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  • 13 Jan 2018 5:11 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    L'VIV SECURITY FORUM
    Reception Dinner
    28 November 2017 L'viv, Ukraine
    Victor Rud
     (text reconstructed from notes at the time)
    "WHY PUTIN LIKES THE WEST"

    Click Here to View Article in PDF Format

    Sincere thanks to the Co-Chairs of this upcoming Forum, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Parliament, Oksana Syroyid and L'viv Mayor Andriy Sadovyy.  Sincere thanks, as well, to the Forum sponsors, partners, organizers and contributors, and to the hosts of this dinner, Mr. Sadovyy and the Prosvita Institute. And much appreciation for the tremendous work done by Mrs. Marta Suprun and her colleagues in pulling all this together.  She, I know, has been in touch with all of us in her remarkably efficient and always gracious manner.

                   Allow me to make two observations before I turn to my remarks. The Mission statement of the Forum's website asks that we be honest and direct.  And so, although I do not wish to appear overly harsh in my observations, nevertheless I am obliged to be frank and open.  Otherwise, why have a conference such as this at all?  Also, I want to emphasize that when I speak about the "West", or use the term "we", I do not at all include the people in this room who are not from Ukraine, and who know and understand far more than the general citizenry of the countries that they represent.  They and their institutions have labored tremendously on the very issues that we are so concerned about, and deserve much credit.

                   "Why Putin Likes the West" may seem to be an anomalous title for my remarks.  After all, what we incessantly hear is that Putin is blaming the West for everything.  We hear about Russia's "lost pride," that it is "humiliated," "embittered," "insulted," "lost," "confused."  One of the advisors to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the last presidential campaign said, "Putin has been trying hard to find love, appreciation and recognition."

                   The demonstrable facts are opposite.  Fiona Hill is formerly from the Brookings Institution, a well-recognized think tank in Washington, and is now with the National Security Council in the White House. She is recognized in many circles as a Russia and Putin expert. A few years ago, she wrote a book about Putin where she said that Putin is "unable to understand the mindset of Americans and Europeans and their political dynamics."

                   For someone who doesn't understand us, however, Putin has done quite well. Let's just take one example. We have his money in our bank.  We hold the key. Yet he brazenly expands his aggression.  Russia--one country--taunts, menaces, intimidates, and threatens with nuclear war the collective of Western democracy.  And Putin doesn't in the least feel that his money is at risk. Why not? Where does he get his self-assurance from?  We gave it to him.

                   Putin is not brilliant. But he knows and understand very well the hundred-year history of relations with the West. He has identified patterns of Western behavior, thinking and emotions that are clear, predictable, and reliable.  His conclusions, based on those patterns, are also themselves predictable.  He sees repeated strategic blunders by the West, squandered opportunities, and an inability and absence of political will to think and act strategically, in an affirmative, and not a reactive, manner. But how can this possibly be the case if, as we tell ourselves, it was the West that "won the Cold War"? We'll return to that question later.

                   What is the history that Putin sees? In 1918, Ukraine declared independence, was recognized by Lenin and was promptly invaded. Ukraine turned to the West, requesting aid in the form of surplus WWI equipment and medication. Ukraine was denied. Ukraine warned that in a generation the West would be confronted directly by Russia. Ukraine was ignored. Moscow of course conquered and occupied Ukraine, and its control of Ukraine was pivotal to the formation and viability of the Soviet Union.

                   In 1933, the United States extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union at the same time that Moscow was using starvation to break the back of Ukrainian resistance, thereby ensuring the regime's survival. In the eyes of the world, recognition represented America's legitimization, acceptance and approval of Stalin's murderous regime. Furthermore, this was legitimization, acceptance and approval by America, the devil of the capitalist world, the intended victim of the very regime that had declared itself the leader in the world campaign to destroy capitalist America.  How should Putin assess our strategic sense?

                   In World War II, the West liberated Europe, but only part of it. We facilitated one tyrant, Hitler's partner, replacing the other.  The West in effect measured the dimensions of the Iron Curtain.  America's Lend/Lease program delivered to the Kremlin far more equipment and material, both in type and quantity, than necessary for military needs. Unfortunately, Moscow used the "Made in America" label to crush the underground resistance movements in Ukraine and in the Baltics, and also the uprisings in the GULag in the early 1950's.

                   From the late 1940's and for 40 years, the West--essentially the United States--pursued a policy of containment, seeking to contain Soviet expansionism. Containment, however, did not contain.  Compare the relative position of the United States and the Soviet Union after WWII, and then 40 years later.  For all the treasure spent and precious lives lost on "containment", there was a dramatic shift, with the Soviet Union massively increasing its global influence and military capacity as America retreated.

                   The problem with containment was that it was exclusively reactive, with no sense of the West undertaking any affirmative measures to bring about the dissolution of the USSR.  We surrendered situational control to the Kremlin. We concluded that the only way to deal with a pyromaniac was to build a very expensive, very large and very mobile fire department that would run around the world, putting out fires that were set by the Kremlin, at its choice of time, place and intensity.  Containment was based on hope.  But if hope is not a policy or strategy for the stock market, how can it be the basis for national security?  Not surprisingly, the prominent American journalist at the time, Walter Lippmann, described containment not as a strategy, but as a "strategic monstrosity."

                   But containment's most fundamental flaw was that it didn't recognize, in the least, the multi-national structure of the Soviet Union, that it was a colonial empire.  Containment perpetuated the "Russia"/"Soviet Union" equivalence that distorted Western thinking from the very first days of the Soviet Union. This was a massive and continuing blunder, one that helped Moscow's repression of the submerged nations of the Soviet Union.  Today, a full generation after the fall of the USSR precisely because it was not simply "Russia," US government officials at the very highest levels often repeat that same "Russia"/"Soviet Union" equivalence.

               The Reagan Administration broke the mold, and went beyond the purely reactive restrictions of containment.  He undertook affirmative measures to cause the dissolution of the USSR.  After the election of George Bush, Sr., however, the US reversed.  Astonishingly, we worked to preserve the USSR intact. Jack Matlock, the US ambassador to the Soviet Union at the time, said directly: "The common assumption that the West forced the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus won the Cold War is wrong. The breakup of the USSR into 15 separate countries was not something the United States caused or wanted."  As we know, Ukraine ignored Washington, declared independence, and the rest is history. So, if "winning the Cold War" meant the collapse of the Soviet Union, did that occur because of, or in spite of, America's containment policy?

                   What happened after the fall of the USSR? We never implemented or even conceived of establishing a "Marshall Plan" to secure the independence and security of the former captive nations as a bulwark against Russia. We did not do what we did with the Marshall Plan in Europe in WWII, even though the necessity for doing so after the fall of the Soviet Union was ten times greater.  Unlike the devastated economy and military capacity of Germany, the Soviet economy, though in poor shape, was intact. And its military capability was very much intact as well. But most critically, while Germany came to terms with its past, and admitted, apologized for its crimes, Moscow accelerated in the opposite direction.  It celebrates its crimes.

