Putin's Russia: Exile Businessmen

Yevgeny Chichvarkin once took London by storm. Bounding onto the stage at the Russian Economic Forum four years ago in red sneakers, graffiti-sprayed jeans, and a top that proclaimed that he was MADE IN MOSCOW, the 34-year-old Russian businessman told the elite gathering how he’d grown his Evroset mobile-phone company into a billion-dollar empire in just five years, and that a “new generation of young businesspeople” was “ready to integrate Russia into the world economy.”

Russia's New Police State

In principle, Russia enshrines the same rights—against self-incrimination and the presumption of guilt—that Western nations do. In practice, two new laws that empower state security services do exactly the opposite.

Turkey Straddles East and West

Once an unquestioning U.S. ally, and at odds with most of its neighbors, Turkey is now forging a new foreign policy, with itself at the very center.

Russia’s Olympic Fear

Worry is rising over the risk of terrorism at Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics. Last week’s deadly attack on a hydroelectric station in Russia’s deep south only added to the concern. The number of attacks in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus was up 57 percent last year, and unlike the Chechen wars of 1994–2001, these killings have been the work of a bewildering array of rebel groups, some motivated by radical Islam but others by separatism or clan warfare.

Regime Change Everyone Can Love

It’s not often that Brussels and Moscow see eye to eye on the politics of the former Soviet Union. But both want Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko gone, preferably after elections slated for early 2011. The EU has long criticized Lukashenko for abusing opposition activists and censoring local media.

I Owe My Life to a Spy Exchange

In 1969, Britain traded two senior Soviet spies for a Russian student accused of passing information to the British—much like the exchange carried out today. Because the deal was so lopsided, Moscow threw in a few women who wanted to marry Britons. One of them was my mother.

New Russian Law Looks to Crack Down on Internet

On a recent visit to America, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his first tweet, chatted to Steve Jobs about the iPhone, and tried to talk Cisco into investing in a new “innovation city” near Moscow. But at home in Russia the Internet is under attack.

Georgia's Saakashvili Has a New Friend: Iran

As Moscow and Washington have grown closer in the last two years, Georgia—which depends on the largesse and support of the White House—has felt increasingly isolated. To ease his sense of anomie, President Mikheil Saakashvili is making new friends—like Iran.

How Obama Bought Russia's (Expensive) Friendship

President Obama meets today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev—a Bush-era foe whose friendship Obama bought at great diplomatic cost. The thing is, if he hadn't, relations between the country would have been much worse; now, at least, Russia is less likely to help the world's rogues.

How Kyrgyzstan Tamed Moscow

It’s still not clear what sparked the ethnic pogroms in south Kyrgyzstan that left at least 124 people dead over the weekend and forced up to 75,000 Uzbeks to flee their homes. But the most surprising reaction so far has been from Russia.

Georgia Suffers in U.S.-Russia Reset

Washington’s reset with Moscow has one very clear casualty: Georgia. The U.S. insists that it still supports Georgia’s territorial integrity. But Washington also says that Russia’s ongoing occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “need no longer be considered an obstacle” to ratifying an agreement on joint civilian nuclear cooperation originally mooted after Russia’s 2008 invasion. And even though Russia has failed to get international recognition for the rebel regions’ independence, the U.S.’s growing closeness to Moscow effectively seals Georgia’s dismemberment. Russia certainly seems to assume so: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told the Duma that the 2009 U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Charter is a “relic of past U.S. policies.”

Europe Could Soon Be Dependent On Iran For Gas

Tehran is trying to take a leaf out of Moscow’s playbook and build a regional gas empire of its own, and it could soon be sending gas to Europe and Pakistan. Key to Iran’s expansion is the undermining of the EU and U.S. backed Nabucco pipeline, conceived to bring Central Asian gas via the Caucasus and Turkey to Europe, bypassing Russia. But the inconvenient truth is that no major gas-producing country has actually signed up for the pipeline. Meanwhile, Russia has bought 7 billion of the estimated 8 billion cubic meters of gas at Nabucco’s main planned source, Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field. And as of last week, the Turkmens have one reason fewer to participate in Nabucco: they just opened a new gas pipeline to Iran. Naturally, this is not exactly what Washington had in mind when it wanted to explore alternate routes for gas to get to Europe. It seems the problem-plagued Nabucco, rather than isolating Russia, is fast becoming a way for Iran to make itself Europe’s indispensable...

