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  • 06 Feb 2015 2:39 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

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    A Question for President Obama
    Then What?

    On February 5, 2015, Terry Atlas, writing for Bloomberg News, stated “Washington policy makers are caught up in a debate reminiscent of the Cold War era: Should the U.S. send weapons to help an outgunned country resist Russian-backed aggression?”  According to the article, the indecision of policy makers - as well as that of President Obama - is grounded on the question -- if weapons are supplied to Ukraine, Then What? Would it only anger Russia and make it more aggressive? Would it escalate the warfare and make a political solution more difficult to achieve?

    The question that Washington policy makers and President Obama should be asking is -- if weapons are NOT supplied to Ukraine, Then What ?

    The argument not to supply military aid to Ukraine is based in large part on the naïve assumption that hostilities in the eastern part of Ukraine are somehow not a war of aggression by Russia but are internal rebel activities by Ukrainians of Russian ethnicity and that Russia has good and honorable intentions to find a peaceful solution to this alleged “internal” crisis.  This fallacious notion has been debunked by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary and is not reflective of a rational view of reality.  The alleged “separatist rebels” are mercenaries hired, trained, supplied with weapons, and directed by Russia.  Russian military personnel in the thousands are openly fighting, and many are dying, alongside these "separatist rebels” on Ukrainian soil. 

    There is also an unstated view in Western political circles that Russia would be politically satisfied with holding onto Crimea and that Eastern Ukraine [Luhansk and Donetsk regions] be quasi-independent entities within the sphere of direct influence of the Kremlin.  According to this misguided rationale, if the West were to accept this scenario as the status quo [and convince Ukraine to such draconian terms], Russia would readily enter into a binding international agreement which would guarantee peace on the European continent for the future.  As a reality check to this flawed logic, one only has to recall from recent memory countless historical events to realize that Russia has neverlived up to any of its international agreements including nuclear non-proliferation treaties.  One such glaring example that comes immediately to mind is the 1994 Budapest Memorandum wherein Russia profusely guaranteed that it would not violate Ukrainian sovereignty in exchange for which Ukraine surrendered the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world.  Further, the Kremlin flagrantly continues to violate various other nuclear accords and proudly states that it will be expanding its nuclear armaments as well as its military potential -- and all international covenants to the contrary be damned.  There is a saying “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

    History is also the best teacher.  To understand Russia and its political and military intentions towards Ukraine, we need to look at history.  Over the centuries, Russian political thought always viewed Ukraine as the linchpin to its imperialistic ambitions and desires.  It has continuously fought to control not only Ukraine’s territory, but also sought to destroy Ukrainian culture and ethos.  As former Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, V. Vassylenko stated in his recent essay, The 2014 War: An Endeavor for a Comprehensive Analysis;

    The restoration of Ukraine’s independence is intertwined with the inevitable revival of its national memory and individual national history, thus stripping Russia of a part of its alleged history, thereby destroying the myth of its millennium-old statehood, European identity and supposedly eternal and natural place of Russia in European civilization. Russian empire-minded chauvinists realize that, unless Ukraine with its territory, resources and human potential, is not subdued once again, Russia’s attempts to restore its status of an empire will be futile…..  p. 4

    Meanwhile, another less obvious goal of the Russian aggression is to test how ready and capable Western democracies are in resisting Russia’s revanchist and expansionist plans to use force to return territories that had been parts of the Russian empire in the past. …..p. 8

    Russia's covert foreign policy objective is to undermine European and Euro-Atlantic unity and to create a Euro-Asian empire, stretching from Vladivostok to Lisbon thereby challenging and threatening the United States. p. 8

    Viewed from the historical perspective, if weapons are not supplied to Ukraine so it can defend itself now, [and thereby,  in essence, protect Western Europe] any “political solution” that does not permanently insure Ukrainian territorial integrity and the inviolability of its borders from Russian incursion by giving Ukraine the unfettered military ability to protect its national boundaries, is only temporary window dressing to appease the gullible conscience of Western leaders and to lull them into an unrealistic sense of security.  If Ukraine is not afforded the necessary means to defend itself, then after a temporary illusionary respite in hostilities and the easing of economic sanctions, Russia will regroup, strengthen itself, and will exponentially continue its assault on Ukraine, thus drastically expanding the existing conflict to the entire European continent in the future.  In the process, Russia will successfully undermine Western and NATO unity, European economic integration and security, greatly jeopardize world peace, and put America’s national interests and security at high risk. 

    Then Washington foreign policy makers and future American Presidents will be asking the question:  NOW WHAT?

    February 6, 2015

    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.
    730 West Saddle River Rd., Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ 07423
    Communications Director of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)
    Tel: 201-507-4500; Email;
    myroslaw@smorodsky.com; Website; www.smorodsky.com


  • 01 Feb 2015 12:12 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

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    Press Release; February 1, 2014

    UABA Statement in support of H. RES. 50 and S. RES. 52 calling for the release of Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko

    On January 26, 2015, Congressional Representatives , Ms. Kaptur, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Quigley, and Mr. Pascrell submitted House Resolution H. RES. 50 “Calling for the release of Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who was captured by Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine and has been held illegally in a Russian prison since July 2014.”  On January 28, 2015, a similar resolution – S. RES. 52 - was introduced in the Senate by Mr. Cardin and Mr. Wicker; both resolutions were referred to the respective Foreign Relations Committees in both chambers of Congress. 

    The Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA) strongly urges that these proposed resolutions be expeditiously reviewed and approved in their respective committees, and placed on the floor for a full vote by the Senate and House.  Swift and affirmative passage of these resolutions will show the world that the United States stands behind its pronouncements in support of international rule of law and respect for human rights.  Speedy adoption of these resolutions will also signal to Russia that its aggression against Ukraine will not go unnoticed, cannot continue, and will be rebuked accordingly by the international community.

    Nadiya Savchenko, a former military pilot in the Ukrainian Air Force, serves as a current member of the Parliament of Ukraine, and a Delegate from Ukraine at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). 

    In the middle of June 2014, she was captured by Russians in the Luhansk region of Ukraine – the area where Russian troops and Russia-supported terrorists and mercenaries are fighting against the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian civilian volunteers.  Russians illegally and forcibly transported Savchenko across the border into Russia, with a bag over her head, while handcuffed.  In Russia she was falsely accused of, and charged with, the alleged killings of two Russian members of the press.  These members of the Russian press appear to have died in shellfire, and not at the hands of Ms. Savchenko as Russian propaganda machine would want the world to believe.  According to Ms. Savchenko and her attorneys, not only was Ms. Savchenko nowhere near the area where the two members of the Russian press died, but they actually died AFTER the Russians had captured Savchenko and brought her over to Russia from Ukraine.

    Ms. Savchenko is being kept in a Russian prison, undoubtedly on direct orders from Putin, without proof of having committed any of the alleged crimes with which she has been charged, without trial and without due process of any kind. According to her attorneys, Messrs. Mark Feygin, and Nikolai Polozov, Ms. Savchenko has an irrefutable alibi that proves her innocence and the falsity of the Russian charges against her.

    She has been held in solitary confinement in prison, with no access to mail. Her two attorneys have had very limited and sporadic access to Ms. Savchenko in prison. Often times her attorneys are not allowed to visit her in prison for several days on end despite repeated requests and attempts. 

