(1) Ukraine is making progress against tough odds. It deserves US support The Hill -- A sovereign, democratic Ukraine finds itself undermined at every turn by a provocative Russian neighbor desperate to see it fail, yet Ukraine is moving forward against all odds. The Ukrainian people know firsthand how hard it is to build a democracy. They deserve our reassurance they are not in this alone – Ambassador Alexander Vershbow.

Commentary:  Ambassador Vershbow provides a very balanced analysis of Ukraine’s struggles, needlessly missed opportunities and successes in its struggles to develop as a nation while having a gun at its head figuratively and in fact.  If there is one thing that might be changed in his article – and in so many stories on Ukraine and too many statements by Ukrainian officials – it would be the reference to the “Ukrainian people.”

The reference is not necessarily inaccurate but as the very wise leaders of Rukh in the late 1980s and early 90s (before there was a political party by that name) understood “Ukrainian people” is not inclusive. Ivan Drach, Mykhailo Horyn, et al. never talked in terms of the “Ukrainian people” rather they always talked in terms of “the people of Ukraine.”  They understood semantics and, more important, the malignant art of division likely anticipating, among other things, Kremlin propaganda. 

Putin talks of “Russian speakers” and “ethnic Russians” and he uses those references to his menacing ambitious advantage over-and-over.  What the astute leaders of Rukh understood (and too many no longer understand) is that Ukraine is made up of many with diverse ethnic backgrounds – Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Jewish, etc. but collectively they are “the people of Ukraine.” 

They are all the people of Ukraine who voted by an over 92% majority for independence.  They are a untied people and referencing “Ukrainian people” needlessly opens the door for misunderstanding and mischief.  The time of the Drachs and Horyns may have come and gone but Ukraine would be so much better off if their wisdom of unity lived on.

LinkThe Hill

(2) A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates – The New York Times

Commentary:  Set aside the embarrassing similarities between the Government of Ukraine and adolescent student governments across the United States because the cause of Ukrainian independence and sovereignty is of immense importance both in Ukraine and to international security and stability.  Here you have a singularly ambitious politician, Artemenko, being used as one of the Kremlin’s “useful idiots” to promote the idea that Ukrainian officials may be willing to abandon the country's sovereignty and are willing to negotiate with themselves to the country's disadvantage. 

Importantly what is not to be found in the media is the fact that Artemenko has not been the only Ukrainian wandering around Washington proposing that Ukraine be willing to disavow its sovereignty in search of some fantasyland deal with Russia.  Certainly during the week of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington (February 3) there were other Ukrainian deputies on Capitol Hill suggesting Ukraine lease Crimea to Russia – a proposal that instantly raised questions about what these Ukrainians might be smoking. 

As for Artemenko, who found his name in print, of course his Radical Party leader Lyashko declared that Artemenko's peace plan was "his own position that neither I personally nor our team Radical Party support it."  He also announced that Artemenko was expelled from the Radical Party parliamentary faction.  The unfortunate thing about the Radical Party’s statement was that it suggests Artemenko acted on his own.  Really?  The Kremlin’s fingerprints are all over both the proposal and the scheme to deliver it to the White House. 

As for Artemenko, it should be noted that each member of the Verkhona Rada signs an oath, “I pledge allegiance to Ukraine. I pledge to protect, with all my actions, the sovereignty & independence of Ukraine, care about the good of the Fatherland & welfare of the Ukrainian people. I pledge to adhere to the Constitution of Ukraine & laws of Ukraine, to fulfill my duties in the interest of all my compatriots.”

With his naïve and malignant proposal to cede Ukrainian sovereignty it would seem a strong case should be made that Artemenko violated that oath. Perhaps further action should be taken against him and the others who recently canvased Washington advocating a “deal” should be found and identified. (See New York Times article below on treason inquiry.)

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-russia.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

(3) Amid Russia scrutiny, Trump associates received informal Ukraine policy proposal – The Washington Post – The most significant difference between this article and the Times article above is that Michael Cohen denied to the Post that he delivered the proposal to the White House, saying he simply took it from Artemenko as a courtesy.  Asked by the Post about the discrepancy editors of the Times emphatically stuck with their story.

