Welcome to the 

Ukrainian American Bar Association

UABA News Blog - In English

This UABA Blog page provides information and commentary on issues that are relevant to the organization and its members. Although the blogs are public, comments can only be made by members. If yoiu wish to join the discussion, you are welcome to become a member.

The comments expressed on these blogs represent the opinions of the authors and not that of the UABA.

  • 10 Feb 2017 3:52 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) Takes Strong Stance in Support of Ukraine

    In Senator Cory Booker’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.  he called for the U.S. “to step[…] up our actions against Russia, whether it be added sanctions or more continued support for those trying to literally defend themselves from Russian encroachments like […] Ukraine.”  View Video and read transcript

  • 07 Feb 2017 4:46 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Dear Mr. Shandor:

     

    Thank you for contacting me about President Trump’s nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as Secretary of State.  Your opinion is very important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this critical issue.  

     

    On January 11, 2017, I had the opportunity to question Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Exxon’s efforts to lobby against sanctions imposed on Russia and Iran; President Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay to build a wall along our southern border and his past degrading comments about Mexican immigrants; and what efforts he would take, if confirmed, to advance human rights and democracy in nations that are known to operate under repressive and corrupt regimes. 

     

    After carefully considering his nomination to be the Secretary of State, I casted my vote against Mr. Tillerson’s confirmation in both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on the Senate Floor. 

     

    The role of Secretary of State in today’s increasingly challenging times requires a candidate who possesses extensive experience in foreign policy and the ability work through the complexities of international diplomacy while advancing America’s interests and leadership around the world.  The United States faces numerous challenges and opportunities around the world.  We need a qualified leader to be our Secretary of State who can represent and articulate our foreign policy and national security interests.  Our nation’s top diplomat must be a qualified leader with proven knowledge and regard for the norms and necessities that so much of our modern diplomatic and security efforts depend upon.  Since I expressed my grave concerns over Tillerson's qualifications for the position of Secretary of State, and his clear conflict of interests with Vladimir Putin and Russian oil companies, I have seen nothing to ease my concerns. 

     

    Additionally, I have long fought in the Senate to reduce harmful pollution that contaminates our air and water and changes our climate.  I remain committed to ensuring that the United States fulfills its international obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement and continues its transition away from dirty fossil fuels.  I have serious concerns about Mr. Tillerson’s history on climate change at ExxonMobil, and will carefully weigh that history as I evaluate his nomination to be Secretary of State in the Trump Administration.  While Mr. Tillerson has experience in leading a business, deal making is not the same as diplomacy, and we need a diplomat who will lead with the values of democracy, promoting human rights, and promoting long term stability and security for all Americans. 

     

    As a senior member of the Senate committee tasked with vetting our next Secretary of State, I will do everything at my disposal to ensure our nation's next diplomat-in-chief is someone who has the experience, insights and capabilities to truly protect America’s best interests and preserve our essential alliances across the globe. 

     

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.  I invite you to visit my website (http://menendez.senate.gov) to learn more about how I am standing up for New Jersey families in the United States Senate.

     

    Sincerely

    BOB MENENDEZ

    United States Senator

  • 02 Feb 2017 8:31 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    UN Ambassador Haley hits Russia hard on Ukraine

    See Video

    (CNN) The US Ambassador to the United Nations offered a strong condemnation of Russia in her first appearance at the UN Security Council on Thursday, calling on Moscow to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine and saying that US sanctions against Moscow would remain in place until it withdraws from Crimea.

    "The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea," said Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump's envoy to the world body. "Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine."

    Haley was speaking at an emergency UN meeting about a sudden upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army. Her remarks were notable for the stark difference between her rhetoric and Trump's.

    On the campaign trail, the President hinted he might recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea. In the weeks before and after his inauguration, Trump's refusal to condemn Russian hacking during the election and his attacks on the intelligence community for investigating those hacks raised questions about his ties to Moscow.

    Questions only deepened after CNN reported that the intelligence community was looking into reports that Moscow may have compromising financial and personal information about the President. Trump has insisted that he would simply like better relations with Moscow.

