(1)  Trump Taps Putin Critic, Fiona Hill, for Senior White House Position – Foreign Policy --

The selection of Brookings Institution scholar Fiona Hill comes as the Trump administration draws fire for contacts with Russian officials.She is a co-author of the book, 'Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,' where she urges Putin to bring the 'Russia, Inc.' system he created into the 'real world' and to be less of a 'CEO and Mafia Don.'

Commentary:  One still cannot know what President Trump will do or decide regarding Russia, Putin and/or Ukraine.  But adding this appointment to the other clear-thinking and realistic analysts of the Kremlin is simply a real positive step.  Hill, a dual U.S.-UK citizen and former U.S. intelligence officer from 2006 to 2009, has written critically of Putin’s autocratic tendencies and desire of a “weakened U.S. presidency.”  Hill has a substantial knowledge of the situation in Ukraine over the past 25 years.
Link:

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/02/trump-taps-putin-critic-for-senior-white-house-position/

(2) U.S. Senate Confirms Rick Perry as Energy Secretary – New York Times --

The United States Senate confirmed former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the head of the Energy Department.  The vote was 62 to 37. Mr. Perry will lead an agency that, despite its name, is largely focused on overseeing the nation’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, as well as a network of 17 national scientific laboratories.
Commentary: While the Department of Energy is not in the forefront of American foreign policy development it might be remembered that Perry has long followed what is going on in Ukraine.  For instance, in 2015 Secretary Perry said, among other things, “Last week we witnessed the fierce urgency of Western leaders shuttling to Minsk in an attempt to get Vladimir Putin to sign a piece of paper saying he would not continue his aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

“But with the latest violence by Russian backed separatists in the eastern Ukraine, President Putin has again demonstrated his insincerity as a negotiating partner and his willingness to use diplomatic engagement as a pretext for extended military conquest…President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has cost the lives of thousands of Ukrainian citizens and it’s dangerously destabilizing for all of central and eastern Europe,” Perry continued.

“Administrations of both parties have badly miscalculated the intentions of Vladimir Putin in the Russian state over the last decade and a half. The latest developments underscore the urgent need for the US and the EU to develop a strategy to deal with the realities of the Russian state under Vladimir Putin.”  He added,  “NATO was created to stop Russia and President Reagan showed that with American leadership NATO works.”

Perry then listed the action American should take immediately which included providing lethal aid to Ukraine so that it could defend itself and increasing sanctions, including reconsidering Russia’s continued access to the SWIFT international banking system.  The more friends Ukraine has in the Trump Cabinet, the better. 

There are several leading businessmen in Texas who have a vested interest in Ukraine who have worked closely with Perry when he was governor of Texas about the energy situation in Ukraine.  Several delegations from Ukraine have met personally with Governor Perry.

Linkhttps://nyti.ms/2lEpqTw

(3) "EBRD - Your Partner In Ukraine" working luncheon in Washington next wek          
The U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), in cooperation with The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Representative Office - North America will host a working luncheon "EBRD - Your Partner In Ukraine' with Francis Malige, EBRD Managing Director for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, from 12:15 p.m to 2:00 p.m. in the White House Conference Room at the law offices of Baker McKenzie, 815 Connecticut Avenue, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 
Mr. Malige will discuss reforms in Ukraine, the business environment, EBRD priorities, financing and funding capabilities for Ukraine.  Mr. Malige will discuss Ukraine as a country with outstanding opportunities, that deserves to be better known as an investment destination.  An open discussion and Q&A will follow Mr. Malige's presentation.  Morgan Williams will moderate the working luncheon.

EBRD is the largest investor in Ukraine with over 12 billion Euros of investment over the last 25 years.  USUBC is very fortunate to have a joint meeting with EBRD's top regional director for Eastern Europe to discuss the EBRD’s policy and program for Ukraine and the region. You will not want to miss this opportunity to meet with Mr. Malige during his short, but important visit to Washington, D.C. This is the first USUBC member business luncheon with Francis Malige.  

RSVP:  Registration is required for attendance at the joint USUBC and EBRD, by invitation only, luncheon with Francis Malige, EBRD Managing Director for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus on

Tuesday, March 7, 2017, by sending an e-mail to Morgan Williams, mwilliams@usubc.org. There is no charge for the meeting.  

(4) U.S. Congress returned to Washington after its President’s Day week-long recess. 