    Putin pays no attention to repeated demands for release by Ms. Savchenko’s attorneys, or by various organizations.  Attorney Feygin has recently published his open letter to Putin online, appealing to reason and demanding that Putin release Nadiya Savchenko. The US Department of State has twice called on Russia to release Ms. Savchenko.  Memorial Human Rights Center has declared her to be a political prisoner in Russia. PACE has demanded that Savchenko be released. Needless to say, Ms. Savchenko is still in prison. It is clear that Putin is keeping Savchenko imprisoned as his bargaining chip in his negotiations with the West.

    In protest against her unlawful and groundless detention while Putin ignores International calls for her release, Ms. Savchenko began a hunger strike in prison on December 13, 2014.

    Ms. Savchenko has continued her hunger strike for over 50 days now and is in poor, rapidly deteriorating health.  She has lost catastrophic and life-threatening weight. According to her attorneys, she is facing a virtually certain death in prison very soon, if she is not released from detention immediately. She shows no desire to stop her hunger strike protest against her unlawful detention. Putin will not release her from detention until he has obtained some concessions from Europe.  

    PACE issued emergency request to release Ms. Savchenko, a PACE Delegate from Ukraine who has diplomatic immunity, in order for her to participate in the PACE session that started this week.  On January 28, 2015, PACE issued a resolution to free Savchenko, within 24 hours, and to return her to Ukraine, or to hand her over to a third country.

    Putin continues to ignore PACE.  The Russian delegation at PACE, however, hinted at a possibility of Savchenko’s release in exchange for reactivation of Russia’s voting rights at PACE, which were stripped from it on January 28, 2015 pursuant to PACE’s resolution of the same date. Russia went as far as demanding the removal of all of the Council of Europe’s sanctions against Russia in exchange for Savchenko’s release. These demands by Russia demonstrate that the real reason for detention of Ms. Savchenko is as a bargaining chip by Putin in his negotiations with Europe.

    Last week, the Russian Federal Security Service (the FSB) initiated yet another trumped-up charge against Savchenko.  The new charge alleges Ms. Savchenko illegally crossed the Ukraine-Russia border. Please note, as mentioned above, that Nadiya Savchenko was kidnapped by Russians in Ukraine, and was transported across the border into Russia by force with a bag over her head.  This is yet another attempt by Putin to ensure that Ms. Savchenko will continue to be detained, perhaps realizing that the original false charges against her that were probably concocted in a haste and cannot stand up to scrutiny in light of the timing of the alleged offense and Savchenko’s strong alibi defense to the original charges.

    Please make no mistake that it is Putin, and he alone, who decides the fate of Nadiya Savchenko, not a Russian court.   Thus, the only way Savchenko may be released from the Russian prison is if Putin decides to release her. Putin’s pocket courts in Russia have no say in the matter.  Presumption of innocence does not travel very far in Russia.  The only way Putin may be forced to relent in his unlawful detention of Savchenko, will be if extreme pressure and condemnation is put on him by the civilized world and the international community as a whole.

    The US Congress must forcefully denounce Putin’s unlawful detention of Nadiya Savchenko by passage of H. RES. 50 and S. RES. 52.  We urge you and every progressive citizen of the world to take a stand against Putin by demanding the immediate release of Nadiya Savchenko.

    The United States of America, its European allies, and the international community must stand up together to Putin’s tyranny.  He must be made aware that there is a heavy cost associated with keeping innocent victims as political prisoners for his own gains. We must not remain silent. We must achieve the immediate release of Nadiya Savchenko.

    This statement was authored by Sergei Orel, Esq. a member of the UABA sorel@sergei-orel.com

    For further information, please contact
    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.
    Communications Director of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)
    Tel: 201-507-4500; Email;
    myroslaw@smorodsky.com; Website; www.smorodsky.com


  • 15 Dec 2014 8:30 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Open letter to President Barack Obama in support of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act,

    On December 11, 2014, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act was passed by both houses of Congress in a swift and decisive manner.  The expedited passage of this bill in a bipartisan way gives clear evidence that the elected representatives of the people of the United States fully recognize that Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine is a direct threat to peace and security in the world and also to the United States itself.  

    Since the cataclysmic events of World War II, the world's nations have attempted to establish basic principles of international law and behavior to be adhered to by the governments of all nations so as to prevent future conflagrations on a global scale.  The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act [the charter document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and the various organic documents of the European Union, have had as their linchpin the principle of territorial integrity and security and the inviolability of borders of independent states.  This month 20 years ago, Ukraine - at the behest of the United States of America, Great Britain, and Russia -- voluntarily surrendered the world’s 3rdlargest nuclear arsenal.  All it asked for in return was that the signatory parties obligate themselves to respect Ukraine’s territorial, political, and economic integrity. 

    It is self-evident that Vladimir Putin has dug in his heels and has made the economic calculation that he can withstand the financial price of a scolding by the West  -- and all international agreements, promises, and pledges Russia had signed in the past don't matter.  He has maliciously put the entire world order and international rule of law into extreme jeopardy.  If he is not restrained by decisive actions by the West, then our children and grandchildren will be condemned to a probable conflagration on the European continent that will be as great or even greater than the horrors of World War II [recall Putin's recent verbal flexing of his nuclear muscle] .....and from which America will have no escape.

    Mr. President, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act is on your desk awaiting your signature.  The Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA) strongly urges that you sign this legislation as soon as possible.  As the leader of the free world, you must take strong and decisive action and reaffirm America’s world leadership position now!  You should not wait for Europe to act.  Once signed into law, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act will be a clear message to Vladimir Putin and to the entire world that America is committed to the international rule of law and that it stands by its international obligations.  But most importantly, it will show that America’s commitment to world peace is bipartisan; supported by both the executive and legislative branches of our government, and represents the moral ideals of the people of our great country.

    For further information, please contact
    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.
    Communications Director of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)
    Tel: 201-507-4500; Email; myroslaw@smorodsky.com; Website; www.smorodsky.com


  • 12 Dec 2014 7:47 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    ROBERT McCONNELL:  The Ukraine Freedom Support Act - What still needs to be done! 


    The Ukraine Freedom Support Act, H.R. 5859, either has or will been approved by the United States Senate before the 113th Congress ends today or over the weekend.  Once that happens the final copy of the legislation will be enrolled (signed by appropriate House and Senate officials) and submitted to the president for signature.  Once the enrolled bill is received by the White House we want to make sure the President signs H.R. 5859 into law.  You are urged to call, write, email, fax the White House urging the President to sign.  You can and should do this immediately.


    Contacting the White House:

    By telephone: Comments: 202-456-1111

    Switchboard: 202-456-1414


    And/or call the Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs, Katherine Beirne, at 202-456-2230


    You can email the White House by going to the White House website www.whitehouse.gov click on "participate" and you will see a path for an email connection; or email the President's Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, dmcdonough@who.eop.gov     


    To be clear, once the legislation is received at the White House the President has several options, he can sign the bill into law, he can veto the legislation and return in to Congress together with the reasons for his veto, or he can simply not do anything.  If he vetoes the bill he has to return the bill with his veto message to Congress within 10 days if Congress is still in session and Congress has an opportunity to override the veto.  If Congress is not in session the President can simply not do anything and the bill is vetoed by what is known as a pocket veto.  If he does nothing and Congress remains in Session after ten business days the legislation will become law without the President's signature.  It is expected that even though the 113th Congress will complete its work today or over the weekend, it will not adjourn sine die and will stay in pro forma session until the 114th Congress begins in January.  This has become a Congressional practice so that presidents cannot  pocket veto legislation.  But we want H.R. 5059 to be signed into law and we want the White House to know how important we believe this legislation to be.  Indeed, we want to build on the momentum associated with the passage of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act and carry it forward into pursuit of additional and vital support for Ukraine in the next Congress. 

