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USUBC - Washington Watch & Update Report # 25
Analysis & Commentary - From Private Observers & Writers
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC),
Wash, D.C., Friday, August 4, 2017
Wash, D.C., Friday, August 4, 2017
(1) Trump Signs—and Slams—Russia Sanctions legislation into law: The legislation, which had widespread support in Congress, also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea – The Wall Street Journal
Even as President Donald Trump signed a bill Wednesday imposing tough sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, he called the law “seriously flawed” and said parts limiting his power to lift the penalties were unconstitutional. The measure marks some of the strongest action Congress has taken against Russia since the Cold War, and Mr. Trump said he signed it “for the sake of national unity.” But in a pair of statements released after the signing, he said the bill, which requires the president to notify Congress if he wants to lift sanctions on Moscow, was “seriously flawed.”
Commentary: The President signed the legislation - sanctions are the law. As for the “flawed” language, of course the President set out this marker regarding the legislation’s attempt to limit Presidential Power, any President would have done the same. And, he may have a legitimate point but it will not come to a head until and unless he wishes to remove the sanction found in the law. Most important right now is that the debate over the sanctions and whether the President would sign and his signing with “issues” must not divert action on another issue.
The sanctions found in the legislation sent to the President were motivated by a Congress outraged over Russian interference in the 2016 election. There is another issue – Russia’s trouble-making around the world and its invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and the on-going war Russia is conducting in Ukraine. It is time the United States allow defensive weapons to be delivered to Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian military and its far more sophisticated offensive weapons.
Added Note About the Legislation: Almost all references to the sanctions bill include that it was overwhelming passed by Congress. So, who didn’t vote for it? In the Senate the decenters were Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In the House the three votes against the bill came from Republicans -- Justin Amash of Michigan, Tom Massie of Kentucky and John Duncan of Tennessee. Russia-Putin proponent Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif) voted for the bill saying he supported the penalties against Tehran and Pyongyang.
(2) Trump Blames Congress for ‘All-Time’ Poor Relations With Russia: In tweets, the president seems to suggest the sanctions bill he signed a day before is to blame – The Wall Street Journal
In his tweet, the president said, “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare! [health care].
Commentary: The blame resides one place - in Moscow, in the Kremlin, in President Putin.
(3) Q&A on Ukraine by Timothy Ash, Bluebay Asset Manage, London, UK, August 3, 2017
U.S. Embassy, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday July 31, 2017
KYIV, Ukraine - Centrenergo Statement - At the invitation of the U.S. Government in June of this year we visited the United States to explore importing coal products to Ukraine. Prior to this visit numerous consultations took place at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv with, in particular, the representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service and the Department of Energy.
In addition to official meetings at the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the company's management visited the five largest coal mining companies in Pennsylvania. All of these companies were among potential suppliers identified by the USG.
This visit resulted in an understanding of mining capabilities and capacities as well as the capacity to export coal products to meet the needs of Centrenergo’s thermal power plant.
The best proposal came from one of the largest American coal mining and exporting companies - Xcoal Energy & resources, with which Centrenergo pursued further negotiations of a mutually beneficial contract. As a result, on July 14th 2017, in order to enable the stable operation of Centrenergo’s thermal power plants, Centrenergo signed a contract to import coal with Xcoal Energy & Resources [Latrobe, PA,www.xcoal.com]
I also would like to recognize the assistance that has been provided by the Embassy of the United States, namely by the representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service, the Economics Department, and Department of Energy. Their active position and contribution facilitated the successful start of cooperation with the U.S. company for the import of American coal to Ukraine. Thank you for your attention.
(5) United States mulls arming Ukraine as Russian menace grows near NATO border - USAToday
The U.S. military for the first time is putting together a plan to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine to counter a growing Russian military menace to Ukraine and
Europe. The planning underway by the Joint Chiefs of Staff requires White House approval, which puts President Trump in a bind because it threatens to upend his hopes
of improving relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An official at the White House’s National Security Council told USA TODAY the U.S. government has not ruled out providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. The official
requested anonymity because of the sensitive subject.