The House Ukrainian Caucus’ priority remains H. Res. 88.  The Caucus wants to get a clear expression of where the House of Representatives stand “out there as soon as possible. The resolution calls on the Russian Federation to stop the violence in Ukraine, and for other purposes.  It was introduced by Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD), Co-Chair of the House Ukraine Caucus. 

It is a priority of the Caucus as they wish to get something passed fast expressing Congress’ clear understanding of and attitude toward Putin’s war on Ukraine.  It is sponsored by the four Co-Chairs of the Caucus, Andy Harris (R-MD), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Sander Levin (D-MI).  The Caucus is anxious to add at least 25 additional sponsors including a majority of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the committee to which the resolution was referred.  The Caucus is asking for help recruiting co-sponsors.

(5) Another Ukrainian Delegation in Washington this week --------

The latest delegation from Ukraine was made up of:  Serhii Berezenko, Member of the Parliament (the Committee on Public Health), Deputy Chief of faction BPP “Solidarnist”, Member of the Central Council of the Party; Iryna Friz, Member of the Parliament (the Chairperson of the subcommittee on State information system security of the Committee on National Security and Defense), Chairman of the Permanent Delegation of the Parliament of Ukraine in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Member of the Central Council of the Party.

Artur Herasymov, Member of the Parliament (Chairperson of subcommittee on military-industrial and military-technical cooperation of the Committee for Security and Defense Affairs), the Presidential Representative in the Parliament; Pavlo Rizanenko, Member of the Parliament (Deputy Chairman of the Special Commission of the Parliament on privatization, Chairperson of the subcommittee on securities, stock market, activity of rating agencies and e-commerce of the Committee on Financial Policy and Banking); Sergiy Taran, Advisor for Party BPP “Solidarnist”, political expert; and Giorgi Vashadze, Advisor for Party BPP “Solidarnist”, Member of the Parliament of Georgia (2012 - 2016), founder of the Foundation for Innovation and Development (actively involved in the reforms in Ukraine). 
 
Commentary:  This delegation appears to have had a number of quality meetings including among others meetings on Capitol Hill, at the National Security Council, and the Department of State.  Reactions varied.  Apparently this group was effective at presenting their views and answering questions which is good especially in comparison with any number of visitors who have confusing messages and are incapable of hiding the personal agendas. 

Some who those met with this week’s delegation, while admitting they were articulate, described the basic message as everything is Russia’s fault, reforms are going well including the cleaning up of corruption, Ukraine is important and so the United States must support Ukraine.  Did not seem to have many recommendations for action.

There will be several senior Ukrainian government officials in Washington next week.

(6) Russia Looks to Exploit White House ‘Turbulence,’ Analysts Say – The New York Times --

The Kremlin, increasingly convinced that President Trump will not fundamentally change relations with Russia, is instead seeking to bolster its global influence by exploiting what it considers weakness in Washington, according to political advisers, diplomats, journalists and other analysts.  Russia has continued to test the United States on the military front, with fighter jets flying close to an American warship in the Black Sea this month and a Russian naval vessel steaming conspicuously in the Atlantic off the coast of Delaware.

Commentary:  Putin and his associates in the Kremlin at first thought Trump would be great for their type of Russia-US relations. Now things have changed but they tell themselves that Putin’s master playbook will work easily with the false starts and confusion of the early Trump Administration.  Their view is Trump created this internal and domestic turbulence and he is focused on his domestic problems and so Russia has more freedom to maneuver. 
 
Their view is let Trump deal with his domestic problems and not focus on Ukraine, or the Middle East or NATO. “Right now the Kremlin is looking for ways that Russia can use the chaos in Washington to pursue its own interests.”  As USUBC has said repeatedly, nobody is going to know exactly what Trump is going to do until he does it. 
 
But, maybe the political forces in Moscow are being a bit overly optimistic - - - do they really think Trump’s plans for a massive buildup of the military is intended for Kremlin-like Red Square puffery parades down Pennsylvania Avenue?  Have they noticed Trump’s challenges may have led to NATO countries devoting more to their respective militaries?  Maybe Trump hasn’t said anything personally about Ukraine but it looks like when he eventually talks directly with Putin he will be speaking from a position of stronger and stronger leverage.