                   Why were we so passive? Because, again, we simply "hoped" that things would change.  How, why? What, exactly, did we think the millions in the KGB, in the nomenklatura, would do, where would they go?  They would somehow become democrats overnight?  Why? How? What about the secret people making secret poisons in secret laboratories in secret cities?  How could we possibly consider that that vast repressive system, with such a bloody history, would simply suddenly change.  Again, we simply "hoped" that it would. This total lack of responsibility by Western democracies for their very own security, the passivity and refusal to face reality and anticipate the future, is startling.  Unfortunately, it was not the first time.

                   History is another name for experience, and experience is another name for a book of lessons.  What lessons does Putin draw from all this?  His first conclusion is that the West itself has learned no lasting lessons.  We have not learned from our experience, and therefore have no predictive capacity.  Our experience was never sufficiently painful to leave a lasting imprint on our societal memory or political institutions.  Thus, for example, President Obama came into office wholly innocent about Moscow, but at the end he was hopefully at least somewhat more aware. But the revolving door in politics preventing the solidification of lessons to be learned. What conclusions do we expect Putin to reach?     

                   Furthermore, Putin knows that we don't have any understanding that Russia is a predator state.  We have no conception of the Soviet system, and cannot grasp the significance of Putin's background, his resurrection of Stalin, and its implications for the West.  We don't bat an eyelash over the fact that there is a "KGB Bar" in New York City, or that Jay Kearney, President Obama's press secretary, has Soviet propaganda posters in his home, and splashed on the pages of a major Washington magazine with no objection by anyone.

                   In 1999, Putin celebrated Stalin's birthday. In that year, we also saw the Moscow's false flag operations in the Moscow apartment bombings, serving as a pretext for Moscow war against Chechnya.   His so-called Millennium Speech at the end of that year was an unmistakable blueprint for his future.  Only months later, in 2000, Condoleezza Rice was asked at a conference in the US what was the key issue that would indicate to her what kind of person Putin was, if he would be the kind of person that the US "could work with". She replied that it would depend on what kind of tax reforms he would undertake.

                   Later that year, we saw no significance in Putin's celebration of Felix Dzerzhinsky's birthday, the notorious founder of the Cheka, precursor to the NKVD and KGB.  And that was on 9/11, the day of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers.  In February 2002, at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, Putin, in his typically probing manner, tested a "light" version of Soviet symbolism. No reaction by the West. In the following year, in 2003, Michael McFaul, President Obama's future ambassador to Russia, published a book predicting that Russia was no longer a threat to the West. By April 2005, when Putin lamented that the fall of the Soviet Union as a "tragedy", he had already for six years been celebrating its bloody past.  The West ignored it all.  Today, Che Guevara remains a fashion statement.   

                   Putin sees the West in a historically self-imposed requirement "not to offend" or "not to antagonize the Russians."  On July 2, 1934, the British Foreign Office received an inquiry from the House of Commons about Moscow's starvation of Ukraine.  The internal memo circulated within the Foreign Office read: "We do not want to make it [information about the Ukrainian genocide] public, because the Soviet Government would resent it and our relations with them would be prejudiced. We cannot give this explanation in public."

                   George Orwell's Animal Farm was rejected by 14 publishers because they "didn't want to offend the Russians."

                   In the 1970's and 80's, Western intelligence knew that the Kremlin was organizing, directing and financing Middle East terrorism against the West under the name of "Arab Nationalism".  Later it also extended to terrorism by local actors in Germany, Italy and Ireland. Yet Western politicians wanted to keep this quiet, not wanting to "offend the Russians."

                   The United States, in particular, seems to be particularly compelled to "make nice."  "Can't we just get along and be friends?" President Truman is generally recognized as having been more hard headed than President Roosevelt, but even Truman wrote in his diary, after the war was over and when it was already clear that Stalin had deceived the West about Eastern Europe: "I'm not afraid of Russia.  They've always been our friends, and I don't see why they shouldn't always be . . . so let's just get along." The same approach we see repeated by Presidents Carter, Bush and Obama.  Only months after Putin invaded Georgia, President Obama initiated his infamous "reset" with Russia.  How can it be that it is we who made the overture to Putin, and not the other way around?

                   Putin sees us trying to transfer our commercial genetic code and our deal making culture to our relations with the Kremlin.  That does not work.  The words "stability" and "management" appear endlessly in Western writing and commentary about Russia.  That is what "doing business" requires.  But that has never been the way that the Kremlin operates.  It thrives, needs and therefore creates instability.  It is always on the offensive. It exerts a hydraulic pressure of pushing, accusing, blaming, distorting, demanding and attacking. Relentlessly. The West, on the other hand, is reactive only, perpetually responding from one crisis to another to another.  We are Pavlovian.  

                   And, of course, doing business means entering into agreements.  In our psyche, an agreement is a roadmap to resolving a problem. Agreements with Russia do work, but in the very opposite direction and with the opposite result that the agreements are meant to achieve. We scrupulously comply with agreements.  Russia scrupulously does not. Indeed, the one exception to our trying to superimpose our commercial heritage in dealing with Russia is that we tolerate and encourage the very kind of behavior that we would never tolerate in a business setting--endless breaches of agreements by the other side of the table.  The only exception to our lack of predictive capacity that I mentioned earlier is that we have superb predictive capacity about Moscow's breach of the very next agreement. Inexplicably, we simply ignore the breaches, always coming back for more. After WWII, the US was #1 in the world, the sole superpower, economically and militarily.  Only the US had the atomic bomb.  After forty years of containment and dozens of agreements with Moscow, what was the result?  The USSR immeasurably expanded its global influence, and its military/nuclear capacity had at least reached parity with the US.  So much for agreements.

                    And finally, there is the question of money. During the course of a century, Western democracies were the source of untold amounts in economic value to Moscow, whether in forms of credits, technology, know how, or other direct or indirect economic benefit. Without the West having economically propped up the Soviet Union it would have collapsed much, much earlier.  The other side of it is that today it is we who are captive to Russia's money, and not the other way around. In 2006, a British citizen was assassinated by a miniature nuclear device in the front yard of Buckingham Palace, so to speak.  Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, was the victim of nuclear warfare on British territory. What did three successive British Prime Ministers do?  Nothing. Russian money purchased London.

                   So, what are the consequences when the West has such a character profile? We are hugely susceptible to what I call "strategic deception".  George Orwell called it "reality control."  The late historian, Robert Conquest, was more direct and call it simply "mind slaughter."  When dezinformatsia, maskirovka, provokatsia, kompromat, agitatsia combine together and superimpose a total disorientation, a false perception, whether upon a person or upon an entire nation, it creates not just an alternative reality.  It creates total reality reversal.  It's doubly dangerous, because it's in our subconsciousness.  I sometimes give the example of your waking up in the middle of the night and finding yourself in the wilderness.  You look for the bright star in the sky, the North star, in order to get your bearings.  You see the star, or you think you do.  However, you do not realize that while you were asleep you were transported to the Southern Hemisphere. All of your decisions and actions are correct, based on the assumption of that bright star that you see is what you assume it is-- the North Star.  But it's not.  You wind up walking in the opposite direction. You don't even think about questioning the accuracy of the assumption because you're not even aware of it.

