Matthew A. Rojansky

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For decades, the dispute over ownership of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from developing closer economic ties and ending tensions dating to World War II.

Japan views the Russian occupation of the islands as illegitimate. Russia considers the matter settled because Japan launched and then lost a war of aggression, and therefore must accept the loss of territory as a just consequence.

Today, however, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appear to be the unlikely partners in finally settling the matter. These two nationalist hawks may be in a position to cut a deal that more moderate predecessors never could.…  Seguir leyendo »

The one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting down of Flight MH17 over Ukraine is an opportunity to take stock of the costs of Europe's latest, biggest, and apparently most intractable security crisis.

Twelve months after Russia-backed separatists were first accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, Europe's relations with Russia -- having advanced by leaps and bounds over nearly three decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain -- have again descended into deep distrust and hostility.

European leaders, initially knocked off balance by Russia's annexation of Crimea and cascading outbreaks of violence in eastern Ukraine, found new resolve when nearly 300 passengers, many of them EU citizens, became victims of the conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

Writing in these pages over the past two years, we have warned that despite the 2009 “reset,” relations between the United States and Russia continued to drift downward.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Moscow in May raised a glimmer of hope that the relations could be improving, but the frosty tone and negative body language of the meetings between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in Northern Ireland last month signaled nothing of the sort.

Today there can be no doubt that the relationship has deteriorated dramatically, apparently hostage to a downward spiral of crisis and retaliation: last year’s pre-election scapegoating, the imposition of new reciprocal sanctions, a worsening proxy war in Syria and a potentially endless reservoir of recrimination over spies and dissidents, to name just a few symptoms.…  Seguir leyendo »

The three jailed female members of the punk group Pussy Riot have not only captured the world’s attention, but have also drawn a spotlight on the Russian government’s broader crackdown on political dissent. Over the past year, it has become significantly more difficult and even downright dangerous for Russians to organize or participate in any political activity not sanctioned by the authorities. This is a turn for the worse that surely deserves attention.

But a rising tide of anti-Russia rhetoric from Washington and Russia’s bristling response underscore the difficulty of balancing human rights and democracy with other vital national interests in an important international relationship.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nearly three years after the U.S.-Russia “reset” was announced in February 2009, the fragility of relations between Moscow and Washington is on full display. Even though the two countries have deepened their collaboration in a number of key areas — particularly in facilitating the NATO mission in Afghanistan — it seems that old habits of suspicion and recrimination die hard.

Thus, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton branded Russia’s recent State Duma elections as unfree and unfair — both preempting and exceeding the assessment of the O.S.C.E. observer mission in which the United States participated — she in effect denied the legitimacy of the Russian government that is ostensibly our partner in the U.S.-Russia…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia watchers in the West cannot be surprised that Vladimir Putin is on his way back to the Russian presidency. Dmitri Medvedev was always his protégé, and there was no doubt that major decisions could not be made without his approval. This includes signing the New START arms control treaty, cooperating with NATO in Afghanistan and supporting U.N. sanctions on Iran — all of which should provide reassurance that Putin’s return won’t undo the most important accomplishments of the U.S.-Russia “reset.”

Yet the relationship with the West will inevitably change. For one thing, Putin can have nothing like the rapport his protégé developed with President Obama, which was built upon the two leaders’ shared backgrounds as lawyers, their easy adoption of new technologies, and their fundamentally modern worldviews.…  Seguir leyendo »

Politically driven ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan has already claimed more than 100 lives and threatens to erase the country’s progress toward self-government following the April ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

It is an ominous sign that a society which had undertaken impressive reforms aimed at creating the region's first parliamentary democracy is now teetering on the brink of outright civil war and state failure.

With the violence around Osh continuing and a very real possibility that the conflict could expand to engulf parts of neighboring Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, NATO and the United States must immediately engage with regional partners to help restore security.…  Seguir leyendo »