  • 10 Dec 2014 9:03 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

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    Nov 13-16, 2014
    Washington, DC 20008

    Hon. Volodymyr Vassylenko

    The 2014 War: An Endeavor for a Comprehensive Analysis

    Hon. Volodymyr Vassylenko is a pre-eminent Ukrainian legal scholar, jurist, and diplomat whose fifty-year long career has been illustrious in each of these fields. For over 25 years he has been a renowned professor of Public International Law at the Institute of Foreign Relations of the National Kyiv University. He was legal advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine. He was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belgium, (non-resident) to the Netherlands and Luxemburg; to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and (non-resident) to Ireland, as well as Representative of Ukraine to the European Union, the North Atlantic Co-operation Council and the International Maritime Organization. He was Judge ad litemof the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He was Representative of Ukraine to the UN Commission on Human Rights.  He participated in a number of important international Conferences and Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. He also formed part of the Ukrainian delegation at the Summits of the Commonwealth of Independent States. He has also served as Representative of Ukraine to the UN Council on Human Rights, Deputy Representative of Ukraine to the Venice Commission, Agent of Ukraine to the International Court of Justice in the case of Ukraine v. Romania concerning the delimitation of maritime space in the Black Sea


    The 2014 War: An Endeavor for a Comprehensive Analysis


    Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a result of not only the policies of the Kremlin empire-minded chauvinists led by Vladimir Putin, but are also the result of strategic miscalculations and the irresponsibility of Ukrainian political elites throughout the years of Ukraine’s independence.

    For years, Ukraine's top political and military leadership pursued the illusion of a possible strategic partnership with Russia.  Meanwhile, the Kremlin was consistently implementing a policy aimed at destroying Ukraine.  It essentially had two scenarios: Plan A - for the gradual and "peaceful" destruction of Ukraine, and Plan B - for a one-time conquest by force. The former plan was envisaged as a "humanitarian" aggression and the use of soft rather than hard, military power to destroy Ukrainian identity, a fundamental formative element of any national State.  When Russian political elites realized that the imperialistic dream of a restored “United Great Russia” was impossible as long as a Ukrainian Ukraine existed, they decided that "humanitarian" aggression, not war and/or genocide of the Ukrainian Nation, intended to create a “Ukraine without Ukrainians”.  Russia has been conducting its "humanitarian" aggression in several directions simultaneously: by inspiring and waging informational, propagandistic, linguistic, cultural, historiosophy and religious wars.  The Yanukovych regime was Russia’s partner in its "humanitarian" aggression against Ukraine.  Controlled by Russian special services, it pursued anti-Ukrainian "humanitarian" policies.  In other words, it was a wide-scale consistent special operation to eliminate the constitutionally established fundamental elements of Ukraine's statehood, and to turn it into a denationalized and powerless part of a so called "Russian World". "Humanitarian" aggression can only be successful if Ukraine is fenced off from the West and remains in Russia’s orbit of power.  Therefore, the Russian leadership made sure that Yanukovych opted for the non-aligned status for Ukraine, and that he rejected the Association Agreement with the EU.

    The fall of the Yanukovych regime, the determination of the new Ukrainian government to resume its European integration policy, and the possibility of Ukraine joining the EU and NATO in the future, pushed Russia to Plan B.

    Yet, even though Moscow was obviously aware of the poor  condition of the Ukrainian Army, it clearly underestimated the aspiration of Ukrainians for freedom, and their determination and ability to resist.  Sadly, Ukraine’s political and military leaders failed to organize immediate resistance to Russia’s aggression shortly after it began.  As a result, Ukraine has lost Crimea and control over parts of Ukraine-Russia border territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, through which Russian mercenaries, diversionists and regular Russian Army units infiltrated into Ukraine.

    Thanks to the heroic dedication of the Ukrainian armed forces, the National Guard, which was set up under the umbrella of the Interior Ministry, and the volunteer battalions, large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were liberated from the aggressor.  However, Petro Poroshenko’s reluctance to introduce martial law and to mobilize the entire potential of the State and society to fend off the enemy was among the factors that extended the war's duration.

    Today, Ukraine's elites, all of Ukrainian society, and members of the international community, must realize that Russia is waging a total war against Ukraine and, at the same time, is testing the readiness and ability of Western democracies to resist the Kremlin's revanchist and expansionist plans.  Russia's ultimate goal is neither to annex parts of Ukrainian territory nor to deprive Ukraine of the right to make its own civilization choice, but rather to destroy all things Ukrainian  that exist and Ukrainian statehood as such.  Therefore, the top priorities on the national security agenda for Ukraine must include: 1) the revival of the entire national security sector, 2) the formulation and implementation of a Ukrainocentric humanitarian policy as a tool of resistance to Russian "humanitarian" aggression, 3) implementation of programs for European and NATO integration with full-scale membership as the ultimate goal.

    The Russian aggression is violating the international order, threatening global security and undermining nuclear non-proliferation regime.  It jeopardizes every member of the international community.  In resisting Russian aggression, Ukraine is at the same time is fighting for the West and its values.  If the Western democracies care about their own security, they should stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine to resist the aggressor with the aim to defend common civilization values, world peace and international order.

    The proposed paper below is an attempt to provide a comprehensive analysis of the problems Ukraine and the international community are facing as a result of the recent war of aggression by Russia.



  • 05 Dec 2014 6:53 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Press Release  December 5, 2014

    UABA applauds the US House of Representatives for passage of H. Res. 758 supporting Ukraine

    On December 4, 2014, the United States House of Representatives, by an overwhelming vote of 411 – 10, passed H.Res.758- "Strongly condemning the actions of the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, which has carried out a policy of aggression against neighboring countries aimed at political and economic domination."


    The Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA) applauds with great appreciation the House of Representatives for its strong expression of support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in their struggle to attain Western values and democracy.  The text of the resolution clearly shows that the House is fully aware of the extremely dangerous significance of the Kremlin's actions against Ukraine, and its impact on international rule of law and order.  It recognizes that the Kremlin has not adhered to any of its internationally made pledges regarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, thus undermining the bedrock upon which European peace is built in the aftermath of World War II.  Rather, Russia has intentionally trampled upon Ukraine's political and economic sovereignty and its territorial integrity for quite some time in full view of the world. 

    The UABA notes, however, that H. Res. 758 only expresses the sense of the House of Representatives and does not have the force of law.  As such, we strongly urge that both houses of the United States Congress take under immediate consideration and in a swift and expeditious manner, pass Senate Bill S. 2828 and House Bill H.R. 5782.  These bills will provide, among other things, defensive military assistance to Ukraine and would grant Ukraine Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA)  Status and are in the United States' national security interests.  The implementation of such legislation into law will help Ukraine repel Putin's aggression and prevent his imperialistic ambitions from spilling over into the Baltic States and the rest of Europe.

    The United States and Europe are at a historically crucial crossroad.  America must take strong and decisive action to reaffirm its world leadership position and help Ukraine defend itself now!  If Western governments continue on the existing path of only scolding Putin verbally and attempting to isolate him economically, then they will condemn our children and grandchildren to a probable conflagration on the European continent that will be as great or even greater than the horrors of World War II [recall Putin's recent verbal flexing of his nuclear muscle] .....and from which America will have no escape.


