Friday 2 October 2015

Why the West should listen to Putin on Syria

By Simon Jenkins

As everyone knows, the only way to stop the slaughter in Syria is for the US and its allies to work with President Assad – and to stop worrying about what looks good

Putin is right. Everyone knows Putin is right, that the only way forward in Syria, if not to eternal slaughter, is via the established government of Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese and Iranian allies.

That is the realpolitik. That is what pragmatism dictates. In the secure west, foreign policy has long been a branch of domestic politics, with added sermonising. “What to do”, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, even Ukraine, has been dictated not by what might work but what looks good. The megaphone is mightier than the brain.

The result of American and British grandstanding at the UN this week – seeing who can be ruder about Assad – is that Vladimir Putin has gathered ever more cards to his pack. Putin has already performed the two primary duties of a Russian leader, bringing stability and pride. He now faces turbulent Russian minorities across his European frontier and a serious menace from Muslim states to his south. He is perforce becoming a player on a wider stage. He has read Iran, India and Syria correctly. He is no fool.

Friday 18 September 2015

Putin shifts fronts in Syria and Ukraine

By Jackson Diehl

Throughout the summer, Russia’s forces in eastern Ukraine kept up a daily drumbeat of attacks on the Ukrainian army, inflicting significant casualties while avoiding a response by Western governments. On Sept. 1, following a new cease-fire, the guns suddenly fell silent. Optimists speculated that Vladi­mir Putin was backing down.

Then came the reports from Syria: Russian warplanes were overflying the rebel-held province of Idlib. Barracks were under construction at a new base. Ships were unloading new armored vehicles. Putin, it turns out, wasn’t retreating, but shifting fronts — and executing another of the in-your-face maneuvers that have repeatedly caught the Obama administration flat-footed.

It’s not yet clear what Russia’s intentions are in Syria — or, for that matter, in Ukraine, where it continues to deploy an estimated 9,000 regular troops and 240 tanks on top of more than 30,000 irregulars. Some analysts claim that a floundering Putin is meddling in the Middle East out of desperation because his bid for Ukraine has failed. But another way to see it is this: Putin’s use of force succeeded in inducing the West to accept his Ukraine demands — and he is trying to repeat his triumph in a second theater.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Russian Hawks Win in Failed Warship Deal

By Leonid Bershidsky

The saga of the two Mistral helicopter carriers France built for Russia, but refused to hand over because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, is finally over. The net result is that a French shipyard has been saved at the French taxpayer's expense, while Russian taxpayers will pay to retool the country's wharves so the country can build more of its own warships.

The Kremlin said Wednesday night that Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande have agreed to terminate the 2011 contract; that Russia has already received compensation for its expenses; and that it is preparing to dismantle Russian equipment installed on the ships. Russia, according to the statement, considers "the Mistral matter fully settled."

The Kremlin didn't say how much France paid to break its contract, the subject of months of back-and-forth, but the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that "more than 1.1 billion euros" ($1.2 billion) has landed in the Russian government's account. This fits with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's statement that the compensation was less than the contract's initial 1.2 billion euro price tag.

Russia had so far paid 785 million euros for the warships, one of which was to be delivered last fall and the other later this year. Last September, Hollande suspended the deal under pressure from North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, as Russia looked increasingly involved in the eastern Ukraine fighting. Russia initially talked of a multi-billion-dollar indemnity prescribed by the contract. In April, however, Putin said he wouldn't demand "any indemnities or over-the-top punitive damages." Instead, Russia asked France to compensate its outlay for new port infrastructure and the upkeep and training of the ships' crews.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Russian veto of U.N. resolution on Srebrenica infuriates U.S.

By Karen DeYoung

Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution Wednesday commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys and recognizing it as an act of genocide.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, called the resolution a “confrontational and politically motivated” attempt by its sponsors, including the United States and Britain, to blame one side for the many atrocities committed during the 1990s Balkans conflict.

The vote was the latest controversy between Russia and the United States and its European allies. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement that the veto was “a further stain on this Council’s record” and called it “madness” to deny what happened in Srebrenica.

The Security Council has never formally recognized the massacre as a genocide. Previous U.N. statements and member states have done so, and they have taken responsibility for the failure to protect Srebrenica, which had been declared a U.N. safe zone and was protected by peacekeeping forces.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Are European Companies Ignoring E.U. Sanctions On Russia?

