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USUBC Washington Watch No. 2
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC),
RE: Week of December 5 through December 9, 2016
Mon, Dec 12, 2016, Washington, D.C.
1. UNITED STATES CONGRESS ----------
The U.S. Senate Ukraine Caucus, Co-Chairs, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Portman (R-OH) prepared a letter to President-elect Trump highlighting the Senate's steadfast support for Ukraine. The letter evokes the Senate's willingness to work with the new Administration in defending Ukraine against continued acts of Russian aggression. 27 US senators–including 12 Republicans and 15 Democrats–sent the letter on Thursday. The text is as follows:
Dear President-Elect Trump:
As Members and friends of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, advocates for a strong US-Ukrainian relationship, and backers of NATO, we write to you to convey the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine in the United States Senate. We look forward to working with you and your new administration to support our ally Ukraine and help it secure a peaceful and democratic future.
Almost three years after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine, daily cease-fire violations along the line of contact make a mockery of the Minsk Agreement and demonstrate that this conflict in the heart of Europe is far from over. Russia has yet to withdraw its heavy weapons and continues its sabotage and subversion efforts. It has not halted its disinformation war against Ukraine and the West, nor stopped its economic and political pressure aimed at undermining the Ukrainian government.
According to conservative estimates from the United Nations, approximately 10,000 people have been killed, over 20,000 wounded, and more than two million internally displaced since the conflict began. And, unfortunately, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers still do not have full, unimpeded access to the Ukrainian-Russian border while Russia continues to supply weapons, equipment, and personnel to the separatists.
Quite simply, Russia has launched a military land-grab in Ukraine that is unprecedented in modern Europe. These actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine dangerously upend well-established diplomatic, legal, and security norms that the United States and its NATO allies painstakingly built over decades – a historically bipartisan global security framework that has greatly served US security and economic interests. We believe it is in our vital national security interest to uphold these norms and values, and prevent America’s commitment to its allies and ideals from being called into question.
In light of Russia’s continued aggression and repeated refusal to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereign right to choose its own destiny, we also renew our call for the United States to increase political, economic, and military support for Ukraine. This includes defensive lethal assistance as part of a broader effort to help the Ukrainians better defend themselves, deter future aggression, and implement key structural reforms.
Similarly, we believe that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea should never be accepted, nor should we lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its behavior in eastern Ukraine until key provisions of the Minsk Agreement are met.
We look forward to continuing the tradition of bipartisan support for Ukraine in Congress, which has authorized meaningful assistance programs through the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and other pieces of legislation. We stand ready to work with you and your new administration on strengthening the US-Ukrainian relationship and look forward to learning more about your plans to engage on this important issue.
2. AMBASSADOR VALENTYN NALYVAICHENKO ------ Ambassador Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, Leader of the Justice Civil-Political Movement – Nalyvaichenko was in Washington last week for a series of meetings with Republican officials and members of the Trump Transition. Although not currently holding a government position he was here to explain how he thinks public corruption in Ukraine should be addressed. Among others Nalyvaichenko met with the President of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint, former US Senator (R-NC).
3. VPM IVANNA KLYMPUSH-TSINTSADZE ------- Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze – December 6 - McCain Institute and Halifax International Security Forum luncheon. The Vice Prime Minister was also in Washington for a large number of various meetings.
Among those with whom she met were: Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work, with representatives of American Jewish organizations, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the sponsor of STAND with Ukraine legislation (H.R. 5094) which has passed the House of Representatives, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) a senior member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Congressman Thomas Marino ((R-PA), Vice-Chairman of House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations.
At the McCain-Halifax luncheon Klympush-Tsintsadze discussed the situation in Ukraine and urged unity among EU and NATO states in their support of Ukraine as it fights against the Russian aggression. A number of participants, all of whom have been active in support of Ukraine, felt they were given “the same old, same old” – they knew everything mentioned. And yet, she left, as most from Ukraine do, the two big elephants in the room unmentioned – corruption and damage control.
Heard on the Street Commentary: (a) Corruption. Sure Ukraine isn’t the only country trying to deal with corruption, it is a significant problem in many countries. However, systemic corruption has been a plague on Ukraine since independence and has constantly gotten in the way of many efforts to support Ukraine. Government after government in Ukraine has disappointed the people of Ukraine and Ukraine’s supporters around the world. Even now, after the second Maidan and Ukrainians giving their lives seeking a government without corruption, the pace of reform seems glacial and is raised in Washington every time supporters advocate for Ukraine.