    For further information, please contact

    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.

    Communications Director of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)

    Tel: 201-507-4500; Email; myroslaw@smorodsky.com; Website; www.smorodsky.com

  • 03 Dec 2014 1:49 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Press Release: December 3, 2014

    UABA Urges Swift Congressional Passage of
    S. 2828 and HR. 5782

    The Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA) strongly urges swift congressional passage of Senate Bill 2828 and House Bill HR 5782.  These bipartisan bills will grant Ukraine "Major Non-NATO Ally Status" (MNNA) and defensive military assistance.  Once these bills become law, they will greatly enhance the United States' national security interests and will promote peace on the Eurasian continent and throughout the world.

    It is obvious that economic sanctions in and of themselves are woefully deficient and will not stop Russia's unlawful aggression against Ukraine.  Despite all its denials, the Kremlin now openly deploys its heavily armed military on Ukrainian territory, and continually re-supplies its mercenary "separatists" with impunity under the guise of "humanitarian aid."  Putin has doubled down on his bellicose pronouncements and has vehemently restated his resolve to return Russia to the previous borders of the former USSR, and even to expand the Kremlin's hegemony over the eastern parts of the European Union.  Obviously, Vladimir Putin has made the economic calculation that he can withstand the financial price of a scolding by the West (including any additional sanctions that could be imposed in the future)  -- and all international agreements, promises, and pledges Russia had signed in the past don't matter.

    America readily supplies lethal weapons worth billions of dollars to questionable allies in the Middle East.  We are ready to put "boots on the ground" to protect countries in that region, many of which have well-equipped armies of their own and the economic strength to fully support their own military, but these same countries do not put their citizenry's boots on the ground to defend their own territorial integrity from invasion.  We are asked to do it for them -- and we have done that!   However, when it comes to Ukraine, which does not ask America to put our soldiers in the line of fire -- Ukrainians already have their sons and daughters dying daily on the front lines -- but asks only for adequate weapons so that Ukraine's sons and daughters can suitably defend themselves, America rebuffs Ukraine's dire requests with lame excuses.

    Had Ukraine received American and Western military aid earlier in a timely fashion, Ukraine would have been in a better military posture to repel the pro-Russian terrorists and seal its border from further Russian incursion.  Continued tardiness or inaction by the United States Congress in rendering timely military aid to Ukraine will  condemn Ukraine to an endless and hopeless waiting for American assistance -- as the characters in "Waiting for Godot"-- only to have its sovereign territory painfully eroded by Russian aggression, with extensive casualties to its population, with millions of people displaced, and many a young Ukrainian soldier killed by a stronger and brutal aggressor nation whose only goal is imperial territorial expansion.  If Ukraine falls, then the horrific conflagration of war will spill over into the eastern part of the European Union and will necessitate American "boots on the ground".  All this may be avoided if the United States Congress acts now and fulfills its obligation and duty to give timely military assistance to Ukraine.

    For further information, please contact
    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.
    Communications Director of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)
    Tel: 201-507-4500; Email;
    myroslaw@smorodsky.com; Website; www.smorodsky.com


  • 01 Dec 2014 6:25 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

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    Nov 13-16, 2014
    Washington, DC 20008

    Address of Robert A. McConnell, Esq.

    Robert McConnell is a political consultant with the firm of R.A. McConnell & Associates. He has been very active in matters concerning Ukraine since the late 1970s playing a significant role in the Congress establishing the Ukraine Famine Commission in the 1980s, was a leader in gathering Washington support for the celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine (1988) and seeing to it that no American official participated in Mikhail Gorbachev’s fraudulent ceremonies claiming the millennium for Russia, Co-Founded the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in 1990 (which opened an office in Kyiv in late 1990 – Ukraine was still in the Soviet Union – making the Foundation the oldest American presence in Ukraine) and between 1990 and 1993 testified or submitted testimony in approximately 30 hearings relevant to events in Ukraine.

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    The Bear and the Ostrich – The Kremlin vs. Washington
    Speech to the Ukrainian-American Bar Association Convention
    Robert McConnell
    November 14, 2014

    Really, what more do I need to say?

    The Bear is engaged in a massive and dynamic war – the ostrich has its head in the sand regarding the reality of the situation and is simply engaged in the cosmetics of the conflict.

     Putin invades and seizes Crimea and NATO and the Pentagon actually say publicly they were surprised and had no idea Putin would do that.  Hello!  I can’t recall and names all the people who had predicted that invasion but I know that I wrote many in Congress and the Administration in December 2013 saying Russia would invade Crimea during or immediately after the Sochi Games.  And I am no military strategist.

    I read the paper and I read Paul Goble’s daily Window on Eurasia where he provides the only genuine news of what is going on inside Russia as written in Russia’s domestic media.  I wish I had been able to hear his presentation this morning.  Paul Goble is an American treasure, one of a kind.

    After the Crimean invasion the United States said the invasion could not be allowed to stand, it was wrong.  Are we saying anything about Crimea now? When was the last time you heard Crimean mentioned by an American official?

    Putin invaded two oblasts in Eastern Ukraine – forget “Russian speaking separatists,” forget “ethnic Russians,” forget “separatists,” Russia invaded Ukraine.  Oh sure, there were and are Russia-Ukrainians who supported the invasion but they didn’t initiate anything.  Putin’s forces invaded and created the conflict and eventually the United States couldn’t ignore the facts and had to condemn the Russian role.

    We disapproved.

    We threatened.

    We drew lines.

    We postured.

    We abhorrently parsed the terms of the Budapest Memorandum to explain that the plain meaning of the words – and the intent depended upon by Ukraine in signing the document – does not call for the United States to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.  This was and is a disgrace of the first order given that the Memorandum was the culmination of the American and Russian effort to get Ukraine to turn over its nuclear weapons - not to the United States to whom Ukraine wanted to ship its nuclear weapons - but to Russia – the one country to which Ukraine did not want to give its weapons.  You won’t find that truth in any history now told of the events – indeed anyone and everyone in the U.S. Government will deny this.

    So what is the reality?  We provide a lot of talk, minimal aid under the circumstances and advertise our contributions and support of Ukraine loudly to a largely disinterested public.

    This may be a bit provocative – even for me – but you have to wonder who actually misses the Soviet Union more, Putin or the foreign policy community in the West?  Their respective feelings manifest themselves differently – the puny, strutting little former KGB colonel invades Ukraine, works to destabilize the Baltics, has Russian bombers patrolling the Atlantic and Pacific, seeks military landing rights in South American countries, has his navy showing up places it hasn’t been seen in years, he works with the terrorist mullahs and generally projects all of the evil for which the Soviet Union was known.

    On the other hand we – the United States government and many American institutions – deplore Russian aggression and huff and puff but we do very - - -very - - - little to assist Ukraine in being able to defend itself.

    As President Poroshenko said before Congress, you can’t fight a war with blankets.

    Oh sure, a representative of our government could challenge me with a list of things we have done:

    -          A billion dollar loan guarantee (a loan guarantee, not cash)

    -          Work to secure IMF funds

    -          Non-lethal support for this and that

    -          Supposedly projecting strength by putting planes in the Baltics, Poland

    -          Imposing sanctions

    -          Yada, yada, yada

    Half measures at best – all delayed from when they would have had genuine meaning. And all the while making it abundantly clear we would never provide lethal assistance, we would never really help Ukraine defend itself against an invading army that is killing Ukrainian citizens.

