump’s Fantasy Ukraine

China, Russia and Eastern Europe

The New Age of Protest

Led by young people, climate strikers blocked traffic on two mornings at the end of last month in Washington, DC. On the first day, protestors chained themselves to a boat three blocks from the White House, and 32 activists were arrested. On the second day, activists targeted the EPA and Trump International Hotel. It was… Continue reading The New Age of Protest

Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Democracy Desperately Need a Reboot

If you’re a supporter of Donald Trump — or Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or Matteo Salvini in Italy — you probably think that democracy has never been in better health. Recent elections in these countries didn’t just serve to rotate the elite from the conventional parties. Voters went to the polls and elected outsiders who… Continue reading Democracy Desperately Need a Reboot

Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia and the Future of Europe

Europe is gearing up for much-anticipated elections this week to the European parliament. Austria, however, now has to deal with a very unexpected snap election — thanks to a drunk politician, a Russian honeypot, and a leaked video. This scandal currently rocking Austria may ultimately play a decisive role in the European elections as well.… Continue reading Russia and the Future of Europe

Russia and Eastern Europe, US Foreign Policy

It’s a Borderful World

Nation-states: what a quaint notion. As a means of organizing territory, they seem to be a brief transition period between large empires and an even larger, borderless world. Sure, nation-states might live on in the form of anthems and flags and independence days, but the idea of fixed borders just doesn’t make sense in a… Continue reading It’s a Borderful World

Russia and Eastern Europe

What RussiaGate Skeptics Get Wrong

Imagine if the rightwing government of Shinzo Abe in Japan had interfered in the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump. Following which, Trump held a summit with Abe to endorse Japanese territorial claims in Asia as well as Abe’s efforts to remilitarize his country. The American Left would never countenance a rightwing Japanese nationalist interfering… Continue reading What RussiaGate Skeptics Get Wrong

Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump’s Dirty Money

Marty Byrde has a problem. His partner at the financial services firm has been skimming off the top of the money-laundering service they’re providing a Mexican narcotrafficker. The drug dealer responds by killing Marty’s partner. He’s just about to put a bullet into Marty as well when, in desperation, the financial planner comes up with… Continue reading Trump’s Dirty Money

Russia and Eastern Europe, Security

The New New Cold War

When an epoch ends, as the Cold War did between 1989 and 1991, it takes some time to come up with a name for the new order. For some years, the world lived in a “post-Cold War” era. That phrase was supposed to capture the optimism of a new beginning as well as the uncertainty… Continue reading The New New Cold War

Asia, Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump’s Majoritarian Dream

Washington and New Dehli are having a mutual lovefest these days. Donald Trump is popular in India — where only 17 percent of the population considers the president “intolerant,” compared to a global average of 65 percent — and he has warmly welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House. Both leaders are eager to bump… Continue reading Trump’s Majoritarian Dream

Russia and Eastern Europe

Russiagate or Deep State?

When it comes to the Russiagate scandal, progressives usually take one of two positions. They either dismiss the scandal as a lot of hooey, a “nothingburger,” just a way for warmongers and the “Deep State” to revive a cold war between Washington and Moscow. Or they treat the scandal as just a means to an… Continue reading Russiagate or Deep State?

Russia and Eastern Europe

Russiaburger: The Trump-Russia Scandal Unwrapped

The discussion of the Russia file these days sounds like the review of a fast-food restaurant. Echoing that infamous catchphrase of Wendy’s that became a political meme in the 1984 presidential elections — Where’s the Beef? — the charges of cooperation between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign have either been dismissed as a “nothingburger” or embraced… Continue reading Russiaburger: The Trump-Russia Scandal Unwrapped

Blog, Eastern Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

The Anti-Corruption Revolution

During rush week, aspiring frat boys endure all manner of indignities. They all want to join the exclusive club, and they’re willing to pay the steep initiation fee of risk and embarrassment. One day, they too will be­ seniors who can haze the newbies all they like. Such are the perks of following orders, rising… Continue reading The Anti-Corruption Revolution

