Category Archives: USA

Savchenko writes open letter to Trump, asks him to maintain anti-Russian sanctions

Ukrainian lawmaker and former military pilot Nadia Savchenko has written an open letter to U.S President-elect Donald Trump asking that he continue and even increase sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

“I appeal to you with the kind request to maintain and even to strengthen sanctions against the Russian Federation, because this country understands only force. I also ask for international diplomatic, technical, and military support for Ukraine,” wrote Savchenko.

The lawmaker also asked Trump to monitor and support the release of imprisoned Ukrainians in Russia and hostages in the country’s war-torn Donbas region. Savchenko herself was released from a Russian prison under a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, after more than two years of imprisonment there and being subjected to a sham trial by a Russian court.

“As the world called for my release, now I would like to help (Ukrainian prisoners) by raising awareness about their plight, too. I’d be very thankful for your possible future answer, in which you might explain to Ukrainians and to all the nations of the world the main points of your future administration’s steps regarding these questions,” Savchenko went on.

“I want to add that you have every possibility to prevent World War III,” added the lawmaker.

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WW3 News: Vladimir Putin Gives Obama 24-Hour Ultimatum, Satan 2 Ready For Deployment

Vladimir Putin has finally had enough of America demonizing his country that he has issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton as WW3 tensions run high. In his global message, he warned that he will start shooting down US aircraft in the Middle East if the United States continues to slander Russia.

The global announcement was made on Friday, October 21st with the Russian president also warning the US to prepare for the possibility of World War 3. This appears to be no idle threat because as of Sunday, October 23rd, Putin has ordered the Russian Defense Ministry to begin training and managing all local authorities, law enforcement, and state security.

According to the Conservative Daily Post, this is all to prepare Russia for a nuclear war with the United States. However, despite both superpowers teetering over the edge of nuclear Armageddon, Hillary Clinton still spent the last two days blaming Putin and Russia for WikiLeaks and continues to call him a “thug puppet.”

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Russia Has to Be Contained (But So Does Every Superpower)

The West has increasingly spoken in recent years of the need to contain Russia. But in doing so, it has blurred the line between “containment” and “deterrence.” Today, observers speak primarily of the latter, with the connotation of “intimidation” and the use of “scare tactics.” Of course, containment is impossible without the use of force, but where simple scare tactics suffice, full-scale containment is unnecessary.

At a recent meeting between Russian experts and U.S. investors and political analysts, the discussion focused on the need to make corrections to the so-called “plutonium agreement.” The U.S. delegation reiterated that the conflict over weapons-grade plutonium is a simple misunderstanding on technical matters.

However, the Kremlin does not want the problem to be perceived this way. Otherwise, it would not have incorporated an ultimatum to the United States in the text of a federal law subsequently adopted by the State Duma. That law calls for the U.S. to reduce its military infrastructure on the territory of NATO member states, “abandon its hostile policy towards Russia,” and even “provide compensation for damages Russia suffered…from having to introduce counter-sanctions against the U.S.” Normally, victorious countries deliver such ultimatums to the vanquished.

The law communicates one message very clearly – that when it comes to the most important issues, nothing and no-one can “contain” Moscow.

Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama argue that his policy of sanctions has failed. They point out that, even under sanctions, Russia has managed to work against U.S. interests in a number of regions around the world.

However, the classical 1940s concept of containment did not imply the literal isolation of the Soviet Union, much less the entire Eastern bloc. Even during his most fervently anti-Kremlin period, George F. Kennan, the founder of U.S. containment strategy during the Cold War, held that the only way to contain Russia was not to isolate it, but to involve it in the global system. Kennan advocated using a system of checks and balances that differed fundamentally from the one that guarantees domestic freedoms in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Here we come to the core of the problem.

Why did the U.S. concern itself with this issue in the first place? Because, when a center accustomed to applying force to others loses its bearings, it has the potential to go unstable. It becomes incapable of assessing the risks of its behavior. So what should be done?

