Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Putin Plays Peacemaker, But His Act Is Getting Old

By Paul Gregory (Hoover Institution and University of Houston)

Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, released his fourteen-point peace plan on Saturday, June 21. In his address to the nation, Poroshenko did not mention Russia until the very end, when he stated that “President of Russia Vladimir Putin also positively evaluated the decision of Ukraine to cease fire and supported concrete steps of my peaceful plan on the settlement of the situation in Donbas.”

Poroshenko’s peace plan set off a predictable flurry of diplomatic activity, culminating in a three-way phone call between Putin, Angela Merkel, and Francois Hollande on June 22, in which the two European leaders urged their Russian counterpart to facilitate negotiations. The Ukraine peace plan and Putin’s response to it will be a main agenda item in this week’s meetings of NATO foreign ministers and European leaders in Luxembourg and Brussels.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five Compelling Reasons For The U.S. To Offer Lethal Military Assistance to Ukraine

By Paul Gregory (Hoover Institution and University of Houston)

With Washington’s attention diverted, as radical ISIS forces march towards Baghdad, it is no coincidence that Russia chose to send tanks, missiles, and armored personnel carriers across its border into east Ukraine. Forget Putin’s assurances that he had nothing to do with this. Movements of heavy weaponry in border areas require authorization from the highest levels in Putin’s notorious power vertical. The June 12 passage of Russian tanks, missiles, and armored personnel carriers across the border (confirmed by U.S. sources) was so blatant that even the timid NATO officially labeled it as “a grave escalation” by Russia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Third Russia-Ukraine Gas War

By Yuriy Gorodnichenko (UC Berkeley)
At 10 am on Monday, June 16, 2014, Gazprom, a Russian gas monopoly, cut off supplies of gas to Ukraine. This is the third time in the last ten years when Gazprom has tried to use a cut-off to force the Ukrainian government to accept a deal it did not want to accept. In the previous two cut-offs--in January 2004 and January 2009, that is, in the middle of bitter cold winters--Ukraine bowed to the pressure and agreed to unfavorable contracts with high prices, tough clauses, and heavy penalties. Each time, Russia used Gazprom and energy prices as a political instrument to pressure pro-Western governments in Ukraine. Although the current cut-off is motivated by the same political factors, the outcome could be different this time.   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Miles Apart And No Peace In Sight: Putin's D-Day Press Conference Versus Poroshenko's Inaugural

By Paul Gregory (Hoover Institution and University of Houston)

The United States and Europe do not know how to read Vladimir Putin. He is, for the Western mind, a strange laboratory specimen, who grew up in the KGB world of conspiracy and repression of enemies who are everywhere. We do not understand him and what he is really saying.

Any positive remark, no matter how small, turns Putin into a budding man of peace. (I am reminded of hopes that Bashar Assad would become a reformer). After Putin exchanged a few words with Ukraine’s president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, and with Barack Obama and expressed his liking for an (unacceptable) type of peace dialog, John Kerry spoke optimistically of “the possibility of Russia helping to get the separatists to begin to put their guns away, get out of buildings and begin to build Ukraine.” (See the Reuters report.) A Secretary of State should not engage in wishful thinking out loud.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s perspective on the Russia-Ukraine crisis

By Yuriy Gorodnichenko (UC Berkeley)

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a National Security Adviser to President Carter, has been decidedly anti-Soviet in his long and distinguished career. Yet, despite Brzezinski’s strong views, which were often perceived as one-sided and radical, his thinking has influenced generations of policymakers in Washington DC and other capitals because his vision on how to approach a number of global challenges proved right. His recent biography by Andrzej Lubowski is an interesting synthesis of Brzezinski’s ideas, many of which have turned out to be prophetic, at least with respect to Russia. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Economic Prospects of Ukraine

By Yuriy Gorodnichenko (UC Berkeley)
Ukraine is living through most trying times: Maidan protests, snipers killing dozens of unarmed protesters, the fall of Viktor Yanukovych’s regime, near-default of the government, Russian annexation of Crimea, and Russian-sponsored separatist mutiny in Ukraine’s East. With the victory of the February revolution, the new government, and the new elected president Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine has solved some of its political problems but it continues to face a number of challenges on its path to building a successful democratic country.
The backbone of this success has to be good economic performance, and so a crucial question is whether Ukraine’s economy will rebound from recent setbacks. A month ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave a US$17 billion emergency loan which also unlocked loans and aid (in total close to what the IMF loaned) from other donors—individual countries (e.g. U.S., EU) and multinational agencies (e.g. EBRD). These resources can backstop Ukraine from collapsing due to short-term funding problems such as decreased fiscal revenues, depleted foreign reserves, and an economic recession. However, this support will be wasted unless Ukraine experiences robust economic growth in the medium run. In this post, I outline the key forces that, I believe, will shape the economic future of Ukraine over the course of the next ten or so years as well as discuss potential risks that can stall Ukraine’s development.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Truth About Ukraine

By Paul Gregory (Hoover Institution and University of Houston)
Yesterday, President Obama gave a commencement address to the cadets at West Point. Here’s what he said about Ukraine:
This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions. Yesterday, I spoke to their next president. We don’t know how the situation will play out, and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order, working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future — without us firing a shot.

Here’s what he should have said:

This weekend, courageous Ukrainians voted by the millions, some standing in line six hours, others defying threats of violence. Despite long odds, they rallied behind a consensus candidate on the first round. They have a government that no enemy can call illegitimate. The Ukrainian people have held their country together in the face of foreign aggression. It is they who fight on the front lines on our behalf and on behalf of international order, with minimal help from international institutions and the United States – without us firing a shot.
repost from Paul's blog.