By Kenneth Rapoza

It’s been nearly a year since sectoral sanctions were slapped on Russia for its involvement in helping create a frozen conflict in Eastern Ukraine. European and American companies banned financing of Russian energy firms, and banks. They banned any joint venture deals with Russian oil and gas companies that involved exploration and production, or the selling of technologies used in E&P. But if a string of memorandum of understandings signed during last week’s St. Petersburg International Forum puts anything in the spotlight this week it is this: some very powerful entities in the E.U. have had it with sanctions.

For example, Gazprom, Shell, E.ON and Austria’s OMV Group signed a memorandum last Thursday for a joint venture deal involving a new pipeline that will hopefully one day have the capacity to ship 55 billion cubic meters to European each year. That is bigger than the existing Nord Stream pipeline that takes Russian gas westward.

“Extra gas transmission facilities along the shortest route connecting gas fields in Russia’s north to European markets will provide for higher security and reliability of supplies under new contracts,” Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said in a statement last week.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Nazis Triumph Over Communists in Ukraine

By Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg

It's goodbye Lenin, hello Nazi collaborators in Ukraine these days. Laws signed into effect by President Petro Poroshenko require the renaming of dozens of towns and hundreds of streets throughout the country to eliminate Soviet-era names. At the same time, Ukraine will begin to honor groups that helped Hitler exterminate Ukrainian Jews during World War II.

Ukrainians' desire for a European identity and a break with the country's Soviet past is Poroshenko's biggest political asset, but these latest steps should worry the country's Western allies.

A law Poroshenko signed May 15 bans all Soviet and Nazi symbols, even on souvenirs, and criminalizes "denying the criminal character" of both totalitarian regimes. It bans place names, monuments and plaques glorifying Soviet heroes, Soviet flags and communist slogans. Statues of Lenin have been toppled in many Ukrainian cities since the "revolution of dignity" last year, but the new law goes further.

Big regional centers such as Dnipropetrovsk (named after Grigory Petrovsky, who ran Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s) and Kirovograd (bearing the name of Sergei Kirov, a Bolshevik leader whose popularity rivaled Stalin's, causing the latter to have him killed), as well as dozens of smaller towns, will need new names. Lots of towns have streets named after Lenin and Soviet saints, and these will also be erased in the next few months, creating lots of confusion for anyone using old maps (or Google maps, for that matter). Soviet emblems will be removed from buildings and bridges, murals in the subway will be altered.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Something Truly Amazing Happened at the V-Day Parade

Never before has a Russian Defense Minister done anything like it 

By The Saker

Today will go down in Russian history, as a truly historical celebration of the victory over Nazi Germany.  The parade – by far the most beautiful I have seen (alas, only on video, not in person) – was superb and for the first time included the Chinese PLA [People’s Liberation Army].  Clearly, we see history in the making.  But something else, no less amazing, also happened today: Defense Minister Shoigu made the sign of the Cross before the beginning of the celebrations:

This is an absolutely momentous moment for Russia.  Never in the past history had any Russian Minister of Defense done anything like it.  True, the old tradition was to make the sign of the Cross when passing under the Kremlin’s Savior Tower, if only because there is an icon of the Savior right over the gate.  However, everybody in Russia immediately understood that there was much more to this gesture than an external compliance to an ancient tradition.

The Russian journalist Victor Baranets puts it very well when he wrote:”At that moment I felt that with his simple gesture Shoigu brought all of Russia to his feet.  There was so much kindness, so much hope, so much of our Russian sense of the sacred [in this gesture]“.  He is absolutely correct.  To see this Tuvan Buddhist make the sign of the Cross in the Orthodox manner sent an electric shock through the Russian blogosphere: everybody felt that something amazing had happened.

For one thing, nobody in his right mind would suspect Shoigu of ever doing anything just “for show”.  The man has an immense capital of popularity and credibility in Russia and he has no need for political hypocrisy.  Furthermore, those who saw the footage will immediately see that Shoigu was very concentrated, very solemn, when he did this.  Personally, I believe that Shoigu quite literally asked for God’s help in one of the most dangerous moment in Russian history in which he, the Russian Minister of Defense, might be called to take momentous decisions from which the future of the planet might depend.