The issue is being debated in the White House as violence spikes in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed insurgents have stepped up attacks on Ukrainian government forces, and as Russia prepares for a large military exercise that analysts expect will put more tanks on the borders of Ukraine and NATO countries.
On Monday, Vice President Pence warned of the "specter of aggression" by Russia as he began a visit to the Baltic nation of Estonia, which worries about Russian threats. Estonia and two other former Soviet republics, Latvia and Lithuania, now belong to NATO.
Commentary: Why should it – going along with the recommendation – put Trump in a bind? Not only is it the right thing to do for so many reasons (just for one – say Budapest Memorandum) but Putin has and is doing everything he can to embarrass the President and prove to himself and the rest of the world he can do anything and the U.S. won’t genuinely respond. Trump wants leverage when meeting with Putin.....then arm Ukraine!
(6) Pentagon Offers Plan to Arm Ukraine: U.S. officials say proposal, which needs White House approval, is meant to deter Moscow aggression – The Wall Street Journal
The U.S. Pentagon and State Department have devised plans to supply Ukraine with antitank missiles and other weaponry and are seeking White House approval, U.S.
officials said, as Kiev (Kyiv) battles Russia-backed separatists and ties between Moscow and Washington fray.
American military officials and diplomats say the arms, which they characterized as defensive, are meant to deter aggressive actions by Moscow, which the U.S. and others say has provided tanks and other sophisticated armaments as well as military advisers to rebels fighting the Kiev (Kyiv) government.
Commentary: Time to act!
(7) U.S. reportedly mulls sending antitank missiles to Ukraine. It may be two years too late – The Washington Post
The U.S. government has reportedly sought to send Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine. But it’s an idea two years too late for today’s battlefield, an expert on the conflict said. Defense and State Department officials have pushed to arm Ukrainian troops with lethal aid to counter Russian-backed separatists fighting for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
But it remains unclear what, if anything, the delivery of an unknown number of Javelins could do to alter a battle that has mostly been relegated to artillery bombardment and nighttime skirmishes in no man’s land. “This idea doesn’t flow from a policy or strategy” and may point to a political decision rather than military necessity, said Michael Kofman, an expert on the Ukrainian conflict and a senior fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.
Commentary: It is amazing how some get defined – Kofman “an expert of the Ukrainian conflict” – really? You would think his past predictions would require the descriptive “expert” be dropped, at the very least. As for how “defensive” weapons could be used to stimmy the Russian forces in Ukraine – and those the Russian military is supporting – much has been written.
The type of defensive weapons suggested by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s National Security Task Force (made up of genuine experts and reported in Washington Watch earlier and again in this issue) and which are mostly likely being recommended by Defense and State would raise the Russians’ cost of the war by identifying where the Russian artillery in launching its attacks and allow the Ukrainians to strike those locations quickly among other things.
Remember Putin still denies Russia is involved and uses the full force of his propaganda to deny a role in his war on Ukraine to the people of Russia. He goes so far as to have families of his dead military phony stories about where and how they died. A rapid increase in body bags likely would overwhelm the Putin propaganda and let the people of Russia – who do not want to be fighting in Ukraine – learn the truth. That would be a problem for their little dictator.
(8) Sending 'Defensive' Arms to Ukraine Would Be Deadly – Bloomberg
As part of the latest escalation of the U.S.-Russian crisis, there is reportedly a joint plan by the Pentagon and the State Department to provide "lethal defensive weapons" to Ukraine. That presents an enticing prospect for both U.S. and Russian generals, who may be able to test some of their most modern weaponry against each other. But it's likely to make the eastern Ukraine conflict even bloodier in the process.
Commentary: A repeat of the old, tired and hard to believe reasoning that essentially ignores what Putin is actually doing.
(9) How the US Can Help Ukraine Help — and Defend — Itself – Defense One, article by Michael Carpenter
Three and a half years since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Russian soldiers and their proxies are still killing Ukrainian civilians and service-members on a daily basis. This spring, the Kremlin accelerated its violations of the ceasefire, increasing its deadly artillery and rocket attacks and launching subversive operations across Ukraine.
