In our last issue of 2017, we reported on the front page that the U.S. State Department had approved an export license for Ukraine to buy certain types of light weapons and small arms from U.S. manufacturers. That decision, announced to the public on December 20 (and to Congress a week earlier) came several months after the State Department and the Pentagon had proposed to the White House that the U.S. help Ukraine defend itself by providing lethal weapons. Two days later came updated news that the administration of President Donald Trump had approved a plan to provide lethal defensive weapons, including the Javelin anti-tank missiles that Ukraine had long sought. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on December 22 that the U.S. had decided to provide “enhanced defensive capabilities” to help Ukraine build its military long-term and deter further aggression. “U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself,” she underscored.
Providing lethal weapons to Ukraine will send a clear message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their nearly four year struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous and independent future for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. This decision – while long overdue – will reverse the Obama administration’s de facto arms embargo against Ukraine and will finally allow Ukraine to access the tools it needs to defend itself. As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and author of several provisions authorizing expanded U.S. military assistance – including lethal aid – and establishing the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, I hope that this decision opens the door to the full implementation of the bipartisan legislation Congress has already passed to help the Ukrainians defend themselves against Russian aggression.
“Call me Jim.” That’s how Prof. James McAdams responded when my wife and I introduced ourselves as Michael’s parents. At the time, our son was a freshman at the University of Notre Dame, taking “Jim’s” class on comparative politics.
Dr. McAdams, a friendly bearded man, is a world-class scholar who reaches thousands through his publications as well as an inspiring educator with popular classes of 60-plus, seminars of 10 to 20 and a counselor and mentor who meets with students one-on-one in his office, located a short walk from Notre Dame’s iconic Golden Dome and legendary football stadium.
The U.S. special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, both warned this week that the situation in eastern Ukraine has significantly deteriorated. Their warnings came a week after the United Nations reported increased fighting in the Donbas between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed “separatists,” saying it has resulted in more civilians deaths and “further aggravated a dire human rights and humanitarian situation” as winter sets in. A total of 10,303 deaths related to the conflict have been recorded between April 14, 2014, and November 15, 2017. Ambassador Volker said on December 19 that 2017 has been the deadliest year since the conflict begun by Russian-backed militants started in April 2014. He added that the night of December 18 – when the village of Novoluhanske was attacked – “was one of the most violent nights, certainly since February, and possibly this year.” The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that eight civilians were injured.
One weekend this past summer saw a lemonade stand appear in Soyuzivka’s Main House lobby; it was set up and run by three Plast cub scouts: “novachky” Kalyna Konrad, age 7, and Zoryana Popadynec, 6, and “novak” Marko Skoratko, 7. While their younger siblings were taking part in “Tabir Ptashat” (the Plast day camp for children age 4-6 held at Soyuzivka since 1989), these three “ptashata” alums spent their days roaming the grounds and playing. They soon noticed that a tandem swing they had enjoyed riding last year at the playground was now out of commission. Disappointed but undeterred, they channeled their energy into organizing, advertising and running a lemonade stand, with the goal of raising enough money to buy a new swing for the Soyuzivka playground. Their sale on July 7-8 raised over $125.
One of the secondary lessons of the Putin regime’s persecution of the head librarian at the Ukrainian library in Moscow, which began in 2015 and culminated in her conviction last June, is the continued importance of the printed book. This is also evident in the success of the Lviv Publishers’ Forum, held every September, which displays the extraordinary variety and quality of Ukrainian book publishing. And though we see the electronic “book” everywhere now, the printed book is likely to remain, just as the handwritten note has survived alongside the typewritten letter and the e-mail. There is something comforting about a wall of books – all that information, knowledge and wisdom, all those thoughts and feelings, stories and histories, waiting to be explored. As an undergraduate, I would peer admiringly at the cramped book-lined professors’ offices in Berkeley’s Dwinelle Hall.
Organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on November 8-9, the conference “Reflections on a Ravaged Century” at the Library of Congress featured an array of distinguished speakers and moderators. Below are some takeaways that struck me as relevant to the Ukrainian diaspora. However, with eight panels and about 35 prominent speakers, it’s difficult to be all-inclusive in the space of this article. For Ukrainians, this conference should have been a significant event. Ukraine was often mentioned, and the Holodomor and genocide against the Ukrainian people were presented as one of the most egregious examples of communism’s evil deeds.
The Ukrainian World Congress in December 9 extended its congratulations on the 100th anniversary of First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar People. The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) congratulates Crimean Tatars on the 100th anniversary of the First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar People, which proclaimed the Crimean People’s Republic, and adopted a Constitution and national symbolism. Despite the fact that, as a result of the brutal actions of Soviet authorities, the young Crimean People’s Republic was short-lived, the convening of the First Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar People remains a historic event of international consequence that testifies to the long-standing aspiration of the Crimean Tatar people for self-determination and establishes democratic traditions in the history of the Crimean Tatars. Today, Crimean Tatars once again suffer harsh pressure, repression and persecution by the occupying authorities of the Russian Federation. The criminal actions of the Russian Federation are forcing the Crimean Tatar people to defend the right to live freely on their own soil.
Things in Ukraine are heating up, as reported by our Kyiv correspondent Mark Raczkiewycz, who says the unrest on Kyiv’s streets last weekend is something the capital has not seen since the Euro-Maidan – the Revolution of Dignity. This time, the demands are for Ukrainian authorities to get serious about the fight against corruption, with some calling for President Petro Poroshenko’s resignation or impeachment. (Yes, the Mikheil Saakashvili drama is connected to this political crisis, but we would argue it is not the main element.)
Mr. Poroshenko’s credentials as a reformer are being questioned since his administration is seen as hindering the establishment of an anti-corruption court. Furthermore, pro-presidential parliamentary factions have tried to create obstacles to the work of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and they have dismissed outspoken anti-graft activist Yegor Soboliev from his post as chairman of the parliamentary Anti-Corruption Committee
The reaction from the United States, the European Union and others was unequivocal. “It serves no purpose for Ukraine to fight for its body in Donbas if it loses its soul to corruption,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
“The Internal Enemy” is the fitting title of a Helsinki Commission staff report on corruption in Ukraine. Recently, I joined Oksana Shulyar, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Ukraine to the United States, Anders Aslund of the Atlantic Council and Brian Dooley of Human Rights First as a speaker at a Helsinki Commission briefing on this critically important topic (https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/ukraines-fight-against-corruption). For this month’s column, I share an abbreviated version of my remarks, touching upon corruption’s historical legacy, its corrosive impact, recent developments and the U.S. response. Ukraine was in many respects starting from scratch in 1991 when it regained its independence. The Soviet legacy was incredibly devastating – the deaths of many millions in the genocidal Holodomor and World War II, the attempts to eradicate Ukraine’s national identity, including through the destruction of the intelligentsia and Russification.