In the 1940s, the West aimed its strategy, oddly enough, at helping Stalin’s Russia move forward in a predictable manner, without excesses. It compensated for the Soviet Union’s ruinous lack of internal restraints with a system of external political constraints. The West did not seek to isolate the Soviet Union, but left it room to move, instead attempting to channel that energy along a particular path. This gave rise to the concept and policy of “containment.”

The intentional sphere had a two-bloc system, and although observers continued referring to it as a Cold War, it was essentially a process of searching for equilibrium. The extreme shortage of democracy in the Eastern Bloc was offset by external substitutes, ranging from NATO and the UN, to the IMF and EU.

It is no accident that Russia is losing its restraint. It stems from weakness, from long having sought an easy way to integrate with the global system rather than doing the hard work of institution building and reform.

Russia is very weak. It has no state institutions and no competent government bureaucracy. Its leadership has degenerated into a personality cult. And what’s more, that leadership is always ready to aggravate the situation. Only in this way do its members take on the appearance of true leaders – only during those brief moments when tensions flare over yet another emergency that they themselves have created.

Putin, in the role of President, has already played the lead in so many different scenes that any actor might envy him. But this musical comedy has gone on too long – and for Putin himself, it has become a daily charade. It has been said that some tzars reign, but they don’t govern. In Russia, every attempt at governing immediately degenerates into a sham.

Can any such structure hold itself together from within? No. Can an outside force keep it in line? No it can’t.

Russia has turned itself into a generator of global crises, and has been offering it for some time now practically as a product or service. Now the Moscow authorities always have something to offer the Russian people: the ability to ratchet up tensions in the world and grab the spotlight.

It would be a mistake to look at the Admiral Kuznetsov warship, belching smoke as it plies the English Channel, and see it as a simple yet controversial symbol of Russian weakness. Deep inside, unsuspected by the casual observer, lies an engine room – a crisis generator. The grime and smoke, typical of any engine room, are signs that it is working – cranking out one risk-laden emergency after another. The generator compensates for its relative weakness with the fact of its indestructibility and its readiness to stir up trouble whenever and wherever needed.

In conversations with Americans, I am surprised at how they regret their inability to keep Russia out of the New World Order. But that Order is essentially one of global containment. That system includes everyone while restraining each in a way that serves the interests of all. It is impossible to build relations with Russia that are separate from the world order.

The greatest danger to the modern world is if a sovereign state possessing a huge arsenal of weapons of mass construction were to become uncontrollable. The only three countries capable of posing such a hypothetical threat are the United States, China, and Russia – each of which has very different nuclear capabilities. Only those three states are capable of deliberately upsetting the global status quo with a single, heavy-handed act of abandon. Of course, that could only happen under yet unimagined circumstances – but such circumstances have never been conceivable beforehand. It is therefore the goal of the future world order to contain all three of those states. Without that ability, the very idea of a world order loses any meaning.

Containment is like the strong exoskeleton of control that compensates for the lack of internal political integrity. But if to consider the benefits of containment as it applies to Russia, why limit that discussion to Russia?

The eight-year run of Obama’s peace-loving administration follows the less successful imperial escapades of former U.S. President George W. Bush. The fear of a Donald Trump presidency that has gripped the U.S. establishment – not unlike what happened in Russia in 1996 – has caused a mobilization of the masses intent on doing whatever it takes to keep out evil.

The world is just as interested in the soft containment of the U.S. as it is in supporting its positive contribution – if not outright leadership – in various sectors. In any future world order, Russia will, by default – with or without Putin – remain a restraining factor against the U.S. on a par with the European Union and China. Even the conservative structures of NATO and the United Nations to some extent serve as constraints against U.S. hubris.

Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian conflict prompted the formation of a “lesser UN” of sorts in the Middle East that includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Iran, China, and the EU.

The series of ongoing crises has effectively become the new world order. The situation in Aleppo is nothing but bloody chaos for its residents, but for the major powers, it is the venue of their interaction and the architecture of their mutual deterrence.

Russia has lost its previous frame of reference. It needs a new one for the sake of future progress. Russia needs support for what appears to be a budding effort toward modernization – one very unlike the previous attempt. And such support should be conditional upon a certain framework.

