Category Archives: News & Views

IN MEMORIAM OF OLEKSANDR MASLAK

Ukrainian right intellectual environment suffered a terrible loss on September 6. A car crash took lives of four outstanding Ukrainian political thinkers – Oleksandr Maslak, Oleksiy Kurinij, Oleksandr Nikonorov, Volodymyr Karagujar – and public activist Serhiy Popov. The group of Ukrainian political scientists was on their way back to Kyiv from Warsaw, where they had participated the international conference named “Strategy of the Intermarium states co-operation in the conditions of a hybrid war.” Their car suddenly fell into a drift in a highway in the Rivne region flew to the oncoming lane. Olexander Maslak was one of those, who directly developed the Intermarium integration geopolitical idea in Ukraine.

https://ukrainiancrusade.blogspot.com/2017/09/in-memoriam-of-oleksandr-maslak.html?m=1

***

Authorities in Ukraine say three political analysts, a journalist, and an activist died in a traffic accident in the western region of Rivne on September 6.

Anton Herashchenko, a lawmaker and adviser to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, wrote on Facebook that political observers Oleksandr Maslak, Oleksiy Kurinniy, and Oleksandr Nikanorov, journalist Volodymyr Karahyaur, and activist Serhiy Popov were killed and that the early morning crash was being investigated.

Ukraine’s national police said earlier that four men died after the car they were in collided with a truck. The fifth man in the car died hours later in a hospital, it said.

https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-analysts-journalist-killed-rivne-car-crash/28720070.html

“Every country should have a cyber war”: What Estonia learned from Russian hacking

In just over two decades, Estonia has become one of the world’s most digitally innovative and efficient countries. In fact, Estonians conduct all their civic responsibilities online. Offices and paper forms have become obsolete as state-issued digital identities allow all citizens to carry out any financial or government transaction from their laptops or cellphones. And that gives them an edge when it comes to cybersecurity.

Estonia’s journey down the digital road has been astonishingly fast. When it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it had almost no money and few natural resources. But it did have one advantage: It was the designated center for software and computer production for the USSR. After achieving independence, the country had a pool of tech expertise for them to build on.

During these early years of independence, Estonia needed to create the means for a new economy. And it wasn’t going to be easy. The country’s tiny population of just 1.3 million is spread over a relatively vast countryside. Outside the capital Tallinn, there’s an average of just four people per square kilometer. The new government didn’t have the resources to extend government offices or banking facilities to small towns and villages, so it decided to encourage self-service, and spread internet access across the country in order to do so.

To achieve this, the government set up an investment group to build computer networking and infrastructure. By 1997, almost every school was connected to the internet, and by 2004, 300 wifi access points had been established, bringing the internet even to small villages—and mostly for free.

But this was just laying the groundwork. Estonia’s biggest turning point was 10 years ago, when the country came under sustained cyberattack.

In 2007, Estonia was in the middle of a political fight with Moscow over plans to remove a Soviet war memorial from a park in Tallinn. Suddenly, it was hit with three weeks of D-DoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. When this happens, multiple sources send multiple online requests, flooding a service or system and making it unable to function. It’s the digital equivalent of crowding an entrance to a building so that no one can come in or out.

As a result, the internet shut down as websites were bombarded with traffic. Russia denied any involvement, but Estonia didn’t believe it.

“War is the continuation of policy by other means,” Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid told a NATO cyber-conference in Tallinn in June 2017. “Ten years on, it is clear that the decision made by Estonia not to withdraw but stay and fight for the security of our cyberspace was indeed the right one.”

The attacks made Estonia more determined than ever to develop its digital economy and make it safe from future attacks. “I think every country should have a cyber war,” says Taavi Kotka, the government’s former chief information officer. “Citizens get knowledge about what an attack means, about how phishing works, how D-DoS works, and they start to understand and live with that. People aren’t afraid if they know they can survive something. It’s the same thing as electricity going off: Okay, it’s an inconvenience, but you know how to deal with it.”

https://qz.com/1052269/every-country-should-have-a-cyber-war-what-estonia-learned-from-russian-hacking/

A Wake-up Call for Ukraine’s Civil Society

Civil Society after Euromaidan: What Went Right?