    Oh, and by the way, when Obama says there will be no lethal aid he means it.  A classic case of his commitment to keeping arms from Ukraine is playing out right now.  Ukraine worked to secure the purchase of rifles and ammunition from a United States manufacturer and obtained an export license to ship the arms to Ukraine.  But when the arms reached Customs they were essentially impounded by Homeland Security.  The stated reason – to investigate how Ukraine obtained the export license.

    You think Putin isn’t aware of this type of thing?

    How do you think Putin reads Washington? 

    We are a joke.

    Someone asked the other day, “When will Putin stop?”  Why would he stop?  No one is stopping him.

    Over and over again we provide Putin with a very clear picture of a paper tiger.

    We have a stated policy of isolating Russia until it withdraws from Ukraine.

    Isolate – really?

    Over the past 6 months I can’t recall how many conferences have been held in Washington and elsewhere in the States promoting business opportunities for American companies in Russia – with US government participation!

    What we say and how we behave are too entirely different things.  And Putin knows it.

    Look, the situation is deplorable and one can get depressed, one can think about giving up, one can say there is no way to change the situation - - but this situation, this mess is nothing new for Ukraine and Ukrainians or Ukrainian-Americans.

    It has always been so - there is a western fascination with Russia and wanting to believe there are common interests and the Kremlin isn’t what it appears to be, etc.  To me this is inexplicable and just plain stupid, refuted over and over by history but it is a reality. We have to understand it is what it is.

    But in facing this reality we have to remember that over the last 100 years every time – every time – anything good regarding Ukraine specifically has been accomplished in Washington it has been the Congress that has taken the lead.  It has never been an American Administration.  And that will be the case again.

    The Administration – at least the collective Administration – would like Ukraine just to go away.  The President simply could not care less about Ukraine.

    But it is the Congress where Ukraine finds its allies.  The steps that have been taken to support Ukraine have either come through Congress or been forced by Congress.  And Congress has been bipartisan in its support of Ukraine. 

    The Ukraine Freedom Support Act – S. 2828 – was reported out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations unanimously.  It is worth taking the time here to know and understand what Chairman Menendez and Ranking Republican Corker provide in their legislation.

    The legislation requires the president to apply sanctions against:

    ·                  Rosoboronexport and other Russian defense firms that contribute to instability in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Syria;

    ·                  It requires sanctions of companies worldwide that make significant investments in particular unconventional Russian crude oil energy projects;

    ·                  It requires sanction on Gazprom, if the President determines that Gazprom is withholding significant natural gas supplies from member countries of NATO or further withholds such supplies from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova. 

    It also imposes restrictions on foreign financial institutions' dealings with the United States banking system if it is determined the financial institution has engaged in significant sanctionable transactions related to Russia's defense and energy sectors, or significant transactions on behalf of any Russian individual or entity that has been sanctioned in connection with the crisis in Ukraine. 

    This legislation authorizes the president to provide military assistance to Ukraine, to include:

    ·                  Providing defense articles, defense services, and training to the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of countering offensive weapons and reestablishing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons; crew weapons and ammunition; counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries; fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment; tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment.  It authorizes $350 million in fiscal year 2015 to carry out these activities.

    It requires the administration to outline a plan for how the United States, other governments, and international organizations will help Ukraine in protecting and assisting persons internally displaced because of the fighting in Ukraine. 

    The bill requires the administration to work with Ukraine to develop a short-term emergency energy assistance plan that will help Ukraine address a potential fuel and electricity shortage in 2014-15, and authorizes $50 million for fiscal year 2015 in support of these activities.  It also requires the administration to develop medium- and long-term plans to increase energy production and efficiency to improve energy security in Ukraine, and authorizes $50 million over three fiscal years for such activities. 

    Under this bill, the president would need to submit a strategy to Congress that outlines U.S. efforts to strengthen Ukrainian civil society, support independent media, reduce corruption, and increase election-monitoring capacity.  This legislation also encourages the president to assist entities in the Ukrainian defense sector to reorient exports away from customers in Russia and to find appropriate alternative markets for their products. 

    Finally, the bill designates Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia as major non-NATO allies and authorizes $10 million for the next three fiscal years to counter Russian propaganda in the former Soviet Union countries and prioritizes Russian-language broadcasting into Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.

    If enacted would S. 2828 be enough?  No

    It would not be enough for a number of reasons.

    First I am certain that for S. 2828 to get to the Senate floor there will have to be a unanimous consent agreement.  If this is even possible several sources tell me that there will have to be changes in the legislation the most likely of which will have to be the striking of the language codifying the sanctions already in place.

    Second, the legislation authorizes funds, it does not appropriate.  Appropriations would have to be provided separately and it will take time to appropriate.

    But let’s be clear – S. 2828 is a genuine effort to back up American words with genuine support for Ukraine.

    Now, I am not optimistic that S. 2828 will get through the Senate, be accepted in the House and get to the President’s desk in 2014.  There is very little time left in the lame duck and the White House, which is against the bill, represents the only lobbyist in town with an Article I power under our Constitution – enactment, requires the President’s signature. 

    And the White House has Harry Reid’s ear and Reid sets the Senate agenda - - for now.

    But Mitch McConnell has long been a supporter of Ukraine and has indicated legislation would be dealt with expeditiously in the 114th Congress next year. But there are several things to keep in mind.

    We are at the end of a Congress, there is little time left and you can never predict what will happen.  There are other pieces of legislation less well known that have provisions which could have significant impact on Ukraine.  They are in the mix. Things happen at the end of a Congress, language gets added to must pass legislation; nuanced deals are made on the floor.  Good things could happen that will benefit Ukraine.

    But the best known bill supporting Ukraine is S. 2828 so, regardless of the many hurdles faced this year to secure enactment of critical legislation, the UABA and anyone interested in American global interests should be making members of the Senate and the House of Representatives know passage of legislation like S. 2828 is important, needed and of vital interest to American voters.  These sentiments, this message can provide an important indeed necessary, backdrop of support for senators and House Members to act on behalf of Ukraine.  There is broad support in Congress for Ukraine and to counter the Russian problem.  But in the broad agenda of issues to be addressed, Congress needs to know it has support to make Ukraine a priority, that there is public support for making Ukraine an item to be addressed now.  Your demonstrated support for S.2828 can add pressure to cloakroom deals benefiting Ukraine via other legislation.

    Whatever you can do – letters, faxes, phone calls, speaking up at forums during Thanksgiving – anything and everything should be done now and should continue until enactment – momentum must build, voices must be heard.

    The Bear is stalking Ukraine.  The Bear is turning international order on its head.  Through Congress we must force the Ostrich’s head out of the sand and demand that it defend American interests starting in Ukraine.  

  • 15 Nov 2014 12:57 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

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    Nov 13-16, 2014
    Washington, DC 20008



    President of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, congressionally supported grant-making institution with the mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.

    For additional biographical information click here

     Follow the UABA on FACEBOOK!




    Remarks to the Ukrainian American Bar Association

    November 15, 2014        Washington, D.C.

    There are two important post-communist anniversaries this week.  The first is on Monday, November 17 - the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, on which occasion a bust of Vaclav Havel will be unveiled in the U.S. Capitol.  The second, just as important but probably less noticed, is the first anniversary of the Maidan Uprising  in Ukraine, which occurs next Friday, November 21.  It’s hard to believe that so much has happened in less than one year: the EuroMaidan uprising, the sustained protests in sub-freezing temperatures against the corruption of the Yanukovych government, the repression, the martyrs, the fall of Yanukovych, then the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, and now Russia’s continuing aggression in eastern Ukraine.  These have been world transforming events, and they’re continuing to this day, with consequences that go far beyond Ukraine.