However, Russia will not accept all forms of support, and not all should be offered either. Threatening new sanctions against Russia, with their attendant financial hardships, will only force Moscow to increase its dependence on Beijing. Ideally, the United States could somehow reduce the risk of that happening by proposing some sort of triangular containment in which Russia would take a natural interest. Of course, that could only happen in the context of multilateral relations in the Far East that involve other countries as well.

Many observers complain about the lack of “transparency and trust” between our countries. It should be understood, however, that the Russian state is currently focused exclusively on “generating distrust” toward other countries – and as a result, toward itself. Moscow would have to first slow down its “generator” in order to exercise restraint. And Russia is unable to entirely abandon its distrust of the world – in which it plays no significant role other than its occasional “special ops.” It is therefore useless to demand that Moscow show good faith or transparency up front, as a precondition to further talks.

It is impossible to contain Russia without involving it in the world order. However, a world order that cannot guarantee containment of all of its most powerful members is not only useless, but also dangerous.

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It’s time to pardon Edward Snowden, and defuse Putin’s increasingly dangerous weapon

As Russian intelligence demonstrates ever more alacrity with American political and social disruption, we must remember that the great bear still has a major weapon in reserve that’s tailored for this purpose. Like many of Russia’s most destructive tools, this one is radioactive, and must be shielded to contain a field of mildly harmful emissions. It can be easily delivered between continents — and indeed, its very nature makes it a precision weapon aimed squarely at American democracy.

Edward Snowden is widely believed to be one of Vladimir Putin’s more successful gambits. The ex-Booz Allen security contractor may tweet the occasional criticism of Putin’s surveillance state, but it’s generally acknowledged that that’s a small price to pay to make the US look foolish and impotent around the world. By keeping him in public view, Russia can make sure that past US transgressions remain near the surface of the global consciousness, and visibly put the lie to any narrative about the omnipotence of American power.

Both of these virtues are fading quickly in importance. The NSA has, at this point, entirely weathered the PR nightmare of the Snowden leaks, and Americans have fully embraced the idea of cyber security agencies with an aggressively preventative mission statement. And, to put it mildly, Snowden is no longer the most high-profile example of American political and security overreach.

So the question becomes: At what point will Snowden’s virtues cease to outweigh his faults, from the perspective of Russian PR and desinformatsiya? The answer: whenever the reborn KGB decides his return could do the most harm to American political unity, its standing around the world, and perhaps do large amounts of splash damage against a third party as well.

Consider the choice of Julian Assange to be their unthinking mouthpiece for anti-Democrat cyber-espionage. As easy as it would have been to simply post the emails under a Fancy Bear-style hacker group pseudonym, or just throw the whole thing up on PasteBin, the choice was instead to use a well-known surrogate whose involvement in the case would complicate any political resolution. By using Assange as the most visible source for the leaked emails, the exact same content can be made to generate a totally different sort of headline.

Snowden carries this same inherently disruptive power, greatly magnified. The media circus of a Snowden return (even, if not especially, a highly secretive return) would pressure certain portions of the American political world more than others. By releasing Snowden to the US with the media’s knowledge, Putin could instantly create tension between any sitting Democrat and the left wing of their own party. It could bring the issue of American surveillance and jurisprudence back to the fore.

It would also force America either to persecute a widely beloved figure via widely distrusted laws, or to opportunistically fold to pressure and let Snowden walk. In the increasingly likely event of a Clinton presidency, this would be doubly effective, as the trial would force her to persecute a figure with wild popularity among specifically those voters she most needs to impress. All the Kremlin needs to give up to achieve this is the exceedingly well-wrung political dishrag that is Edward Snowden, finding some pretense (or perhaps not even bothering with a pretense) to revoke his right to remain in Russia.

As Snowden and his media surrogates have been eager to point out, the whistleblower’s three pending charges under the Espionage Act technically mean he is not entitled to a jury trial — if he were to return to the United States, he would mount a much more limited defense to a judge, who would then pronounce him guilty, probably loudly. The verdict is a foregone conclusion; getting him in the courtroom is all that really matters.