Ukraine paid a high price to restore its democracy in 2013. The scope of innovation and civic engagement at the 2013 Euromadan was truly unprecedented. There are at least four areas where civil society achieved particularly strong results:

1. Ukraine experienced a remarkable growth of nationwide volunteer groups that provide humanitarian support and social assistance to the victims of the war in Donbas and other populations at risk. Volunteers became the most trusted group in Ukrainian society (replacing the church).[8]

2. Civil society groups influenced the post-Euromaidan reform process. The largest and most visible reform network – the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) – is comprised of 80 NGOs, 22 reform groups and 300 experts, who develop, promote, and in some cases even implement judicial, anticorruption and economic changes.

3. Anticorruption initiatives became much more systemic and institutionalized. NGOs continuously monitored the process of constructing two major anticorruption agencies, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC). Under public pressure, the government launched a publicly available online system for tracking the declared assets of politicians, civil servants, and judges.

4. Euromaidan ushered in a new type of political organization: membership-based political parties detached from oligarchic funding. These civil society-based political forces, like Democratic Alliance, Power of the People, Civic Movement “Khvylya” (the wave), and Mikheil Saakashvili’s The New Forces Movement, engage well-educated Ukrainians and focus on anti-corruption.

What Went Wrong (Again)?

The human toll of the Euromaidan was so high that most find the current cynical restoration of the old system truly incomprehensible. As Novoe Vremya editor Vitaliy Sych wrote: “I thought that after the killing of 100 people on the Maidan, after the deaths of thousands of people in the East, Ukraine would never be the same, and that politicians would understand the level of responsibility and the importance of the moment. But we still witness corruption, schemes, and political deals at the highest level.”[9] However, the incomprehensible is unfolding before our eyes. Ukraine’s political class once again patiently waited for the revolutionary fervor to pass before starting its “sweet counter-revolution”.[10]

The first warning light for Ukraine’s civil society should have been the “business as usual” approach of Ukraine’s NGO community. While volunteers emerged as the most trusted group in Ukraine after the Euromaidan, the NGO leaders continued to prioritize relations with Western donors over engaging with its citizens, even the passionate army of volunteers.

Certain NGOs resumed working with Ukraine’s financial elites. Ihor Kolomoisky, Viktor Pinchuk and other oligarchs started employing financial, media, and political resources to promote various activists and NGOs. The oligarchs predicted, correctly, that their support would buy a certain amount of influence and protection. Social scientist Mikhail Minakov observed, “In 2014…oligarchic groups recognized the functionality of civil society organizations and attempted to use them—sometimes through coercion—either to increase their rents or to defend their existing power and property.”[11]

In many ways the cultural codes of Ukraine’s top NGOs mirror the patron-client nature of the country’s oligarchic power structures: many Kyiv-based NGOs operate in a rather closed network of people who have been friends for a long time, who have a long history of cooperating with one another, and who built clientelistic networks either with government representatives or international donors.

Consider the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) group. Donors rewarded RPR for its effectiveness and success in advocating post-Euromaidan reforms. From 2015-17, it received millions of dollars in support from Ukraine’s key donors: USAID, Pact, the Swedish SIDA, the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), UNDP, and the EU Delegation to Ukraine. Although RPR is officially comprised of 80 NGOs, all Western funding has been channeled through a select group of NGOs—such as the Center for Democracy and Rule of Law (more than 70 percent of total funding), Centre UA and the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research – all of which were already longtime recipients of foreign aid.[12]

The funding flow not only created conflict between recipient and non-recipient groups—it created something of a “warm bath” effect for the recipients. RPR turned its focus on donor reports and applications, rather then sustaining and growing citizen participation. RPR’s office, opened in 2014 with zero donor funding, looked like a beehive of civic activism. Today, the drive is gone and bureaucracy prevails over innovation. When asked what made him most proud of the network, Artem Mirhorodkyi, chief of RPR’s secretariat, responded he was “particularly glad that RPR’s reform bulletins were received and read by all foreign embassies and foreign organizations.”

Over time, results-oriented activists started leaving the network. As Viktor Griza, a former member of RPR’s group on cultural reform, told me: “RPR grew into a club of beneficiaries [vygodopoluchateli]. Many RPR activists only use the RPR ‘brand’ to boost their personal capital – to meet foreign diplomats, get media opportunities, get invited to international conferences, or win prestigious fellowships in the United States. For some, RPR is a ticket to power corridors, where they can make friends with government officials or politicians and maybe get elected to the Verkhovna Rada during the next election.”