Link:  New York Times

(7) What VP Pence Should Have Said: Russia, Not Terrorism, Is the Most Urgent Security Threat – Atlantic Council --

No real agreement with Moscow is possible as long as it arrogates to itself the right to attack and seize its neighbors’ territory, behave autocratically in world affairs, and demand special treatment and unbridled sovereignty at home. To quote the statesman A. M. Gorchakov, for Russia, “the difficulty lies in knowing where to stop.” But history has already shown that Putin’s autocracy, like its predecessors, can neither stop nor wants to. Therefore we must jointly forge new ways to conduct the old missions of deterrence and reassurance. The alternative is unacceptable.


Commentary:  As the Trump Administration finds its way around the various government buildings, assures itself of the location of the bathrooms and parking spaces it is going to be important to see if the politicians of the Administration start reflecting some of the solid wisdom of the seasoned military folks in their ranks.  Those with that highly credentialed military experience seem unequivocal that the greatest threat to the United States and global security is Putin’s Russia.

LinkAtlantic Council

(8) In Ukraine, blockade threatens to force issue at heart of civil war – The Christian Science Monitor --

Backed by a coalition of oligarchs, nationalist militias, and opposition politicians, the aim of the blockade is apparently to compel a beleaguered President Poroshenko to abandon hopes of integrating the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk back into Ukraine, as called for under the Minsk II agreements, and officially declare them "occupied territories" of Russia.

Commentary:  The growing tensions in Ukraine, which has seen a sharp spike in fighting over recent weeks, have so far been mostly ignored in Washington. But Europeans have started to take notice of Ukraine's dangerous slide into fresh crisis. The reporter here, Fred Weir, seems to have a grip on what is happening. Unfortunately the editor who creates the Monitor’s headlines hasn’t a clue - - “civil war” - - sorry Mr. Editor, give us a break!

 

Trump’s proposals for significant increases in military spending may find resistance in Congress but it would appear the President himself realizes the genuine need to upgrade American defense forces.  The last time an American president was determined to have the United States be the number one military power, President Reagan crippled the budget of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. 

Link:  www.csmonitor.com/.../In-Ukraine-blockade-threatens-to-force-issue-at-heart-of-civil

(9) Why Ukraine Needs Another Court System Now – Atlantic Council/ Josh Cohen --

Since the Euromaidan, Ukraine has achieved some notable anticorruption successes. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), established in 2015 to target high level crimes committed by Ukraine's corrupt political class, has demonstrated a high level of independence and has not hesitated to target the senior officials, judges, and state enterprise managers who previously possessed de facto immunity from prosecution. But NABU represents only one piece of the anticorruption puzzle, and to truly confront corruption, Ukraine needs to establish a separate anticorruption court system. The country’s existing judicial system is riddled with graft, largely because its judges remain committed to protecting corrupt colleagues.

Commentary: As mentioned under the previous article those in Washington who follow Ukraine know what is going on. Delegations-upon-delegations come to Washington from Ukraine with self-serving stories about the solving of problems and the cleaning up of corruption largely presented to polite audiences.  One classic from early 2016 was a representative of the President starting off his presentation saying there were only two oligarchs left in Ukraine.

The point is that if these officials and delegations return to Ukraine thinking they have made their case successfully they are generally mistaken to their own detriment and to the detriment of U.S.-Ukraine relations.  Washington knows what is going on and what needs to be done. Washington understands the ramifications of Putin’s war against Ukraine and the immense difficulties that war causes in Ukraine’s efforts to address many other problems.

Washington will and has keep that reality in mind in its dealings with Ukraine but that doesn’t mean Washington will give Ukraine a pass on fundamentally critical reforms.  Obfuscation about the realities of Ukraine’s internal problems simply undermines credibilityexisting judicial system is riddled with graft, largely because its judges remain committed to protecting corrupt colleagues.

LinkAtlantic Council

(10) President Trump pledges support for NATO in address, but says allies must 'pay their fair share' – Defense News --

“We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism,” Trump said to a standing ovation that included many Democrats. “But our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that….”

LinkDefense News

(11) National Democratic Institute (NDI) Research on Opportunities and Challenges Facing Ukraine’s Democratic Transition – 

Eighty-six percent of Ukrainians (probably – 86 percent of the people of Ukraine) believe that Ukraine should become a fully functioning democracy.

LinkUkraine should become a fully functioning democracy.

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NEWS: For the latest news about Ukraine go to the KYIV POST website: www.KyivPost.com.

The Kyiv Post of the ISTIL Group is a member of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC).   
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Web: www.USUBC.orgmwilliams@usubc.org

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