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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.

  • 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

  • 12 Jan 2017 6:22 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Jan. 11, 2017 Senate Hearings on the Nomination of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

    Video: Sen. Menendez Questions Rex Tillerson at Confirmation Hearing

    Video: Sen. Marco Rubio questions Rex Tillerson

    Video:  Full examination of Rex Tillerson

  • 11 Jan 2017 12:37 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    US lashes out at Russia at UN — and Russia goes after Obama

    Associated Press | Published: January 10, 2017

    UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, in one of her last appearances at the U.N. Security Council, lashed out at Russia on Tuesday for invading and annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and carrying out "a merciless military assault" in Syria.

    Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin shot back by accusing the Obama administration of "desperately" looking for scapegoats for its own failures in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

    The bitter and biting exchanges came during a council meeting after new U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said preventing conflicts and sustaining peace are his top priorities and urged all countries to support those goals.Детальніше-

    Read More


  • 10 Jan 2017 10:34 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Senate Pushes for More Russian Sanctions in Bipartisan Legislation

    Tuesday, one day before confirmation hearings for a key chunk of President-elect Donald Trump’s national security nominees, top lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said they would introduce new legislation to punish Russia for meddling in the election, as well as its aggressive behavior in Ukraine and Syria.

    An aide to Sen. Ben Cardin (D.-Md.), one of the sponsors of the bill, said that after the public release last week of the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the U.S. election “he felt now was the time to introduce” the legislation. Read FP article

    View Press conference

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