The stagnation in Ukraine’s NGO community was matched only by the ambition of many civic leaders to take advantage of their newfound influence. In 2013 Ukraine’s activists represented a potent and vigorous force. Authorities were forced to reckon with activist power and cooperate with its leaders on reforms. This opened a window of opportunity for Euromaidan leaders to go into politics, and many took advantage of the opportunity to convert their standing into attractive parliamentary or governmental positions. As a consequence, the leaders on the street failed to form a united political force to run for parliament in 2015. Instead, they allowed the country’s old elites to split their ranks and co-opt them into different political projects.

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/kennan-cable-no25-wake-call-for-ukraines-civil-society

Why giving Ukraine lethal weapons would be a massive mistake

I don’t agree with this opinion, but it’s part of the conversation. I don’t agree b/c this article over-estimates Russian military competency, and under-estimates Ukraine’s resolve.

But the result would likely be the opposite — an escalation in the conflict that would lead to further losses of Ukraine’s territory and compromise its political stability. Russia enjoys insurmountable military superiority over Ukraine. The United States should not encourage Ukraine to engage in an escalatory confrontation with Russia. Washington knows full well that Ukraine cannot prevail.

The urge to give Ukraine lethal arms — most likely in the form of anti-tank weapons — is understandable. Since 2014, the Russians have occupied and illegally annexed Crimea and sustained a separatist rebellion in Donbass that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. Moreover, Russia has engaged in these acts of aggression in order to block Ukraine’s desire to leave Moscow’s sphere of influence and join the community of Western democracies.

Under these circumstances, the United States should continue helping Ukrainians defend themselves by assisting with defense reforms and training Ukrainian forces. So why not take the next step and give Ukraine lethal weapons?

For starters, the notion that Russian President Vladimir Putin would give up his hold on Donbass if a few more Russians come home in body bags is to dramatically misread the Kremlin. Putin is a master at manipulating the Russian public, especially when it comes to the Ukraine conflict and would hardly fold his hand if Russian casualties were to increase.

On the contrary, he would likely double down, blaming the United States and Ukraine for the intensified fighting and taking steps to offset the improvement in Ukraine’s military capability.

Ukraine’s Former Top Spy Goes After a New Enemy: Corruption

“At stake is survival of the country,” Nalyvaichenko said. “At stake is whether we’ll finally get rule of law and a functioning state instead of chaos, corruption, weakness, and [being] not capable to defend our territory and the country. So, at stake is the country, its independence.”

http://dailysignal.com/2017/01/14/ukraines-former-top-spy-goes-after-a-new-enemy-corruption/

(January 2017) Josh Cohen: Ukraine made right call in opposing illegal Israeli settlements

Between fighting corruption and battling Russian troops and Russian-supported separatists in the Donbas, Ukraine has plenty on its plate already. Despite these burdens though Kyiv also got caught up in one of the final dramas of U.S. President Barack Obama’s presidency.

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. abstained from a recent U.N. Security Council Resolution (Resolution 2334) condemning Israel’s continued expansion of West Bank settlements. 2334 called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory” and declared all Jewish West Bank settlements to be violations of international law. The Resolution was supported by the other fourteen members of the Security Council – including Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with anger, canceling the trip to Israel his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Groysman in Israel. Although a number of sources – both Israeli and Ukrainian – have battered Kyiv for supporting the Resolution, President Poroshenko made the right decision to support 2334.

First and foremost, Israeli settlements are a clear violation of international law and risk permanently ending any hopes for a two-state solution. Several hundred thousand Israeli settlers now live on the West Bank, creating a complex geographic patchwork of settlements that will eventually end all hope for creating any semblance of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank. While Israel’s future is ultimately its own to decide, Kyiv’s decision on 2334 was both morally and legally correct.

Furthermore, it would be hypocritical of Kyiv to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a clear violation of international law, while simultaneously appearing to support Israel’s own ongoing international law violations. While the Kyiv-Tel Aviv relationship has blossomed since Ukrainian independence, this does not mean Israel can automatically expect Ukraine to automatically support it on every diplomatic issue the two sides confront.

https://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinion/op-ed/josh-cohen-ukraine-made-right-call-opposing-illegal-israeli-settlements.html

I was interviewed on the Gold Newsletter about Russian Propaganda in Libertarian circles

Check it out:

https://goldnewsletter.com/podcast/russian-propaganda-dupes-libertarians/

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/330561678″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]