    A new Ukraine has emerged from all of this turmoil and struggle.  It’s a more unified country than ever before, with a much stronger sense of national identity.  I was speaking over dinner with Professor Volodymyr Vassylenko, who said that Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine’s national identity.  But in an ironic way, it is because of Ukraine’s struggle, and therefore also because of Putin and Yanukovych, that Ukraine has  become a new country, a unitary state where language and other divisions are no longer as difficult as they once were; a country that wants to become a modern, European state with democracy and the rule of law.

    I was in Ukraine last May for a solidarity conference of intellectuals organized by Professor Timothy Snyder and Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic. There was a session bringing together religious leaders from all different faiths – Greek and Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews.  There was also a panel of seven Jewish leaders.  Everyone there was speaking as a Ukrainian.  This could never have happened before, and it’s happened because of the Maidan and the Russian aggression against the uprising and against Ukraine itself.

    The Maidan uprising was a profoundly democratic event, with the protesters embracing a concept of democratic citizenship involving individual responsibility to uphold democratic values and to serve the larger community.  Ukraine took another step towards democracy on October 26 when it held parliamentary elections.  NED’s Nadia Diuk, who is with us tonight, was there as an election observer.  She reported afterwards that one of the most significant things that happened in the elections was that civil-society activists, journalists and other leaders from the Maidan entered politics for the first time.  The decision by these activists and journalists to run for parliament was not an easy one because politics and politicians have such a bad reputation in Ukraine - for good reason since it’s considered a dirty business. But they knew that they could not defend the revolution and achieve the reforms contained in the Reanimation Reforms Package initiative if they did not make the jump from civic activism to politics.  They simply had done as much as they could do as civic activists and had to take responsibility for governance.  This is something that the protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square could not do, which is why in the end Egypt’s revolution fared so badly.

    And so activists like the journalist Mustafa Nayyem, whose Facebook post launched the Maidan protests,  made the difficult decision to move from protest to politics. And I think Ukraine will benefit as a result.  I’m happy to announce that on December 9 three of the Maidan activists who were elected to the new parliament will be honored at a dinner in Washington of the National Democratic Institute, one of NED’s four core institute which is chaired by Madeleine Albright and has been very active in Ukraine. The three are Serhiy Leshchenko, the investigative journalist who took a leave from his Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED to return to Kyiv when the Maidan protests erupted last November; Hanna Hopko, an ecology advocate and journalist; and Oleksandr Solontay, a political analyst and civic educator.

    The entry of such people into politics is extremely important since there is now an urgent need to implement real reforms.  Anders Aslund, a leading specialist on postcommunist economic transition, has described the current economic situation in Ukraine as “desperate, though not hopeless.”  He has written that the economy is on the verge of a meltdown, with the GDP plummeting by 8 percent this year – 10 percent according to The Economist - and the budget deficit rising to 12 percent of GDP. The value of the hryvnia has fallen by half  and is  likely to fall much more. Inflation for this year will reach 24 percent, and of course the war in the east has caused billions of dollars in damage.

    In a policy brief published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Aslund offers “An Economic Strategy to Save Ukraine.” Among its key points are that the reformist forces that won the parliamentary elections need to agree as soon as possible on the formation of a highly competent coalition government, which then will launch the  kind of radical reforms contained in the Reanimation Package. These include cleaning up the government from the top down, including the purge of corrupt officials from the old regime,  especially in the judiciary and police; abolishing the legal immunity of parliamentarians so that they can be  held accountable; closing or merging superfluous or even harmful state agencies, and laying off excess staff while raising salaries and qualifications; cutting public expenditures by one-tenth of GDP in the next year; and reducing energy subsidies by unifying energy prices - meaning putting an end to the trading of gas between low state-controlled prices and high market prices - which Aslund calls “the main mechanism of corruption” in Ukraine. 

    In addition to implementing radical reforms, Ukraine will need much more financial support than it has received to date from the IMF and other international financial institutions – not in the form of credits, which Ukraine won’t be able to repay as the economy is collapsing – but as aid to rebuild its economy.  What’s needed, according to Aslund, is a new Marshall Plan to save Ukraine, just as the United States saved Europe after World War Two.  And it can work, because Ukraine is now ready to do what has to be done to control corruption and become a modern state.

    The challenge confronting Ukraine is more difficult than the one faced by post-war Europe because it needs to rebuild economically while the war is still going on – in this case, the war caused by Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine’s east.  Ukraine is now fighting a war of survival against a very brutal, dangerous, and powerful enemy.  NATO Commanding General Philip Breedlove said on Wednesday that Russian forces have again crossed the border into south east Ukraine with tanks, artillery and troops.   He charged that Putin is ignoring last September’s Minsk peace accords calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region, but as The Economist reports in the current issue, Putin claims he doesn’t have to do so since Russia has no troops in Ukraine in the first place. Of course he’s lying, but the West, Breedlove aside, is not calling him on it.  The Economist notes that Putin’s standard operating procedure is to escalate the conflict and then agree to go no further in exchange for concessions, and he has been getting away with it.  It quotes Kirill Rogov, a Russian political analyst at the Gaidar Institute in Moscow, as saying that “Putin likes to open talks by putting a knife on the table first.”  Yet somehow we continue to think that Putin is a potential partner in securing a more peaceful world order.   

    But of course he’s not a partner.  The German government has called the latest Russian move “incomprehensible,” but it’s perfectly comprehensible if one just observes Russian behavior. And the new foreign policy chief of the European Union, Federica Mogherini of Italy, has said that we can’t let the peace process break down because it will be so difficult to start it again.  But what peace process is she speaking about?  The Wall Street Journal said yesterday that “Putin has never stood down” – not in Chechnya in 1999 when he used the Chechen war to take power; not in Georgia in 2008; and not in 2012, when he whipped up anti-Americanism and domestic repression to crush anti-government street protests.  He will stand down only if and when he is forced to stand down.

    No, he’s not a partner in peace or in negotiations, and he has demonstrated a seething anti-Americanism.  Here’s how The Washington Post characterized his recent speech in Valdai.  They called it a poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled threats of further aggression and, above all, seething resentment toward the United States.”

    Now he’s gone even further with his endorsement of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.  What can this mean?  Tim Snyder’s answer is that Putin is following Stalin: “In his own way, Putin is now attempting much the same thing. Just as Stalin sought to turn the most radical of European forces, Adolf Hitler, against Europe itself, so Putin is allying with his grab bag of anti-European populists, fascists, and separatists. His allies on the far right are precisely the political forces that wish to bring an end to the current European order: the European Union.”

    What are we to do?  More important, really the first question, is what are we dealing with here?  If Putin’s Russia is not a partner, then what is it? And if it is an adversary, or an opponent, or even an enemy – which is certainly how Putin views it – how does this affect us?

    I suggest that Putin seeks a different kind of world order than the one that followed the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, which he said was “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th Century.”  That’s why he “drove a tank over the world order” as The Economist put it last March after the invasion and annexation of Crimea: He thinks the current world order represents a grave injustice to Russia.  He is seeking to reverse the verdict of 1989, which he considers to be an unjust and humiliating defeat for Russia.