Think about the mechanics of such a trial. Upon arrival in the US, he would immediately be spirited away for secret, solitary confinement, feeding the conspiracy movements that have taken root in Europe and parts of the United States. Snowden is too well known for the trial to play out entirely in secret, even if much of the content remains hidden; every mundane decision, from the selection of the judge to the inclusion of various pieces and forms of evidence, would be fodder enough for online White House petitions and ACLU press releases. Portions or the entirety of everything — the evidence, the testimony, probably even the wording of the verdict itself — will be redacted, unnecessarily feeding fears of government overreach to hide information that is likely well known already, and certainly known to Russia, China, and Iran.

A period of good relations between the American people and their security services could be undercut by a juicy, high-profile show trial — or better yet, by an even juicier, invisible shadow-trial. By that point it will be far too late to consider any sort of executive action to prevent the trial from going forward.

If the Snowden issue is to end as anything other than a problem for America, Snowden must to be allowed to return home without coercion, at a time when there is no meaningful pressure to allow it. This could take the form of a pardon or, as Snowden himself has suggested, the proffer of a simple jury trial with a much less certain outcome. Either way, a willing deescalation is the only thing short of assassination that could rob Putin of this powerful, one-use force multiplier for political chaos.

Obama has staked something of a claim to Snowden hate, making it clear that, so long as your name isn’t famous, his most very best favorite laws are the ones that stop people from knowing about what their government is doing. But the next President, regardless of their party, has no such legacy to uphold. By far the most prudent, security-conscious way forward is to defuse Putin’s political weapon and bring him home. The fact that this would signal a real willingness to submit to public oversight, and potentially start to heal the government’s relationship with its ever-larger left-wing population, is just icing on the cake.

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Gorbachev Urges Russia, U.S. to Resume Nuclear Talks

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has urged Moscow and Washington to resume talks across the political agenda, particularly on the nuclear issue, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Monday.

Speaking in Reykjavik to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Soviet-American summit, Gorbachev said that the world was about to cross “a dangerous line.”

“We need to resume dialogue. Terminating talks was our biggest mistake,” he told RIA Novosti.
“There has been a collapse of mutual trust [between Russia and the United States.] I believe that we need to resume talks across the agenda, and on the nuclear issue above all,” he said.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a risk that they could be used — by accident, via a technical failure, or though evil will of man, madmen or terrorists,” Gorbachev said.

“A nuclear-free world is not a utopia, but an imperative. Yet it can be achieved only through the demilitarization of international relations.”

The Kremlin announced on Oct. 3 that it had decided to suspend a nuclear disarmament treaty with Washington, claiming that the United States’ “unfriendly actions” posed a “strategic threat to stability.”

The protocol, which only came into force in 2010, stipulates that each side must dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium each year.

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 The United States and NATO Are Preparing for a Major War With Russia

Massive military exercises and a troop buildup on NATO’s eastern flank reflect a dangerous new strategy.

For the first time in a quarter-century, the prospect of war—real war, war between the major powers—will be on the agenda of Western leaders when they meet at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, on July 8 and 9. Dominating the agenda in Warsaw (aside, of course, from the “Brexit” vote in the UK) will be discussion of plans to reinforce NATO’s “eastern flank”—the arc of former Soviet partners stretching from the Baltic states to the Black Sea that are now allied with the West but fear military assault by Moscow. Until recently, the prospect of such an attack was given little credence in strategic circles, but now many in NATO believe a major war is possible and that robust defensive measures are required.

In what is likely to be its most significant move, the Warsaw summit is expected to give formal approval to a plan to deploy four multinational battalions along the eastern flank—one each in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Although not deemed sufficient to stop a determined Russian assault, the four battalions would act as a “tripwire,” thrusting soldiers from numerous NATO countries into the line of fire and so ensuring a full-scale, alliance-wide response. This, it is claimed, will deter Russia from undertaking such a move in the first place or ensure its defeat should it be foolhardy enough to start a war.

