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Chechen Dissident: ‘I Survived Abduction by Vladimir Putin’s Agents’

The story of one man who says he was tortured for challenging Russia's president

On a warm morning in early August, a 68-year-old Chechen man named Said-Emin Ibragimov packed up his fishing gear and walked to his favorite spot on the west bank of the river that runs through Strasbourg, the city of his exile in eastern France. Ibragimov, who was a minister in the breakaway Chechen government in the 1990s, needed to calm his nerves, and his favorite way to relax was to watch the Ill River, a tributary of the Rhine, flow by as he waited for a fish to bite.

Ibragimov had reason to be nervous. The previous month he had accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes in a criminal complaint he had sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to the Kremlin. Ibragimov had taken five years to compile evidence of what he considered crimes committed during Russia’s two wars against separatists in the Russian republic of Chechnya. During the second Chechen war, which Putin oversaw in 1999-2000, Russia bombarded the Chechen capital of Grozny and killed thousands of civilians. The U.N. later called Grozny “the most destroyed city on earth.”

Read the full story here.

TIME russia

Russians Re-write History to Slur Ukraine Over War

Soldiers stand in formation as they swear an oath at the World War Two museum on Poklonnaya Gora in Victory Park, Moscow in 2007.
Soldiers stand in formation as they swear an oath at the World War Two museum on Poklonnaya Gora in Victory Park, Moscow in 2007. Denis Sinyakov—Reuters

Vladimir Putin has turned the idea of fascism into a political tool, and now Russian historians are adapting to the Kremlin line

The trio of German historians, as well as a handful of their colleagues from Eastern Europe, flew into Moscow last week for what they thought would be a conference on the history of Nazi war crimes. It was the fifth in a series of international summits held every other year since 2006, first in Berlin and Cologne, then in Slovakia and Belarus, to keep alive the memory of the towns and villages destroyed during World War II. But the German co-chairman of the conference, Sven Borsche, began to feel that something was amiss in Moscow as soon as he met his Russian hosts. “All they wanted to talk about was the conflict in Ukraine,” he says.

Even without the simultaneous translations provided for the foreign guests, they would have gotten the political message. The photographs shown by several of the Russian speakers put the atrocities of the Nazi SS right alongside pictures from the current war in eastern Ukraine. There is not much difference, the Russian historians suggested, between the actions of the Ukrainian military in its war against separatist rebels and the atrocities that Hitler’s forces committed during World War II.

“Right now, fascism is again raising its head,” declared Yaroslav Trifankov, a senior researcher at the state historical museum in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine. “Right now,” he said from the podium, “our brother Slavs in Ukraine have been so thoroughly duped and brainwashed by their puppet government, which answers only to the U.S. State Department, that they truly have come to see themselves as a superior race.”

This rhetoric—calling it an argument would overstate its relation to facts—has recently come into vogue among Russian historians. Under their interpretation of history, the struggle that began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 continues for Russia today, in a direct line through the generations, with the conflict in Ukraine. That is the connection President Vladimir Putin first presented to the Russian people in March, when he sent his troops to invade and annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The Russian-speaking residents of that peninsula, he said in a speech on the day of the annexation, need Russia’s protection from Ukraine’s new leaders, whom he referred to as “neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.” Ukraine’s ensuing war to prevent Russia from seizing any more of its territory has likewise been branded a fascist campaign against ethnic Russians.

Practically every arm of the Russian state, from the education system to the national police, has since taken up this message. The state media have consistently painted Ukrainian authorities as “fascists” in the service of the U.S. government. In late September, Russia’s main investigative body even opened a criminal probe accusing Ukraine’s leaders of committing “genocide” against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the more recent involvement of the nation’s historians has marked a worrying turn in this endeavor.

It suggests a willingness to reinterpret even the most sacred chapters of Russian history, as the venue for last week’s conference seemed to suggest. With the exception of the Kremlin’s gilded halls and, perhaps, the nearby tombs of Soviet leaders on Red Square, few places in the Russian capital inspire such awed respect among the locals as the Central Museum to the Great Patriotic War. Its curved colonnade stands on a hill near the center of the city called Poklonnaya Gora, which in rough translation means, “the hill where one bows in respect.” In the center of its inner sanctuary, the white-domed Hall of Glory, an enormous statue of a Soviet soldier stands with a sword at his feet; its sheath bears this inscription: “He who comes to us wielding a sword shall die by the sword.”

The vast rotunda, done up in marble and gold, would be something like the Temple Mount if Russian patriotism were a religion, while the official history of World War II that the museum embodies would be at least a portion of its scripture. By various official estimates, between 20 million and 30 million Soviet citizens died during the war against German fascists – more deaths than any single nation suffered in World War II – and the history of Soviet valor in that war still lies at the core of Russia’s sense of identity. But it has, like any dogma, proven malleable in the mouths of its contemporary preachers.

“Nazism is again coming to us from Europe,” says Mikhail Myagkov, one of Russia’s leading historians of the Second World War and a professor of history at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where most of Russia’s top diplomats are educated. “The bacilli of Nazism have not been destroyed. Unfortunately, they have infected, among other countries, our brotherly nation of Ukraine,” he told a press briefing on the eve of the conference at the museum on Poklonnaya Gora.

The following day, in one of its auditoriums, Russian historians took the stage one after the other to draw an explicit link between the Hitler’s Reich and today’s Ukraine. None of them mentioned Russia’s military support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine or the encouragement they got from Russia in rising up against the government in Kiev this spring. Nor did the speakers dwell on the fact that the far right is hardly the driving force of Ukrainian politics. The country’s new President Petro Poroshenko is a liberal Westernizer with no links to Ukrainian nationalist parties, and the supposed popularity of those parties in Ukraine was exposed this week as a Russian fabrication; in the parliamentary elections held on Oct. 26, they failed to win a single seat in the legislature. But from the speeches presented at the conference in Moscow, one would assume that Poroshenko and his allies are all just resurrected Nazis in disguise.