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/amid-russia-scrutiny-trump-associates-received-informal-ukraine-policy-proposal/2017/02/19/72b0b264-f6eb-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_ukraine-12am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.542d1fcea146

(4) Mystery of the Ukraine Peace Plan – The Atlantic --  Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s Interior Minister and Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of the Rada who always advertises the fact that he is a former investigative journalist, suspect the plan originated not with Artemenko, who heads an obscure right-wing party, but among members of the Opposition Bloc, a parliamentary faction that formed in 2014 from remnants of the old party of the ousted pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych

Commentary: It may never be known who actually came up with this infamous “peace” plan but regardless of suspicions raised by any involved in Kyiv inter-party political dynamics the whole thing smells like, walks like, looks like a Kremlin initiative – one that not only used “useful idiots” but seems to have Ukrainians poiting at one another instead of the Kremlin deviants installed in Kyiv. 

Link: The Atlantic

(5) Ukraine Lawmaker Who Worked With Trump Associates Faces Treason Inquiry – New York Times -- Prosecutors in Ukraine are investigating whether a member of Parliament committed treason by working with two associates of President Trump’s to promote a plan for settling Ukraine’s conflicts with Russia.

Link: https://nyti.ms/2m5dvSx

(6) Not to be deterred Artemenko says he has congressional support and will return to Washington to promote his plan – Reuters – Even though both the Kremlin and the Government of Ukraine have repudiated his plan, the Ukrainians having gone so far as to open a treason investigation, Artemenko says he will be travelling to Washington to present the plan to Senators and Congressmen who support him.  He declined to name names.

Commentary:  What can you say?  Is he off his meds?

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-lawmaker-washington-idUSKBN160290

(7) After U.S. Tilt Toward Russia, U.N. Disagreement Is Sharp – The Wall Street JournalWith Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin chairing Tuesday’s meeting of the United Nations Security Council on unresolved conflicts in Europe Western diplomats called Russia the biggest destabilizing force in Europe because of its incursion into Ukraine while some Central European countries contended the only solution for Europe’s concerns involved closer ties between U.S. and Russia. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley tells diplomats at Security Council meeting that U.S. won’t bend on key issues to warm ties.  For his part Klimkin also called to reform the organization to prevent further veto power abuses by Russia.

Link: Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

(8) Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser – The New York Times -- President Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Monday, picking a widely respected military strategist known for challenging conventional thinking and helping to turn around the Iraq war in its darkest days.

Commentary: By all accounts Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster says what he thinks, and can’t resist a tough problem that everyone else says is impossible.  Those qualities may help explain why he said yes to becoming President Donald Trump’s second national security adviser, after the resignation of Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn amid charges Flynn improperly communicated with the Russian ambassador and then lied to the vice president about it.

It should also be noted that according to Politico McMaster has staked out a decidedly more hawkish position on Russia than both the President and Flynn.  A link to the Politico article is also included below.

Link: New York Times

Link: Politico

(9) New National Security Adviser: No Friend to Russia? Roll Call -- McMaster discussed the threat from Russia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last May, specifically mentioning the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.

Russia, he said, was “invading Ukraine at zero cost, consolidating gains over that territory and portraying the reaction by us and allies and partners as escalatory.” McMaster said Russia was employing a sophisticated strategy “that combines really conventional forces as cover for unconventional action, but … a much more sophisticated campaign involving the use of criminality and organized crime.

Link: http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/new-national-security-adviser-no-friend-russia=?utm_medium=email&utm_source=rollcallheadlines&utm_campaign=newsletters&bt_alias=eyJ1c2VySWQiOiAiYzIwZDgzMjUtYzdiOC00M2RlLThkMDMtMzg0ZDU0MjVhZGRmIn0%3D#sthash.d2AyNOeJ.dpuf

(10) The president’s national security adviser doesn’t usually need Senate confirmation, but for President Trump’s pick, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, it will be different Defense News -- The Senate has a unique role in the confirmation of the military's most senior officials. For McMaster, a senior flag officer, to keep his rank and change jobs, the law requires the Senate to reconfirm him.