    At a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May last week, he said it was "too early" to discuss sanctions.

    On Thursday, the Treasury Department slightly eased a sanction the Obama administration put in place against Russia's Federal Security Service, known as the FSB.

    A top State Department official said the move was made as a technical fix to the sanctions that were put in place to avoid "unintended consequences" of US government business with Russia.

    While Washington was taking that step, Haley was lobbing verbal grenades. "I consider it unfortunate that the occasion of my first appearance here is one in which I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia," she said. "We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions."

    "The sudden increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure and the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more," Haley added. "This escalation of violence must stop."

    At one point in the charged meeting, Ukraine's Ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, held up a photo of a Ukraine serviceman who was killed days ago. Looking at the Russian ambassador, Yelchenko said, "You killed him."

    While Haley's remarks echoed many speeches delivered by the Obama administration's UN ambassador, Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told reporters that he thinks "there is a change in tone" with the new US administration. He added that he wasn't surprised by Haley's speech.

    Some analysts see the surge in fighting as a Russian test of US resolve or perhaps an attempt to send Ukraine a message that after years of Obama administration support, the Trump administration will be more friendly to Moscow than Kiev.

    Fighting between Russian-backed rebels from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Ukrainian army exploded a day after Trump had his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday. Russia accuses Ukraine of starting the escalation.

    Churkin said that Ukraine was "desperately, frantically trying to achieve a military settlement to the conflict." He blamed Kiev for the recent escalation, saying it was meant to keep the issue "on the international agenda" and "at the same time suck in with their reckless confrontational policy newly elected heads of state."

    The UK Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, told the UN meeting that "we frequently hear from the Russian government, as we did today, that all the problems in eastern Ukraine are the consequence of actions by the Ukrainian government. This is simply not the case. It is an inversion of reality."

    He later tweeted, "Great #UNSC debut speech by @NikkiHaley today. Fully agree that sanctions must remain until #Russia returns control of #Crimea to #Ukraine."

    Balazs Jarabik, a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who studies Central and Eastern Europe, notes that the rebels used rockets that were in flagrant violation of the Minsk Agreement, a ceasefire pact meant to end the fighting.

    "Why did they violate it so visibly?" Jarabik asked. "I think there's merit to the speculation that the Russians wanted to show that Kiev doesn't have the backing it used to have from the US."

    And initially, the US response was seen as tepid at best. A January 31 statement from the State Department condemned the violence, but didn't mention Russia or contain the statement of support for Ukraine that was customary during the Obama administration.

    "There was panicking" in Ukraine after that statement, Jarabik said, speaking from Kiev. "There were Ukrainian pundits saying it's the end of US support -- because it had such a different tone than the Obama administration. The so-called unwavering support seemed gone. It was sending shock waves."

    Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long called for a more supportive approach to Ukraine. They often criticized the Obama administration for its refusal to provide Kiev with defensive weapons.

    On Thursday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called again for the US to provide weapons. "Vladimir Putin's continued aggression against the people of Ukraine is outrageous, and further destabilization in the region will have profound negative consequences for us here in America," Rubio told CNN.

    He noted that Trump's new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis both advocated during their confirmation hearings for providing Ukraine with weapons to defend its sovereign territory.

    "I hope President Trump will heed their advice," Rubio said. "We must stand with the people of Ukraine during this difficult hour and make clear to Putin that relations will not improve until Russia respects Ukraine's sovereignty."

    Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey drew a link between Trump's mollifying approach to Russia and the aggression in Ukraine. "At the mere hint that President Trump would take a softer stance towards Russia, we have already seen pro-Russian forces emboldened and renew fighting" in eastern Ukraine, he told CNN.

    Menendez is part of a bipartisan group of senators who have introduced the Countering Russian Hostilities Act, which he said would hold Russia accountable for its international aggression and interference in the US election.

    "I sincerely hope both the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans don't make the mistake of walking away from longstanding, responsible policies to counter Russian aggression," he said.


