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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.

  • 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
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuh_vfr4IU8&t=103s

    Video: Sen. Marco Rubio questions Rex Tillerson
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X38k0cND64

    Video:  Full examination of Rex Tillerson
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgXz8W9tHwo&t=85s


  • 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


  • 10 Jan 2017 11:58 AM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Chrystia Freeland will be appointed Canada's new foreign affairs minister in a sweeping Liberal cabinet shakeup to be announced later today, CBC News has learned.

    Freeland will replace Stéphane Dion, who is leaving politics to take a diplomatic post.

    http://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/politics/chrystia-freeland-becomes-foreign-minister-as-trudeau-shuffles-cabinet/ar-BBy7gfZ?ocid=se

  • 10 Jan 2017 8:50 AM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Keep America’s Word Again—and Protect Ukraine

    Clinton made assurances when Kiev gave up nukes. Then Obama broke faith. Trump can restore it.

    ROBERT MCCONNELL

    Wall Street Journal  Opinion/Commentary 

    Does “making America great again” include living up to the country’s commitments to other nations? Senators should put that question to Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson at his confirmation hearing Wednesday—especially with regard to Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear weapons in the 1990s in exchange for assurances that the U.S. has failed to meet.

    More than 90% of Ukrainians voted for independence in a December 1991 referendum; it was the only former Soviet republic to condition its independence on a vote of its citizens. Independence would have left Ukraine with the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, but leaders in Kiev did not wish to be a nuclear-armed state. The parliamentary declaration of independence, which the voters approved, included a provision that Ukraine would be “nuclear free.” Thus the people of Ukraine voted for a nuclear-free state.

    In several little-known 1992 meetings in Washington, Ukraine expressed its desire to turn over its nuclear arsenal to the U.S. But the State Department took the position that Ukraine must ship its weapons to Russia, the last country Ukraine wanted to arm. Given no alternative, Ukraine sought security guarantees.

    Presidents Bill Clinton,Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk signed the January 1994 U.S.-Russia-Ukraine Trilateral Statement and Annex, which set the framework for protecting Ukraine’s security in exchange for its surrendering its arsenal. Negotiations continued throughout that year. Ukraine did not easily deliver its nuclear weapons to a state it feared would turn aggressive against it.

    In December 1994, Ukraine acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state, and the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. The three other signatories promised to respect the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine and to refrain from threatening or using force or economic coercion against Ukraine’s territory or political independence.

    The assurances were tested in 1995. Yuriy Meshkov, a Russian-backed official in Crimea, took over the regional government and sought to establish independent Crimean representation in Washington. Mr. Clinton called Boris Yeltsin and—citing the Helsinki Final Act, the United Nations Charter, the Trilateral Agreement of January 1994 and the Budapest Memorandum—said the takeover in Crimea could not stand.

    Mr. Clinton also sent the U.S. ambassador to Kiev, William Miller, to the Crimean capital of Simferopol to tell Mr. Meshkov the U.S. would not recognize his actions, and to the port city of Sevastopol with the same message for Adm. Eduard Baltin, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Yeltsin withdrew support and Mr. Meshkov’s “government” collapsed. In 1995 Washington kept its word to Ukraine.

    But in 2014 Russia invaded Crimea, which it continues to occupy. Moscow instigated and has supported military aggression against Ukraine’s Donbas region. More than 10,000 Ukrainians have been killed and many more thousands wounded; over a million have been displaced. Curiously, Mr. Clinton has not spoken about the promises of the Budapest Memorandum. Russia fosters subversive efforts throughout Ukraine and its propaganda machine misrepresents reality undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty—the sovereignty the U.S. promised to protect.America eventually imposed sanctions and has provided supplies—non-lethal support—and loan guarantees, among other assistance.

     But the help has been far from sufficient to turn back Russian aggression. The U.S. has urged but not participated directly in the Minsk agreements, an attempt to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.

    But there is no need for Minsk. The American government should acknowledge Russia’s clear violations of international law, the Trilateral Agreement and the Budapest Memorandum and honor America’s assurance of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

    It has been said the Budapest Memorandum’s “assurances” are not “guarantees.” That argument should be beneath a great nation. If “assurances” are not “guarantees,” what are they? What was President Clinton committing to on behalf of the United States? Was Ukraine misled? During negotiations the Ukrainian translator, Walter Sulzysnky, made clear to the other parties that in Ukrainian there is no translatable distinction between “assurance” and “guarantee.” Everyone knew the Ukrainians understood “assurances” as “guarantees.”

    Congress has repeatedly passed legislation giving the president authority to be far more supportive of Ukraine than the Obama administration has been willing to be. President-elect Trump and Secretary-designate Tillerson have an opportunity, and an obligation, to live up to the U.S. commitments to Ukraine—to keep America’s word again.

    —Mr. McConnell, co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, served as assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration.


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