Commentary: There are two scenarios in which McMaster would not need to seek Senate confirmation. He could choose to serve as a two-star major general or retire from the military and serve as a civilian. For McMaster to remain on active duty as he so far has indicated he wishes to do and as previous national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell did, the Senate will have to act first. A Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing is unlikely, but McMaster very well might be asked to agree to testify before Congress in the future because of his military rank.  Testifying is not something National Security Advisors are anxious to do.

Link: Defense News

(11) Russia Will Accept Passports Issued by East Ukraine Separatists – The New York Times -- President Vladimir V. Putin’s decree stopped short of recognizing two breakaway provinces as independent states, but Ukraine said it would complicate peace negotiations.

Commentary: Set aside the infuriating use of “separatists” to describe the Russians and Russian puppets in the Russian occupied territory of Ukraine the Kremlin uses the same imperialistic script over-and-over and like naïve ostriches the United States and the West either are incapable of recognizing the obvious or choose to follow the repeatedly failed Chamberlain course of hopeful appeasement.  Handing out Russian passports is but one of Putin’s steps toward illegal land grabs - land grabs that so far really haven’t cost him much. 

He used the ploy back in 2008 in Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  He used it again in Crimea with appalling success.  The old KGB operative hands out Russian passports and then, declaring he must invade to protect Russians, he seizes territory of a foreign nation.  The West condemns the action but over-and-over the western media include the Kremlin propaganda that Russia was only acting to protect Russians, at the very least muddying reality and inexplicably diminishing international reaction. 

Hello!  Hello United States!  Hello Europe!  Hello United Nations!  You have seen this movie before it is time to act - - - before more tanks roll. The Kremlin, always clever in spinning its mischief calls its decision a “humanitarian” move.  President Poroschenko calls for increased sanctions as a result of the passport chicanery.  The United States says it is disturbed by Russia's decision.  The move, "is alarming and contradicts the agreed-upon goals of the Minsk Agreement," the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine said. But is that enough?  It hasn’t been in the past.

Additionally, as mentioned, there is the on-going frustration with the media’s constant use of “separatists” to describe those conducting the war against Ukraine. Equally frustrating and maybe more inexcusable, is the Ukrainian Government’s misleading description of the conflict as “anti-terrorism operations.”  It is a war!  A war waged against Ukraine by Russia!  Before Ukraine and supporters of Ukraine can expect outsiders to grasp the critical seriousness of the situation the Government needs to smarten up and call the war, a war.

Calling Russia’s war against Ukraine a war is more than semantics.  Words have meaning as Russian propaganda proves over-and-over. In Ukraine the political class is not acting on a war-footing, or being smart in its messaging even though major portions of the population are suffering under war conditions.

Link: https://nyti.ms/2lxzyQO

(12) Putin’s ‘Hybrid’ Recognition of Moscow-Sponsored Breakaway Republics in Ukraine – Window on Eurasia/Paul Goble -- Putin’s announcement does not constitute recognition of either the LNR or the DNR but in fact his recognition of documents issued by those entities gives Russia “right now several opportunities for maneuver,” ranging from its proclaimed status “’until the end of  the conflict’” up to full recognition of the two as independent states or candidates for annexation.

Commentary:  This latest manifestation of Putin’s preference for “hybrid” actions is once again a move that in fact means one thing but that offer him plausible deniability in a world increasingly predisposed to accept alternate facts (AKA propaganda). It is widely thought that Putin’s move has raised the stakes in the war against and likely ends the Minsk process – a process that has been really nothing more than smoke and mirrors for a long time.

Link: windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/02/putins-hybrid-recognition-of-moscow.html

(13) Pence’s reassurance to Europe falls flat – The Washington Post --- Although his speech hit all the right (if predictable) notes, the European officials here at the Munich Security Conference seem far from reassured. The reception to Pence’s remarks was cool and one senior European official openly criticized him on Twitter. The lack of specifics in Pence’s remarks left many in the room continuing to wonder whether the Trump administration will really maintain U.S. leadership in defending the Western values-based world order that was established after World War II

Commentary: In Munich Vice President Pence he said his statements were a message from President Trump.  He told anxious European political and security leaders that “the United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in its commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance. 

Not really surprising the Vice President’s words did not genuinely reassure many in the audience.  The fact is, despite surrounding himself with many of what one might call “hard liners” on Russia no one really knows where President Trump is and they will not until he acts, or possibly doesn’t act in a defining situation.