When will the Government of Ukraine get its act together and come to Washington prepared to present a genuine case for the ridding itself of corruption? When will the Government of Ukraine take ownership of the problem and address it seriously? The on-going problem of corruption comes up in every discussion of Ukraine in Washington even among Ukraine’s most steadfast supporters. Ukrainian officials need to understand.
(b) Damage control. Ukraine seemed to have found a way to do some unusual things regarding the recent American elections. Almost every public sign was that the Government of Ukraine went beyond the common norms in Washington and seemed to pick sides, and then not the winning one. While there seems to be any number of Ukrainians in town recently apparently trying to make nice with the Trump team, there is a need for some damage control and for working with Ukraine's friends in Washington who have strong relationships with the Trump team and on the Hill. At least one significant Ukrainian-American member of Trump’s team was in town and trying to teach and guide. One hopes the Ukrainians listen and learn. This may be harsh but what are friends for?
4. MINISTER KOSTYANTYN GRYSHCHENKO ------- Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, former deputy prime minister and former foreign minister of Ukraine – Gryshchenko was also in town to discuss US-Ukraine relations under the Trump administration, the current war in the Donbas, and the Minsk process.
Heard on the Street Commentary: By reviewing this edition one can get a sense of the large number of officials and others from Ukraine who steadily visit Washington. While not specific to any one visitor the reality is that Washington is flooded by visitors from Ukraine, all with differing views and comments and collectively with no strategic agenda and never any genuine approach for critical follow-up. And, collectively more and more of those visited are left to roll their eyes thinking there are too many issues in Ukraine for so many visitors to be spending time here and not addressing Ukraine’s problems at home.
5. UNITED STATES CONGRESS LEGISLATION ----------
5A. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S.2943). -- On Thursday the Senate agreed to the Conference Report on the Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2017 and returned it to the House for enrolling and submission to the President. The legislation provision for “Extension and Enhancement of Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.” The amount authorized is $350,000,000 and increase from the $300,000,000 authorized for Fiscal Year 2016.
And, the legislation authorizes the supplying to Ukraine of lethal assistance. It also should be noted that the spending of funds authorized, should they be appropriated, has a condition: ” that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms, in such areas as civilian control of the military, cooperation and coordination with Verkhovna Rada efforts to exercise oversight of the Ministry of Defense and military forces, increased transparency and accountability in defense procurement, and improvement in transparency, accountability, and potential opportunities for privatization in the defense industrial sector, for purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability, and sustaining improvements of combat capability enabled by assistance under subsection.”
Commentary - After 25 years of independence one has to wonder if the Government of Ukraine grasps the important linkage of its taking reform seriously to its receiving the assistance it so anxiously desires. In addition, in reference to Russia the legislation includes a prohibition against any monies authorized being spent to “implement any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea.”
Finally, just to clarify, this is an authorization bill. There are two legislative steps to monies actually becoming available for the Executive Branch to provide Ukraine, the monies have to be authorized and then they have to be appropriated. And, authorization means the appropriations bill may appropriate up to the amount authorized but does not require appropriations in that amount.
5B. Global Magnitsky Sactions Act --- Legislation applying sanctions on human rights abusers and corrupt officials across the globe was passed by Congress as part of an annual defense-authorization bill (above), sending it to the White House to be signed into law. The original Magnitsky law, which targets Russian human-rights abusers was signed in 2012.
The global Magnitsky provision authorizes visa bans and a block on the U.S. assets of government officials anywhere in the world found violating human rights, committing—or assisting in—“significant” corruption, making graft by a foreign official punishable by U.S. sanctions.
“The U.S. has added a critical tool to our diplomatic toolbox, making clear that gross violators of human rights and those who engage in serious acts of corruption cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act,” said he legislation’s sponsor Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
5C. Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 5732) --- As mentioned last week, this legislation includes provision which could impact Russia by providing essentially that anyone providing assistance to the Government of Syria will be subject to sanctions. The bill passed the House of Representatives and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Given the limited time remaining in the 114th Congress it is highly unlikely H.R. 5732 will be considered by the Senate, at least as a free-standing piece of legislation.
5D. Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692) --- As reported last week the text of this legislation designed to counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China and others, was added to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S.2943). which has now been approved.
5E. Stability and Democracy for Ukraine Act or the STAND for Ukraine Act (H.R. 5094) --- This bill “provides that no federal agency should take any action or extend any assistance that recognizes Russian sovereignty over Crimea, its airspace, or its territorial waters.” This legislation passed the House of R10. The House bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. However, the Committee has not scheduled any action and due to the very limited legislative time remaining in this Congress it is highly unlikely anything further will happen this year.