The latter are meant to signal that Russia is no longer confining the kinetic conflict to the Donbas battlefield. A sabotage operation in March blew up a large munitions depot near Kharkiv that forced the evacuation of 20,000 nearby residents. The same month, an exiled Russian member of parliament was shot dead in Kyiv. In June, a senior Ukrainian military intelligence officer was assassinated with a car-bomb, also in Kyiv.
Finally, the summer fighting in the Donbas was accompanied by a massive cyber-attack that briefly disabled Ukrainian ATMs, banks, and metro systems and went on to infect tens of thousands of computers worldwide. So much for a “frozen” conflict.
Commentary: Michael Carpenter provides a dose of reality – Putin is conducting a war against Ukraine – and the civilized world. It is highly recommended that you read the entire article.
(10) Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression- New York Times
Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer, one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War. The troops are conducting military maneuvers known as Zapad, Russian for “west,” in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
The drills will feature a reconstituted armored force named for a storied Soviet military unit, the First Guards Tank Army. Its establishment represents the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that so much offensive power has been concentrated in a single command. The move is part of a larger effort by Mr. Putin to shore up Russia’s military prowess, and comes against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive Russia.
Beyond Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, which has seized attention in the United States, its military has in recent years deployed forces to Syria, seized Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine, rattled the Baltic States with snap exercises and buzzed NATO planes and ships.
Commentary: And there remains a White House question about giving Ukraine defensive weapons?
(11) A Trump Card in Ukraine: Lethal aid would raise the cost of Putin’s military aggression. – The Wall Street Journal
Vladimir Putin has assumed he can seize territory without endangering his grip on power at home, and he’s been right. But what if the U.S. changed that calculus by raising the cost of Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine? President Trump will soon have a chance to test that question when he receives an imminent recommendation from the State Department and Pentagon to sell Ukraine lethal, defensive weapons such as anti-tank Javelin missiles.
These weapons would help Ukrainians defeat Russian armor and make it harder for Mr. Putin’s proxy forces to advance further into Ukraine’s eastern provinces, which the Russians invaded in 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has sought this kind of help for years. But Barack Obama refused on grounds that lethal aid would merely escalate the conflict; he shipped only such non-lethal aid as short-range radar and night-vision goggles.
Mr. Putin escalated anyway, violating the Minsk cease-fire accords brokered by John Kerry. The Russians have declared separatist strongholds in Donetsk and Luhansk and built up forces in the occupied areas. Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last week that “there are more Russian tanks in there than in Western Europe combined.” That’s in addition to Russia’s plans to deploy as many as 100,000 troops for military exercises in Belarus on NATO’s front lines this summer.
As President, Mr. Trump hasn’t been the patsy for Mr. Putin that his U.S. critics claim. He endorsed NATO’s deployment of troops to Poland and the Baltic states. Vice President Mike Pence visited Estonia Monday and affirmed the U.S. will “always” stand with its Baltic allies, and on Tuesday he said in Tbilisi that the United States “strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.” Mr. Trump now has a chance to show he’s no Obama echo and make Mr. Putin pay attention by helping Ukraine, which has shown it is willing to fight for independence.
Commentary: The importance of defensive weapons for Ukraine – now – must not get lost in the discussion about the signed Russian sanctions bill. Those sanctions are separate and apart from the need for Ukraine to be able to defend itself effectively.
(12) Trump Accuses Ukraine Of 'Sabotage' – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
President Trump's tweets on July 25 also accused Ukraine of trying to "sabotage" his campaign, without offering any evidence. Ukraine's embassy in Washington denied Trump's allegations with a tweet of its own saying, "We stand by our words that the government of Ukraine didn't help any candidate" in the U.S. presidential election.
Commentary: Washington Watch understands all this nonsense is political misdirection but it is infuriating because: (a) a Democratic consultant approaching the Embassy of Ukraine to see if she could get anything beyond what was already in the public record about Paul Manafort’s activities in Ukraine (which she couldn’t) to see if she could somehow taint the Trump campaign is not in the least bit comparable to what has been alleged about some in the Trump campaign;
(b) Surely the President knows better; (c) Senators who know better, or certainly should know better, (like Lindsey Graham) repeat the foolishness and create an unwarranted credibility for the story; and (d) become tools of the Kremlin which wants to use anything it can to slow down and/or stop the movement toward giving Ukraine defensive weapons- an action (the giving of defensive weapons) which would be in the United States’ best interests. For these reasons those who carelessly keep this bogus story alive and possibly trigger congressional hearings on the subject do no favor for American interests and legitimately fall into the old Kremlin category of “useful idiots - - disgraceful.