                   What is the first reality reversal that confronts us?  That Russia is merely being "defensive."  You've heard it all before, and I know that no one here shares that view.  Nevertheless, it remains an enormously powerful one, regardless of the fact that Russia's most recent intrusion into the electoral processes in Europe and the US.  You all know the litany--that Russia has "security needs," that it requires "spheres of influence," that it is "afraid of NATO encirclement", that it has "legitimate interests" and "historic claims," that it feels "victimized" by World War II, that it needs a "buffer," etc.

                   This is nothing new.  President Roosevelt assured us: "Stalin doesn't want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace."  That, obviously, was during the war. But after WWII, and similar to what President Truman had said, Secretary of State Dean Acheson added: "To have friendly governments along her borders is essential both for the security of the Soviet Union and the peace of the world."  

                   Much credit is due to Mitt Romney and his advisers, when during the first presidential debate with President Obama Romney identified Russia as America's primary geopolitical foe.  Unfortunately, Mr. Romney later wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal that America should give the Kremlin assurances that we wouldn't threaten Russia's influence in Kyiv. This is reality reversal.

                   "Russia's immense contribution in World War II is part of their proud history of standing up to imperialist powers."  This is in the introduction of an extended speech that US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, gave in January of this year.  I was pleased to hear that, in the balance of the speech, and after many years Ambassador Power had begun to understand some of the hard reality about Russia, but her statement at the beginning is inexcusable. In the 1890's, the Russian General Staff conducted a study of military campaigns between 1700 and 1870.  Russia waged thirty-eight wars. Two were defensive.  How else do you become the largest empire, and also the largest country, in the world, encompassing an entire one-third of Asia and much of the European sub-continent?  You do not do so by being "defensive."

                   When we participate in such reality reversal we become multipliers in the denial of history, in the denial of the victimization of entire nations, and in the applause of the perpetrator. Why don't they have the right to exist?  It is the victim nations that the Kremlin has persecuted for generations, and in many instances for centuries, that have the right to feel secure, who have "historic claims" against Russia, who need "spheres of influence," and who require a "buffer." And it was the failure of the West to recognize this that has led to the situation that now confronts us.  

                   Part of that same "defensive" deception is Russia's re-engineering of World War II. "Had it not been for the colossal sacrifices made by the Soviet Union in WWII--in which they lost more than 20 million people, many times more than any other nation, friend or foe--the war would have dragged on much longer."  Again, this is Ambassador Power speaking on that same occasion. And note that Power again equates "Russia" with the "Soviet Union," and even describes the Soviet Union as a "nation." It was not.  It was an empire.  A quarter of century after the fall of the USSR, far too many Western politician and commentator continue to speak and think in precisely the same terms.  This is inexcusable, and again illustrates that we have never grasped the very essence of the USSR, or the meaning of Putin's celebration of it.

                   As to World War II, itself, let's be clear that Stalin and Hitler were not simply allies.  They were equal partners, joint venturers.  When Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933, thanks to the Soviet Union the German armaments industry was already far along the path toward being rebuilt. Under the Treaty of Rapallo with Germany, in the 1920's Moscow provided critical resources for the rebuilding of Germany's military capability, much of it plundered, ironically, from Ukraine.  German military maneuvers took place on Soviet territory.  Tours of the growing GULag were provided. And this was at the same time that Western, particularly American, industrial assistance was flowing to the Soviet Union. How does Putin assess our strategic acumen?

                   How many decades have passed since the end of World War II?  Why don't we ever hear about Hitler's purpose for the war?  It was to colonize Ukraine. Only during this past summer did Yale's Professor Timothy Snyder address the German Bundestag reminding Germany of its history.  It's an astonishing distortion when Germany feels guilt about WWII and "Russland", when it was "Russland" that started the war together with Germany, and when it was not "Russland" but Ukraine that was Germany's target and greatest victim.  The number of Allied troops that invaded Normandy was 132,000.  The number of Wehrmacht and other troops that invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, was 3.2 million.  And that did not just include Germany troops, but Hungarian, Rumanian, Slovakian, Finnish, and Italian troops as well. Do we refer to those countries today as "Nazi"?  It's no wonder that Ukraine suffered more than any other country during World War II, whether measured in terms of loss of humanity or physical destruction.  Four times more Ukrainian civilians were killed in World War II than the combined military deaths of the United States, France, Italy, Great Britain, Canada. Millions more Ukrainians were killed serving in the military and taken as slave laborers to Germany.  Ukrainians are Nazis? It's another massive reality reversal, another strategic deception.

                   Yet another example in the strategic deception that Russia is merely being "defensive" is the drumbeat of NATO "encirclement". First, I suggest we look at a map. How many NATO countries border Russia? "Encirclement" is a geographic impossibility. And even if it were possible, we are to somehow feel guilty about it?  Second, Putin knows that NATO is defensive. He knows there that is no chance, whatsoever, that NATO will invade Russia.  Stalin knew about NATO and its purpose before it even formally existed. Third, we never exhibited the psychology of affirmative, "take the offensive" thinking about Russia during the last 100 years even where there was never any military component. Fourth, if there was ever a time for fear of an invasion, it was during WWII and immediately thereafter.  That never happened, and could not have, given the absence in the West of any understanding of Moscow's threat.  Fifth, how, exactly, will more than two dozen nations be coordinated?  For what purpose?  To achieve what?  Finally, for us to believe that "NATO encirclement" is something that Putin in fact fears would also require that we simply ignore the hard, demonstrable reality that he knows and understands our political dynamics better than we do.  He has proven that.  Does anyone here in the room really think that public panic (due to what, exactly?) in the West about Russia will rise to the level that it translates into political decisions for a coordinated military invasion of Russia? This is nonsense.  Putin and Lavrov may beat that drum for domestic and foreign consumption, but they know reality well enough.  So should we.

                   The second example of reality reversal is Western talk about "engaging" Russia in fighting ISIS.  Where is the logic of that, however, when the roots of ISIS and Al Qaeda reach back to the genetic code for "Arab nationalism" that the Kremlin created in the 1970's and '80's at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow and the surrounding KGB training camps?   Today, Moscow does not have to be directing or controlling ISIS. It simply receives the benefit of a weakened, disoriented, disheartened and dispirited West.  Furthermore, consider the "genius" that it took for Moscow to be able to turn the Middle East against the West a generation or more ago.  First, the Soviet Union was an atheistic state.  Second, it --and before that, the Russian Empire--had a violent history of suppressing the Muslim nations of the Caucasus and Central Asia. And yet the Kremlin prevailed, and a Nobel Prize was awarded to its creation, Yasser Arafat. Truly, a remarkable achievement.