6. BUDAPEST MEMORANDUM 1994 ------ Commentary: Monday (December 5) marked the 22nd anniversary of signing of the Budapest Memorandum which was thought (by some) to end the question of Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal satisfactorily. Ukraine’s desire to rid itself of nuclear weapons began openly with the Rukh Charter in 1981 which called for Ukraine to be “nuclear free.”
This desire was again expressed in Ukraine’s 1991 Declaration of Sovereignty and then again in its Declaration of Independence both of which called for Ukraine to be “nuclear free.” Then, of course, the Declaration of Independence was the subject of the December 1, 1991 referendum passed by a majority of over 91%.
Ukraine wished to rid itself of its nuclear arsenal. A desire supported by the West. However, urged on by Russia the United States and the West demanded that Ukraine turn over that arsenal to Russia, the one country to which Ukraine did not want to deliver its weapons.
The resulting negotiations led to the Budapest Memorandum under which Ukraine signed onto the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and did turn it’s nuclear arsenal over to Russia in exchange primarily for assurances from the signatory countries – Ukraine, the U.K, the United States, and Russia – against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.
Monday (December 5) was the anniversary and well worth noting as a reminder of, among other things, how Ukraine at critical times has been let down by the West. A caution to Ukraine, an embarrassment for the West. What do U.S. “assurances” mean? How dependable are words from the U.S.?
7. U.S. CAPITAL HILL HEARINGS ------------
7. (1) United States Senate Committee on Armed Services - December 6 - Emerging US Defense Challenges and Worldwide Threats
A. Testimony of General John M. Keane, USA (Ret) --- The General focused significantly on the readiness issues of the American military but he also noted. “Our revisionist adversaries Russia, China and to a lesser degree North Korea and Iran are developing asymmetric capabilities to minimize the air and sea power technology advantage we have enjoyed for years by fielding significant long range anti-shipping and anti-aircraft missile capability. These forces are forward deployed in Western Russia at Kaliningrad challenging Baltic Sea access.
Russian aggression along the eastern and southern front of NATO presents military challenges to European security not seen in decades. Russia desires to be a global power operating with considerable influence on the world stage. As such Putin wants to be treated as an equal with the US. Our basic strategy in dealing with Russia should be through strength and resolve…. Deterrence is not achievable simply with enhanced capabilities, your adversary must believe you intend to use it.
Putin has known for several years now that the US is paralyzed by the fear of adverse consequences and therefore he is quite emboldened. That must change. Of course the US should continue to dialogue with Putin but US concessions should not be on the table as a condition for better relations as the Obama administration did with the “reset” strategy in giving up missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.
The result, no reset, but increased Russian aggression in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Syria and provocation's in the Baltics. For progress in US / Russia relations we can try to find common interests but Russia's aggressive behavior toward US allies must stop. That must be the US condition for an improved relationship.”
B. Testimony of Shawn Brimley, Executive Vice President & Director of Studies Center for a New American Security --- As part of his testimony Brimley noted, “The unlawful incursion in Ukraine should not be legitimized by the United States and ongoing steps to shore up deterrence in the region ought to be sustained and increased. There is danger of escalation in the region, and the Trump administration would do well to focus on ways to maintain “peace through strength” quite early in 2017, perhaps by signaling a willingness to improve relations while simultaneously working to enhance our military posture in the region.”
C. Testimony of Dr. Robert Kagan, Member of the Board, Foreign Policy Initiative. --- Kagan focused on what “I would like to focus on what I believe to be the greatest threats that we are going to face in the years and decades, and those are threats posed by China and Russia. For while the other threats I have mentioned pose serious challenges, and in the case of terrorism obviously require the utmost vigilance, only these two great powers have the capacity to upend the world order which has long provided for Americans’ security and well-being.” Continuing he also said, “Russia…has already been far more aggressive.
It has invaded two neighboring states— Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014—and in both cases has hived off significant portions of those two nations’ sovereign territory. It has also projected military force into Syria… Russia has also been aggressive in other ways. It has wielded its control of European energy resources as a weapon. It has used cyberwarfare against neighboring states. It has engaged in extensive information warfare on a global scale… The return of this great-power challenge has come just at the moment when American and Western will, confidence, and capacity to meet the challenge have been in decline.
The present administration has emphasized global retrenchment at the expense of engagement and although its stated policy has aimed to “rebalance” American foreign policy, the overall effect of its statements and actions has been to raise doubts around the world about America’s staying power as the critical supporter of the present global order.
Its early attempt to “reset” relations with Russia was a first blow to America’s reputation as a reliable ally, partly because it came just after the Russian invasion of Georgia and thus appeared to be almost a reward for Russian aggression; partly because the “reset” came at the expense of planned programs of military cooperation with Poland and the Czech Republic that were jettisoned to appease Moscow; and partly because this effort at appeasement came just as Russian policy toward the West, and Vladimir Putin’s repressive policies toward the Russian people, were hardening.