For centuries Russian soldiers have knelt and asked for God’s blessing, before going into battle and this is, I believe, what Shoigu did today.  He knows that 2015 will be the year of the big war between Russia and the Empire (even if, due to the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides, this war will remain 80% informational, 15% economic and 5% military)

Does that mean that Shoigu converted to Orthodoxy?  Not necessarily.  Buddhism is very accepting of other religions and I don’t see much of a contradiction here.  But the fact that the first Russian government official to begin the historical Victory Day parade by making the sign of the Cross and appealing for God’s help is a Buddhist, is, in itself, quite amazing (even if it shames his nominally “Orthodox” predecessors who never did so).

I can only imagine the horror, outrage and despair Shoigu’s gesture will trigger in the pro-Western Russian “liberal intelligentsia” and in the western capitals.  In placing himself and all of Russia in God’s hands, Shoigu declared a spiritual, cultural and civilizational war on the Empire.  And just for that, he will go down in history as one of Russia’s greatest men.


Saturday 9 May 2015

Don’t forget how the Soviet Union saved the world from Hitler

By Ishaan Tharoor

In the Western popular imagination -- particularly the American one -- World War II is a conflict we won. It was fought on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, through the rubble of recaptured French towns and capped by sepia-toned scenes of joy and young love in New York. It was a victory shaped by the steeliness of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the moral fiber of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the awesome power of an atomic bomb.

But that narrative shifts dramatically when you go to Russia, where World War II is called the Great Patriotic War and is remembered in a vastly different light.

On May 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin will play host to one of Moscow's largest ever military parades to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. More than 16,000 troops will participate, as well 140 aircraft and 190 armored vehicles, including the debut of Russia's brand new next-generation tank.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Political Murders in Kiev, US Troops to Ukraine

By Ron Paul

Last week two prominent Ukrainian opposition figures were gunned down in broad daylight. They join as many as ten others who have been killed or committed suicide under suspicious circumstances just this year. These individuals have one important thing in common: they were either part of or friendly with the Yanukovych government, which a US-backed coup overthrew last year. They include members of the Ukrainian parliament and former chief editors of major opposition newspapers.

While some journalists here in the US have started to notice the strange series of opposition killings in Ukraine, the US government has yet to say a word.

Compare this to the US reaction when a single opposition figure was killed in Russia earlier this year. Boris Nemtsov was a member of a minor political party that was not even represented in the Russian parliament. Nevertheless the US government immediately demanded that Russia conduct a thorough investigation of his murder, suggesting the killers had a political motive.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Sahra Wagenknecht: EU Policy Has Destroyed Ukraine and Damaged Europe

Excellent speech the charismatic Sahra Wagenknecht, the vice president of the German Left party and German MP, gave in the German parliament March 18. Highlights:
  • "The chief interest of the United States is to prevent coordination between Germany and Russia"
  • "Resultantly Ukraine has lost the great part of its industry. Today, the country is a bankrupt state, where people go hungry, shiver, and have salaries lower than people have in Ghana."
  • "Furthermore, the US and Britain sending military advisors and delivering weapons is not a matter of supporting the peace process, but of torpedoing it. But do you now envision sanctions against the US and Britain?"

This article originally appeared at Sahra Wagenknecht Blog.  It was translated by Tom Winter at the Fort Russ blog.

Mr President, honored ladies and gentlemen, Frau Chancellor.

At your best times, German foreign policy had two priorities: Unity for Europe and a good neighbor policy with Russia. It should give you food for thought, Frau Merkel, if you would listen,

[Volker Kauder: That’s rude!]

that nationalism and strife in Europe, during your ten years in office, are thriving like never before, and as regards Russia, a policy of outreach has given way to a new Cold War.

[Applause from the Left]

Not long ago, the head of the influential think-tank Stratfor, with striking bluntness, explained the US interest in Europe: The chief interest of the United States is to prevent coordination between Germany and Russia, since, literally “united they are the only power that can threaten us,” i.e. threaten the US.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Russian Matryoshkas

The first Russian matryoshka dolls were made in Sergiyev Posad and to this day the town still has a factory which produces high quality matryoshkas

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Debaltsevo: life in ruins - in pictures

Reuters photographer Baz Ratner has visited the towns of Debaltseve and Vuhlehirsk in eastern Ukraine to document the destruction caused by fighting between pro-Russian and Ukrainian forces

More pics...

