Vice-President Biden’s farewell remarks in Kyiv

Following are remarks by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden at a joint press availability with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv on January 17. The text was released by the White House, Office of the Vice-President. Mr. President, I may have to call you once every couple weeks just to hear your voice. (Laughter.) This has been going on a long time. Good afternoon, everyone.

Bipartisan group of senators introduces comprehensive Russia sanctions legislation

WASHINGTON – Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a bipartisan group of senators on January 10 to introduce comprehensive sanctions legislation on Russia for their cyber intrusions, aggression, and destabilizing activities here in the United States and around the world. The original co-sponsors of the Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017 are: Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “Russia has worked to insidiously interfere with and influence the presidential election in the United States, and Russian military aggression in Ukraine and Syria has violated international commitments and shown a clear disregard for sovereignty and humanitarian norms. Our comprehensive sanctions package being introduced today will send a clear message to Vladimir Putin that he has gone too far, and that there will be consequences for his actions,” said Sen. Cardin. “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s brazen attack on our democracy,” said Sen. McCain.

Elation over Trump melts away as Russia reacts to ‘hawkish’ Tillerson

MOSCOW – When U.S. secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson appeared before the U.S. Senate for his confirmation hearing on January 11, pundits and politicians in Moscow were watching closely for signals of the new administration’s stance on Russia. Reactions ranged broadly from upbeat pragmatism to an “I told you so” warning that a Russia hawk could be entering President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Over all, the comments painted a much more sober take on a Trump presidency than the jubilation displayed by many in Russia after his surprise victory in November. On the Vesti FM state radio station, prominent pro-Kremlin journalist Vladimir Solovyov chided those Russians who were expressing surprise at what many saw as a hawkish tone to Mr. Tillerson’s comments:

“For our dear listeners I will for the 156th time, although it is fashionable to say 150th, repeat that Tillerson is not Major Vikhr [a Russian TV superhero], and Trump is not Colonel Isayev, Stierlitz [a fictional Soviet superspy akin to James Bond]. They are both patriots of the U.S. One will, if confirmed, become the secretary of state.

Putin accuses Obama administration of trying to undermine Trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration of trying to undermine President-elect Donald Trump’s legitimacy by spreading what Mr. Putin said were false allegations. A dossier shown earlier this month to Messrs. Obama and Trump – part of which was leaked and published – contained salacious and compromising, but uncorroborated, information compiled by a former British intelligence officer on links between Russia and Mr. Trump, who rejected the claims as “fake news.”

And on January 6, U.S. intelligence agencies said they had concluded that Mr. Putin ordered a hacking campaign that aimed to undermine U.S. democracy, help Mr. Trump, and discredit his opponent in the November 8 election, Hillary Clinton. Speaking at a news conference on January 17, Mr. Putin dismissed the dossier alleging Mr. Trump’s sexual activities at a Moscow hotel in 2013 as “fake” and charged that those who ordered it are “worse than prostitutes.”

In his first public comments on the claims, Mr. Putin suggested that Russian intelligence agencies would have had no reason to spy on Mr. Trump during his 2013 visit to Moscow, when the episode allegedly took place in a Ritz-Carlton hotel suite in Moscow. “Does anyone think that our special services chase every American billionaire?

If history is our teacher, the world may be headed for unrest

We must reassure the Baltics and Ukraine – who live in the very shadow of Russia – that the United States will be there for them if trouble arises. Russian intimidation of our NATO allies or other free nations cannot be tolerated. It is conventional wisdom that history repeats itself. But the world should hope – and pray – that this maxim is off base when it comes to our global security. Security arrangements, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which through 71 years since the end of World War II have kept us safe from yet another global conflict, are quickly showing signs of coming undone.

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Menendez meets with New Jersey Ukrainians, addresses Russia’s growing aggression, interventionism

NEWARK, N.J. – Ukrainian American Bar Association representatives Victor Rud, chairman of the UABA Foreign Relations Committee, and Myroslaw Smorodsky, UABA communications director; Ronya Lozynskyj and Tamara Olexy of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; and Yuriy Symczyk, national secretary of the Ukrainian National Association; met with Sen. Robert Menendez on January 6. Sen. Menendez (D-N.J.) is the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The meeting was coordinated by Mr. Symczyk at the senator’s request. Its purpose was to discuss the Ukrainian American community’s deep concerns regarding the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be the next U.S. secretary of state and the potentially damaging impact his confirmation could have on Ukraine’s struggle to maintain its territorial integrity and independence. The UABA respectfully submitted to the senator proposed areas of questioning during the confirmation process of Mr. Tillerson with background briefing material for the senator’s consideration and review in preparation for the hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 11.

“Fear and weakness are bad advisers. They play into Russia’s appetites, invite even more aggression and greater human suffering. That’s why Ukraine has always advocated a solution based on the national interests and the will of Ukrainians who wish their country to be independent and prosperous, and their choices free of aggressive dictate. “Let us be clear about red lines that no one in Ukraine would dare to cross – not now, nor in the future: No reversal in European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine. This would be a surrender of independence, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Lifting of sanctions could paradoxically spark upsurge of mass discontent in Russia

Donald Trump’s election has led many Russians to conclude that Western sanctions against Russia will be eased or lifted entirely in the coming months and that life in Russia will “really become easier.” But Moscow commentators warn that, paradoxically, that could become “a catalyst” for growing popular discontent within Russia. The reason, Andrey Polunin of the Svobodnaya Pressa portal says in summing up their views is that “if an external enemy in the form of the West disappears,” the Kremlin won’t be able to blame it for all of the shortcomings in Russia as it has done quite successfully up to now (svpressa.ru/politic/article/163694/). If in 2017 Western sanctions are lifted, Russian government experts say, the GDP of Russia could rise by 0.6 to 0.8 percent, a small but significant increase that could be improved further by rising oil prices. But Mr. Polunin says that no one should forget that “sanctions are far from the main cause of the slowing down of the Russian economy.”

One need only remember, he says, that the Russian economy began to head in the wrong direction already in 2013, before Crimea and the imposition of sanctions, “when the rate of GDP growth fell from 3.7 to 1.3 percent. Already then it was obvious that there were serious structural problems that Moscow was not addressing.

An appeal to U.S. Ukrainians: Stop Tillerson’s confirmation

Following are excerpts from the editorial that appeared in the January 1-18 edition of Ukrainian News, based in Edmonton, Alberta. Of all of President-elect Donald Trump’s actions preceding his inauguration, none is more ominous for Ukraine than the decision to nominate Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. When you include Exxon’s corporate holdings in Russia, Tillerson’s personal stake in Exxon stock, and the extremely cozy relations the tycoon enjoys with Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin, you end up with conflicts of interest that are not only colossal, but of historically unprecedented proportions. Just to name a few:

• Exxon has a potential $500 billion at stake in a massive exploration partnership with the Russian government’s oil company Rosneft in one of the many deals Tillerson worked out with Putin. The Obama administration blocked the deal when it imposed sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine.

No Faustian bargain? Look at Trump’s agenda

Dear Editor:

It was heartwarming to see the photo in The Weekly (January 8) where U.S. Sens. John McCain, Amy Klobuchar and Lindsey Graham posed with Ukrainian troops. The senators pledged there would be “no Faustian bargain” between the U.S. and Russia that might abandon Ukraine. Unfortunately, these senators’ optimism runs diametrically counter to the agenda of the president-elect. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump stated his fondness for Vladimir Putin.