(13) Why Trump is Wrong about Ukrainian Interference in US Elections – Atlantic Council blog by Adrian Karatnycky
Commentary: Adrian Karatnycky does a pretty thorough job of outlining the allegations and known facts about Russia’s malevolent role in last year’s election, hopefully it is not necessary to recite here (if you want to read there is a link below).
What should be known and remembered is that, as Karatnycky writes, “Unlike Russian interference, the Ukrainian government did not hack any e-mail accounts of Trump campaign officials or advisers nor did it promote Hillary Clinton through media it owns or controls. All Ukraine stands charged with is discussing the role played by Trump’s then campaign chairman Paul Manafort in its own domestic politics.
Manafort advised Ukraine’s disgraced President Viktor Yanukovych from December 2004 to February 2010 and then returned to Ukraine in September 2014 to rebrand the remnants of the now-banned Party of Regions into the Opposition Bloc. Materials that came from Ukraine during the heat of the US election campaign were related solely to Manafort’s activities on Ukrainian soil and were limited to his relationship with Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.
While it is easy to rebut Trump’s tweet, more worrying is the fact that it reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the differences in the quality and nature of contacts that exist between Ukraine and Russia and US officials and citizens. United States officials – from the President, to the White House spokesperson, to Senators and Congressmen, they should all be better informed before making outlandish charges.
(14) Priorities in U.S. Assistance for Ukraine Released – U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF)
The Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN), an initiative of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, has released Priority Recommendations for U.S. Assistance covering four categories: National Security, Economy and Energy, Humanitarian needs, and Democracy, Civil Society, Media and Educational Development.
The Recommendations of the Task Force on National Security was released some time ago, including at the National Press Club and Washington Watch previously reported on Task Force members meeting with a substantial number of Congressmen, Senators and congressional staff and officials in the Trump Administration to discuss those recommendations but a FOUN task force of experts was created for each of these crucially-important areas with the goal of providing the U.S. Congress and the Administration with up-to-date proposals for assisting Ukraine with its defense and reform challenges.
Link to all of the proposals: CLICK HERE
(15) Setting the Record Straight about Reform in Ukraine - article by John Herbst, Atlantic Council
Evaluating reform in Ukraine is akin to taking a Rorschach test. For Kremlin propagandists and their witting or unwitting acolytes in the West, Ukraine is an irredeemably corrupt place. To young reformers in Ukraine and some of the country’s well-wishers, progress in transforming the country is agonizingly slow and always in danger of reversal. And to Ukraine’s top leadership and those who worry most about defending the country from Moscow’s aggression, the country has achieved exceptional progress in very difficult circumstances.
Each of these points of view can be supported when the country’s situation is viewed from a particular angle. But a careful, comprehensive look at the circumstances and dynamics of Ukraine’s reform efforts results in an assessment that is ultimately positive.
Commentary: Herbst acknowledges criticisms of the state of reforms but makes his case that under the circumstances the totality of the situation in Ukraine is positive. His is about the most positive picture painted of Ukraine with the exception of the self-indulgent propaganda heard from many Ukrainian officials. Actually for USUBC members who attended a recent lunch in Washington with Ambassador Herbst the overall perspective in this article seems a little strong on one side.
While the Ambassador reported a number of positives he also heard from the business community a litany of problems presented business interests because of continued systemic corruption in many sectors and the benefits being derived by some officials through that corruption. Sure the United States and the West can and should find positives and can applaud progress that has been made, especially in light of the fact that Putin continues to wage a killing war in the East and a massive international propaganda war against the country.
But tipping the praise a little too far can give high level corrupt officials and their circles of cronies cover and seems to continue to empower them to keep on callously enriching themselves instead of the serving the national interest. Their betrayal of the Revolution of Dignity is a personal disgrace.