Saturday 28 February 2015

Reflections on the murder of Boris Nemtsov

The crime is horrific. But there is something a little too convenient for Washington in all of this. Politically, Mr Nemtsov was a spent force – he had a real following in the 1990s, where he was briefly a major player. Unlike Navalny, who is opportunistic, smart and frankly dangerous, Nemtsov’s following was largely limited to foreign journalists and a small group of Russian liberals.

Had the Kremlin wanted him out of the way there were other ways – especially in Moscow. A car crash. An (induced) heart attack. Poisons. Why do a public hit within sight of St. Basel’s Cathedral on Red Square so as to provide a public feast for the foreign press picture editors?

The timing is equally suspicious. Perfectly timed to draw maximum attention to the upcoming opposition March which had risked falling flat. The March itself is no conceivable threat to Mr Putin – who now enjoys the sort of popularity common to wartime leaders in any country – but it is the best shot the West has, knowing that any political murder in Moscow will be systematically attributed to the Kremlin by the tame Western press – whether of a Putin opponent (Politkovskaya) or a fervent supporter (Paul Klebnikov, Forbes). By some odd coincidence, several of these killings took place immediately before President Putin was to address some particularly high-profile international meeting.

The fact that this horrific murder is most beneficial to the anti-Russian factions does not, of course, prove that Washington was in any way involved. It suggests it - which is a very different matter…

There is another – less conspiratorial – theory. The Kiev regime – openly supported by Mr Nemtsov and his followers - is genuinely very unpopular in Russia. Live television coverage of the savage bombardment of Lugansk and Donetsk has evoked some strong passions. There is a hardline, nationalist faction, and Russia can be a violent place. It is entirely possible that someone decided to take revenge for the people of Novorossiya, answering one barbaric crime with another.

There is only one certainty: this murder will be exploited by the Western press which will largely not even bother to formally attribute it to the Kremlin – but simply do a quick montage – Red Square, Putin opponent lying dead. It’s an easy sell.
We can only hope that the murders will be found and punished – and that political violence – in Moscow as in Lugansk - will be universally condemned. RIP

By Truth & Beauty (and Russian Finance)

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Washington's Foolish Foreign Policy: American People Must Say No To More Wars

By Doug Bandow

American foreign policy is controlled by fools. What else can one conclude from the bipartisan demand that the U.S. intervene everywhere all the time, irrespective of consequence? No matter how disastrous the outcome, the War Lobby insists that the idea was sound. Any problems obviously result from execution, a matter of doing too little: too few troops engaged, too few foreigners killed, too few nations bombed, too few societies transformed, too few countries occupied, too few years involved, too few dollars spent.

As new conflicts rage across the Middle East, the interventionist caucus’ dismal record has become increasingly embarrassing. Yet such shameless advocates of perpetual war as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham continue to press for military intervention irrespective of country and circumstance. For instance, they led the Neoconservative mob clamoring for war against Libya less than two years after supping with Moammar Khadafy in Tripoli, when they discussed providing U.S. aid to reward his anti-terrorism efforts.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, another cheerleader for war in Libya, recently defended her actions after being chided on Twitter for being a war-monger. She had authored a celebratory Financial Times article entitled “Why Libya sceptics were proved badly wrong.”

Sunday 15 February 2015

Financial Times Finally Prints the Unvarnished Truth: Kiev Is the Violent Aggressor in East Ukraine

Even those in Donetsk who originally supported Kiev have come to realize that Ukraine is waging a war against its own people

Although this article tries to make the people of Donetsk appear gullible and indoctrinated, it does make one incredible admission: Kiev is waging a vicious war against its own people—something that East Ukrainians will never forget, and probably never forgive. This article originally appeared in Financial Times

As world leaders convened in Minsk this week to decide the fate of east Ukraine, Tatiana Prussova, a teacher at Khartsysk school number 23, stood in front of her class, a map on the wall behind her.

For 10 minutes, she led a group of 15 and 16-year-old students through the day’s lesson: a review of the recent developments in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). She explained a new local holiday — February 8: Day of the Young Anti-Fascist Heroes — and recounted a pivotal week in which the US was considering arming Kiev while the rebel army had gained ground around the crucial rail hub of Debaltseve.

