Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed forces to Syria, U.S. military officials described his regime as an “existential threat” in light of his invasion of Ukraine. Putin, who oversees one of the most corrupt, kleptocratic regimes in the world, has been driving the international agenda of late — from Ukraine to Syria — while Western leaders, including President Obama, have been reactive and defensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to go on the offensive, in a nonmilitary way, to knock Putin on his heels, while also shutting down his odious propaganda machine? Here’s how it can be done:
Freeze the assets of Putin’s state-funded RT cable network, not because of the odious things it spews but in compliance with two court rulings against the Russian government involving the multibillion-dollar Yukos oil company.… Seguir leyendo »
The Russian KGB, known today as the FSB, has come to Washington.The organization’s director, Alexander Bortnikov, is leading the Russian delegation to President Obama’s “Countering Violent Extremism” summit this week. The optics of this — having the head of the successor agency to the Soviet KGB in Washington as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine and conducts a nasty crackdown on human rights at home — are terrible.
Bortnikov is not on the U.S. sanctions list that denies dozens of Russians entry to the United States either because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine or because of the 2012 human rights legislation known as the Magnitsky Act.… Seguir leyendo »
The deal proposed by Michael O’Hanlon and Jeremy Shapiro in their Dec. 7 op-ed, “A win for Russia, Ukraine and the West,” would not just be misguided — it would be dangerous. The premise of their argument that a “win-win-win outcome for Russia, Ukraine and the West is far smarter than zero-sum thinking” runs counter to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s exclusively “zero-sum” view of the world. If we have learned anything from the Obama administration’s failed “reset” with Russia, it is that Putin unfailingly seeks to exploit the West’s futile pursuit of “win-win” deals.
To get Putin to behave, O’Hanlon and Shapiro proposed granting him a veto over anything the European Union and NATO would do vis-à-vis Russia’s neighbors, thereby consigning Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other countries to a Russian sphere of influence.… Seguir leyendo »
During Vice President Biden’s visit to Kiev, he should find time to walk through the Maidan, where he will see makeshift memorials for the more than 100 Ukrainians who lost their lives fighting for a better future for their country. It is a deeply moving experience. Since November, they and hundreds of thousands of others who took to the streets have demanded freedom and the rule of law, dignity and respect for human rights, an end to corruption, and an opportunity to deepen integration with Europe — in short, the opposite of everything that Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin represent.
Biden’s visit follows a negotiating session in Geneva last week that is getting bad reviews from the protesters still camped out in downtown Kiev.… Seguir leyendo »
The Obama administration took a good first step Monday when it announced sanctions against Russian officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine and efforts that “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.” As President Obama said, “If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions.”
Further sanctions will indeed be needed, for the list released Monday is missing some key names. In addition, Obama needs to ensure that his European partners take tough measures — the European Union announced sanctions against 13 Russian officials but did not identify them — as Russian integration into Europe and its financial institutions is much greater than into the United States.… Seguir leyendo »
President Obama faces the gravest challenge of his presidency in figuring out how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. How he responds will define his two terms in office, as well as determine the future of Ukraine, Russia and U.S. standing in the world. After all, if the authoritarian tyrant Vladimir Putin is allowed to get away with his unprovoked attack against his neighbor, a blatant violation of that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, then U.S. credibility, already damaged by Obama’s poor handling of Syria, will be down to zero. Allies won’t believe in us, enemies won’t fear us and the world will be a much more dangerous place.… Seguir leyendo »
During the Orange Revolution nine years ago, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets, outraged by a rigged election that would have elevated then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to the presidency. Their efforts forced a rerun of that election and led to his defeat. Yanukovych, however, made a political comeback and narrowly won the presidency in 2010.
Today, he is once again the target of many Ukrainians’ ire, this time for spurning the European Union by deciding not to sign association and free-trade agreements at last week’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. In so doing, Yanukovych placed his personal interests above those of his country, and many Ukrainians have decided, as in 2004, that they have had enough of his corrupt and increasingly authoritarian rule.… Seguir leyendo »
Can everyone please stop pretending that Russia can be a partner with the United States and others in solving the crisis in Syria? Recently, there has been a flurry of visits to Moscow by senior Western and U.N. officials: U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon was there in mid-April, followed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in early May, then British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. All have gone to meet with President Vladimir Putin to seek, among other things, the Russian leadership’s help regarding Syria. How has that turned out?… Seguir leyendo »
Overlooked amid the focus on the Boston bombings and the suspects’ links to Russia is the latest example of the systematic abuse of human rights under Vladimir Putin.
Alexei Navalny, 36, is on trial this week on charges of stealing $500,000 from a timber firm in 2009, a case that was previously closed for lack of evidence. He is the most recent victim of the Putin regime’s use of government agencies and courts to punish and marginalize opponents.
Russian officials have opened several spurious investigations into Navalny, designed to publicly discredit him. His family and friends are also being investigated, a guilt-by-association trick of the Soviet era.… Seguir leyendo »
Most news out of the Middle East these days is dispiriting: the devastating civil war in Syria, the autocratic nature of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, continued militia activity in Libya, a coalition collapse in Tunisia. Less discussed, and surprisingly positive, is the political situation in Yemen.