  • 31 Jan 2017 8:51 AM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Anxious Ukraine Risks Escalation In 'Creeping Offensive'

    Frustrated by the stalemate in this 33-month war of attrition, concerned that Western support is waning, and sensing that U.S. President Donald Trump could cut Kyiv out of any peace negotiations as he tries to improve fraught relations with Moscow, Ukrainian forces anxious to show their newfound strength have gone on what many here are calling a "creeping offensive." – Read  More at adio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

  • 29 Jan 2017 10:41 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Trump's Executive Orders Cause Immigration Chaos - No Solution In Sight

    By Andy Semotiuk

    Over the course of the last week, President Trump was busy. Among other things he publicly signed three new executive orders on immigration. On Saturday, he signed an order dealing with Muslims and refugees. Among other things, that executive order suspended the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, prevented U.S. entry for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a minimum of 90 days, and capped refugee resettlement numbers at 50,000. More generally the order initiated a review of U.S. immigration policy dealing with these Muslim countries and refugees in general.

    Read More in Forbes Magazine


  • 27 Jan 2017 2:14 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    How to Trump-Proof Sanctions on Russia

    US President Donald J. Trump has said he is open to ending sanctions on Russia in exchange for a nuclear arms reduction deal with the Kremlin. “[L]et’s see if we can get some good deals with Russia,” he said.

    Read More at the Atlantic Council


  • 25 Jan 2017 12:26 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    After Russia Violated the Budapest Memorandum, Quo Vadis?

    In his Op-Ed article in the Kyiv Post of Jan. 12, 2017, Mr. Josh Cohen aptly observes that the US and the United Kingdom assert that as signatories to the Budapest Memorandum, their countries fulfilled their “legal” obligations by their diplomatically minimalistic genuflection to a literal interpretation of that international agreement signed in 1994 and thus, even as signatories, they are not “legally” obligated to do more for Ukraine. 

    Under the Budapest provisions, Ukraine surrendered more than 1600 nuclear warheads in return for which it asked that the signatories pledge their assurances of the inviolability of Ukrainian borders and its sovereignty. It is beyond reasonable argument that at the time the Budapest Memorandum was signed, Ukraine’s historic fears centered on Russia, and not on the other signatory states.  Those fears came to fruition in 2014, when Russia flagrantly violated not only the Budapest Memorandum but also The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act [i.e. the charter document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and other various organic documents of the European Union, which have as their linchpin the principle of territorial integrity and security and the inviolability of borders of independent states – and maintained peace and stability on the Eurasian continent for over 70 years.

    Mr. Cohen also quotes German Chancellor Angela Merkel who wondered “Who would give up their nuclear capability” if there was no “quid pro quo for security? 

    The “quid pro quo” is evident in the Budapest Memorandum under which three countries [Russia, the US and UK] together obtained a valuable and tangible concession from Ukraine for their joint benefit - i.e. the relinquishment of 1600 nuclear warheads aimed at the US and UK [the quid] - in consideration for which these three countries [Russia, the US and UK] together gave their joint assurances for the territorial integrity and economic independence of Ukraine {the quo].  As such, since one of the beneficiaries of the Budapest Memorandum [Russia] egregiously breached its promise to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity, it should be the obligation of the other two beneficiary signatories of the Budapest Memorandum [the US and UK] to make certain that Ukrainian territorial integrity is fully restored, diplomatic, legalistic, and linguistic fastidiousness notwithstanding. After all, the US and UK did receive a benefit [the quo], - the elimination of 1600 nuclear warheads that were aimed at their countries.

    The Budapest Memorandum is not a standalone agreement.  It was an integral step to Ukraine's accession to the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which has been acceded to by 191 countries with only five countries now abstaining, four of which possess nuclear weaponry [India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea]. The NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states are the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom.  The central tenant of the NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually achieve ultimate nuclear disarmament of all countries - including NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states.  It is also based on the recognition that the Cold War Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) deterrent relationship between the United States and USSR (Russia’s predecessor) and the proliferation of weapons to other countries would only exponentially escalate the risk of nuclear war.  However, the NPT also required NPT-recognized nuclear weapon states to also take positive steps to reduce and eventually eliminate their stockpiles of nuclear warheads – which obviously has not occurred and most likely will not occur in the foreseeable future.