“Thanks to the gains of our Donetsk People’s Republic rebels, the road to Debaltseve has been closed and the town has been encircled,” Ms Prussova told the students, gesturing at the map in the same way other history teachers might point to the battle lines in Flanders or the Napoleonic War.

The class is one of dozens of so-called political information lessons now being taught at schools across rebel-controlled east Ukraine. It is a Soviet tradition that was disbanded following the fall of the USSR but has been revived by the pro-Russian DPR’s education ministry.

Sunday 8 February 2015

One Year Later, Crimeans Prefer Russia

By Leonid Bershidsky
As European leaders engage in shuttle diplomacy to still the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, Crimea, where the Russian onslaught began almost a year ago, has become all but forgotten. It isn't the subject of any talks, and the international sanctions imposed on Russia for annexing the Ukrainian peninsula are light compared to the ones stemming from later phases of the conflict. Yet Crimea provides a key to understanding the crisis and its potential resolution: Ultimately, it's all about how the people in disputed areas see both Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian political scientist Taras Berezovets, a Crimea native, recently started an initiative he called Free Crimea, aided by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and aimed at building Ukrainian soft power on the peninsula. He started by commissioning a poll of Crimean residents from the Ukrainian branch of Germany's biggest market research organization, GfK. The poll results were something of a cold shower to Berezovets.

GfK Ukraine's poll wasn't based on actual field work, which is understandable, since a Ukraine-based organization would have a tough time operating in today's Crimea, which is rife with Russian FSB secret police agents and ruled by a local government intent on keeping dissent to a minimum. Instead, it conducted a telephone poll of 800 people in Crimea.

The calls were made on Jan. 16-22 to people living in towns with a population of 20,000 or more, which probably led to the peninsula's native population, the Tatars, being underrepresented because many of them live in small villages. On the other hand, no calls were placed in Sevastopol, the most pro-Russian city in Crimea. Even with these limitations, it was the most representative independent poll taken on the peninsula since its annexation.

Thursday 29 January 2015

How can the West solve its Ukraine problem?

By Anatol Lieven, Professor, Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar

Russia badly overplayed its hand last year when it tried to bring Ukraine into the Eurasian Union against the passionate opposition of many Ukrainians.

The European Union is now risking the same thing by trying to bring Ukraine into the West without reference to economic reality or the willingness of European publics to bear the enormous costs involved, and at a time when the EU itself is in deepening crisis.

Russia is suffering badly as a result of Western economic sanctions - but Ukraine's situation is far worse, with a predicted fall in GDP of 7% this year.

If this decline continues, the Ukrainian state will face collapse.

Throughout the 23 years since the end of the Soviet Union, too many members of the Western media and policy worlds have ignored or misrepresented key aspects of the Ukrainian-Russian economic relationship.

This allowed them in turn to ignore crucial features of the economic balance of power in Ukraine between Russia and the West.

In their zeal to denounce Russia for putting pressure on Ukraine over gas supplies, Western commentators usually neglected to mention that, through cheap gas and lenient payment terms, Russia was in fact subsidising the Ukrainian economy to the tune of several billion dollars each year - many times the total of Western aid during this period.

This allowed the same commentators not to address the obvious question of whether Western states would be willing to pay these billions in order to take Ukraine out of Russia's sphere of influence and into that of the West.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

"De-Dollarization" Deepens: Russia Buys Most Gold In Six Months, Continues Selling US Treasuries

The rumors of Russia selling its gold reserves, it is now clear, were greatly exaggerated as not only did Putin not sell, Russian gold reserves rose by their largest amount in six months in December to just over $46 billion (near the highest since April 2013). It appears all the "Russia is selling" chatter did was lower prices enabling them to gather non-fiat physical assets at a lower cost. On the other hand, there is another trend that continues for the Russians - that of reducing their exposure to US Treasury debt. For the 20th month in a row, Russia's holdings of US Treasury debt fell year-over-year - selling into the strength. 

Buying low...

Russia gold reserves jump the most in six months in December, near the highest since April 2013...

and selling high...