Then in 2014, the West’s collective response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea, though better than the Bush administration’s response to the invasion of Georgia—Europe and the United States at least imposed sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine—still indicated reluctance on the part of the U.S. administration to challenge Russia in what the American President regarded as Russia’s own sphere of interest.
The conjunction of these two trends—the growing ambition and aggressiveness of the two revisionist great powers and the increasing global perception (and perhaps reality) of a United States withdrawing from its international responsibilities to provide security—is at some point going to produce a dangerous crisis, or more likely, multiple simultaneous crises….The goal of American policy now should be to avoid those crises and confrontations by moving quickly to re-establish the U.S. position as the principal upholder of the international order.”
7. (2) House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats – December 7 -- Corruption: A Danger to Democracy in Europe and Eurasia
This hearing focused primarily on the threat corruption poses to emerging democracies. Interestingly, especially given Chairman Rohrabacher’s normal aggressive support of the Russian world views, much of the discussion focused on Russian corruption including Ranking Democrat Gregory Meeks’ (D-NY) comments about both Russia’s systemic internal corruption and its exporting corruption to other countries including Ukraine.
Importantly for those interested in Congressional support for Ukraine it must be noted that when the discussion veered away from corruption Congressman Rohrabacher returned to his normal stances, as when he explained again why the Magnitsky Act was unfair and should not have been enacted.
8. REAGAN NATIONAL DEFENSE FORUM IN SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA --------Last weekend at the Reagan National Defense Forum the primary focus was on Russia. “Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James told Reuters Saturday. “We have a number of threats that we’re dealing with, but Russia could be, because of the nuclear aspect, an existential threat to the United States.” The analysis comes in conjunction with skyrocketing arms sales by Moscow. “They are operating with a frequency and in places that we haven’t seen for decades,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the conference’s attendees. Washington Times
9. INITIATING A DIALOGUE WITH THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. ------ The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF), in partnership with the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN),has transmitted a set of initial policy recommendations to the Trump-Pence transition team. Friends of Ukraine Network is an initiative of USUF, an informal coalition of former ambassadors and leading experts including Morgan Williams of USUBC, with an active interest in U.S.-Ukraine relations.
These recommendations were discussed in a series of forums titled “Ukraine in Washington,” during which experts offered their insights on how to approach these delicate issues. The two most recent forums, held on September 14 at the U.S. Capitol and October 25 at the National Press Club, provided a multitude of points that will heavily factor in the final recommendations USUF and FOUN will be providing the Trump Administration. The Ukrainian Weekly - http://www.ukrweekly.com/uwwp/initiating-a-dialogue-with-the-next-president-of-the-u-s/
The recommendations can be found here: http://usukraine.org/events/Recommendations-for-next-US-President-and-Congress.shtml.
10. RESOLUTION AGAINST RUSSIAN MEDIA 'PROPAGANDA' APPROVED BY EU PARLIAMENT ----------Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg have voted on a non-legislative resolution which calls the EU to respond to the information warfare by Russia. RT and Sputnik news agency are alleged to be among from the most dangerous tools of hostile propaganda. Early in October, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a report on combating propaganda which named the Russian media one of the main threats.
11. CORRUPTION CLAIMS TAINT UKRAINE MILITARY ----------BBC Viktor Plakhuta couldn't take the corruption in Ukraine's defense sector any longer. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-3822438
12. TRUMP TRANSITION ----------
A. Department of Defense – Trump’s choice to be the Secretary of Defense, former Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, will require an exemption to serve. Congress will have to pass legislation exempting Mattis from a law that prevents members of the military from taking one of the Pentagon’s top three civilian posts if they have actively served in the past seven years. It is not anticipated that there will be any trouble securing this exemption and it is likely to pass before the 114th Congress adjourns.
Relevant here might be Mattis in November saying the Russian aggression against Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas "much more severe, more serious" than Washington and the European Union are treating it, according to The Voice of America. www.unian.info/.../1632767-general-stating-russian-aggression-in-ukraine-much-more-severe-than-ustreats-it-may-become-defense-secretary.html
B. Department of State – Mr. Trump’s consideration of this Cabinet post continues to be a front-page story. It now appears that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson will be Trump’s pick. However, there is already significant push-back on this possible nomination coming from multiple sources including some Senate Republicans. All of the opposition is based upon Tillerson’s close ties to Putin. It might also be noted that ExxonMobil has been known to have expressed strong opinions in Washington against U.S. sanctions against Russia.
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