Turkey's Surprisingly Muted Flotilla Reaction

The strongest, most strident response to Israel’s flotilla raid came from Turkey, home to most of the dead activists. But Turkey’s official response could have been much worse, and its leaders have been further calmed by Washington.

Turkish Anger a Problem for Israel

Turkish anger over the deadly storming Monday of the Gaza aid ships is another setback for Mideast peace and a serious problem for Israel, which until recently counted Turkey as one of its few allies in the Mideast....

Moscow's Own Color Revolutions

Half a decade after a series of "color revolutions" replaced Moscow-backed rulers across the former Soviet Union with pro-Western ones, the Kremlin may finally be getting its payback. Already this year the presidents of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan have been ousted by challengers friendlier to Moscow. While Russia wasn't the sole architect of Ukraine's election and Kyrgyzstan's coup, it sheltered Kyrgyz opposition leaders and made it clear to Ukrainian voters that Viktor Yanukovych's victory would usher in a new era of cheap gas and increased trade. More, this year's strategic wins have inspired the Kremlin to encourage further regime change nearby. ...

Reaching Out to Russia

There's no love lost between Moscow and NATO. Over the past two decades, nine former Soviet states and satellites have joined the U.S. led alliance, and others have hinted at following suit. This expansion has fed a deep distrust between Moscow and the West, and even contributed to Russia's decision to invade Georgia in 2008.But NATO seems to be following President Barack Obama's lead and attempting to "reset" relations with the Kremlin. At last week's NATO meeting in Estonia (itself once part of the empire), Secretary General Anders Rasmussen suggested that Russia be included in NATO plans to build a missile defense system. Although thick with irony--President Reagan first proposed a missile shield in 1983 as a safeguard against the Soviets--the overture was a clear attempt to ease Kremlin concerns that the antimissile system is targeted at Russia. Also last week, four key NATO countries called for removal of the last U.S. tactical nukes on the...

Georgia's Separate Peace

Moscow and Tbilisi are still officially at war a year and a half after Russian troops rolled into the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and declared them independent. But quietly, with minimal fanfare on both sides, peace is breaking out. A crucial border crossing opened last month, direct flights have recommenced, and Russia has begun issuing more visas to Georgian nationals....

A Coup and a Close Call In Kyrgyzstan

The violence that gripped Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, last week quickly turned into a dictator's worst nightmare when the snowballing riots forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee for his life. But by week's end most pundits agreed that the biggest loser was the United States. Kyrgyzstan is home to the Manas air base, a logistical hub for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. Ever since Bakiyev came to power in his own 2005 coup, the U.S. has plied him with money and access to keep the runways at Manas open. That support, which came despite allegations of the regime's endemic corruption and human-rights abuses, did not endear Washington to the opposition leaders who have now seized power....

The Death of Poland's President: A Danger to the Region?

The crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the senior command of the Polish Army is without doubt a national tragedy for Poland. But the disaster is unlikely to have many regional or strategic ramifications. Poland is a parliamentary republic whose president is largely ceremonial—much as in Germany and Italy. Kaczynski’s political role was limited to representing Poland abroad, with policymaking in the hands of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The two men had clashed several times over the last few months over a growing rapprochement between Poland and Russia favored by Tusk. The most recent public rift came last week, when Tusk and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre of Polish officers by Stalin’s secret police side by side. Putin, like his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, called the massacre a “terrible tragedy” but emphasized that it should become a “focus of reconciliation” between the Russian and Polish peoples....

Turkey Cleans Up the Courts

Is Turkey’s ruling AK Party trying to make the country more democratic or crush the last obstacles in the way of its Islamist agenda? A new package before Parliament aims to reform the judiciary by making it more difficult for courts to disband political parties and allowing military brass to be tried in civilian courts. AK officials say the changes will enhance the rule of law. But secularists claim the new rules are an attempt by the AK Party to dismantle the last checks on its power, after it crippled the military by arresting top generals on coup charges.The government insists that judges will still be independent and has not, as many feared, packed top judicial positions with its appointees. At the same time, it’s clear that the party’s primary motive is to protect itself from future prosecutions. But the truth is that Turkey’s courts badly need reform. Judges are still deeply partisan, mounting hostile prosecutions of AK members and trying to ban the party, even though it...