                   Finally, Ukraine.  I know there are those present for whom Ukraine is not on the mental map as are other "traditional" countries of Europe, such as Poland or Italy, for example, even though Ukraine's now international recognized status is not questioned.  I will not get into the distortions of Russian historiography that were put in place in the 18th and 19th centuries, and will only mention that Russian historiographers who emigrated to the West after the Bolshevik coup d’état established the foundation of so- called "Russian studies" in the West.  Though the historiographers may not have been supportive of the Bolshevik regime, they nevertheless transplanted to the West the imperial history that they themselves fashioned and absorbed.

                   We've all heard the assertions: "Russia traces its 1000 year history to its beginnings in Kiev", "Ukraine is a historic part of Russia," "Kievan Russia was the beginning of modern Russia," "a thousand years of Russian Christianity." As a result, as Putin whispered in President Bush's ear, Ukraine does not exist. Neither did it for Hitler, who identified Ukrainians in the camps as either Russians or Poles.

                   So let's examine the reality reversal, the strategic deception that is grounded in the anomaly of the periphery of the Kyivan Rus' state, Russia, pre-empting and laying claim to the center, Kyiv.  And remember, at that time the amount of Russian territory that was part of the Kyivan Rus' empire was only some 3% or so of Russia that we know today. 

                   Firstly, I know of no other instance in history or geography where the creation of an artificial 1000 year pedigree is used to justify war, invasion and terrorism today and accepted so totally uncritically by the West. Indeed, it is more logically and intellectually consistent to justify Kyiv's "historic claim" to Russia, as part of Kyiv's former empire.

                   Secondly, even if we accept the "1000 year history" argument, then what is the result?  Because of the Viking influence in the establishment of the Kyivan Rus' state, Ukraine today can claim Oslo, Stockholm or Copenhagen as the beginnings of Ukraine?  Norwegians, Swedes and Danes are "really" Ukrainians", or "Little Ukrainians" or "younger brothers"? The same holds true with the influence of Byzantium on Kyivan Rus', complete with the Cyrillic alphabet and religion. Ukraine "really" began in Byzantium/Istanbul? Today's France, as Spain, Germany and Israel, were part of the Roman Empire, as was part of Russia a part of the Kyivan Rus' state. Does that mean that France can claim that Rome is "really" French, and that Italians are Frenchmen?  And what of Romania, which appropriated even the name of Rome, as Russia did with "Rus'"? What is the German word for France?  Frankreich.  Land of the Franks, a Germanic tribe.  What are we to conclude from that?  France has a claim to Germany, or is it the other way around?  I will not belabor the point.  Ignorance of history, and the lack of critical thinking on something that is not very deep, makes the West, again, a prime target for such reality reversal.

                   So why does Putin like the West?  First, the West does not understand how and why it finds itself in the situation that it is in today.  One country, with nothing to offer to the world, has managed to put the Western democracies on the ropes. How, why, is any of this possible?  And why are we suddenly so very surprised?  But where do we see any self-examination? Second, Western attention to Ukraine has historically been at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Moscow's razor focus. Even today, Western concern doesn't even begin to approach the degree of seriousness that is necessary, given that Ukraine drove the nail into the coffin of the USSR, and in a very real sense saving the world from it.  In addition, as we know Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal, in large part to its historic persecutor.   What do we think that Putin makes of all this?  What conclusions does he draw about our strategic sense? His money is safe with us, and existing sanctions are and will remain inconsequential in impacting the situation on the ground.

                   I suggest that in the next two days we seek to benefit from the Forum so that we can return to our respective countries in order, ultimately, to work for their national security interests. And that is achieved by anchoring the security and independence of Ukraine as the best chance we have of turning Russia inward. We must think strategically and escape from the perpetual defensive, reactive position that we have frozen ourselves into.  And let there be no mistake. Only then will tyrants in the Middle East, China, and North Korea also understand that the West recognizes and has the will to act in its own self-interest.

                   Thank you very much. 


  • 30 Aug 2017 11:07 AM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    KYIV POST August 30, 2017 

    Bohdan Vitvitsky: Ukraine and drive-by analysts

    One would like to think that, after the catastrophes of Vietnam and the occupation of Iraq, individuals who claim some expertise in foreign affairs would at least have learned one lesson: that ignorance of local affairs and conditions mixed in with a dose of epistemological arrogance usually produces a pretty sorry admixture.

    Vietnam turned out rather badly because we didn’t or didn’t want to understand that that conflict was more about anti-colonialism than about communism and falling dominoes, and also since we were ignorant of some 700 years of historical conflict between Vietnam and China, we couldn’t draw any correct inferences from that history about likely future Southeast Asian alignments. And appointing individuals with either superficial or no knowledge of Iraqi society to make decisions with profound consequences there could not result in anything other than what Thomas Ricks correctly called a fiasco.

    What is striking about Michael Brendan Dougherty’s most recent analysis of whether we should provide Ukraine with defensive weapons in his “Let Ukraine Defend Itself” appearing in The National Review is that same superficial type of familiarity acquired from a distance.

    But such superficial analysis is typically wrong. The main reasons why we should provide defensive arms to Ukraine are the Budapest Memorandum, if we read it correctly, and because it is in our national interest, as will be explained below.

    Click here to read the entire article in the KYIV POST 
  • 01 Jul 2017 4:13 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    RECOMMENDATIONS for ARMING UKRAINE

    NATIONAL PRESS CLUB – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017, AT 9:00 – 10:00 AM

    General Philip Breedlove, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, headlined a press briefing at the National Press Club on June 21 at 9:00 am, recommending more robust U.S. security assistance for Ukraine, including advanced defensive weapons, with the aim of deterring Kremlin aggression against Ukraine and allowing the people of Ukraine to defend themselves and our shared values.

    Click here to read entire document

  • 20 May 2017 11:15 AM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Ukraine's Independence Is Still Essential To U.S. Security And Stability

    As Published in Forbes

    GUEST POST WRITTEN BY
    Victor Rud
    Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs for the Ukrainian American Bar Association. 

    At the G7 meeting in Italy on April 11, Rex Tillerson asked: “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” Predictably, he monetized the issue—“taxpayers,” not simply “Americans.” Regardless, none of the ensuing commentary got to the heart of the matter.

    The overarching answer is that Ukraine’s independence in 1991 ensured the dissolution of the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” saving the West from an apocalyptic trajectory. Not surprising, since Russian occupation and control of Ukraine was pivotal both to the creation of the USSR and to its continuing viability (Lenin: "if we lose Ukraine we lose our head”). Ironically, America was trying to preserve the USSR intact, with President Bush Sr. visiting Ukraine at the time, importuning it to back off. However, “when, in the course of human events . . ." Ukraine reclaimed its independence, there was no contrition inside the Beltway. Washington simply pivoted and applauded its ostensible success. President Bush declared in his State of the Union address that “by the grace of God, America won the Cold War.” And President Bush Jr. wrote that it was “one of the most stunning diplomatic achievements in history” and “a peaceful end to the Cold War.”