    The Russian analyst Lilia Shevtsova, who delivered the NED’s annual Lipset Lecture on Democracy last month at the Canadian Embassy, has said that the world is in the midst of an authoritarian surge. She adds that “Today’s Russia is an advance combat unit of the new global authoritarianism, with China…waiting in the wings to seize its own opportunities.” She warns that if the West chooses to respond with appeasement, “this will give a green light to the Authoritarian Internationale, signaling that the  West is weak and can be trampled underfoot.”  As The Wall Street Journal said yesterday, it will certainly open the way for Putin to threaten and attack other countries aside from Ukraine – Moldova, the Baltic states, Poland, and Kazakhstan.

    Should this matter to the United States?  Are our own interests involved, leaving aside those of Ukraine and our allies?  Why should we care?  I raised this question at a forum we organized the day following Lilia Shevtsova’s lecture.  A member of the panel, Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute, responded that Russia is a country with 1,700 nuclear missiles and is now in the grip of a leader with a messianic, revanchist ideology and historic grievances against the United States.  Shouldn’t that matter to us? If Putin wants to destroy NATO and the EU, shouldn’t we care?  Have we no sense of what our national interest is and what we must do to defend it? 

    We are entering a new moment in our politics.  After last week’s election, we can expect a much tougher tone in the debate in Congress over foreign policy, and more pressure for a stronger response than we’ve seen so far to Putin’s aggression.  There will certainly be an effort to expand sanctions to sharpen the economic crisis that is growing in Russia.  The ruble has fallen by 22 percent so far this year, a rate of decline second only to Argentina.  The drop in oil prices, the outflow of capital that could exceed $100 billion this year, the inflation in food prices caused by Putin’s retaliatory embargo on agricultural imports from the West – all of this will contribute to Russia’s severe economic difficulties and present new opportunities to increase pressure on Russia by tightening sanctions.

    But what is most urgent, as Senators Carl Levin and Jim Inhofe wrote in The Washington Post last month, is the need to give Ukraine the weapons it needs to defend itself.  They don’t want U.S. boots on the ground, but blankets and foods rations are hardly enough, as President Poroshenko told the Congress in September.  What they need is what was provided for in the bill adopted with bipartisan and unanimous support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: anti-tank weapons to defend against Russian-provided armored personnel carriers; ammunition; vehicles and secure communications equipment; and intelligence support and training.

    Key leaders in the U.S. and Europe have said that they oppose weapons for Ukraine because they fear that an armed Ukraine might think that there is a military solution to the conflict.  Unfortunately, as The Washington Post has repeatedly pointed out, Mr. Putin does not agree that there is no military solution.  He has used military escalation to achieve his victory in the form of a dissected Ukraine and a frozen conflict that will destabilize Ukraine for the foreseeable future and deny it membership in the European Union and NATO.  Military aid to Ukraine may not by itself bring the conflict to an end, but no political solution will be possible in the absence of a military balance that convinces Putin that his aggression will meet with stiff resistance and will not be able to succeed.

    If he does fail, the consequences for Putin could be severe.  Clearly he hopes that the invasion and annexation of Crimea and the attack on eastern Ukraine will help him gain support in Russia and resist pressures for change.  He’s not the first Russian leader to think that way.  In 1904, the czarist interior minister Vyacheslav Plehve said, “What this country needs is a short victorious war to stem the tide of revolution.”  He had in mind Russia’s war against Japan.  But what happened? Plehve was assassinated, Russia lost the war, and the defeat precipitated the revolution of 1905, which brought about Russia’s first parliament and the reforms of Pyotr Stolypin.  According to both the Russian analyst Vladimir Kara Murza and the Georgian writer Ghia Nodia, this was not the only case of a Russian military defeat or setback leading to political change.  They note that Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War of 1853-1856 demonstrated the backwardness of its autocratic system and led to the abolition of serfdom and other liberal reforms, including the establishment of local self-government and trial by jury.  Russia’s devastating setbacks in World War I contributed to the collapse of the czarist system and the Russia Revolution of 1917, which began as a democratic revolution before the Bolshevik coup.  And the failed Soviet invasion of Afghanistan precipitated the disintegration of the Soviet Union.  Putin may yet regret the day he decided to send troops into Ukraine.

    But many people think who argue that the fall of Putin would itself present a great danger because he will likely be replaced by someone even worse.  They say that Russia, with its autocratic history and authoritarian culture, is not capable of establishing a real democracy. But is that true?

    I asked that question to my friend Vladimir Kara Murza, who now works in Moscow for Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia, which seeks a democratic opening and a European future for Russia.  Kara Murza responded by saying that anti-democratic forces have always done badly in Russian elections whenever they were free and competitive.  The first-ever election was in 1906, when the Constitutional Democratic Party, which had campaigned for liberal reforms and a British-style parliamentary system, won a plurality of seats in the State Duma, while the far-right monarchists failed to get even a single candidate elected.  In 1917, in the election for the Constituent Assembly held after the Bolshevik coup, the Bolsheviks lost to the pro-democracy Socialist Revolutionary Party by 40 to 24 percent, which is why the Bolsheviks then dispersed the “bourgeois” Assembly by force.  The next time the Russians had a chance to vote, according to Kara Murza, was in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin, backed by the opposition Democratic Russia movement, overwhelmingly defeated the Communist candidate, former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov, by 57 to 17 percent.  Even in the 1993 parliamentary elections, when ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky won a plurality, the centrist and liberal parties out-polled the combined total received by Zhirinovsky and the Communists by 40 to 35 percent.  And in 1996, even though Yeltsin was an unpopular incumbent and in poor health, he was able to defeat the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov by 54 to 40 percent in the second-round presidential runoff. 

    I am by no means saying that democracy is inevitable in Russia, only that it is possible, and that one should not resign oneself to Putin’s continued rule on  the grounds that the only possible alternative to him would be worse.  I believe that Putin does not feel secure in his power, and that the greatest threat to autocracy in Russia is a successful and a democratic Ukraine.  This is what Putin fears most, because the mentality of Russian imperialism that Putin represents will wither if Russia cannot control Ukraine. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has said, and it can become a more normal country, even a democracy, where the central concern is not the power of Great Russia but the welfare of the people. 

    Putin also fears a democratic Ukraine because it will be a powerful model for Russia itself.  He knows that a neighboring Ukraine, with millions of Russian-speaking people freely expressing themselves, will be a magnetic symbol of democratic freedoms for people inside Russia.

    So the strategic goal for people who want to see a more peaceful and democratic world is a Russia that, like Ukraine, wants to be democratic and a part of Europe.  I don’t know if that will happen.  But I do know that a successful and democratic Ukraine is a precondition for it to happen.  Therefore, Ukraine’s struggle for democracy, independence, and territorial integrity has global significance.  It’s a struggle that will  have consequences for the whole world.  And I believe that the U.S. has a profound national interest in its success.  So we must stand with Ukraine, not just because it deserves our support, but to defend our values and our national security.

    In conclusion, I want to refer back to the October 26 election and to the thought that Ukraine is a new country.  As I mentioned, Nadia Diuk was there as an observer, in Dnipropetrovsk, which used to be a center for Soviet missile production.  She wrote afterwards that she saw signs of a different country and a new patriotism all about her, in political graffiti and in walls and fences painted yellow and blue.  She said that on her return plane trip to Kyiv from Dnipropetrovsk, the steward made the usual announcements before landing, saying that the passengers should make sure to take all of your personal belongings.”  And then he ended with the phrase that was as unusual as it was expressive of the new spirit of the country, and it’s how I want to end tonight: “Slava Ukraini!” – Glory to Ukraine.  Thank you very much.


