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UABA News Blog - In English

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

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

  • 10 Feb 2017 10:47 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Newsweek: Trump vows to ‘find out’ nature of separatist forces in Ukraine

    U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to “find out” the nature of the pro-Russian forces fighting the Ukrainian government, casting doubt over whether they are controlled by Russia. Read More

  • 10 Feb 2017 10:40 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Foreign Policy Initiative: News Articles of Interest as of February 10, 2017

    The United States under President Donald Trump is unlikely to abandon Ukraine, a country at war with Russian-backed separatists, in favor of closer ties with Moscow, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said Thursday. – Stars and Stripes
    National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said. – Washington Post
    In his January call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump condemned a 2010 nuclear arms-reduction treaty as a bad deal for the U.S., Reuters reported Thursday. – The Hill
    There was bipartisan agreement in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that the legislative branch should take decisive action against Russia, even if that means circumventing the White House’s expressed desire for a better relationship between the two nations. – The Hill
    Senate Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and the panel's ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), on Thursday slammed President Trump's comments equating the actions of the United States with state-sanctioned murder in Russia. – The Hill
    A former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency advised Trump administration officials to take a “strategic approach” to Russia that could involve sending defensive weapons to Ukraine or extending U.S. missile defense to the Baltic states. – The Hill
    Now, a new network for Russian speakers has entered the market and it hopes to break through the drumbeat of Kremlin narratives by focusing on local issues and people’s daily lives. Current Time, backed by U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty and partnered with Voice of America, launched its 24/7 Russian language television channel on Tuesday. It had already started a website last year. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
    US President Donald J. Trump needs to take a strong stance against Russian aggression in order to protect US national security interests, according to an Atlantic Council expert. – Atlantic Council
    Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman is rejecting suggestions that the Kremlin and the Trump Administration may try to negotiate a deal over the war in eastern Ukraine. – Associated Press
    The possibility of extending a pivotal Russia-U.S. arms control pact is to be discussed in prospective talks with Washington, the Kremlin said Friday. – Associated Press
    Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused the Kremlin of trying to block him from running in next year's presidential election after a court on Wednesday found him guilty of embezzlement. - Reuters
    Russia's Constitutional Court on Friday ordered a review of the conviction of prominent anti-Kremlin activist Ildar Dadin and said a law that criminalized protests had to be applied more proportionately - Reuters

  • 10 Feb 2017 7:49 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    FPI Bulletin: Russian Provocations Put U.S. on Notice