The United States has played a significant role in Yemen’s transition, which ushered out former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in exchange for immunity, and inaugurated a unity government and consensus president that are overseeing a national dialogue launched last month. The United States has pledged support for the dialogue, which will lead to a constitutional referendum and new elections.… Seguir leyendo »
In a display of callousness unusual even by Vladimir Putin’s standards, Russia eliminated the possibility of a better life for thousands of orphans last week when Putin signed into law a ban on adoptions by Americans. The law is named for Dima Yakovlev, a Russian child adopted by U.S. parents who died after being left in a truck in the heat in Herndon. That case, and 18 other cited instances of Russian adoptees who died in the care of American parents, are tragedies. But the vast majority of the nearly 60,000 adoptions by American couples over the past two decades have enabled Russian children, some with severe disabilities, to lead happy lives.… Seguir leyendo »
As he develops his second-term foreign policy agenda, President Obama should include a prudently implemented strategy to expand freedom’s reach to those parts of the globe where fear and repression prevail. By embracing support for freedom, the president would advance American interests and burnish his legacy as a leader who achieved major change for the United States and the world.
To date, the president has been uneven on the exercise of U.S. power to promote democratic change. Obama spoke eloquently at the State Department and at the United Nations last year about the vital role democracy plays in a peaceful world.… Seguir leyendo »
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled today to take up the most consequential piece of legislation in years related to Russia: the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. With strong bipartisan support, led by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), the Magnitsky bill is the most serious U.S. effort to address human rights and the rule of law in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The legislation is named after the 37-year-old lawyer who was jailed unjustly in 2008 after exposing a massive tax fraud by officials of Russia’s Interior Ministry.… Seguir leyendo »
In her March 10 op-ed, “Why Egypt moved on the NGOs,” Fayza Aboulnaga, Egypt’s minister for planning and international cooperation, left out key facts and generally misrepresented the campaign she has been leading against civil society in that country. It is important to set the record straight.
Aboulnaga omitted from her Post column scurrilous charges she made against us last fall. “Evidence indicates an unequivocal desire and persistence to thwart any attempt at Egypt’s progress as a modern democratic country with a strong economy since that will pose a threat to Israel and American interests,” she said in testimony to prosecuting judges.… Seguir leyendo »
A months-long campaign against civil-society groups by Egypt’s military leadership came to a head Thursday when Egyptian security forces raided the Cairo offices of Freedom House and several other international and local nongovernmental organizations. These attacks were a major setback to the hopes that emerged this year with the revolution in Tahrir Square. If corrective measures are not taken, the attacks will severely damage Egypt’s long-term stability and prospects for a more democratic future.
The protests in January and February that led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak offered hope to the Egyptian people for the first time in decades. Coming on the heels of the movement that brought down Tunisia’s longtime ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben-Ali, the revolution reflected Egyptians’ pent-up frustration with endless human rights abuses, rigged elections and lack of real economic opportunity.… Seguir leyendo »
Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Michael McFaul as the next U.S. ambassador to Russia highlights one of three steps that Congress should take this fall related to Russia and U.S.-Russian relations.
The Senate should confirm McFaul, who has served as President Obama’s top adviser on Russia at the National Security Council. Second, both the House and Senate should waive the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which deals with emigration of Soviet Jews as it applies to Russia, and third, they should replace it with an up-to-date bill that would sanction Russian officials responsible for gross human rights abuses. … Seguir leyendo »
While much of the world’s attention the past few months has been focused on the volatile Middle East, citizen activism against dictators is spreading in another part of the world, this time in the former Soviet republic of Belarus. Dubbed the last dictator in Europe, Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko is under growing domestic and international pressure because of his gross human rights abuses and responsibility for his country’s worst economic crisis since gaining independence 20 years ago.
The people of Belarus are signaling that they have had enough. While working to accelerate the demise of the current regime, Belarusan civil society, ordinary citizens, opposition forces, and European and American governments should also be preparing for a post-Lukashenko Belarus.… Seguir leyendo »
Nursultan Nazarbayev, the “victor” in Kazakhstan’s recent presidential election with 95 percent of the vote, claimed on this page April 1 that his country has a democratic destiny. Unfortunately, Nazarbayev’s record as president since his country gained independence in 1991 shows that Kazakhstan is moving away from, not closer to, a democratic system of government. Indeed, the profound disconnect between reality in Kazakhstan and Nazarbayev’s assertions resembles other authoritarian regimes where leaders seek to wrap themselves in some form of democratic legitimacy.
Take the April 3 snap election, which was devoid of any real choice, much as in the days of Soviet rule.… Seguir leyendo »
After opposition protests in Russia were violently suppressed in May, July and August, spokesmen for the National Security Council and the State Department expressed "concern" and "regret" that Russian authorities were not respecting the freedom of assembly. During the May 31 crackdown, one journalist who days before had interviewed NSC Russia expert Michael McFaul had his arm broken. When McFaul and Undersecretary of State William Burns met with a group of human rights activists and others this month in Moscow, longtime activist Lev Ponomaryov was notably absent. He had been arrested for giving an interview critical of the mayor of Moscow during which he allegedly "stepped on the foot of a militia officer."… Seguir leyendo »
Ahead of Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Washington this week, a "leaked" Russian foreign policy document is causing some Russia watchers to wonder whether the Russian president is shifting his country toward a more positive, pro-Western stance. A careful read of the 18,000-word document does not support such wishful thinking.
Russian Newsweek published the document in May, along with a Feb. 10 cover letter to Medvedev from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. While the foreign ministry did not dispute the authenticity of the document, neither it nor the Kremlin has issued it formally. This contrasts with Russia's military doctrine, which was released officially in February.… Seguir leyendo »