Thursday 15 January 2015

Lessons from Paris

By Ron Paul

After the tragic shooting at a provocative magazine in Paris last week, I pointed out that given the foreign policy positions of France we must consider blowback as a factor. Those who do not understand blowback made the ridiculous claim that I was excusing the attack or even blaming the victims. Not at all, as I abhor the initiation of force. The police are not blaming victims when they search for the motive of a criminal.

The mainstream media immediately decided that the shooting was an attack on free speech. Many in the US preferred this version of “they hate us because we are free,” which is the claim that President Bush made after 9/11. They expressed solidarity with the French and vowed to fight for free speech. But have these people not noticed that the First Amendment is routinely violated by the US government? President Obama has used the Espionage Act more than all previous administrations combined to silence and imprison whistleblowers. Where are the protests? Where are protesters demanding the release of John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the CIA use of waterboarding and other torture? The whistleblower went to prison while the torturers will not be prosecuted. No protests.

If Islamic extremism is on the rise, the US and French governments are at least partly to blame. The two Paris shooters had reportedly spent the summer in Syria fighting with the rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Assad. They were also said to have recruited young French Muslims to go to Syria and fight Assad. But France and the United States have spent nearly four years training and equipping foreign fighters to infiltrate Syria and overthrow Assad! In other words, when it comes to Syria, the two Paris killers were on “our” side. They may have even used French or US weapons while fighting in Syria.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

The New York Times Explains Why Kiev Sniper Massacre Was Likely a False Flag

-Describes Yanukovich as a flabby leader whose willingness to appease his opponents demoralized his police
-Means it's not very believable he would order a massacre, or that the police would carry it out for him

By Mark Nicholas

Last Sunday The New York Times had an in-depth article on the overthrow of Yanukovich in Ukraine.

That is if you can call in-depth an article that is full of omissions. Which you can't. So let's just say it was a very LONG article.

We should still be thankful for it, however, because it reminded us of the real Yanukovich.

This was a guy who took it upon himself to negotiate an association treaty with the EU and came within inches of signing it.

Yet in the western Maidan narrative he is cast as a pro-Russian authoritarian hardliner who would rather send out police to pile up bodies of demonstrators than let Ukrainians have democracy.

In reality Yanukovich was a centrist who approximated the policies of pro-western Ukraine politicians to the point where he had lost the active support of eastern Ukraine. Moreover during the Maidan standoff he proved himself an indecisive and timid leader.

Monday 5 January 2015

2015: The Year of the Bear? 5 Ways Russia Can Regroup

By Nikolas K. Gvosdev

Russia closed out 2014 hurt by sanctions and its economic crisis. 2015 offers hope if Moscow can limit the damage in its Western vectors, push ahead with its Eurasian dream and strengthen its Asian options.

If I were a strategist advising the Russian government on key national-security objectives for 2015 (and I am not), here would be five priorities for the year:

First, the Kremlin needs to beat back the so-called “Maidan challenge” in Ukraine. Any consolidation of a westward-leaning administration, especially one that successfully undertakes the economic and security reforms that would make it easier to contemplate closer and more meaningful relations between Ukraine and NATO and the European Union, without also guaranteeing Russian equities, remains a critical danger to Moscow’s interests. This challenge, after the Orange Revolution in 2004, was met by the implosion of the coalition that spearheaded the dramatic political shift and by its subsequent inability once in government to deliver on any substantial reforms. While former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is now a spent force and unlikely to return from his Russian exile, what is critical (from Moscow’s perspective) is that Ukrainians develop the sense—particularly in the east and central portions of the country—that, compared with current developments, his administration wasn’t that bad after all. Moreover, it will be critical to show that the promises made at Maidan were empty, and the commitments offered by Western governments will not be fulfilled.

Even with the fall in oil prices and the economic crisis now underway in Russia, Moscow still has many levers to pull in Ukraine, from its support for the separatists to its control of energy resources. There are also many fracture points in the current coalition—reformers versus business figures, nationalists versus those who are open to some sort of practical accommodation with Moscow. Some of the Maidan activists are angry at what they see as a slow pace of change and may be inclined to put pressure on the government as 2015 continues. But there is also a risk that a growing number of Ukrainians in the east who did not cast their lot in with the separatists and supported both the presidential bid of Petro Poroshenko and his party in the Rada elections will become alienated from a government that does not succeed in restoring some degree of normalcy and predictability in the country’s relations with Russia.