Stories by Alina Polyakova

Expert Voices

Russia opens new front against Ukraine in Sea of Azov

two Ukrainian naval vessels
Russian-seized Ukrainian military vessels in a port of Kerch, Crimea, on Nov. 26. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

A Russian coast guard vessel rammed a Ukrainian tugboat in the Sea of Azov Sunday, Nov. 25, setting off a series of increasingly dangerous escalations. Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the narrow passageway connecting the Sea of Azov to the much larger Black Sea — and detained three Ukrainian vessels and 23 sailors. On Monday, Ukraine’s government imposed short-term martial law.

Why it matters: This weekend's attack opened a new front in Russia’s four-year aggression against Ukraine, which includes the ongoing land war in Ukraine's east and the occupation of Crimea.

Expert Voices

Helsinki summit a chance for Trump to press Putin on non-interference

Trump and Putin facing each other in conversation
President Trump and President Putin at the APEC leaders' summit in Danang, Vietnam, on November 11, 2017. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

When President Trump meets President Putin next week in Helsinki, talk may turn to their shared belief in state sovereignty and hard borders. Putin’s approach to sovereignty is, of course, hypocritical — used selectively to justify aggression abroad while providing an excuse for oppression at home.

What's next: Trump should take Putin’s high talk of sovereignty and borders at face value and use it to his advantage. After all, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continued occupation of Crimea and the Donbas remains the greatest infringement of a sovereign state’s rights since the Cold War. If ensuring a state’s ability to protect its borders is a leader’s highest calling, as both presidents claim to believe, it would seem Ukraine should enjoy those rights too.

Expert Voices

Changing course on Crimea is a bad deal for the U.S.

Billboard in Sevastopol, Crimea, with Putin's face
A billboard in Sevastopol, Crimea, in August 2017. The text reads: "Sevastopol is outpost of the future of Russia." Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters last week that he would “have to see” if the U.S. would change its policy on recognizing Russian occupation of Crimea, implying that the issue would be on the table when he meets President Putin later this month. But Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, said Crimea was not on the agenda for the summit because the peninsula, which Russia took by force in 2014, is already an “inseparable part of Russia.”

Be smart: The truth is that a 180º shift in U.S. policy on nonrecognition of Crimea is exactly what the Kremlin wants. It would give Putin a big win at home and abroad while setting a precedent for future land grabs by Russia, China and others.

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