    It is self-evident that the defense of state borders and national sovereignty is the core and fundamental right and duty of every country. The non-nuclear weapon states are quite aware of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia – an NPT-recognized nuclear weapon state – and the diplomatically correct but feeble and anemic response of the US and UK as signatories of the Budapest Memorandum.  Likewise, the Russian - Ukrainian War scenario is also an illuminating paragon that is fully understood by the four nuclear weapon states that have not agreed to the NPT.  As such, they and many non-nuclear weapon states must be asking - where is the “quid pro quo” for them and their national security?  Why should they adhere to the non-development of nuclear weapons – or surrender their existing nuclear weapons – if any “assurances” by the US or the West of their sovereignty and territoriality will remain only diplomatic niceties without any meaningful and effective follow through?

    Since 1968, NPT has been a linchpin of American foreign policy and that of the West.  On Friday, January 27, 2017, the new President of the United States, Donald Trump, will meet with the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May.  Both countries are signatories of the Budapest Memorandum.   The question they need to decide is “quo vadis” -- where are you going?  Are you going to support Ukraine in a consequential and effectual manner in defending itself against Russia?  Or are you going to abandon the principles that you religiously preached since WWII - territorial integrity and security and the inviolability of borders of independent states? These norms have been enshrined in countless international agreements signed and sworn to by Russia.  If the latter is the path to be chosen, then such a cataclysmic decision my initiate the unraveling of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and herald a return to MAD and a new more expansive and dangerous nuclear arms race.

    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.
    Attorney at law
    Former Public Member US Delegation to  the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, (Madrid, 1980)
    Former President and Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)
    Communications Director (UABA)


  • 21 Jan 2017 12:25 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Ukraine Files Action against Russia in International Court of Justice

    Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Release Jan. 16, 2017

    Ukraine has filed a case in the International Court of Justice to hold the Russian Federation accountable for acts of terrorism and discrimination in the course of its unlawful aggression against Ukraine.  The case has been filed under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    Ukraine alleges that the Russian Federation is violating the Terrorism Financing Convention by supplying weapons and other forms of assistance to illegal armed groups operating on Ukrainian territory. These groups have committed acts of terrorism in Ukraine with weapons supplied by Russia, including the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

    Other acts of terrorism include the bombardment of residential areas in Mariupol and Kramatorsk, the destruction of a civilian passenger bus near Volnovakha, and the deadly bombing of a peaceful gathering in Kharkiv.

    In addition, Ukraine alleges that the Russian Federation is violating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by engaging in a campaign of discrimination against non-Russian communities living in the occupied Crimean Peninsula, including, in particular, the ethnic Ukrainian and Tatar communities. Beginning with an illegal “referendum” carried out in an atmosphere of intimidation, Russian occupation authorities have implemented a policy of cultural erasure against these communities. This pattern of discrimination  has been condemned by the U.N. General Assembly and includes a prohibition on the Mejlis, the representative organization of the Crimean Tatar people; a wave of disappearances, murders, and arbitrary searches and detentions; attempts to silence the media; and restrictions on the teaching of the Ukrainian and Tatar languages.    

    “As part of its unlawful aggression in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has displayed contempt for the basic human rights of the people of Ukraine,” said Pavlo Klimkin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. “We have tried to resolve the disputes through negotiation as required by Conventions for more than two years, but the Russian Federation has been unwilling to cease its violations of international law. Therefore, we have filed our case to hold the Russian Federation accountable for these violations and to vindicate the fundamental rights of the Ukrainian people under these treaties, to which the Russian Federation is a signatory.”

    Ukraine has requested the International Court of Justice to impose provisional measures to prevent Russia from compounding its human rights abuses while the case is pending.

