Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Western Business Is Still Sustaining Russia's War

January 30, 2023  •  The Hill

How is Russia still fighting in Ukraine? Nearly a year into the "special military operation" against its western neighbor, Russian President Vladimir Putin's military misadventure has exacted enormous costs on the country's armed forces and transformed Moscow into a global pariah with precious few dependable international partners. Over time, knowledgeable observers have predicted, this state of affairs will dramatically impoverish the Russian state. For the time being, however, many have puzzled over precisely how the Kremlin has managed to sustain its war of choice. Part of the answer lies in energy. The country's current account surplus hit a record high of $227 billion last year in spite of Western pressure, as a result of continued oil and gas exports abroad and a reduction in imports. Quite simply, Moscow has managed to stay afloat, at least so far, by selling its energy to willing consumers (like China), while bringing in fewer goods from abroad. As a result, it still has money to burn on its war machine. But another significant reason for this continued solvency has to do with Russia's commercial ties with the West. That's because, despite extensive international sanctions and widespread commitments from politicians and corporate leaders, only a tiny percentage of Western firms have actually ceased doing business in the Russian Federation.

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How Jerusalem Views Western Sahara Is A Test On Partnership

January 16, 2023  •  Jerusalem Post

Since Israel's new government was inaugurated late last year, world attention has focused overwhelmingly on its provocative personalities and controversial domestic policies. By contrast, comparatively little time has been spent exploring how the ruling coalition of returning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might improve Israel's global position. For Israel, however, the question is an urgent one because it comes amid mounting regional instability, the side-effects of Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, and sharpening great power competition between Washington and Beijing. A significant part of the answer can be found in the Abraham Accords. Those normalization agreements, signed in 2020 with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, ushered in a new era of cooperation for Israel in a historically inhospitable Middle East. Two years on, conversations in Jerusalem and many other capitals revolve around how best to build on those bonds. Widening the Accords is one way. Hopes remain high in many quarters that the region's normalization wave might soon see new participants and the Biden administration, after some initial hesitance, has wholeheartedly endorsed the idea. Indeed, countries like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and even Pakistan have been floated as potential new partners for Jerusalem. But before the Accords can be broadened, additional steps still need to be taken to strengthen the connections among existing members. On that score, a great deal can be done, beginning with upgrading the ties between Jerusalem and Rabat.

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Russia's Propaganda Is More Persuasive Than We Think

January 5, 2023  •  Newsweek

On the surface, Russia's war in Ukraine has hit the Kremlin's once-formidable propaganda machine hard. Practically overnight, Moscow's long-running influence campaign in the West foundered, as European governments tightened controls on Russian disinformation, banned state outlets like RT and Sputnik from broadcasting and implemented a raft of new restrictions to limit the reach of Moscow's malign influence. To be sure, some of these setbacks are the product of self-inflicted messaging wounds. Russian officials probably could have expected that their arguments about the need to "denazify" a country with a Jewish president would be met with widespread ridicule. Russian arguments about Satanic practices in Ukraine, as well as U.S.-sponsored biolabs there, have similarly fallen short. Even so, the current triumphalism among many in the West regarding the decline of Russian disinformation is somewhat premature. That's because, while Russian propaganda outlets are now having a more difficult time reaching European nations, they're still making major gains in advancing the Kremlin's position—and eroding that of the West—throughout the developing world.

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It's Time For The West To Cultivate An Alternative Information Ecosystem In Russia

December 22, 2022  •  Politico

Among the most consequential side effects of Russia's assault on Ukraine has been a dramatic crackdown on its own already unfree media. For years, Russian journalists and commentators have suffered under a tightening web of restrictions. Even so, the advent of the Ukraine war has been accompanied by extensive new constraints on acceptable speech within Russia, to the point that any coverage at odds with the Kremlin's official narrative is now punishable by extensive prison terms. Additionally, a number of opposition outlets have been blacklisted as "undesirable organizations" under Russian law, making support of their activities — or collaboration with them — tantamount to treason. The result of these measures has been an exodus of independent and opposition media from Russia. But the emptying of Russia's domestic media sphere has also resulted in the creation of something qualitatively new: an opposition information ecosystem in exile.

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What Ukraine Needs To End The War

December 20, 2022  •  The Washington Times

Back in 1971, the Swiss American scholar Fred Ikle authored a slim volume on a relatively obscure topic: how nations should think about entering and exiting conflicts. The following decade, Ikle went on to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy in the Reagan administration. Meanwhile, his book "Every War Must End" turned into essential reading for policymakers because of its core premise — since war is a temporary condition, governments need to act accordingly during hostilities and create the necessary conditions for the peace that follows. That guidance applies to the current war in Ukraine. It could be argued that Russia is doing its best to create a state of permanent conflict with its western neighbor through tactics such as bombing schools, kidnapping Ukrainian children, and dismantling critical infrastructure. Nevertheless, officials in Kyiv are actively preparing for the end of the conflict — and laying out the parameters for what an acceptable peace would look like. Those particulars, however, aren't well understood in Washington, where partisan calls for Kyiv to compromise with Moscow have grown of late. Yet understanding Ukraine's core conditions is vital if we hope for some feasible settlement soon.

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Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

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