    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) meets with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at the State Department in Washington, DC on March 7, 2017. (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    But if that was good, then ensuring that it remains that way is not just good, but paramount. Unfortunately, we suffer from a national attention deficit disorder. President Obama had dismissed Ukraine as being a “core interest” of the U.S. Does that mean that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a non-event? Have we inoculated ourselves against understanding the consequences of a Kremlin claw back? Will Mutual Assured Destruction reenter the lexicon, and our school children relearn “duck and cover”?

    Here’s what the current Administration must absorb.

    Ukraine’s independence is a sine qua non for not just American, but global security and stability. Supporting it is the safest, most effective and cheapest strategy (past Presidents of both Parties notwithstanding) to counterbalance accelerating Russian aggression. Ukrainians have traditionally harbored a sense of democracy, individualism and a drive toward civic society that any American would recognize. Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, the size of England, Germany, Hungary and Israel, combined. With a democratic and civic tradition that Russia never had, Ukraine produced Europe’s first constitution for a representative democracy, outlining the separation of powers, and the concept of checks and balances. It preceded Philadelphia by 77 years, and was years ahead of Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws. A coincidental intersection of today’s news with history and geography recalls a time even earlier, and the historian Paul of Aleppo (Syria) said: “Although a stranger I felt myself at home in Ukraine. But in Muscovy my heart felt heavy, for wherever I went no one was even a little free . . . . Those who want to shorten their life by fifteen years must go to the land of Muscovy. In Ukraine I found joy in life, freedom and civilization."

    Russia’s internal oppression and external marauding depend on its ability to wrap 11% of the Earth’s landmass in hermetically sealed truthlessness, unspooled now to the rest of the globe. Like Israel in the Middle East, Ukraine must anchor stability in Europe. “Russia is a whole separate world, submissive to the will, caprice, fantasy of a single man. . . . Russia moves only in the direction of her own enslavement and the enslavement of all the neighboring peoples. For this reason it would be in the interest of not only other peoples, but also her own that she be compelled to take a new path.” So wrote Pyotr Chaadavey. That was in 1854. The example of an independent, democratic Ukraine would puncture Putin’s predatory burlesque of reality, at home and abroad. We would no longer be whipsawed by Putin’s choice of time, place and circumstance. At long last, the Kremlin would have to turn inward to address the infection of democracy from a Ukrainian bacillus.

    Pavel Sudoplatov and his boss understood Russia’s worst nightmare, summarized by French historian and philosopher Voltaire: “Ukrainians have always sought freedom.” Sudoplatov was Stalin’s favorite killer (as we know, Vladimir Putin has heaped hosannas on Stalin without a murmur from the “Western democracies”.) Sudoplatov was the Grand Master of the Masters, a pinup boy in the “Memory Room” of the same school where Putin matriculated—the Cheka/GPU/NKVD/KGB/FSB. He was the wunderkind of the Directorate of “mokrije djela”—“wet deeds,” and is in the pantheon of Putin’s heroes. Sudoplatov masterminded the ice pick into the skull of Stalin’s unfriend, Leon Trotsky, AWOL in Mexico. Stalin then tasked Sudoplatov with penetrating America’s top secret Manhattan Project during WWII. He was also charged with drawing up psychological profiles of President Roosevelt and the U.S. delegation to the infamous Yalta (yes, that’s in Crimea) Conference toward the end of WWII.

    But Sudoplatov’s most consequential role was his participation in what he wrote openly in his memoirs—Moscow’s  “75 year war against Ukraine.” Sudoplatov was not just a hands-on assassin, but was a key player in battling Ukraine’s resistance to Moscow’s rule. Sudoplatov wrote that that war "formally [my emphasis] ended” with world recognition of Ukraine. Odd. A 75 year war against a nation that, according to Putin “doesn’t even exist.” Putin’s statement was rather a subliminal trumpet of his mens rea.

    It’s bizarre that what is of such strategic interest to the Kremlin has not been of strategic interest to the United States. We even put ourselves into harness in Moscow’s war. Three years after the “end of the Cold War” we required that Ukraine (why not Russia?) surrender the third world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Seemingly to keep nuclear arms away from terrorists, we punished the victim, with much of the arsenal and enriched uranium transferred to Russia, the original terrorist state. The trade-off was multi-lateral assurances of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Add Washington’s subsequent destruction of Ukraine’s conventional weaponry, with a junior Senator from Illinois declaring: “We need to eliminate these stockpiles for the safety of the Ukrainian people and people around the world by keeping them out of conflicts.” The largest country in the world, however, had its own rules of etiquette and invaded, occupied and annexed parts of Ukraine. The Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where Senator Obama stood, is now devastated and occupied by Russia. The largest war in Europe since WWII is now in its fourth year. Ukraine, less than 3% the size of the colossus to the North, is fighting alone. (“Sanctions”? Flaccid, mono-synaptic, and barely tethered.)

    If the preceding is excused as American fecklessness, being an actual enabler has a cheerless history. We awarded diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union in 1933, as Stalin was waging a war of starvation against Ukraine. It was the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction. Ever responsive to the siren call of “doing business,” the United States, as Stalin’s ultimate target, rewarded his genocide. Millions of Ukrainians were killed, one-third of them infants and children. But the viability of the Soviet Union was (with Sudoplatov’s “wet deeds”) ensured for a few more generations. And we suffered the consequences. Directly. For good measure, after WWII we joint ventured with the NKVD, the KGB’s/FSB’s predecessor, in a dragnet of  the survivors who sought refuge in Europe and the U.S. It was a messy affair. The ultimate immigration policy was not a mistake. The sobriquet, “Operation Keelhaul,” says it all: we intended to punish the truth tellers who saw America as their deliverance.

    On March 3, 2014, President Obama intoned that with its invasion of Ukraine, Russia “was on the wrong side of history.” Prior Administrations had already joined in a pas de deux with Russia on the dark side. If the current Administration doesn’t at long last absorb America’s “core interest” in Ukraine, furrowed brows and sonorous clichés will not conceal our complicity in jack booting the international order. Multinational and bi-lateral agreements, treaties and accords of all strips, somberly paraded at the time, will become less than so much pabulum. President Ford said of the Helsinki Accords at the time: “History will judge us not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.”

    But there’s more. If we barter away the victim that was pivotal to the fall of the USSR, we would justly be condemned for our moral sordor and our sterilizing wash of history. Any certainty about America’s word that may have survived to that point will evaporate.