As these speeches were translated for the foreign delegates, including guests from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, their faces turned gradually from confusion to disgust. Joerg Morre, the director of Berlin’s Karlhorst Museum, which focuses on the history of the eastern front in World War II, began to fidget in his seat. “I mean, to show the photographs of the Second World War and then switch in the next slide to what’s happening in Ukraine,” Morre told me during a break in the conference, “No way is that right. Now way!” Borsche, the co-chairman, agreed with him: “It’s polemical!” he said.

As the conference drew to a close, the two of them decided to voice their objections. Morre, springing from his seat, took hold of the microphone and told the hall that he did not agree with the final declaration of the conference, which had been written by its Russian organizers. Specifically, he took issue with the clause that declared, “Our generation is facing the task to deter [the] revival of Fascism and Nazism,” a thinly veiled reference to Ukraine, the German delegates felt. “It has become clear that we have different views on what fascism means today,” Morre told the hall in nearly perfect Russian. “Your point of view is not mine. So I call for this part of the resolution to be removed,” he added. “I do not want to sign it, and I am not the only one.”

After some noisy debate, the delegates agreed to put the matter to a vote. Practically all of the foreign participants raised their hands in favor of deleting the reference to a “revival” of European fascism. All of the Russian participants, including a large group of high school students who had been herded into the auditorium about 15 minutes earlier, had the clear majority in voting to leave the text of the declaration unchanged. So the hosts of the conference won out—a small but telling victory for the cause of Russian revisionism.

Outside the hall, Borsche seemed at a loss for words as he waited in the coat-check line. He had served as one of the initiators of the conference and its co-chairman, flying in from Germany for the occasion to discuss a shared history of suffering during World War II. But he says he had no idea that his Russian colleagues would use it as a chance to promote their political agenda against Ukraine. “That’s not correct,” he told me. If there is some lesson to be learned from the experience, it’s a familiar one, he said: “The more people are convinced of their own opinion, the more they become estranged from other opinions. That’s a real difficult problem.” And as Russia sets out to redefine what Nazism means, it is a problem that Western historians will somehow have to face.

Read next: Ukraine’s Elections Mark a Historic Break With Russia and Its Soviet Past

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Elections Mark a Historic Break With Russia and Its Soviet Past

Ukrainian Voters Head To The Polls For The General Election
A woman leaves a polling booth as she votes during the parliamentary elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on Oct. 26, 2014 Vladimir Simicek—Isifa/Getty Images

With more than half the votes counted in the country's parliamentary ballot, an unprecedented national consensus has emerged in support of a lasting break with Moscow and a turn toward European integration

On Sunday night, as the votes in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections were being tallied, President Petro Poroshenko went on television to congratulate his citizens on the successful ballot and, citing early results, to highlight one of the milestones the country had crossed: Ukraine’s Communist Party, a political holdover from the nation’s Soviet past that had always championed close ties with Russia, had failed to win a single parliamentary seat.

“For that I congratulate you,” the Ukrainian leader told his countrymen. “The people’s judgment, which is higher than all but the judgment of God, has issued a death sentence to the Communist Party of Ukraine.” For the first time since the Russian revolution of 1917 swept across Ukraine and turned it into a Soviet satellite, there would be no communists in the nation’s parliament.

Their defeat, though largely symbolic, epitomized the transformation of Ukraine that began with this year’s revolution and, in many respects, ended with the ballot on Sunday. If the communists and other pro-Russian parties had enormous influence in Ukraine before the uprising and a firm base of support in the eastern half of the country, they are now all but irrelevant. The pro-Western leaders of the revolution, by contrast, saw a resounding victory over the weekend for their agenda of European integration. “More than three-quarters of voters who cast their ballots showed firm and irreversible support for Ukraine’s course toward Europe,” Poroshenko said in his televised address.

With half the ballots counted on Monday, his political party was projected to get the most votes and more than a quarter of the seats in parliament. The party of his ally, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was in a close second place, setting them up to form a ruling coalition of Westernizers and Ukrainian nationalists. They will likely need no support from the shrunken ranks of the pro-Russian parties in order to pass legislation and constitutional reform.

In many ways they have Russian President Vladimir Putin to thank for that success. Since the revolution overthrew his allies in Ukraine in February, Putin has alienated most of the Ukrainian voters who had previously supported close ties with Moscow. His decision to invade and annex the region of Crimea in March, when Ukraine was just emerging from the turmoil of the revolution, awakened a hatred toward Russia in Ukraine unlike any the two countries had seen in centuries of unity and peaceful coexistence. Putin’s subsequent support for Ukrainian separatists, who are still fighting to turn the country’s eastern provinces into protectorates of Moscow, sealed the divide between these once fraternal nations.

Nowhere has that been more apparent than in the results of Sunday’s ballot. The only party that made it into parliament with an agenda of repairing ties with Moscow was the so-called Opposition Bloc, which was forecast to take fourth place with less than 10% of the vote. Only a year ago, its politicians were part of the ruling coalition in Ukraine made up of the Communist Party and the Party of Regions, whose leader, Viktor Yanukovych, had won the presidential race in 2010 on a platform of brotherly ties with Russia. Now Yanukovych, who was chased from power in February, has taken refuge in Russia at Putin’s invitation, while his Party of Regions was so certain of defeat in this weekend’s elections that it decided not to run. Whatever chance remained for Putin to keep his allies in power in Ukraine now looks to have been lost, and with it he loses his dream of forming a new political alliance made up of the biggest states in the former Soviet Union.

Putin’s narrative about far-right radicals taking power in Ukraine — during a speech in March, he referred to the leaders of the revolution as a bunch of “neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites” — was also exposed as a fabrication in the course of Sunday’s ballot. Though hard-line nationalists did play a key role in the revolution, few of them made it into parliament. The right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) Party is expected to get around 6% of the vote, roughly the same as the populists from the Radical Party, just squeaking by the 5% minimum needed to enter the legislature. The ultra-nationalist party known as Right Sector, which Russian state media has cast as the demonic force behind Ukraine’s new government, failed to make it past the post with its projected 2%.