    By FPI Senior Policy Analyst Evan Moore

    What price will Vladimir Putin charge for an improvement in U.S.-Russian relations? Just days after Putin’s first phone call to President Trump, combined Russian-separatist forces launched a significant attack in eastern Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza was apparently poisoned and fell into a coma. The hesitation of the Trump White House to condemn either development suggests that the cost of improving relations with Russia may be a diminished concern for the rights and the security of both Russian citizens and Russia’s neighbors.
    A Tepid Response
    While bipartisan concerns about human rights have long stood in the way of closer ties with the Kremlin, President Trump has stunned both Republicans and Democrats with his efforts to excuse the brutality of the Putin regime. When interviewer Bill O’Reilly questioned the prospects for an effective partnership with a “killer” like Putin, Trump insisted that the United States was no better than Russia, since “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent?” Regrettably, O’Reilly did not ask Trump to justify his comparison of the United States to a government that tortures and executes its critics.
    With regard to Putin’s foreign aggression, the White House has avoided any suggestion that Russia is responsible for the war in Ukraine. After Trump’s first telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, the White House released a brief and nonspecific summary that carefully omitted both any statement of blame for the recent violence as well as any indication of support for Kyiv’s independence. What’s more, the summary attributed to President Trump the puzzling statement that he wanted to help Russia and Ukraine “restore peace along the border.” The war, however, is not along the border but deep within eastern Ukraine, where government troops face combined Russian-separatist forces along a 250-mile front.
    The one forceful statement about Russia came from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said “The United States stands with the people of Ukraine, who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military intervention. Until Russia and the separatists it supports respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, this crisis will continue.” At her confirmation hearing in January, Haley spoke candidly about Russian war crimes in Syria. For now, Haley’s voice seems to be one of dissent within an administration that would prefer not to acknowledge Putin’s true nature.
    Policy Options
    As a candidate and as president, Trump has adamantly called for a partnership with Russia in order to destroy the Islamic State. He has brushed aside considerable evidence that neither Russia nor its Syrian clients have much interest in the rapid destruction of the Islamic State. What’s more, Trump has suggested the pursuit of a counter-ISIS partnership with Russia would require the United States to lift the sanctions it imposed following the annexation of Crimea. 
    The false premise of a partnership with Russia is that Washington and Moscow have similar interests, especially in Syria. While Russian officials frequently insist that ISIS is their target, Russian bombs mainly fall on other opposition groups, who pose the most serious threat to Assad’s regime. According to the State Department, illicit Syrian purchases of ISIS oil are now the Islamic State’s largest source of revenue. Yet while accomplishing little in the fight against ISIS, a partnership with Russia would betray American values and harm those we seek to protect. David Satter of the Hudson Institute warns that strong American ties to the Kremlin would “cripple the Russian opposition, contribute to the propagandizing of the population, and diminish the ability of the U.S. to prevent internal and foreign Russian atrocities.”
    Another price of partnership with Russia is that it undermines the rationale for maintaining the sanctions imposed in response to the invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. As Trump observed, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” Republican leaders in Congress—not to mention Democrats—reject the premise of Trump’s argument. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) called for maintaining sanctions while rejected the “relativism” and “moral equivalency” that inform the president’s respect for Vladimir Putin. The position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was also unequivocal. “These sanctions were imposed because of their behavior in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now we know they’ve been messing around in our elections as well,” he said. “If there’s any country in the world that doesn’t deserve sanctions relief, it’s Russia.”
    While the president currently has the ability to waive or rescind most sanctions on Russia, a bipartisan coalition of senators has introduced the Countering Russian Hostilities Act in order to limit the president’s discretion. This legislation would prevent any legal recognition of Russia’s actions in Ukraine or Georgia, and also codify existing sanctions that were issued via executive orders during the Obama administration. Similar bipartisan legislation, the Russia Sanctions Review Act, was introduced Wednesday.  This measure would allow prohibit the president from lifting sanctions against Russia until Congress ensures that Moscow has indeed ceased its aggression in Ukraine.
    These efforts represent the first major attempt by Congress to influence foreign policy in the Trump administration. At the same time, they reflect continuity with the Obama years, when similar bipartisan coalitions challenged the president’s passivity with regard to Russia. The most important outcome of such efforts was the Magnitsky Act of 2012, which authorized sanctions against human rights offenders. In 2016, there was broad bipartisan support for expanding the Act so that it applied to offenders across the globe.  If Trump continues to insist on establishing a cooperative relationship with Russia– even as Putin continues his aggression – then these ad hoc coalitions should become something more: a bipartisan front to counter the White House’s mistaken approach when possible.
    Tactics and Principles
    The upsurge of fighting in Ukraine and poisoning of Vladmir Kara-Murza are a moment of truth, and should lead the administration to revisit what type of relationship is possible to achieve with Russia, and what it is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.  Foreign policy experts in Congress should likewise evaluate the administration’s next moves toward Moscow and prepare to work with their colleagues to secure America’s interests when they are in conflict with the president’s.
    This crisis is not just a tactical dilemma. It reflects deeper questions about America’s role in the world and whether we will act in accordance with our liberal democratic principles. The choice here is not between a liberal or conservative approach to national security, but between the lessons of the past 70 years and the willful imitation of our authoritarian rivals, whose foreign policies are driven by fear of their own citizens.

    the Foreign Policy Initiative

  • 10 Feb 2017 7:43 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

    Non-US Subsidiaries’ E-Discovery Is Out of Scope, Court Finds

    One of the key changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that went into effect over a year ago was the updated definition of the scope of permissible discovery under Rule 26(b)(1). While there have been a number of court decisions that have interpreted this new language, some practitioners—and courts—still continue to cite to the old version of the Rule. In a recent decision, Judge David G. Campbell of the U.S. District Court of Arizona, who was the chair of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules during the drafting and enactment process for the amended Rules, analyzed and applied the new version of Rule 26(b)(1) in finding requested e-discovery from a party’s non-U.S. subsidiaries to be out of scope. He also used the decision as an opportunity to remind the bench and bar that the Rule changed on Dec. 1, 2015 and that they should not rely on the old version of the Rule.  NY Law Journal   Read More

    [Ed. Note] Lidia M. (Kryzanivsky)  Kekis e-discovery attorney, assistedin the preparation of this article

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

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

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

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

    Dear Mr. Shandor:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




    United States Senator

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

    UN Ambassador Haley hits Russia hard on Ukraine

    See Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Anxious Ukraine Risks Escalation In 'Creeping Offensive'

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

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

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

    By Andy Semotiuk

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

    Read More in Forbes Magazine

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

    How to Trump-Proof Sanctions on Russia

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

    Read More at the Atlantic Council

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