The United States, of course, is deeply involved in these initiatives. Not only will it supply many of the troops for the four multinational battalions, but it is also taking many steps of its own to bolster NATO’s eastern flank. Spending on the Pentagon’s “European Reassurance Initiative” will quadruple, climbing from $789 million in 2016 to $3.4 billion in 2017. Much of this additional funding will go to the deployment, on a rotating basis, of an additional armored-brigade combat team in northern Europe.

As a further indication of US and NATO determination to prepare for a possible war with Russia, the alliance recently conducted the largest war games in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Known as Anakonda 2016, the exercise involved some 31,000 troops (about half of them Americans) and thousands of combat vehicles from 24 nations in simulated battle maneuvers across the breadth of Poland. A parallel naval exercise, BALTOPS 16, simulated “high-end maritime warfighting” in the Baltic Sea, including in waters near Kaliningrad, a heavily defended Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania.

All of this—the aggressive exercises, the NATO buildup, the added US troop deployments—reflects a new and dangerous strategic outlook in Washington. Whereas previously the strategic focus had been on terrorism and counterinsurgency, it has now shifted to conventional warfare among the major powers. “Today’s security environment is dramatically different than the one we’ve been engaged in for the last 25 years,” observed Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on February 2, when unveiling the Pentagon’s $583 billion budget for fiscal year 2017. Until recently, he explained, American forces had largely been primed to defeat insurgent and irregular forces, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now, however, the Pentagon was being readied for “a return to great-power competition,” including the possibility of all-out combat with “high-end enemies” like Russia and China.

 The budgetary and force-deployment implications of this are enormous in their own right, but so is this embrace of “great-power competition” as a guiding star for US strategy. During the Cold War, it was widely assumed that the principal task of the US military was to prepare for all-out combat with the Soviet Union, and that such preparation must envision the likelihood of nuclear escalation. Since then, American forces have seen much horrible fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but none of that has involved combat with another major power, and none entailed the risk of nuclear escalation—for which we should all be thankful. Now, however, Secretary Carter and his aides are seriously thinking about—and planning for—conflicts that would involve another major power and could escalate to the nuclear realm.

It’s hard to know where to begin when commenting on all this, given the atmosphere of Cold War hysteria. There is, first of all, the question of proportionality: are US and NATO moves on the eastern flank in keeping with the magnitude of the threat posed by Russia? Russian intervention in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is certainly provocative and repugnant, but cannot unequivocally be deemed a direct threat to NATO. Other Russian moves in the region, such as incursions by Russian ships and planes into the airspace and coastal waters of NATO members, are more worrisome, but appear to be more political messaging than a prelude to invasion. Basically, it’s very hard to imagine a scenario in which Russia would initiate an armed attack on NATO.

 Then there is the matter of self-fulfilling prophecies. By announcing the return of great-power competition and preparing for a war with Russia, the United States and NATO are setting in motion forces that could, in the end, achieve precisely that outcome. This is not to say that Moscow is guiltless regarding the troubled environment along the eastern front, but surely Vladimir Putin has reason to claim that the NATO initiatives pose a substantially heightened threat to Russian security and so justify a corresponding Russian buildup. Any such moves will, of course, invite yet additional NATO deployments, followed by complementary Russian moves, and so on—until we’re right back in a Cold War–like situation.

Finally, there is the risk of accident, miscalculation, and escalation. This arises with particular severity in the case of US/NATO exercises on the edge of Russian territory, especially Kaliningrad. In all such actions, there is a constant danger that one side or the other will overreact to a perceived threat and take steps leading to combat and, conceivably, all-out war. When two Russian fighters flew within 30 feet of a US destroyer sailing in the Baltic Sea this past April, Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN that under US rules of engagement, the planes could have been shot down. Imagine where that could have led. Fortunately, the captain of the destroyer chose to exercise restraint and a serious incident was averted. But as more US and NATO forces are deployed on the edge of Russian territory and both sides engage in provocative military maneuvers, dangerous encounters of this sort are sure to increase in frequency, and the risk of their ending badly will only grow.