But the real threat to Russia was never from the demagogues of the Ukrainian right. It was from the politicians like President Poroshenko who are determined to set Ukraine on a path toward joining the European Union. That path will not be easy, as Western leaders are hardly eager to welcome Ukraine’s failing economy and its 45 million citizens into the E.U. But the national consensus behind European integration, and the lasting break with Russia that this agenda entails, is now stronger than at any point in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Parliamentary Vote Won’t Heal the Nation’s Divide

A girl walks past booths at a polling station in Kiev on October 25, 2014, on the eve of the country's parliamentary elections. Vasili Maximov —AFP/Getty Images

By leaving millions of pro-Russian voters out of the electoral process, the ballot will only deepen the rifts that lie beneath the war in eastern Ukraine.

The lynch mob caught up with Nestor Shufrich on Sept. 30, when he was campaigning for re-election to Ukraine’s parliament. Outside the press conference he was due to give that day in the port city of Odessa, a gang of activists and right wing thugs were waiting for him with a garbage dumpster, into which they had planned to stuff the lawmaker in front of the assembled journalists. The ambush, part of a broader purge of politicians who are seen as sympathetic toward Russia, did not work out; Shufrich heard about it and cancelled the appearance. But the mob soon tracked him down inside the local government headquarters, tore his clothes off and beat him until his eyes swelled, his head concussed and blood poured from his nose.

A few weeks later, on the final stretch of the campaign, Shufrich recalled the incident like an occupational hazard. “These things come with the territory now, unfortunately,” he says on Friday, two days before the parliamentary ballot that will be held this weekend in most of the country, but not all of it. The huge parts of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of pro-Russian separatist rebels will not take part in the vote, and neither will the southern region of Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in March. “That means millions of our constituents will not be represented in this parliament,” Shufrich tells TIME. “How much of a national dialogue can you expect in those conditions?”

Probably not much at all. In the eight months since the revolution booted Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leaders from power, the country’s political discourse has devolved into a kind of blood sport, and Russia’s military meddling in Ukraine has only served to radicalize the political scene further in the lead up to the vote. Pro-Russian politicians from the old regime have been forced to flee the country in droves, typically to Russia, where the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych took refuge in February. The members of his party who stayed behind, such as Shufrich, have been routinely arrested and charged with separatism, attacked in the streets, beaten or thrown into dumpsters by crowds of vigilantes. An alarming number of Ukrainians seem to support the forces behind these attacks. According to the latest opinion polls, the populists set to take second place in these elections are from the aptly named Radical Party, which uses a pitchfork as its logo and treats even the vaguest relation or sympathy to Russia as a political mark of the devil.

For Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, all this makes it a lot harder to pursue the peace agenda that helped get him elected in May. His political party, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, is still set to get the most votes in these elections, but its ability to pursue negotiations with Russia and reconciliation with the separatists in eastern Ukraine will run up against the nationalists and militants with whom the party will have to share the legislative branch.

In an address to the nation two weeks before the vote, Poroshenko admitted that the peace process he initiated in September, including a shaky ceasefire agreed with the pro-Russian rebels, “is constantly attacked by the gung-ho patriots,” an oblique reference to nationalist groups like the Radical Party and its loudmouthed leader Oleh Lyashko. “These people are, for the most part, divorced from reality and eager to criticize,” he said. “But I nonetheless have no intention of changing my strategy.”

That will be a lot harder than he makes it sound. At the heart of his peace plan has been a series of concessions to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, which he has allowed to elect their own separatist leaders and enjoy broad autonomy from the central government in Kiev. These acts of appeasement have been enough to slow the fighting around the conflict zones in the past month and a half, but they have also incensed the hardline political forces that want nothing short of a military victory over the separatists. The most radical among them have been the paramilitary commanders leading the fight against the rebels on the front lines and, more recently, campaigning for places in parliament.

One of them, the ultranationalist Andriy Biletsky, who leads a regiment of several thousand fighters, has called for Ukraine to scrap the ceasefire and push ahead with an all-out war. “We are negotiating [with Russia] from a position of weakness,” he told TIME in an interview last month in Kiev. “So any breather we get during this conflict will be just that, a temporary respite, and eventually the war will continue. So I don’t see the logic behind negotiating now.”

Nor do many of the activists and protestors who rose up last winter against the Yanukovych regime. In the past few weeks, as the parliamentary elections grew near, thousands of them have again begun to demonstrate in Kiev for a harder line against the separatists, at times clashing with police in scenes that have been painfully reminiscent of the revolution that brought Poroshenko to power in the first place. These protestors do not represent a part of the electorate that can be easily ignored or sidelined. In a nationwide survey released this week, 40% of respondents said they are prepared to take to the streets for a resumption of the winter uprising if Ukraine’s new leaders fail to meet the demands of the revolution.

At the heart of those demands is the drive to purge the ruling class of anyone with ties to the ousted government, and on that front Poroshenko has tried to deliver. Earlier this month, he signed the so-called “lustration” law, which would affect up to a million people who had been on the government’s payroll under the old regime. After an elaborate vetting process, these civil servants could be banned from holding any job in the state bureaucracy for a decade, thus branding a huge portion of the country as unfit for public service. It is under the vengeful spirit of this law that Shufrich and other holdouts from the Yanukovych government have been facing mob justice in the streets. “We’re like pariahs now,” he says.

In the course of a few turbulent months, the purge has helped disrupt an uneasy balance of power that had held in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. The electoral map of the country had been split for years roughly down the middle with a political east-west divide. Voters in the central and western parts of the country tended to favor integration with Europe, and bristled at Russia’s frequent attempts to treat Ukraine like a wayward stepchild. But to the east and south of the Dnieper River that bisects Ukraine, and especially in the industrial eastern regions where the dominant language has always been Russian, voters broadly favored the close ties with Moscow on which their economic fortunes depended. For the past two decades, both halves of Ukrainian society had ample representation in parliament. Sometimes they turned the chamber into a venue for food fights and bare-knuckle boxing, but at least all sides got to have their say.

What finally ruptured this balance was the Russian annexation of Crimea in March. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was outraged at the revolution that toppled his ally in Kiev, sent his troops to occupy the Crimean peninsula and absorb it into Russia. But he did not win many allies in Ukraine in the process. Even the regions that had previously favored closer ties with Moscow began to see a surge of ill will toward the Russian President and the country he represents. According a survey conducted in May, two months after the annexation of Crimea, 76% of respondents had a negative view of Putin, up from 40% just a year earlier.