    And what will friend and foe conclude about Washington’s grip on reality if it yet again squanders its most significant geopolitical asset as a counterweight to Russian predation? Putin’s unbridled contempt for America’s—and Europe’s—provocative pusillanimity will become even more palpable. Ditto North Korea, Iran, Syria and China. Another “Cuban Missile Crisis” today will not end as was then described by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

    Twenty years before Mr. Tillerson’s question, a study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded: “Whether Russian led integration on the territory of the former USSR will pose a serious, long-term military challenge to the West, depends in large part on the role that Ukraine plays or is compelled to play. . . . Ukraine will do much to determine whether Europe and the world in the twenty-first century will be as bloody as they were in the twentieth.” On April 13, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article on Mr. Tillerson’s ensuing meeting in Moscow. Inexplicably—no, predictably—the piece mentioned Ukraine in all of one clause in one sentence. The author and three more contributors labored over the article.

    If “U.S. taxpayers” are not interested in Ukraine, a tour of the “Memory Room” is in order. Without that, taxes will be the least of our concerns.

  • 16 Feb 2017 8:26 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    “I didn’t direct him but I would have directed him if he didn’t do it”

    February 16, 2017

    Trial lawyers quite often unexpectedly strike upon the naked truth when asking a very simple question. The response they receive frequently unintentionally illustrates and exposes the true aims of the witness. At today’s news conference, President Trump was asked a simple question –did he authorize General Michael Flynn to communicate with the Russians during his presidential transition period.  The President’s response – “I didn’t direct him but I would have directed him if he didn’t do it”

    This response must be viewed in the context of what General Flynn was allegedly discussing with the Russian ambassador – sanctions!  The Obama administration has imposed economic sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine; and the very day before General Flynn’s conversations, President Obama had imposed more restrictive sanctions in response to Russia’s illegal hacking of the email servers of American political institutions with the objective of undermining the fundamental principles of American democracy.  Apparently, contact by Trump advisors with Russian intelligence even predated his nomination to the presidency. USA TODAY elaborates on this timeline in its article of yesterday.

    Vladimir Putin’s uncharacteristic temperate response to the newly imposed sanctions evidences that Gen. Flynn probability signaled to the President of Russia that under the new Trump Administration, sanctions would be eased.  The issue now presented to the American public is – would then Elect-President Trump have directed Gen. Flynn to advise Vladimir Putin that as President, he would likely be lifting sanctions in his new Administration?  Is this the foreign policy agenda that we should anticipate from the new Administration?

    It is now imperative that Congress play a major role in formulating a strong American foreign policy vis-à-vis Russia since apparently the Trump Administration may not be willing to do so.  As suggested by the Atlantic Council, sanctions against Russia must be codified.  The legislation, “The Counteracting Russian Hostilities Act of 2017,”  would require approval from Congress before any sanctions against Russia are lifted.  It has now become self-evident that this is the only way in which effective measures against Russia can be taken in support of the international rule of law and to protect our democracy.  If this Administration will not do it, then Congress must!

    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


  • 14 Feb 2017 7:09 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    ISIS Doesn't Stand A Chance, Unless America 'Engages' Russia

    FORBES  GUEST POST WRITTEN BY

    Victor Rud
    Mr. Rud is past chairman of the Ukrainian American Bar Association's Board of Governors. He now chairs its Foreign Affairs Committee.

    The proposal that America engage Russia to fight Islamic terrorism is beyond folly. Russia’s recent intrusion into America’s electoral process may flag caution. But that is woefully insufficient. The proposal is either willed ignorance or studied reality reversal.

    First, the proposal dismisses Russia as the overarching existential threat to our existence, both as a free democratic society and physically. For all its savagery, ISIS is not an existential threat, whether to the U.S. or to Europe. ISIS beheads individuals. The Kremlin decapitates entire democratic processes. Russia has and is everything ISIS does not and is not. Russia remains, as was the Soviet Union, the largest country on earth, including an entire third of Asia. It seamlessly projects its power across 11 times zones, from Europe to the Sea of Japan to miles within the U.S. border. Its combined nuclear/conventional/chemical/biological arsenal transcends anything we can muster.

    The USSR was established as the quintessential terrorist state, and was never merely a “state sponsor” of terrorism. Its terror was organized, methodical and above all hyperbolic, eclipsing anything that ISIS can engineer. The very reason for it all was to establish the structure that would destroy the West, more specifically the greatest Satan of them all (as is for ISIS), the United States.

    Terror was bequeathed to Stalin’s protégé as a sensual imperative that also imbues ISIS.

    Instead of contrition or apology, Putin embraces that legacy. He is the Darwinian product of 450 years since the founding of the first secret police, the Oprechnina. “Superior negotiating skills” will not reverse that DNA spiral. Russia thus has a huge asset that ISIS does not. Our visceral reaction against ISIS is absolute. But Putin’s worship of Stalin and adoption of his tactics triggers no comparable reaction in the West. To better understand the point, consider a former Gestapo officer presiding over a Germany that never admits or repents, but instead glorifies Hitler and its Nazi past, and invades Denmark and Holland as “threats” to its security.

    Second, the proposal requires that we engage Russia to assist (how, exactly?) countering a secondary danger whose (i) very creation Russia enabled, aided and abetted, that (ii) it continues to promote, and that (iii) it continues to be the beneficiary of. ISIS’s genome was engineered by Moscow as “Arab Nationalism” in the 1970s and 1980s, training and directing the terrorist assault on the West. The 1972 Munich Olympics. The bomb attack in Brussels on General Alexander Haig, commander of NATO. The bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. The attack on the USS Cole.

    Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba “Friendship” University seconded foreigners to embed Moscow’s agenda in their own countries. Yassar Arafat was one, the KGB’s makeover receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomenei was another. There were thousands. Home-grown, non-Arab terrorists were even better: Venezuelan Carlos the Jackal, Germans Ulrike Meinhoff, French terrorist Regis Debray and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. All were either direct KGB agents or KGB financed.

    Moscow never renounced its imperatives in birthing and sustaining Islamic terrorism, Putin declaring at the 2003 conference of the Islamic Conference Organization that Russia was Islam’s historical defender. Alexander Litvinenko was the ex-KGB officer who defected and who in 2005 was assassinated by Moscow in London using Polonium 210—nuclear warfare in Magna Carta’s front yard. He had revealed that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda, had been trained by the KGB in Dagestan, a region currently controlled by Russia and that was tied to the two Boston Marathon bombers. We know that Al-Zawahiri planned 9/11 with Osama Bin Laden. More recently, the KGB has supplied recruits for ISIS from its North Caucasus and Central Asia regions.

    “Radical Islamic terror” serves Russia’s purpose perfectly. Why should Putin refuse its benefit? The smoke had not cleared from the Boston Common before Putin called President Obama to intone his sympathy. Particularly for Americans (and, importantly, as much viscerally as cerebrally), the bombing by two Chechen brothers rebranded Putin’s genocidal war against Chechnya as a campaign against “Islamic terrorism” (Chechens are conveniently Muslim). This, in turn, neutralized Litvinenko’s revelation that the Russian apartment bombings (which were Putin’s pretext for that genocide) had been the work of Putin himself. We were thereby relieved of any moral tug that we may have had over Moscow’s assassination of Litvinenko. At the end, we were presented with seeming proof of Russia’s common cause with America in fighting “Islamic terror.” With preceding circumstances, motive, opportunity and benefit established, history will show the Kremlin’s advance knowledge of the two Tsarnaev brothers’ intentions, and that it could have prevented the Boston horror. It willfully did not. If a dirty bomb explodes in Friendship, Maine, or thousands in Topeka simultaneously die from “natural causes,” the last cry heard may be “Allah Akbar.” We should then well ponder if that’s as far as it goes.