Eastern Europe, Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump: The Anti-Gorbachev

Back in the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev had a magic touch internationally. Traveling outside the Soviet Union, he often received the adulation that was so frequently lacking at home. When Gorbachev visited other Communist countries, crowds would turn out to welcome him as a savior. He had that effect in Beijing when he visited on… Continue reading Trump: The Anti-Gorbachev

Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia vs. Jobs

Donald Trump’s approval ratings remain dismal, yet the Democrats are 0 for 4 in congressional elections in 2017. Not only do a majority of Americans believe that the president has tried to obstruct investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections but, by a 2 to 1 margin, Americans believe former FBI chief James Comey’s account of his firing… Continue reading Russia vs. Jobs

Russia and Eastern Europe

I Am the Enemy

Even before the election of Donald Trump — and his extraordinary declaration that the media are the “enemies of the people” — U.S. journalism was in trouble. According to Gallup polling, American trust in mass media plummeted from an already low 40 percent in 2015 to a historic low of 32 percent in September 2016.… Continue reading I Am the Enemy

Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump and Russia: Shortest Reset Ever

It has all the hallmarks of a compelling thriller. A U.S. president willing to put his reputation on the line in the interests of peace and prosperity prepares to reach out to Russia. The Kremlin shows some cautious interest. But before the president can propose anything substantial, his opponents do everything possible to derail his… Continue reading Trump and Russia: Shortest Reset Ever

Russia and Eastern Europe

The Russian Honeypot

[I wrote this article about Russian efforts to cultivate Donald Trump as an asset last week for a Korean newspaper where it was published on Sunday. Little did I know that news would break this week of allegations that Russia has a file of damaging information it can use to blackmail President-elect Trump. In that… Continue reading The Russian Honeypot

Eastern Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

Stop the Presses!

Imagine that Donald Trump wins the presidency. Then, as he has done throughout his career, he goes after his enemies. He purges the Republican Party of everyone who refused to support him. He initiates criminal proceedings against Hillary Clinton. And he shuts down The New York Times and The Washington Post. It sounds like an… Continue reading Stop the Presses!

Eastern Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia Hacks the World

The email trove that WikiLeaks released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention has all the hallmarks of a dirty tricks campaign. The messages reveal, among other things, that the Democratic National Committee tried its best to tilt the electoral playing field in favor of Hillary Clinton. For anyone who has had even the… Continue reading Russia Hacks the World

Eastern Europe, Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe

Poland’s Tea Party Movement

On a rainy day in April 1990, I journeyed to the outskirts of Warsaw to one of those functional Communist-era apartment building complexes to meet with Antoni Macierewicz. The opposition leader’s apartment contrasted sharply with its grim institutional surroundings. It was an aristocratic enclave full of books, antiques, and prints on the wall. Macierewicz himself… Continue reading Poland’s Tea Party Movement

Russia and Eastern Europe, US Foreign Policy

Is Putin Really as Foolish as We Are?

Nixon lied. Surely this is not a shocker. But what’s interesting about the latest revelation about the Nixon administration and the Vietnam War is that the most duplicitous president in U.S. history actually knew that the U.S. air war in Southeast Asia was a dismal failure. Even as Nixon was telling the media that the… Continue reading Is Putin Really as Foolish as We Are?

Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Authoritarian Symps

In the bad old days of the Cold War, the left and the right used to play a nasty game called “Who’s Your Favorite Dictator?” Right-wing ideologues supported authoritarian leaders like Augusto Pinochet of Chile while left-wing ideologues rhapsodized over Communist leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba. One side embraced the shah of Iran and… Continue reading Authoritarian Symps

Russia and Eastern Europe

The Kremlin’s Kool-Aid

We were nearing the end of dinner when the eminent personage leaned in my direction and began yelling at me. Up to that point, the argument among the five of us at the end of the long table at the restaurant had been heated but at a conversational volume. The fact that we were arguing… Continue reading The Kremlin’s Kool-Aid