The Great Debate

Putin’s already paying dearly for Ukraine – and looks willing to sacrifice much more

By William E. Pomeranz
August 12, 2014

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted a “go it alone” approach throughout the Ukraine crisis and regularly describes his country as “independent” and nonaligned. But Moscow is not as isolated as Putin makes out. The fact that he cannot see this reality — or chooses to ignore it — has produced a series of decisions that has seriously undermined Russia’s global role.

Putin’s Ukraine invasion threat is more than a bluff — but not his preference

By Ian Bremmer
August 7, 2014

A Ukrainian serviceman uses a pair of binoculars as he guards a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve

Ukrainian troops have made huge headway routing the separatists in the east. They are in the process of choking off the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, to which many of the separatists have retreated. The Ukrainian military appears primed to besiege the cities. As Ukraine has gained, Putin has prepared Russia for invasion: as of Monday, Ukraine says there are 45,000 combat-ready troops are amassed at the border. The chance that Russia invades is certainly going up.

Clashes with Russia point to globalization’s end

By Mark Leonard
July 30, 2014

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As the European Union and the United States ramp up their sanctions on Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s plans for retaliation seem to include an attack on McDonald’s. There could not be a more powerful symbol that geopolitics is increasingly undoing the globalization of the world economy.

Need to learn to launch a BUK missile quick? Look online.

By Robert Beckhusen
July 30, 2014

A Buk M-23 air defence missile system is seen on display during the opening of the MAKS-2009 international air show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow

No one has admitted responsibility for firing the sophisticated missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 people over Ukraine on July 17. But untrained rebels could probably have done it with a little practice. There are even instructions online, making it possible for nearly anyone who comes into possession of one of these systems — anywhere in the world — to use it.

from Stories I’d like to see:

The Russian sanctions information gap

By Steven Brill
July 29, 2014

Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region

There are so many gaps in the reporting about the effort to use economic sanctions against Russia to get President Vladimir Putin to pull back support for the Ukraine separatists that it makes sense to devote my whole column this week to listing them.

Sanctions finally find Russia’s Achilles heel

By William E. Pomeranz
July 23, 2014

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures as he chairs a government meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama were reportedly engaged in a heated telephone conversation last Thursday when Putin noted in passing that an aircraft had gone down in Ukraine. The tragic crash of the Malaysian airliner in rebel-held eastern Ukraine continues to dominate the headlines, but it is important to remember what agitated Putin and prompted the phone call in the first place — sanctions.

After MH17: The technical fix that could protect civilian airliners from missile attacks

July 18, 2014

Site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen at the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region

The awful crash of Malaysian Flight 17 in the eastern Ukraine combat zone seems likely to have been caused by a long-range surface-to-air missile. At this writing, who launched the missile remains undetermined. Regardless of who’s guilty — why is a modern software-driven weapon capable of striking a civilian jet in the first place?

What’s behind the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine, and what happens next? Five smart views.

By Helen Coster
July 18, 2014

Armed pro-Russian separatist stands at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region

On Thursday Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, with 298 people on board, was shot down over Grabovo, Ukraine, by what officials have described as a Russian-made antiaircraft missile. As investigators uncover details of the attack — including the origins of the missile — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s role in the Ukraine crisis will come under renewed scrutiny. Below are five takes on what happened and why, as well as what the consequences will be.

U.S. spying on Germany: Making enemies out of allies, and for what?

By David Wise
July 11, 2014

German Chancellor Merkel attends a session of Bundestag in Berlin

What were they thinking?

In the wake of last fall’s revelation that the National Security Agency had wiretapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, the report of U.S. intelligence’s involvement in two other likely cases of spying on Germany is mind-boggling.

from John Lloyd:

Could Vladimir Putin give peace a chance in Ukraine and beyond?

By John Lloyd
July 3, 2014

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What would it take for Russia to walk a way from violence and seek peaceful coexistence with its neighbors? It's certainly hard to see a way out right now.