    Third, the proposal eviscerates America’s values and principles—its greatest weaponry in the world—by endorsing their denial. Russia’s “common interest” is not with Washington. It’s with ISIS. How many attacks by ISIS have there been in Russia? Precisely. Russian fundamentalism is at one with radical Islamic fundamentalism: the subversion and destruction of Western values and its societal structure. Both market a vitriolic anti-Western ideology, a faux morality playing the “Western society is immoral” card. Both Russia and ISIS are propelled to kill. For both, it’s more than a duty. It’s an entitlement. Heads of teenagers sent in a wooden box to their mothers, death for a cartoon, the hacking off of limbs, the terrorization of civilians, the use of women and children as human shields, locating active firepower in nursery schools and hospitals, castration of prisoners. No, not ISIS, but more than 10,000 innocents killed by Russia in Ukraine and more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees. And Russian incendiary bombs vaporizing toddlers in Aleppo? If America confronts ISIS by embracing ideologues sharing the same murderous purpose and record, our worldwide credibility will suffer even more, and justifiably so.

    Fourth, the proposal means that “We, the People..." will be played as enablers of Russia’s own war of terror against Ukraine and other frontline nations that are defending freedom and “Western values” from the attacks by Russia. Putin is marketing Ukraine’s defense against his invasion of that country as “terrorism.” Little wonder. Russia’s predatory imperative and the sustainability of its threat to American security depend on its destruction of Ukraine as a viable example to Russians of a free, democratic society on their shared border. We have forgotten that Ukraine’s reestablishment of its independence from Moscow in 1991 ensured the fall of the USSR and the putative end of the Cold War. It allowed us to breath a sigh of relief. Today, the proposal to engage Russia makes America the supplicant, asking Russia’s assistance in fighting Islamic terrorism that Russia itself spawned and that aids Russia’s own campaign against the West. As an inducement, we will be required to turn a blind eye to Russia’s predation against Ukraine and other nations. That, in turn, reinforces Russia’s existential threat to us. Ironically, it’s the very denial of that threat that is the precondition for the proposal that we engage with Russia in the first place. Putin is a fan of judo. It would be a great throw... that we’ve designed for use against ourselves.

    Read Article on Forbes


  • 02 Feb 2017 4:34 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Trump’s Folly -- Permitting Transfer of Information Technology to Russia’s Secret Service  

    Within two weeks to the day of the inauguration of Pres. Donald J. Trump, his administration has authorized [GENERAL LICENSE NO. 1 Authorizing Certain Transactions with the Federal Security Service] the issuance of permits for the importation, distribution and use of information technology products requested by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for use in Russia. 

    In doing so, [less than one week after his reportedly  unrecorded call with Vladimir Putin] the new administration has expeditiously modified Pres. Obama’s Executive Order 13757 of December 28, 2016 ("Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency With Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber Enabled Activities"), which prohibits the transfer of such technology to entities found “to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, cyber enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States that are reasonably likely to result in, or have materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States…..’.   Specifically targeted by Pres. Obama are entities involved “in tampering with, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.’

    The lingering and haunting question is WHY?

    It is beyond reasonable doubt that Russia, at the highest political level of authority and through its Secret Service [FSB], has been for years tampering and hacking email servers of our political parties, politicians, and other entities in the United States.  All our intelligence agencies and experts in the internet security field have come to this undeniable conclusion.  It is beyond comprehension or explanation that now, despite the obvious, the new administration is suddenly authorizing the issuance of export licenses [to the very entities that cyber attacked the US] for the transfer of better and more effective technology that can and will be used to harm our country.  

    The founder of the USSR, Vladimir Lenin said “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."  One of his disciples who lamented that the fall of the Soviet Union was one of the greatest tragedies in the 20th Century, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has now convinced the President of the United States to sell him that rope.

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

    Victor Rud, Esq.
    Chairman, Committee on International Affairs & Foreign Policy
    Ukrainian American Bar Association


  • 12 Jan 2017 1:11 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    The art of whose deal?

    By Victor Rud Published Jan. 10 at 4:37 pm Kyiv Post

    Rex Tillerson’s business background for the office of Secretary of State reinforces a massive, overarching handicap in America’s dealing with the keystone issue of international affairs – matters affecting our national security and sovereignty. Nowhere will this be so immediately and dangerously played out as in the articulated approach of the incoming Administration’s desire to “deal” with Russia.

    Domestic commercial “deals” rely on predictable and effective third-party enforcement mechanisms. This translates to the courts and related institutions. Indeed, it’s the fear of consequences – a fear that can be real only if a realistic opportunity for enforcement exists – that militates against a breach occurring in the very first place. Without that, “superior negotiating skills” are irrelevant.

    In the international sphere, the core postulates for a modicum of world order are agreements affecting national sovereignty and international security: the UN Charter, the Helsinki Accords, the UN Genocide Convention, the Budapest Memorandum, and other nuclear and WMD non-proliferation agreements. But an effective and reliable third party enforcement structure for such “deals” is glaringly absent. Like drivers obeying the rules of the road, nations must instead rely on the assumption of reciprocal compliance with the “deal” by other signatories, in the mutual recognition of the self-interest by all.

    It’s a delicate eco-system. If a signatory nation is allowed to trash the underlying premise of the “deal”, and if there are no consequences proportionate to the breach, the entire global structure will implode. The implosion can be cataclysmic when a signatory nation to an international disarmament agreement, for instance, knows that its breaches will be systematically ignored, and that even more agreements will blithely, meaninglessly, follow.

    The incoming Adminstration’s compulsion to blithely translate domestic commercial deal-making to its relationship with Russia is fatuous, and will be disastrous. The first order of business, so to speak, is to understand that America’s domestic, commercial and political DNA both reflects and feeds a mercantile environment of stability and predictability that makes business possible in the first place. We approach international relations similarly, seeing it as essentially a regulatory matter, a relationship among nations simply to be managed for the sake of “stability.” We put our faith in reason, and worship compromise and negotiation. We idolize resulting international agreements as we do domestic ones: as solutions to problems, not as their cause; as resolutions of conflict, not as their catalyst; as enforceable paths forward, not as highways for reversal. We’re hypnotized with “doing the deal.”

    American deal making with Russia does not work. Russia did not become the largest country in the world, steamrolling dozens of nations, through bourgeois deal making. Russia has always been an empire. Its imperial DNA precludes the compromise we worship and the precondition to which is restraint. Moscow vehemently rejects the stability we imagine we’re creating. Its worldview and goals are dynamic, outgoing, and implacably aggressive. Russia plays offense. America plays defense. Russia initiates. America reacts. Russia disrupts. America seeks to stabilize, to preserve, all the while as we cast about wondering, “What do we do now?”