    International Court of Justice Press Release Text 

    Ukrainian's Application Instituting Proceedings filed in the Registry of the Court - Full Text

    Request For The Indication Of Provisional Measures Of Protection Submitted By Ukraine 

  • 16 Jan 2017 8:52 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    In Final Visit To Kyiv, Biden Urges World To Stand Against Russian Aggression

    KYIV -- Making his final visit to Kyiv in eight years as U.S. vice president, Joe Biden urged the international community to stand against what he called Russian aggression and urged the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to be a strong supporter of Ukraine. RFE/RL

    Read More and View Video




  • 16 Jan 2017 8:37 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Dear Senators

    As a former General Counsel at a Fortune 100 Company with worldwide operations; and with extensive experience in Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, I urge you to vote NO on the nomination of Mr. Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, for the following reasons:

     1. Lack of Knowledge-Mr. Tillerson’s answers during the recent hearings exhibit a remarkable lack of knowledge re: world affairs and what appeared to be a posturing of a hard line position with regard to Russia, which disappeared upon closer inquiry by Committee Members. If Mr. Tillerson’s job description was simply to be the deliverer of bad news to Mr. Putin, I might be prepared to endorse his nomination; for his relationship with Vladimir Putin would be valuable in that regard. However, as Secretary of State, his duties will be to advise the President in formulating and implementing United States foreign policy. On this score he fails miserably. His answers of having to “get the facts,” “investigate” and “make inquiry” were intended to avoid answering the difficult questions. Frankly, we should expect more from a nominee for Secretary of State.

     2. No Recollection on Key Issues- His several responses of not recalling or not knowing certain key facts, including whether Exxon conducted business in Iran, Sudan and Syria are simply not credible and, frankly, disingenuous. How can a CEO not recall whether Exxon did business in Iran; especially, since to do so would have been a violation of US and UN sanctions prohibiting the conduct of business with Iran? One can only surmise why “no recollection” of  this basic fact might be a convenient answer for the former CEO of Exxon.

     3. Diplomacy is Not Business as Usual- Furthermore, Mr. Tillerson’s business focus does not assist him in carrying out the duties of Secretary of State but rather, in my opinion, will cloud his moral judgment and ethical conscience as it relates to America’s values as America, e.g., human rights. In watching his testimony from start to finish, I was reminded of the diamond buyers of "Blood Diamonds" from Africa. They do not care who or where the source of the diamonds is, so long as they can obtain them at a low price. In his own words, he said sanctions are not always fair to business, as though there is or should be a moral balancing in dollars and cents. I imagine Blood Diamond buyers feel the same way. There is no moral clarity on his part. If you have to investigate or do fact finding to find your moral compass- you don’t have one!

     4. No Commitment to Sanctions- Mr. Tillerson hemmed and hawed to avoid committing to continued sanctions against Russia relying upon the need for further review. While he called for defensive weapons to be provided to Ukraine, he sounded  as though the forcible occupation of Crimea was a fait accompli.

     5. Lack of Education and Exposure- I do not believe Mr. Tillerson has the education, knowledge or experience to be Secretary of State (and, 4th in the line of succession to President). His education is solely as an engineer and geologist. His job with the same company, over the course of his advancement, was to find oil; which does not adequately prepare him for diplomacy or foreign policy. During his hearings, he even referred to his background as an engineer to justify his lack of knowledge on a particular question. The fact that he was with the same company for 40+ years underscores an absence of exposure to other companies, organizations, practices and ways of doing things in the broader context of business, government, law, foreign affairs and diplomacy.

     6. Explanation of Exxon’s Success Under FCPA- As a former General Counsel of a  company that sought to do business in Russia, I can speak personally to the demands that are made for payoffs from Russian government officials at every level. The company I was with refused to comply with these requests and, not surprisingly, operated  no businesses in Russia. We were allowed to sell our products into Russia but undertook no manufacturing or production (separately, the company had 147 production plants in 110 countries). I was disheartened that no one on the Committee asked Mr. Tillerson how Exxon was able to maneuver through the vast corruption in Russia, so as not to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; and, what systems and people were in place at Exxon to assure compliance with the FCPA.

     For these reasons, I respectfully urge you to vote "NO" in Committee and not allow the nomination of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State to be referred to the full United States Senate for confirmation.

    Bohdan D. Shandor, Esq. 
    Former President and Governor of the UABA

© Ukrainian American Bar Association                                                                                      Terms of Use

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software