  • 20 Sep 2014 5:03 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

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    COMMENTARY:  September 20, 2014

    Ukraine to the US: "Live free or die!"

    The US to Ukraine: "Do the best you can!"

                   On September 18, 2014, I had the honor and privilege [at the invitation of Congressman Bill Pascrell. (D-NJ), a strong supporter of Ukraine] to personally witness a truly historic event - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addressing a joint session of Congress.  President Poroshenko's speech was very eloquent and emotionally charged, but laser focused on the realities of Ukraine's present geopolitical situation.  His oration garnered many a standing ovation from members of the House and Senate. His speech emphasized that Russia's war against Ukraine is not only a local war of aggression, but, if this unprovoked hostility in violation of international norms is not contained and reversed now, it will infect Europe in the future with bloodshed and will ultimately militarily engage the United States, thus, returning the world to the dangerous [and possibly] nuclear bipolar political and military stance that existed in the previous century.  In President Poroshenko's words  "It is Europe’s, and it is America’s war, too. It is a war of the free world – and for a free world!.... To prevent this, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are in the line of fire right now".

                   The Ukrainian President pointed out that in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Ukraine voluntarily surrendered the 3rd largest nuclear arsenal in the world.  In return, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China and the United States agreed, jointly and severally, to assure Ukraine's economic, political independence and territorial integrity.  In the past year, Russia breached this international agreement in a blatant and violent manner.  It first invaded and annexed Crimea, and then instigated an insurrection in Eastern Ukraine by alleged separatists/terrorists that were guided and supported by Russian troops, which hostilities are in reality an invasion and violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity.  During the course of this Kremlin inspired "insurrection", 298 lives were lost in the downing of Malaysian flight 17 by Russian equipped terrorists.  President Poroshenko emphasized that "the United States made a commitment that it would stand behind Ukraine’s territorial integrity – and we hope that it will live up to that promise."

                   The Ukrainian President's speech ended with an emotional appeal to America. He said:
    “Live free or die!” – was one of the mottos of the American Revolutionary War.
    “Live free or die!” – was the spirit on the revolutionary Maidan during the dramatic winter months of 2014.
    “Live free or die!” are the words of Ukrainian soldiers standing on the line of freedom in this war.
    “Live free!” – must be the answer, with which Ukraine comes out of this war.
    “Live free!” – must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world, while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.

                   The question arose in my mind: So what has been the reaction of the United States to date and what will be its future response to Russia's blatant invasion of Ukraine and Moscow's overt violation of the Budapest Memorandum?  And how would the American President react to Ukraine's impassioned plea for military aid?

                   Needless to say, the initial response to Russia's invasion were numerous verbal condemnations of the Kremlin's actions which resounded vociferously throughout the world.  All civilized nations deplored this blatant and callous undermining of the basic principles of international law that were the cornerstone of the peace and stability on the European continent for 70 years after World War II.  As a stern scolding of Russia, the United States and the EU instituted a variety of economic sanctions on an escalating basis.  It is true that these economic sanctions have had a negative effect on Russia's economy, but it has not stopped the Kremlin's aggression [much less reversed it] and Putin has doubled down even further on his bellicose rhetoric and actions.  The United States had also pledged nonlethal military support to Ukraine such as food rations and blankets for the Ukrainian Armed Forces; a poorly prepared military which is defending Ukraine from the onslaught of a well-equipped, fully armed Russian fighting apparatus [much of whose weaponry was purchased by Russia from the West].  Ukrainian President Poroshenko acknowledged and appreciated this American non-lethal assistance for Ukraine but stated Ukraine's soldiers in the field ".. need more military equipment – both non-lethal and lethal. Blankets and night-vision goggles are important but one cannot win the war with blankets    Even more, we cannot keep the peace with a blanket."

                   Recently, the American Congress initiated legislation that would give President Obama the authority to grant lethal and nonlethal military aid to Ukraine.  The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 sailed through the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate with unanimous bipartisan vote in short order.  Similar bills were introduced in the House: H.R. 5241 "Crimea Annexation Non-Recognition Act" which prohibits any recognition of the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation; H.R. 5190, the Ukraine Security Assistance Act of 2014, authorizes  the President to give military assistance to Ukraine and the designation of Ukraine as a Major non-NATO Ally (MNNA).  Hopefully, Congress will act upon this legislation in a timely manner since time is of the essence for Ukraine.

                   After his speech, President Poroshenko ceremoniously met with American President Obama at the White House only to get additional verbal assurances and pontifical statements of solidarity – but no lethal military assistance nor MNNA status.  Apparently, the core foreign policy principle of the United States towards Ukraine [as expressed by President Obama at a fundraiser earlier this month] is that since the US "does very little trade with Ukraine, what happens to Ukraine doesn't pose a direct threat to America."  In essence, money trumps all!  Is that what "live free or die" means?  Is that one of the founding principles of our democratic society?  This ill-founded foreign-policy position is grossly naïve at best and is grounded on a systemic lack of understanding of the historical realities of the existing world order, how it came to be, and inadvertently puts global stability into great jeopardy.  International agreements are not to be disregarded merely because there's no money in it - especially if they deal with nuclear nonproliferation.  What happened to our solemn pledges to uphold the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations as embodied in the UN charter, the Helsinki Accords, the Budapest Memorandum and a plethora of other international agreements?  America readily supplies lethal weapons worth billions of dollars to questionable allies in the Middle East.  We are ready to put "boots on the ground" to protect countries in that region, many of which have well-equipped armies of their own and the economic strength to fully support their own military, but these same countries do not put their citizenry's boots on the ground to defend their own territorial integrity from invasion.  We are asked to do it for them - and we have done that!  However, when it comes to Ukraine, which does not ask America to put our soldiers in the line of fire - Ukrainians already have their sons and daughters dying daily on the front lines - but asks only for adequate weapons so that Ukraine's sons and daughters can suitably defend themselves, America rebuffs Ukraine's dire requests with lame excuses.

                   The Obama Administration must seriously take a long hard look at itself and its foreign-policy and the image it portrays of the United States and of our core American principles to the rest of the world.  The Administration must recognize that its present anemic policy towards Ukraine jeopardizes our own country's national security in the future.  Regrettably, the Administration's actions to date have given the green light to despots in other countries [ i.e. Putin] to ignore international norms and freely grab territory by unprovoked surreptitious warfare.  These dictators only need to make an economic calculation as to whether they can withstand the financial price of a scolding by the West--and all international agreements, promises, and pledges they signed don't matter.  International politics and world law and order should not be all about money.  In the long run, the present American myopic foreign policy towards Ukraine will unwittingly create a conflagration on the European continent in which our children or grandchildren will be putting their "boots on the ground".  America can continue to give blankets to Ukrainian soldiers so they can be warm in the winter -- and also to use them to cover and bury their dead.  But, by failing to give Ukrainians the necessary means to defend themselves, we, as a country, are telling Ukraine "Do the best you can!".   And that is simply the wrong message!  It does not reflect the principles of freedom upon which this country was created.  We Americans should and must do much, much more to aid Ukraine and to reestablish the primacy of the principles that we claim are our core values - and that our promises mean something.

    The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author
    Myroslaw Smorodsky, Esq.
    Communications Director of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA)
    Tel: 201-507-4500; Email;
    myroslaw@smorodsky.com; Website; www.smorodsky.com


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