The main exceptions to that trend were the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the vast majority of people expressed support for Putin in May despite his annexation of a piece of their country. These breakaway chunks of eastern Ukraine, which are home to at least 10% of the country’s 45 million people, are now being left out of the electoral process. Instead of taking part in this weekend’s elections, the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine will hold their own ballots next month, thus helping to formalize their split with the rest of the country. “If you count the people of Crimea, that comes to seven million Russian-speaking voters who will not be represented in the new parliament,” says Shufrich.

For the ruling government in Kiev, that might not be such a bad thing. The absence of millions of pro-Russian voters will ensure that Ukraine’s new leaders, as well as the nationalist parties, get a stronger mandate to rule at the polls, while the closest thing to a pro-Russian party running in these elections – the newfangled Opposition Bloc of Shufrich and his allies – has been so badly humiliated and demoralized by the post-revolutionary purge that it is not expected to win any seats in the parliament. This may well reflect the new anti-Russian mood in Ukraine as a whole. But it will not help heal the national divide. Instead of moving into the somewhat more civilized framework of parliamentary debate, the conflict over eastern Ukraine will still be caught up in the discourse of purges, guns and garbage dumpsters.

TIME Ukraine

Crimea’s Gay Community Moves Out as Russian Homophobia Sets In

Yegor Guskov and Bogdan Zinchenko, who owned a gay bar in Sevastopol, feared for their business — and their family

The Qbar was always an awkward fit in the nightlife of Sevastopol. It was the only place in the Ukrainian city to host the occasional drag show, and certainly the only place where the all-male waitstaff wore booty shorts beneath their aprons. In other parts of Europe, and even many cities in mainland Ukraine, the camp décor would have raised few eyebrows. But Sevastopol is a macho place. It houses the Russian Black Sea naval fleet, and its streets are studded with the homes and memorials of veterans from Russian wars going back to the 18th century. So even before Russia decided in March of this year to annex the city from Ukraine along with the rest of the Crimean peninsula, the locals, both Russian and Ukrainian, looked at the Qbar with a bit of suspicion.

“For a long time they were afraid,” says Yegor Guskov, who ran the bar along with his partner, Bogdan Zinchenko, since it opened in 2007. Mostly out of a fear of the unfamiliar, the Ukrainian officials who worked next door at City Hall were “worried at first that someone would fondle them if they came inside,” he says. “But then they realized it was safe, and the food is really good. So they started coming to eat.” By day the bar would be full of dowdy bureaucrats on their lunch breaks; by night it was packed with lithe young men and women taking Sambuca shots and dancing to Britney Spears. It filled a niche, and business prospered.

But like a lot of things about life in Sevastopol, all of that changed after the Russian annexation. In response to this year’s pro-Western revolution in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to occupy the region of Crimea, many of them fanning out from the Russian naval base in Sevastopol. The invasion quickly helped install a new set of leaders in the region, who organized a slipshod referendum to call for Crimea to secede from Ukraine. When the vote passed with an overwhelming majority – most of Crimea’s residents are ethnic Russians – Putin signed a decree absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation. Its two million citizens thus found themselves living under Russian law.

For the gay community in Crimea, the most worrying piece of legislation was the Russian ban on “homosexual propaganda,” which Putin signed in 2012. Although the law is billed as an effort to protect Russian children from learning about “non-traditional sexual relationships,” its critics say the law encourages homophobia, signaling to Russians that gays are somehow inferior and should not be allowed to insist on their equality in public.

Since March, the new leaders of Crimea have embraced these principles with gusto. The head of the regional government, Sergei Aksyonov, said that the West’s liberal attitude toward gay rights would be “intolerable and unacceptable” on his peninsula during a meeting with his ministers last month. “In Crimea we don’t welcome such people, we don’t need them,” he said, referring to homosexuals. If they ever try to stage a pride parade or any other public events, Aksyonov warned that the local police and paramilitary forces would “take three minutes to clarify what [sexual] orientation is right.”

That sort of discrimination began to hit home for the Qbar in April, after Moscow appointed a retired officer of the Black Sea fleet to serve as the acting head of Sevastopol. Through their patrons from City Hall, the bar’s owners learned that “someone had whispered to the new leadership that they have a gay bar sitting right underneath them,” says Guskov. A series of fire and tax inspections followed, hitting the bar with fines and official reprimands that made its managers understand they weren’t welcome anymore.

At first they tried some cosmetic remedies. They removed the Ukrainian-language sign from their door and made the waiters put on trousers instead of their trademark denim shorts. They even took the letter Q out of the name of the bar, Guskov says, because the local officials said it looked like a symbol for sodomy. “We changed the format,” he says. “We tried to make it into a normal eatery.”

But none of that made them feel safe in the city they call home. Not only are the pair among the most open of Sevastopol’s chronically closeted gays, but Guskov and Zinchenko have a two-year-old son, Timur, from a surrogate mother. The chance that some technocrat could question their custody of Timur, plus their desire to have more children, convinced them that it was time to leave Crimea behind.

In August, they joined the quiet stream of émigrés – thousands of them, even by conservative estimates – who have left the peninsula and moved to mainland Ukraine since the annexation. The largest groups have been from Crimea’s ethnic minorities, primarily Muslim Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, who have both raised alarms over repression and discrimination since their towns and cities became a part of Russia. But the region’s gay men and women have also been moving away, as much out of protest at the annexation as out of a fear of becoming the targets of a state-backed campaign of homophobia.

Guskov believes that campaign won’t be long in coming. “When it became clear that Russia needs to prepare for isolation from Europe, it needed to smear the Europeans somehow, and the simplest is to spread this idea of perverted, decadent Gayropeans,” he says, using the derogatory term for Europeans—”Gayropeytsy”—that has entered the Russian vernacular. “So this witch hunt at home is needed as a tool to smear opponents abroad,” he says.