The key for the west is to understand and appreciate reality, guard against sloppily accepting any of the Putin lies and innuendos and focus on the genuine best interests of the west and Ukraine’s civil society, and understand that calling out and castigating the corrupt in Ukraine should not and cannot sidetrack critical western support for Ukraine that will benefit the people of Ukraine and the interests of the west itself. Oh, and there is no market pricing in natural gas – at least not yet.
(16) Russian Legislators Urge Sanctions On Poland Over Removing Soviet Monuments – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Polish officials have said the Soviet Union was an occupying state during the four decades following World War II and, with nationalist sentiment rising, they want to remove hundreds of monuments erected during that era. Last week, Russia's Foreign Ministry warned against the plans, saying that removing Soviet monuments would violate heritage agreements between Russia and Poland.
Commentary: And the Kremlin is so devoted to international agreements!
(17) ‘The whole thing stinks’: Saakashvili slams Ukraine for stripping his citizenship – France 24
In an interview with FRANCE 24, Saakashvili vowed to fight the decision, which he said followed a deal between Ukrainian President Poroshenko and Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian businessman who is a major stakeholder in the Russian oil giant company, Gazprom. “Poroshenko this time went, met Bidzina Ivanishvili in Georgia and they made a deal against me,” said Saakashvili. “It’s an unholy union of two oligarchs against me, who has no money. Now I have no passport, but they’re still scared of me.” Saakashvili lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015 after becoming a Ukrainian national. The latest decision to strip him of his Ukrainian nationality leaves the former Georgian statesman stateless.
Link: Read the full story
(18) Forget Saakashvili’s political career. Ukrainian democracy is in danger – The Washington Post.
Barely two years have passed since the leaders of post-revolutionary Ukraine invited the former Georgian leader to their country to support its reform program. They offered him a Ukrainian passport as part of the bargain. Since his vindictive political opponents back home in Georgia had already stripped of his citizenship there, he was happy to accept the offer. Saakashvili’s reform efforts in Odessa created a clash with Kyiv and he was sacked. Over the past year Saakashvili has become a harsh critic of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
It’s a juicy scandal, so it’s understandable that the international media are transfixed by the story. Yet most of the commentary is missing the point. Ukrainian democracy is in serious danger. Poroshenko wants to distract attention from his intensifying drive to crush dissenting voices. Poroshenko’s animus might be easier to understand if Saakashvili posed a threat to him. But Saakashvili doesn’t have a power base of his own in Ukraine, and his popularity ratings are notably weak. Poroshenko’s problem is that he’s equally vulnerable.
Ever since he became president in 2014, he and his ruling party have been hemorrhaging popular support. Not a single poll gives him a chance of victory in the 2019 election. As his time runs out, the Ukrainian leader is growing paranoid about his critics. This is the only reason Poroshenko would dare to strip Saakashvili of his citizenship, an apparent violation of international law that will do little to boost Ukraine’s international reputation.
Saakashvili is not a serious electoral rival, but still has privileged access to the global media, which he is using to share embarrassing stories about corruption in Poroshenko’s inner circles. Running on the promise of destroying the oligarchic state in 2014, Poroshenko has ended up as its fiercest defender.
Commentary: there seem to be some misplaced evaluations of Saakashvili’s efforts in Odessa in the article but the point remains the same, Poroshenko’s actions here, like many others, does not seem to be the action of the head of a genuine democracy.
(19) Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States held a meeting with co-Chairs of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus – Embassy of Ukraine
(20) Putin Preparing to Reprise Stalin’s Winter War in Finland Strategy Against Ukraine – Window on Eurasia/Paul Goble
One of the most important features of Moscow’s behavior but one that at the same time Western leaders typically fail to recognize and incorporate in their thinking is that the Kremlin employs regularly the same strategy and tactics again and again albeit in new times and in new locations.
Indeed, it all too often seems to be the case that Russia’s relationship with the West is best captured by what was said of the Bourbons two centuries ago: the Russians have never forgotten anything that they have done before and the West has never learned anything from that all too obvious and heinous historical record.
That makes analyses which draw a parallel between what the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union did in the past with what Putin is doing now especially valuable because if the West recognizes the first steps of what is likely Moscow’s strategy, it will be in a far better position to counter it.