    We never learned Stalin’s encyclical: “agreements are like pie crusts, made to be broken.” Agreements for Russia, therefore, are simply part of maskirovka, intended to divert attention, to placate, to confuse, to buy time. It’s a hologram, another app to be programmed as may be appropriate for the circumstances, as are genocide of all strips, kompromat, dezinformatsia, provokatsia. Excepting purely commercial deals (but only for the duration and extent it so deigns to choose), Moscow’s goal in deal making with “the Americans” in matters of the highest national consequence for us is either (a) to prevent the realization of the very purpose of the agreement, or (b) to ensure the realization of the very opposite. Predictability of Moscow’s compliance is replaced by the predictability of Moscow’s breach.

    It has been this way for generations. It’s beyond rational explanation why, in the context of domestic deal making we require compliance– “you agreed to that, didn’t you?”– whereas in dealing with Russia we do not. To the very contrary. When Moscow breaches, we simply spin the phantasmagoria and call the lawyers to prepare yet another agreement, and so on ad infinitum. Our catatonic return to the table fits precisely Einstein’s definition of insanity: repeating something over and over again that has proven itself to be a failure. At least Pavlov’s dogs received a reward upon the sounding of the bell.

    The Budapest Memorandum is pivotal to America’s international credibility and therefore the utility of any international arrangement with friend or foe, alike. Washington pressured Ukraine to surrender its nuclear arsenal, the third largest at the time, some of it to Ukraine’s age-old persecutor, Russia. For good measure, Washington then oversaw Ukraine’s destruction of its conventional weaponry. Barely four months after Putin’s lament about the fall of the Soviet Union, then Senator Obama delivered the coup d’grace, declaring. “We need to eliminate these stockpiles for the safety of the Ukrainian people and people around the world.” At the time, Obama was standing in Donetsk. That city is no more. Moscow then invades Ukraine, violating every relevant agreement it ever struck, committing war crimes with abandon, never mind that is not on anyone’s radar screen.

    And now what? It’s America under the new Administration that proposes yet another reset with Russia? There can be no greater provocation of Russia than an obsequious, pusillanimous America. And there is no more ironic example in history than that the M(utually) A(ssured) D(estruction) scenario was markedly lessened with the fall of the Soviet Union, itself ensured by Ukrainian independence, now again so horribly violated by Russia. We’re squarely on the trajectory back to MAD. This time, however, when we are checkmated on the chessboard, Mr. Tillerson may not be able to characterize the outcome as did his predecessor, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, of the Cuban Missile Crises at the time: ”We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other side just blinked.”

    The first order of business, so to speak, is to understand that America’s approach to dealing with Russia has failed, and that “deals” don’t work. Our business commercial and political culture both fuels and reflects the ingrained weakness of a representative democracy in dealing with Russia. With scarcely a sense of history, even less of geography, we have a time horizon measured by the next election cycle. With the frustration tolerance of a child, and infatuated with polls, we are prey for the tenacious. President Obama’s “reset” with Russia, and now yet another by the incoming Administration, are no different than the periodic exhilaration that we experienced through the decades.

    As a result, we have compiled a loose-leaf record of crisis management, and swing like a metronome between panic and hope, endlessly responding to the crisis du jour crafted by the Kremlin, which alone determines the choice of time, place and circumstance. In the meantime, Russia has been constant, consistent and immutable. We are being outplayed, outmaneuvered, ricocheting from crisis to crises, perpetually asking ourselves, “what do we do now?”, “how do we react?”

    No worry, though. The Klieg lights beckon. Another agreement, another handshake, another exchange of pens. Not only do we consider it a job well done. We actually convince ourselves that it’s a job completed.

    After all, everyone agreed. We have it in writing.

    Victor Rud is a board member of the Ukrainian American Bar Association and chairman of its Committee on Foreign Affairs.


  • 08 Jan 2017 1:42 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    SEN. R. MENENDEZ MEETS WITH NJ UKRAINIANS, ADDRESSES RUSSIA’S GROWING AGGRESSION, INTERVENTIONISM

    The Senator will question Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings 

    On January 6, 2017, UABA representatives Victor Rud [Chairman of the UABA Foreign Relations Committee] and Myroslaw Smorodsky [UABA Communications Director] met with Sen. Robert Menendez together with other members of the Ukrainian American community. [Ronya Lozynskyj &Tamara Olexy - UCCA, and Yuriy Symczyk - UNA]. Senator Menendez (D-NJ) is the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

    The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Ukrainian American community’s deep concerns regarding the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State and the potentially damaging impact his confirmation can have on Ukraine’s struggle to maintain its territorial integrity and independence. The Ukrainian American Bar Association respectfully submitted to the Senator proposed areas of questioning during the confirmation process of Rex Tillerson with background briefing material for the Senator’s consideration and review in preparation for the hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

    The briefing documents submitted by the UABA emphasized that The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act [i.e. 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 - maintained peace and stability on the Eurasian continent for over 70 years Moreover, twenty-two years ago, under pressure from the United States, Ukraine agreed to surrender and destroy its nuclear arsenal.  All that Ukraine asked in return was to be given security assurances as to its sovereignty and territorial integrity by the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom upon its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state.  These security assurances were given on December 5, 1994 and are commonly known as the Budapest Memorandum.  Based on the assurances from all the signatories and with specific reliance on these declarations by each of the signatory states, Ukraine surrendered approximately 1600 nuclear warheads.  Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military invasion into Eastern Ukraine constitute overt and blatant violations of these basic agreements and evidence the Kremlin’s intentional defiance of international rule of law.

    Senator Menendez recognizes that if the United States fails to take any additional more meaningful and effective action in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military invasion into Eastern Ukraine in violation of international rule of law, it would corrode and undermine America’s credibility in the international arena, destabilize Europe, and greatly fuel Russian international adventurism and expansionism. After the meeting, Senator Menendez held a media press conference.
    Read Senator R. Menendez's Statement

    View Video of Senator R. Menendez’s Press Conference Part 1

    View Video of Senator R. Menendez’s Press Conference Part 2


  • 18 Dec 2016 10:38 AM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Ukrainian Reality and How It Affects Other Countries
    Duke Law School 

    click here to view video

    A discussion of the situation in Ukraine (as of February, 2015) in its legal dimensions, including Ukraine's quest for democracy and rule of law as well as the legal consequences of the Crimean Peninsula's annexation. The emphasis is on the probable outcomes and impacts these events will have on Ukraine as well as other international players. The panelists are: Honorable Bohdan Futey was the U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge in 1987-2014, Victor Rud '76 is an international law attorney and a cofounder of the Ukrainian American Bar Association, Ivanna Bilych is an attorney, civil activist, and board member of Razom for Ukraine (Together for Ukraine). Sponsored by the International Law Society, National Security Law Society and Duke Bar Association.


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