In Crimea, adds Zinchenko, the warning signs are easy to see. If elderly neighbors were happy before to coddle Timur and offer his parents advice on how to raise him, now the Soviet tradition of the “donos” – denouncing an acquaintance to the police – has started to return, he says. “People are writing these accusations against their neighbors just to show how patriotic they are, how loyal,” he says. “These are all signals for us. They show that we can become a target.”

That suspicion is what forced Guskov and Zinchenko to give up their business in Sevastopol, pack up their things and moved to Kiev. Along the way, the New York City-based photographer Misha Friedman joined them to document their journey, which he felt was emblematic of the transformation that Crimea, and the rest of Ukraine, have undergone since the annexation. “They just struck me as a normal happy family,” the photographer says. “They just got caught up in the politics of bigotry.” As they make their new home in the capital, they’re thinking of opening up a new Qbar, which will have to deal with a lot more competition in Kiev’s vibrant gay scene. But this seems like a minor worry compared to the risks they faced in the new Sevastopol.

Read next: What the Vatican Really Said About Homosexuality


How Putin Got His Way In Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin during a government meeting in Moscow, Sept. 11, 2014.
President Vladimir Putin during a government meeting in Moscow, Sept. 11, 2014. Alexei Druzhinin—Itar-Tass/Corbis

By agreeing to delay the full implementation of a trade deal with Ukraine, the European Union effectively accepted Moscow’s dominance

After all the lives and territory Ukraine has lost this year, it’s easy to lose sight of the way its conflict with Russia began last winter, when Moscow tried to elbow its way into Ukraine’s economic pact with Europe. In response, thousands of ordinary Ukrainians went onto the streets to tell Russia to mind its own business, and the upheavals that followed—from the violent revolution in Kiev to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine—have all stemmed from that confrontation. But they might all have been avoided if the European Union (E.U.) had involved Russia in the process from the outset. On Friday, it finally did.

During closed-door talks in Brussels, the trade representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the E.U. quietly agreed to delay the full implementation of the trade deal that started this mess in the first place. Russia got a place at the table in deciding Ukraine’s economic future, and the E.U. in essence accepted Moscow’s pride of place in shaping its neighbor’s affairs. Later that night, the E.U.’s most senior official, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, had a difficult time defending this decision during a summit in Kiev.

The summit’s host, Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, pointed out how nice it would have been to make this concession to Russia before, not after, thousands of Ukrainians had been killed. “Now we are in a difficult and dangerous situation,” Pinchuk reminded Barroso. “So did we have a chance to prevent what happened with a different political strategy of the European Union or the West?” After an attempt to dodge the question—“I am not here as a commentator,” Barroso said— the visiting European official admitted that the force of Russia’s actions this year had obliged Europe to start thinking in terms of pragmatism rather than principles.

“In terms of principles, I think it’s right that the European Union respects the free will of our partners, and it does not accept a Europe divided on spheres of influence,” Barroso said. “But now, to solve the current situation it’s better to focus on what we can do now.”

This focus resulted in the Brussels compromise. Under its terms, the free trade deal between the E.U. and Ukraine will still be ratified on schedule this week, but at the insistence of Moscow, its provisions will not be fully implemented until the start of 2016. For about 15 months, Ukraine will be able to ship its goods to the E.U. without paying export tariffs, but Europeans will not be able to enjoy the same free access to the Ukrainian market. That is what Russia has long demanded.

Recently, at the end of August, when the leaders of Russia and Ukraine met for the first time in nearly three months to discuss the war raging along their border, Vladimir Putin used his time at the microphone to rant about Ukraine’s trade deal with Europe. The Russian President insisted that it would cost Russia around $3 billion if Ukraine went ahead with the agreement, which he said would disrupt the customs rules and sanitary inspections that Russia conducts at its border.

“Nobody ever talked to us about these problems,” Putin fumed. “We were simply told that it’s none of our business.” What seemed to upset him the most was the possibility that, once the trade deal takes effect, European goods would be smuggled into Russia through Ukraine without paying the right taxes. To illustrate the point, Putin even brought a picture of some Polish food mislabeled to look like it came from neighboring Belarus. “It’s written right here that the country of origin is Belarus. But peel off the sticker, and it’s Polish!” he said, waving the photo in the air. “With Ukraine this will happen ten times more. We’ll be inundated, you understand? Inundated!”

In the context of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which had at that point killed more than 2,000 people, this may have seemed like a petty complaint for Putin to raise during that desperate round of peace talks. But from the start of the conflict this grudge has been at the core of his thinking. Russia, as the dominant power in Eastern Europe, refuses to be left out of Ukraine’s relationship with the West. As Putin said in March when he annexed Crimea, he does not want the West to “make itself at home in our backyard or in our historical territory.”

Most of the tension arose from Europe’s refusal to recognize notions like “historical territory” and geopolitical “backyards,” at least until last week. During the summit in Kiev on Friday, Barroso admitted that Russia had long been demanding a say in the trade talks between the E.U. and Ukraine. He insisted that Moscow had always been refused. “Russia has to recognize the right of Ukraine to negotiate the agreements they want. That is the point.” By allowing Russia a seat at the table in those negotiations, he said, the E.U. would have accepted “the theory of spheres of influence or a kind of limited sovereignty of a country as independent as Ukraine.”

This is roughly what the E.U. accepted with its three-sided deal on Friday, or at least that’s how it looked to many in Ukraine. The day after the Brussels compromise, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danilo Lubkivsky tendered his resignation, saying that to delay the implementation of the trade pact with Europe “sends the wrong signal to everyone, to the aggressor, to our allies, and most importantly, to Ukrainian citizens.” He added: “You cannot delay a choice. Otherwise it’s no choice at all.”

To be sure, the choice to ally with Europe was not unanimous in Ukraine. The eastern and southern provinces would have been happy to remain in Russia’s economic orbit. But the Ukrainians who revolted demanded that their leaders move ahead with E.U. integration on all fronts and without delay, and the former government’s attempt to stall this integration is what resulted in its violent overthrow in February.