Link: Washington Post

(14) Pence Looks to Reassure Ukraine, Baltics of U.S. Support - Vice president’s meetings come amid questions about Trump administration’s Russia policy – The Wall Street Journal -- The Journal reported that  Pence “expressed concern about the recent surge in violence in eastern Ukraine, and the leaders agreed on the need for an immediate comprehensive cease-fire.” The vice president also made a clear statement about the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in early 2014.

According to the White House, Mr. Pence “underlined that the United States does not recognize Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula.” The Journal reported that this statement appears to solidify the Trump administration’s policy toward Russia, particularly when it comes to maintaining sanctions.

Commentary:  One certainly hopes that what the Vice President said is a genuine reflection of the President’s view.  That questions remain is due to the President himself, things he has said during the campaign and since. Clearly, as President, Trump is getting much more information and strategic analysis than he had before and advisors around him have a clear understanding of Putin, the Kremlin and what is happening in Ukraine.  There is every reason to think his positions are now more informed and realistic.  However, again, until he acts one cannot know for sure.

Link: Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

(15) Ukraine Oligarch Loses U.S. Extradition Fight, Is Arrested – msn -- An Austrian appeals court approved a U.S. Department of Justice request to extradite Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash on corruption charges in a surprise decision that opens the way for the Ukrainian tycoon to be sent to the U.S. for trial. Firtash had been free in Austria on a bond of $174 million. 

But his extradition could be delayed after the case took another unexpected turn minutes after the verdict for the United States when plainclothes Austrian police arrested Firtash as he left the courthouse on a separate Spanish warrant.  Magistrates in Barcelona charged him with money laundering and in engaging in organized crime.  It is not yet clear how the Spanish warrant will impact Firtash’s extradition.

Commentary: There are so many stories about Firtash, his connections to Putin, his connections to former Ukrainian president Yanukovych, possible connections to Paul Manafort and his methods of accumulating huge sums of money and playing with so many different interests. 

Regardless of all the odious rumors that swirl around Firtash he certainly has pulled together a high-powered and perhaps curious legal defense team - - Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) Dan Webb, Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis and Michael Chertoff, former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, former Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice, former federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the former Secretary of Homeland Security – two prominent Republicans and one prominent Democrat. 

 If Firtash every appears in the federal courtroom in Chicago it could be quite a show.  Another thing that has always intrigued is why Ukrainian President Porochenko visited Firtash in Austria during his campaign for the presidency and after he assumed office.  Below you will find the link to the msn story and another to the full text of the Firtash indictment.

Link: http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/AAnaH0E?ocid=se

Link: Full text of Dmytro Firtash indictment

(16) EU To Renew Asset Freeze Against Ukraine's Ex-President, Yanukovyich – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty -- EU ambassadors are expected to agree to extend asset freezes imposed against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and 15 of his associates for another year according to EU sources.

Link: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

(17) Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Valeriy Chaly has meetings in Congress -- Ambassador Chaly met separately with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) The parties discussed the situation where Russian aggression against Ukraine has entered a new spin in recent weeks. In this context, Ambassador Chaly emphasized the particular importance of a continued U.S. leadership in maintaining the transatlantic solidarity with Ukraine and tightening of international pressure on the Kremlin. Senator Portman is, among other things, Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus.

(28) In Washington several hundred rally to honor the Revolution of Dignity and the Heavenly Hundred – On Sunday, February 19, while the United States celebrated President’s Day Weekend, several hundred gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.  The rally included prayers led by clergy who lead congregations in the greater Washington metropolitan area, speeches by Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and leaders of U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, United Help Ukraine and Razom and the lighting of candles and singing.  

The gathering attracted many Washington visitors who were touring Washington and the Mall. Ambassador Chaly referenced the Revolution of Dignity and, among other things, said Ukraine would refuse to acknowledge any negotiated settlement to the conflict with Russia, where Ukraine is not a Party to the negotiations  The final speech was given by Anna Kovalenko, Commander of the “Women’s 100” during Euromaidan and now  an adviser to the Minister of Defense of Ukraine as well as to the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and National Security.