Avraam Shmulyevich, an Israeli analyst, provides just such an important insight in Tallinn’s Postimees newspaper in which he suggests that the recent proclamation by Moscow’s agents in Ukraine of plans to create the state of Malorossiya has some disturbing parallels with Soviet actions against Finland in the Winter War of 1940 (rus.postimees.ee/4192241/avraam-shmulevich-budet-li-nato-umirat-za-narvu-neyasno-za-ukrainu-ne-budet-tochno).
This is something that at least some Ukrainian officials understand, Shmulyevich says, because they recognize that “Russia has frequently used such a scheme in the past,” most prominently in the case of the Winter War.
Now, he and they think, there is a strong possibility of another “Winter War” action but this time against Ukraine and in the summer. In 1940, “Stalin declared that a communist uprising against ‘the Whites’ had occurred.” It then announced “the formation of ‘the Finnish Democratic Republic,’ headed by Finnish communist Otto Kuusinen.”
This republic, like Malorossiya, was “proclaimed on Finnish territories occupied by Soviet forces. “The USSR recognized it and to assist ‘the Finnish brothers,’ the Red Army launched an attack along the entire front from the Gulf of Finland to the Barents Sea,” Shmulyevich reminds. Earlier, during the Russian Civil War, Moscow used a similar tactic against Ukraine and Georgia, ultimately incorporating them into the Soviet Union.
Now, “the Donets Army created by Moscow is again trying to liquidate the independence of Ukraine,” the Israeli analyst says. And “in exactly the same way.” And that must be a matter of concern because in all previous cases, “when Moscow applied this strategy, the West did not provide real military and even diplomatic help to the independent states which had become the victim of Russian aggression.”
“Three Russian divisions were recently brought up to [Ukraine’s] borders,” and the question arises: “What could stop Putin from a full-scale attack?” NATO countries “certainly do not want to intervene militarily. [And] even the answer to the question ‘Will NATO die for Narva?” up to now is not clear.”
“Putin – and he has said this himself – has an fixed idea about the restoration of the borders of the USSR,” just as “his idol Stalin had a dream about the restoration of the borders of the Russian Empire of 1914.” And thus “Malorossiya” should “disturb not only Ukrainians but all the neighbors of the Russian Federation.”
An article in the Moscow newspaper Vzglyad, suggests what may be ahead and against which Ukrainians will have to fight with relatively few allies unless the scope of the danger is recognized in Western capitals and a more forceful policy is articulated and put in place.
Commentary: As is raised by the article the question is, can the West – can the United States – learn from the past? .
(21) Russia's Back-to-the-80s Foreign Policy – Dan Fried in The Atlantic
“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The latest round of Russian-American embassy staff hits—Russia cut hundreds of U.S. Embassy employees in an escalatory response to U.S. expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last December—recall the big Soviet-American embassy staff expulsions of 1986. Few recall the details of these Reagan-era fights. But many remember that the 1980s ended badly for the Soviet Union.
And that is the point: Moscow now, like then, has been going down a dark road of confrontation with the United States and aggression elsewhere. As with the Soviets and reactionary tsars, external confrontation coincides with, and may be compensation for, stagnation at home. Putin’s tactics, like the demonization of the United States in Russian official media, appear recycled from the Cold War.
Russian cyber hacking and disinformation recall Soviet “active measures” of the 1980s. Russia’s low-grade war in Ukraine is different from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (for one thing, the Ukrainians are fighting for a European future), but both aggressions triggered resistance on the ground and from the West. Russia’s leaders can try to convince their people, and themselves, that their ability to bully neighbors, repress dissenters, and shake their fists at the United States, is a sign of strength. But, just like in the mid-1980s, this won’t work.
Commentary: It seemed appropriate to follow Paul Goble’s piece with the one by Dan Fried – they both are important and they both remind that knowing and understanding history is critical in government policy making. Dan Fried is one of the best on analysis and commentary regarding Russia and Ukraine.
(22) Ukrainian Navy - Jamestown Foundation
Commentary: Last week the Jamestown Foundation hosted the head of the Ukrainian naval forces, Admiral Ihor Voronchenko. Aside from meetings at the Pentagon, and NSC, Voronchenko travelled to Baltimore with Glen Howard of Jamestown to visit the first of two Island Class patrol vessels the US plans to give Ukraine.