Before that, Russia had tried for years to coax and pressure Ukraine to abandon or at least delay its pact with Europe. Igor Yurgens, a former Kremlin adviser who has been directly involved in those efforts since 2008, admitted as much on Friday after the Brussels compromise was made public. “What happened today is exactly what Russia wanted to do before the crisis,” Yurgens told Barroso at the summit in Kiev. “If we did it before the crisis, probably there would be no crisis.” Yurgens added: “I’m sorry.”

That apology would be of little consolation to the families of the Ukrainians killed in this year’s conflict. As Ukraine’s leaders were eager to stress over the weekend, the Brussels compromise with Russia will at least help prevent any more bloodshed. But it will not reverse the events of the last nine months. Ukrainians will just be left to ponder the same question Pinchuk asked of Barroso. If Europe and Ukraine were going to make such concessions to Russia anyway, why didn’t they make them before Putin used force to get what he wanted? It might have saved the Ukrainian people a whole lot of heartache.

TIME Ukraine

Why Ukraine’s Peace Plan Leaves the Door Open for a Winter of Conflict

Residents Of Donetsk Have Largely Fled, As Pro-Russian Rebels Control The City
A separatist fighter stands guard on Sept. 10, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The peace process allows Russia to try a less violent means of keeping Ukraine dependent and divided — energy blackmail by shutting off its fuel supplies

The armistice in eastern Ukraine came like clockwork with the end of the summer fighting season, and both the government forces and the separatist rebels have taken it as a chance to entrench, consolidate their gains and make up for their losses. Even the separatist forces, who with the aid of Russia were on the offensive before the ceasefire took hold on Sept. 5, are playing along with the truce for now. But their leaders warn that this is only a breather between bouts.

“The situation now can best be characterized as neither war nor peace,” says Oleg Tsarev, one of the leading figures in the separatist movement. “Still, I expect there to be major upheavals for Ukraine ahead. Most importantly, how will it handle the winter, the cold, and the [economic] crisis that is now arriving in Ukraine?”

The winter weather, though ill suited to the use of tanks and infantry, will give Russia a chance to try out another tactic in Ukraine. Its goals will be the same—to pry Ukraine apart, to erode the support of its allies in the West and, ultimately, to halt or reverse the westward drift of the new government in Kiev. But when the temperature falls, Russia can pursue these aims more effectively by shutting off supplies of fuel than it can with the use of force.

It has been doing both already. As the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine was heating up in June, Russia handed Ukraine an unpaid fuel bill worth around $5 billion, demanded pre-payment for any future supplies and unceremoniously shut the tap. At the end of August, President Vladimir Putin said that talks to resume these supplies had “reached a dead end.” During the summer season, Ukraine’s reserves of natural gas have been enough to meet demand. But that may change with the onset of winter, which could force Ukraine to seek more help from the West—in the form of loans, energy supplies or both—to prevent its citizens from freezing.

Slovakia became the first this month to set its natural gas pipelines to flow backwards into Ukraine, potentially covering about a fifth of its neighbor’s demand. But practically all of Slovakia’s gas comes from Russia in the first place; now part of it is simply being shipped back to Ukraine. If other neighbors are willing to share, this bizarre arrangement may be the only way Ukraine survives the winter. But it’s not clear how generous E.U. nations can afford to be.

Europe depends on Russia for a third of its energy supplies, and roughly 80% of that gas travels through Ukrainian pipelines before getting to its destination. So the last time Russia tried to cut off the flow to Ukraine in 2009—during an especially frigid winter—millions of Europeans came up short on fuel when they needed it most.

The separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk won’t have this problem. Russia has fuel pipelines running directly into these regions, and it has already begun negotiating supply deals with their separatist leaders on preferential terms. The goal, says Tsarev, is to demonstrate that an alliance with Russia is a lot cozier than one with the West, at least when it comes to surviving the winter. “Our goal is to rebuild our economy, to establish our statehood, and to show that our model is more successful than the one that exists in Ukraine,” he tells TIME in a phone interview.

The peace deal that Ukraine’s President defended on Wednesday will allow the separatists room to pursue these ends. In a speech to his cabinet of ministers, Petro Poroshenko said the breakaway regions would be able to hold elections to choose their own leaders and lawmakers. Ukraine’s parliament, he said, must also pass a law outlining “the temporary order of self-government for certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” namely those that are still under the control of the rebel militias. But the key provision of Poroshenko’s 12-point peace plan is the one that calls for the “decentralization of power.”

This phrase seems just vague enough to satisfy all sides. It falls short of Putin’s earlier calls for the “federalization” of Ukraine, which would grant broad rights of self-determination to the breakaway provinces. But it also allows Poroshenko to play up the promise that Ukraine will remain united, with no more regions splitting off. “The protocol does not mention any federalization, any secession,” he said. “That is not up for debate.”

The separatists would beg to differ. Andrei Purgin, one of the two rebel leaders who signed Poroshenko’s peace plan on Sept. 5, declared a few days later that the region of Donetsk is “standing firm on the condition of self-determination.” How the rebels will push this demand remains unclear. Tsarev says that the idea of full independence is still very much on the table, while another official in the rebel leadership, Sergei Kavtaradze (who unlike the other two is a Russian citizen) told TIME on Wednesday that, “we are not allowed to comment right now” on the question of independence. Considering his background as a Moscow public relations expert, Kavtaradze’s reticence suggests that Russia may be urging the separatists to hold off on making any more demands for now.

But that hardly means they will not arise in the future. If Ukraine moves ahead with its integration with the European Union, Russia could easily encourage the separatists to resume their rebellion. By spring, they will likely have elected a set of leaders who can push the cause of independence with more legitimacy than their movement can claim as of now. Though Poroshenko seems to realize this, he clearly sees it as the lesser evil.

Speaking to his cabinet on Wednesday, he said Kiev will probably not be thrilled with ranks of the local lawmakers that Donetsk and Luhansk will soon be allowed to elect. But then he asked, “isn’t it better to administer policy through ballots instead of automatic gunfire…?” Most of his war-weary constituents will likely agree that it is. But nothing in Poroshenko’s peace plan obliges the rebels to give up their arsenals, and weather permitting, they will still be able to use them again with the arrival of spring.

