Moscow’s Battle against Time

Guest Contributor:

By Mykola Kapitonenko

Among many other things Russia is trying to achieve in Ukraine, it is desperately struggling to turn back time. Preferably to the good old days when supplies of natural gas to its neighbors energy inefficient economies were successfully converted into political control, or – even better – when military dominance secured regional hegemony.

Kremlin’s ultimate goal is restoring a part of its former greatness. Two years ago Russia was firmly seated among the regional powers. It ranked in the top ten of world economies, enjoyed rocketing prices for natural gas and oil – country’s main commodities, and had become the economic center of gravity for large part of its immediate neighborhood. Powerful Russian lobbies operated in former Soviet republics and took advantage of systemic corruption there. Extra revenues from exporting energy resources enabled Russian leadership to buy influence in those countries, to carry out large-scale military modernization and pump up its military budget, and even to launch projects of regional integration, such as Eurasian Economic Union, tailored to further cement Kremlin’s control over post-Soviet space.

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published 8 December 2015: Democracy, Economics, Energy, Europe, Reform, Russia

Ukraine Gains as European Union Takes on Gazprom

Guest Contributor:

William Harrison

When the European Union announced its antimonopoly charges against Russian gas giant Gazprom in April, some European politicians declared a resounding victory.

“From now on it will be more difficult for the Kremlin to use Gazprom as a tool of political and economic blackmail in Europe,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

The weakening of Gazprom’s clout in the EU has another major beneficiary: Ukraine.

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published 19 July 2015: Energy, EU, Europe, Reform, Russia, Security

Whither the Donbas

The Editors:

For the moment, things seemed to have settled down in Ukraine’s Wild Wild East, with Minsk 2’s cease fire by and large holding. However, most experts seem to doubt that state of affairs will last; with most of them citing Russia’s international goals as the reason. Russia has yet to achieve its goals in Ukraine, summed up perfectly by another former contributor, Tim Ash, as “no NATO, no EU, and no Maidan.” In fact, Putin and his regime cannot allow a successful European democracy to emerge in Ukraine, even a Ukraine shorn of Crimea and the Donbas. Such a Ukraine would pose a mortal threat – not to Russia but to a kleptocratic regime that stays in power through propaganda and coercion,and as recent events amply demonstrated, is starting to lose control domestically. Putin is losing control even as Ukraine’s democratically-elected and reform-minded government is solidifying its hold on the country. Ukraine might very well be persuaded to put on ice its NATO aspirations, might even be persuaded to downplay its EU intentions – both after all are long plays, not likely to bear fruit even in an optimistic scenario any time soon. However, Ukraine is not willing to forego reforms. In fact, the Poroshenko government is scrambling to keep up with public opinion in this regard.

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published 6 April 2015: Democracy, Economics, Energy, EU, History, Reform, Russia

Ukraine – Russia – West: Love Hate Relationship

The Editors:

Ukraine’s once brotherly relations with Russia have eroded. Recently, Russia’s relations have begun to sharply deteriorate not only with Ukraine, but with the entire world. Western experts have vastly overstated Russia’s military strength; their forces have performed poorly on the whole in Ukraine and have taken serious casualties. This is the real basis of a deal. Western military assistance – American military assistance, which is much closer thanks to Congress’ passage of the Ukrainian Freedom Act (which the Center heavily supported) and President Obama’s signing of it – can raise the potential pain to Putin and Russia of further intervention to unacceptable levels; levels that might bring about the regime change Putin and the KGB-state fear so much.

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published 15 January 2015: Democracy, Energy, Europe, History, Military, Russia, Security, USA

Ukraine’s Energy Sector Needs Reforms to Secure Independence

Guest Contributor:

By William Harrison

While Ukrainian armed forces are fighting to preserve the country’s integrity against Russia-backed militants in the east, another battle for independence is taking place in central Kiev in the offices of Naftogaz, the state gas company.

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published 14 January 2015: Democracy, Economics, Energy, Reform, Russia