In Baltimore was USN Rear Admiral Frank Morley and a US Coast Guard Admiral, as well as an advance crew of Ukrainian seamen and engineers who have been in Baltimore for the past month learning how to operate and use the 110 foot Island Class Patrol Boat. Built in 1991 it has a steel hull with aluminum interior and is quite fast by Ukrainian standards and can reach a speed of nearly 30 knots.
After losing 70 percent of its fleet in 2014 – Putin’s invasion and occupation of Crimea -- Ukraine plans to use the first of these two boats to stop Russian infiltration teams from landing on the Black Sea coast line. They believe the cutter is so capable that it can be equipped for a variety of missions that go beyond what it was originally intended for by the US Coast Guard. Equipped with US radar, and a zodiac rigid inflatable boat the Island Class cutter has the ability to land Ukrainian special forces along the Ukrainian Black Sea coast should they discover Russian infiltrators landing along the Black Sea coastline.
Unfortunately the boat is devoid of weaponry. Several times the Ukrainian Admiral and his advance crew of seamen were pointing out potential places for gun mounts and on the front deck there is an empty mount where an MK38 25 mm gun used to be. By the time these boats are ready for departure one must hope the US will have made up its mind to approve the sale of defensive weaponry to Ukraine.
It does appear the Island Class cutter will come equipped with something called 'side-scan sonar 'that they believe will allow the Ukrainian navy to detect Russian mines. Ukraine sorely needs mine counter-measure capabilities to detect Russian mines. No comments on this matter can be made without acknowledging Glen Howard’s great work in pursuing things with and for Ukraine’s navy – good work.
(23) Russian propaganda has flooded U.S. airwaves. How about some reciprocity? – The Washington Post
Mad about the sanctions bill moving through Congress little Mr. Putin confiscated two American diplomatic properties in Russia and ordered the expulsion of diplomats and other staff from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The moves matched some made by President Obama in response to the Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But let us take reciprocity a step further.
Moscow continues to banish U.S. international news outlets from Russian airwaves while Kremlin-funded mouthpieces such as Sputnik enjoy a field day in the United States, taking advantage of America’s open society to sow misinformation and distrust aggressively. Moscow’s main propaganda outlet has taken over bandwidth on the District of Columbia’s radio dial, 105-5 FM and began airing broadcasts July 1 from offices in downtown Washington.
Commentary: Isn’t it time for a little reciprocity of our own?
(24) Tillerson spurns $80 million to counter ISIS, Russian propaganda – the secretary of state won’t tap funding approved by Congress, angering officials – Politico
Secretary Tillerson is resisting spending money allocated by Congress to fight propaganda. Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, $60 million of which is parked at the Pentagon. Another $19.8 million sits untouched at the Department of State. The $60 million will expire on September 30 if not transferred to State by then.
All this is said to result from Tillerson’s approach to managing the Department – a slow-down in decision-making and Tillerson’s reluctance to trust career staff, and the President’s intention to slash budgets. Another factor Politico reports is – Russia. Apparently in a meeting R.C. Hammond suggested the money was unwelcome because extra funding for programs to counter Russia media influence would anger Moscow.
Commentary: In growing up did you witness student governments having this much difficulty figuring out what to do and how to do it even though they were limited to a term of a single academic year? Good grief! Reading this story, the one on Sputnik in DC and those about the critical importance of knowing history you have to cry. Anger Moscow – oh no, say it isn’t so! Who would want to anger a demonstrably clear enemy?
(25) Trump uses coal exports to Ukraine as wedge against Russia -- Washington Examiner
The Trump administration praised Ukraine's decision to begin importing U.S. coal for the winter heating season, saying the country no longer will be forced to rely on Russia for its energy needs. "In recent years, Kyiv (corrected from printed version) and much of Eastern Europe have been reliant on and beholden to Russia to keep the heat on," said Energy Secretary Rick Perry. "That changes now." Perry was responding to a contract reached between Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy and Resources and Ukraine.
Commentary: It appears the Washington Examiner may be the only publication carrying the story of President Trump possibly seeing this deal as a wedge issue against Russia – Ukraine and maybe others can avoid Russia squeezing them on energy.
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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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