TIME Ukraine

MH 17 Report Fumbles for Clarity Among Ransacked Wreckage

A Pro-Russian rebel looks at pieces of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane near village of Rozsypne, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 9, 2014.
A pro-Russian rebel looks at pieces of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near village of Rozsypne, eastern Ukraine, on Sept. 9, 2014 Sergei Grits—AP

Pieces of the downed Malaysian airliner were pillaged after the crash, contaminating the work of investigators who published their preliminary findings on Tuesday

The callous disregard for the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17 would have been clear to anyone who visited the crash site. By the time foreign investigators were able to access the scene of this crime, it had not just been contaminated; it had been picked apart like a macabre giveaway on the lawn of a foreclosed house.

Chunks of the fuselage were stacked in a pile at a separatist checkpoint near the village of Rassypnoye, just a few miles from the main crash site, seemingly intended to reinforce the rebel barricade of sandbags and concrete that stood just a few steps away. Gawkers from nearby villages climbed atop the vertical tail of the plane, which had landed in a field of wheat, and took photographs like tourists. Locals and rebel fighters were free to take souvenirs from among the wreckage or from the scattered belongings of the 298 people, most of them Dutch citizens, who died in the catastrophe. So it was little wonder on Tuesday that the preliminary report on the causes of the crash was largely inconclusive.

According to the crucial part of the report from the Dutch Safety Board, “The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside.” This could be consistent with the West’s prevailing theory of what brought down the plane, namely a BUK surface-to-air missile launched by the pro-Russian separatists over the territory they control. Some versions of the payload mounted on a BUK missile can explode on impact with the target or just before, causing pieces of shrapnel — “high-energy objects,” in the words of the report — to shred the fuselage.

But the wording of the 34-page report [in pdf format here] was also vague enough to leave room for one of the more common theories among the rebel fighters in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the disaster on the Ukrainian government on the night of the crash; and in the days that followed, some of the separatists claimed in interviews with TIME that a Ukrainian fighter jet had, for some reason, intercepted the airliner and sprayed it with chain-gun fire. As evidence, they pointed to the many small holes in the fuselage, suggesting that these looked like the work of a machine gun shooting another type of high-energy object — bullets.

This hypothesis, a favorite on Russian state television, does not fit well with the audio recordings taken from the cockpit of the plane. According to the Dutch Safety Board, the recording ended abruptly, with no sign that the plane was hit with gunfire or that the pilots had any warning of an approaching missile. Yet the report also makes no mention of any missiles or missile fragments found at the crash site.

That kind of solid evidence — such as a chunk of a projectile with a serial number or chemical signature that could identify its source — could easily have been removed from the crash site by the time investigators arrived. Pro-Russian rebels have had control of the area ever since the plane went down, and in late July, when forensic experts from the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia were allowed to inspect the wreckage, it was only at the whim of the rebel commanders.

“If we can’t negotiate our entrance, we’re stuck,” the Dutch commander of the search operation, Colonel Cornelis Kuijs, told TIME on Aug. 4, at the mission’s base of operations in eastern Ukraine. “We have no freedom of movement whatsoever.” Two days later, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte suspended the search operation, citing concerns for the safety of the police officers and experts involved.

With much less gear and no police escorts, journalists around the crash site generally faced fewer roadblocks from the rebels, and a BBC investigation seems to have turned up a curious lead. In a program aired Monday on the channel’s Panorama program, a reporter interviewed an alleged witness who claimed to have spoken with one of the fighters who launched the fatal missile. The soldier’s accent, the witness told the BBC, was distinctly Russian, not Ukrainian, leading the witness to believe that the culprit may have been a Russian soldier.

But this does not seem like the kind of evidence that would hold up in a court of law, nor even the court of public opinion. Many Russian citizens have joined the separatist militias fighting in eastern Ukraine, and they are usually military veterans with various types of weapons training. So the presence of a Russian accent would not necessarily prove that a fighter was a Russian soldier. It would merely be another detail to add to the piles of evidence supporting one theory or another. But as seems clear from the pile of wreckage stacked up near that checkpoint in early August, the truth about Flight MH 17 will likely remain elusive, even after investigators publish their final report next year. If there was a smoking gun to be found at the crash site, the rebels had every opportunity to quietly snuff it out.

Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, clarifies that the MH 17 report does not use the word missile.

TIME russia

Russia Is Testing NATO’s Resolve in Eastern Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin Visits Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin conducts a meeting with Russian ministers, members of parliament, lawmakers and other public cultural leaders in the Chekhov Museum on August 14, 2014 in Yalta, Crimea. Sasha Mordovets—Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is feeling around for the gaps that have emerged in NATO's defenses, and it may take more than military spending to patch them up

A few years ago, when NATO strategists would stop to consider a possible threat from Russia, their chief concern was the possibility, however slight, that the Russian state would implode, lose control of its nuclear arsenal and allow a few warheads to fall into the wrong hands. That at least was the worry Ivo Daalder expressed in the fall of 2010, when he paid a visit to Moscow as the U.S. ambassador to NATO. But on the whole, he says he just wasn’t very concerned about Russia at the time. The alliance was too busy with that year’s troop surge in Afghanistan and with newfangled threats like cyber warfare.

“As a security concern Russia wasn’t really on the agenda in 2010,” he tells TIME by phone on Friday from Chicago. “The focus with Russia was really on cooperation.”

At that year’s NATO summit in Lisbon, Russia seemed eager to play along. The military doctrine it adopted earlier that year still listed NATO expansion as the primary threat to Russian security. But Dmitri Medvedev, who was then serving as Russia’s president while Vladimir Putin took a turn as prime minister, agreed in Lisbon to cooperate with the alliance on various issues of mutual concern, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The brief war that Russia had fought two years earlier in neighboring Georgia, an aspiring member of NATO, was duly put aside at the Lisbon summit as a bump in the road toward Russia’s cooperation with the alliance. All the while, the defense infrastructure that NATO had maintained during the Cold War to prepare for a confrontation with Russia in Europe was falling deeper into disrepair.

“NATO had for many years failed to really invest in its infrastructure in the east,” recalls Daalder, whose term as ambassador ended a year ago. “Even the basics were just very poor to non-existent.” That included things like air bases in Eastern Europe, ports, oil pipelines and other essential gear that NATO would have needed to “flush forces into the region,” he says.