However, speaking after the Ambassador was Nadia McConnell, Co-Founder and President of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, the oldest American presence in Ukraine.  Mrs. McConnell tied the commemoration of the Heavenly Hundred to America’s President’s Day celebration:

We gather here to commemorate the Heavenly Hundred who gave their lives on the Maidan for freedom, dignity and shared Euro-Atlantic values.

February 20th is the third anniversary of their murders.  But it is a disservice to them and to the people of Ukraine to think of the Heavenly Hundred as a defined historical group of patriots.  The fight of the Maidan has never ended.  More than one hundred times the initial Heavenly Hundred lives have been lost and more die each week.

On this anniversary we must remember Heavenly Hundred times 100.  And we must remember those who today man the front lines in the Kremlin’s bloody assault on Ukraine, freedom, Euro-Atlantic values and the established international order.

It is fitting for us to gather here in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  We here also celebrate President’s Day on February 20th.  In front of us is the Washington Monument dedicated to the President who won our war of independence.  To our backs is President Lincoln who presided over a war to keep the territorial integrity of the United States.  As Americans we celebrate these two great presidents.  As freedom loving people we commemorate the Heavenly Hundred – people who died in the same pursuit for Ukraine. 

In closing let me paraphrase part of the speech that President Lincoln gave at Gettysburg and which is set in stone in his sacred memorial.  He begins by reminding all that our fore fathers brought forth on the continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  The civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

He went on to say the world will little note what they said at Gettysburg, and the world will not remember what we say here today.  But as the world has never forgotten what took place at Gettysburg, may it never forget what the Maidan, the Heavenly Hundred and the thousands who continue to die for Ukraine are doing today.   And again paraphrasing Lincoln, it is for us and all freedom loving people to be dedicated here to the unfinished work and from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.  That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.  And that Ukraine – free Ukraine – shall not be overrun by Putin’s ambitions and bloody troops.

(19) Connecting Ukraine’s Past and Present: From Holodomor to the War in the Donbas – Atlantic Council – On Tuesday the Atlantic Council held an exceptional discussion between Ambassador John Herbst, Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council; Timothy Fairbank, Senior Fellow, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council; Nadia McConnell, President, US-Ukraine Foundation; Naphtali Rivkin, Research Fellow, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; and Michael Sawkiw, Director, Ukraine Congress Committee of America.  In attendance was a large and very diverse audience.



Congress is in recess this week celebrating the President’s Day Week so, with most Members back in their States and Districts there is little to report.  However, Washington Watch does note that Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs did send his constituents a newsletter that included a statement clearly relating to Ukraine legislation now before his committee:

"Russia should receive no sanctions relief until it abides by the terms of the Ukraine peace process. If sanctions are eased prior to Russia’s full compliance with the Minsk agreements, I will certainly move legislation to keep them in place."

ews.  First the good.  It is welcome news that Tillerson expects the Russians to act in accordance with their word and is publicly calling on them to do so.  As for the not so good news: (1) the Minsk accords are at the very best a pathetic collapse from the Budapest Memorandum as far as the obligations of both Russia and the United States and overwhelming evidence that Putin honoring Russian commitments means nothing more than “clouds in your coffee.” 

Also the Post article reported “Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine’s began protests that escalated into a war, with thousands killed. A deal two years ago known as the Minsk agreement was intended to end the conflict, but skirmishes have continued.” 

It is really disgusting that a major publication still sticks to the “separatist” narrative instead of underscoring the reality of the Russia presence and participation.  Likewise to include the meaningless “Russian-speaking” is also a sloppy by-in top Putin’s narrative.  Has the Post ever reported that everyone in Ukraine speaks Russian and that Ukrainian was outlawed during the years of the Soviet Union? 

And finally, the article includes this gem, “Asked whether the chaos in Washington was a concern to Russia, Lavrov replied: ‘You should know we do not interfere in the domestic matters of other countries.’” This guy Lavrov is the master of the straight face.  He pitches this rubbish with the appearance of genuine conviction which is his job as a Putin puppet.  But it is repulsive that the Post accepts it without denunciation. Russian propaganda wins again.

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/us-secretary-of-state-tillerson-meets-with-russias-lavrov/2017/02/16/1756270c-f44b-11e6-9fb1-2d8f3fc9c0ed_story.html


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