No doubt the NATO summit in Warsaw will be overshadowed to some degree by the UK’s Brexit vote and ensuing political turmoil in Europe. But as Western leaders settle down to business, they must not allow their inclination to “demonstrate unity” and “act resolutely” lead them to approve military moves that are inherently destabilizing. Surely it is possible to reassure the Baltic states and Poland without deploying many thousands of additional troops there and inviting an additional military buildup on the Russian side.

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‘Caretaker’ of Putin’s Alleged Offshore Wealth Says Secret Service Won’t Leave Obama Alone With Russian President

The U.S. Secret Service is afraid to leave President Barack Obama alone with Vladimir Putin, says the Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin, who investigative journalists call the “secret caretaker” of Putin’s alleged offshore wealth.

“I want to share a little secret with you,” Roldugin told the RIA Novosti news agency. “It’s a certain detail I know, that Obama’s security team doesn’t dare leave him alone to talk one-on-one with Putin.” This, Roldugin insists, “is a very strong indicator.”

Roldugin went on to praise President Putin for his ability to “take responsibility” for government policies. “He says: this is my decision. He’s not afraid of responsibility. Meanwhile, as I understand it, Western and American politicians can’t quite say: now this is my decision, and this is how it will be.” Roldugin then quickly added that Putin’s behavior in no way resembles dictatorship.

Thanks to banking records obtained from the Panama Papers and investigative work by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Roldugin has become known as the “secret caretaker” of vast offshore wealth allegedly owned by Vladimir Putin.

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There will be no ‘reset’ with Russia

The Question: What should the next president do about an increasingly authoritarian Russia?

Angela Stent directs the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University and is the author of “The Limits of Partnership: US-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century.”

It’s been a quarter-century since the Soviet Union collapsed. In the aftermath, the United States had two main goals: The first was integrating the new Russia into Euro-Atlantic and global institutions; the second, if that did not work out, was ensuring that Russia not thwart America’s commitment to create a peaceful, rules-based post-Cold War order. A quarter-century later, it is clear that the first goal was not achieved. That means the next occupant of the White House will have to redouble efforts to achieve the second.

The Russia challenge has radically changed since the 1990s. Today we read new allegations that Russia is interfering in the U.S. election, hacking into the Democratic National Committee and, through intermediaries, posting confidential and sometimes damaging information. Whatever the accuracy of these charges and scope of these disclosures, they seem clearly intended to sow doubts about the legitimacy of our democratic election process. From the Kremlin’s point of view, the more uncertainty and questioning the better.

How should the United States respond? First, we need to understand the domestic motivations for Russia’s actions. Recent shakeups in top leadership — most notably the firing of Vladimir Putin’s longtime aide Sergei Ivanov and the creation of Putin’s own Praetorian Guard to protect him both from a “color” revolution and a palace coup — suggest that the president remains focused on ensuring that the September elections to the Russian Duma and his own re-election in 2018 are carefully managed to prevent a repetition of 2011, when tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest what people believed were falsified elections results. Putin blamed Hillary Clinton for the demonstrations.

Since then, Russia’s economic situation has deteriorated because of economic mismanagement, falling oil prices and Western sanctions imposed after the Crimean annexation. But the Kremlin has skillfully played a weak hand by appealing to patriotism. It blamed the United States for Russia’s economic problems and launched an air campaign in Syria last September that forced the United States to negotiate and recognize its enhanced international role.

Faced with a Kremlin that defines the United States as its main adversary, how should the next U.S. president approach Russia? She or he should not seek another “reset” but accept the fact that the Russia we are dealing with today requires a different approach. Engagement for engagement’s sake does not work.

The United States should continue negotiating with Russia over both Syria and Ukraine, but it should only open an intensified dialogue with the Kremlin if and when the Russian leadership is genuinely interested in offering constructive proposals. The gap between U.S. and Russian interests in both cases is significant.

As long as Russia supports the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has already claimed 10,000 lives, U.S. sanctions should remain in place. The United States should consider enhancing its own military presence in Europe and needs to deter any further attempts by Russia to destabilize its neighboring countries. The Russia challenge is long-term and will likely outlast both the next U.S. president’s term and Putin’s time in office.

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