Only this spring, after Russia sent troops into another one of its European neighbors – this time Ukraine – to occupy and annex the region of Crimea, NATO finally began to consider for the first time in two decades how exposed its eastern flank had become. The agenda at the NATO summit in Wales this week was shaped by this realization. But adjusting to it will take much more than the summit’s decision on Friday to station a few thousand troops in Eastern Europe on a rotating basis. It will need to adapt to a security paradigm that Russia seems to be inventing on the fly, and wiping the dust off NATO’s Cold War playbook may not do much to help the alliance find its footing on this unfamiliar terrain.

“It’s a different ball game,” says Daalder. It still involves a distinctly Soviet bag of tricks – most importantly Putin’s reminder last month of the strength of his nuclear arsenal – but Putin’s actions in Ukraine have also displayed a new type of shape-shifting warfare, one that is far more nimble and unpredictable than anything the stodgy old men of the Politburo were able to muster.

Take, for instance, the standoff unfolding along the Russian border with Estonia, one of the NATO allies that is, by virtue of geography and demography, most susceptible to Russian meddling. Not only does it share a border with Russia that is nearly 200 miles long, but its population is roughly a quarter Russian, forming an ethnic minority whose rights Putin has promised to “protect” by any legal means. These vulnerabilities were among the reasons Barack Obama chose to visit Estonia on Wednesday in a show of solidarity. During a speech in the capital, the U.S. President pledged his military would come to Estonia’s defense if it were ever attacked or invaded. “An attack on one is an attack on all,” Obama said, echoing Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, which obliges all members to defend any ally that faces a foreign attack.

Two days later, as the summit in Wales was winding down, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves sounded the alarm over what he reportedly called an invasion of Estonian territory. He and other senior officials from his government said that unknown assailants had come from Russia and abducted an Estonian security service officer at gunpoint, allegedly using smoke bombs and jamming the radios of Estonian border guards during the Friday morning raid.

Russia made no secret of its involvement. The security service known as the FSB (the post-Soviet incarnation of the KGB) told Russian news agencies that it had the officer in custody on suspicion of spying, but claimed he had been arrested on the Russian side of the border, not in Estonia. Given the timing, some Estonian officials saw the move as a blatant Russian provocation, not only against their country but the whole of NATO.

“This is a demonstrative show for the United States and other Western countries that [Russia] does what it wants in this part of the world,” Urmas Reinsalu, an Estonian lawmaker and former minister of defense, told the Postimees newspaper. Another prominent Estonian politician, Eerik-Niiles Kross, who formerly served as the country’s intelligence chief, told local media that the kidnapping “should be filed under ‘rewriting the rules.’”

That seems like a fair term for what Russia has been doing in Ukraine all year. With its annexation of Crimea in March, Russia redrew the borders of Europe and, as Daalder puts it, “threw out the rulebook of post-Cold War security policy.” The new rules will depend primarily on the way NATO responds. So far, Obama has made clear that his “red line” is the border of the NATO alliance, and if Russia violates that border, the U.S. would respond with force. But what exactly would constitute such a breach? A full-on tank invasion or something more subtle?

It is through such ambiguities that Russia has been testing NATO’s resolve, prodding and provoking to feel out the alliance’s weak spots. And it isn’t the first time Russia’s done this. During Estonia’s noisy 2007 spat with Russia over a Soviet war memorial, Russian hackers launched a massive cyberattack against Estonia that paralyzed the websites of its government, parliament, banks and media. Estonian officials blamed the Kremlin, and questioned whether a cyberattack of this or any other magnitude could trigger Article 5 of the NATO treaty. At the Wales summit this week the allies finally affirmed that it could, even suggesting that the NATO could launch a military response to a cyber threat. This seemed to patch a key hole in the alliance’s remit.

So what about the arrest of the Estonian security official on Friday? Would that qualify as an invasion if the government proves that Russian agents crossed into Estonia and kidnapped him at gunpoint? Probably not. Even after the U.S. and NATO claimed last month that Russia had sent thousands of troops into Ukraine, Obama stopped short of calling it an invasion.

At some point Russia’s aggression may become blatant and destructive enough to trigger NATO’s allied response. But the crucial question is where that point would be, and whether it even exists. Some observers have begun to doubt it. Last month the Russian political scientist Andrei Pointkovsky proposed a thought experiment on this question involving the potential flashpoint of Estonia.

The population of the border city of Narva, he pointed out, is predominantly Russian, and the Kremlin could in theory try to stir an ethnic rebellion in Narva much as it did among the ethnic Russians in Crimea this spring. NATO would then have to consider whether such an incursion breaches Obama’s red line, but in the meantime, Putin could in theory decide to launch a “very limited” nuclear strike against a NATO city, Pointkovsky wrote. What would the West do then?

“Put yourself in the place of Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate . . . The progressive and even the reactionary American public would cry out in unison that, ‘We don’t want to die for f—ing Narva, Mr. President!,” wrote Pointkovsky.

In Pointkovsky’s assessment, it is far from clear how the U.S. would respond to this doomsday scenario, and Daalder agrees. “Do I know for certain that if the Russians would use nuclear weapons against Poland that we would retaliate? No,” says the former ambassador. The Western assumption, he says, is that Putin would not take such a gargantuan risk, that even the slight possibility of a NATO counter-strike would be enough to deter him. This logic, known among defense wonks as Mutually Assured Destruction, is what prevented the U.S. and the Soviet Union from ever starting a nuclear war.

It has been a generation since the West has really been forced to consider whether such thinking is sound. But based on the wording of its official military doctrine, which was adopted in 2010, Russia has been thinking about this all along. A senior Russian general even suggested this week that the doctrine should be revised to allow for the possibility of a “preventative” nuclear attack against the West. This issue did not come up at the NATO summit in Wales, at least not publicly, but Daalder suggests it may be time to assess Russia’s reasoning. “We haven’t thought about deterrence in a long time, and we need to do it again,” he says. The expiration date has clearly past on NATO’s infrastructure in Eastern Europe, but its mentality in standing up to Russia may also be due for an update.

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