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.
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.
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.
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.
WASHINGTON – The Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington public affairs office of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), hit the ground running in the halls of Congress in the New Year. On January 3, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate were sworn in to the 115th Congress by their respective leaders. The traditional first day of a new congressional session provides a unique opportunity to visit with congressional offices as many of them have Open Houses for their constituents, policy-makers and guests. UNIS Director Michael Sawkiw Jr. attended several swearing-in ceremonies and subsequent receptions including those of: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.); Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.); newly elected Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.); newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.); Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and newly elected Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), brother of former Congressional Ukrainian Caucus co-chair Mike Fitzpatrick. While at the receptions, Mr. Sawkiw highlighted the community’s concerns regarding assistance to Ukraine; continued sanctions against Russia for its lack of implementation of the Minsk peace accords; the illegal annexation of Crimea and human rights abuses in Crimea and eastern Ukraine; as well as continued economic assistance to Ukraine.
Outgoing members of the Cabinet of President Barack Obama on January 5 submitted exit memos that included references to developments in Ukraine as it continues to face Russian aggression. Below are the relevant excerpts from the memoranda written by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Secretary of State Kerry, in his exit memo to President Obama, wrote:
“The United States has continued to stand with Ukraine as it pursues the sovereign and democratic future that its people deserve. In the face of Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and its illegal occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, Ukraine has worked to build stronger and more effective political, economic, and security institutions. The United States has stood with Ukraine as it strengthens its democracy, and we and our European partners have continued to press for the full implementation of the Minsk agreement to end the conflict in Donbas and return the conflict zone and the international border to Ukrainian control.
WASHINGTON – During the first week of the lame-duck session of Congress, Ostap Kryvdyk, adviser on international relations to Andriy Parubiy, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, visited Washington and New York City. He was in the U.S. at the invitation of a number of American and Ukrainian American organizations and advocates, including the Organization for Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine (ODFFU), Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations (CUSR), Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) and the Ukrainian Federation of America (UFA). Mr. Kryvdyk was accompanied to many of the meetings by Ukrainian American community representatives Iryna Mazur and Borys Potapenko, as well as by Ukrainian Embassy staff. They met with senior staff of the co-chairs of Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and the Senate Ukraine Caucus, including Reps. Sander Levin (R-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Sens.
In less than two weeks from the date of this issue, the U.S. will inaugurate its new president. No one is quite sure what the administration of Donald J. Trump will bring. Among those are Ukrainian Americans who love both the United States and their ancestral homeland. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, there are serious concerns about whether the country will be abandoned to Russia’s sphere of influence. The succinct lead sentence in a story by David Stern published by Politico summed it up well: “Donald Trump’s victory leaves Ukraine alone and afraid.” There are objective reasons for that fear: readers surely recall candidate Trump’s comment that the war in Ukraine is “really a problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us,” as well as his suggestion that he might recognize Crimea as part of Russia.
Family friends once told us how, fleeing the Red Army towards the end of World War II, they were taken in by a Hungarian family just before Christmas. Overhearing them discussing the preparation of “kutya” (also transliterated as “kutia”) for Christmas eve supper, the Hungarians were alarmed by this strange Ukrainian custom: kutya is Hungarian for “dog.”
This anecdote highlights some aspects of immigration. Many immigrants are refugees – they are not merely “seeking a better life,” but fleeing for their lives. Christians are morally bound to offer shelter to the homeless stranger, and not only at Christmas. But sometimes, cultural misunderstandings complicate charitable action.
Ukraine managed to pass a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly condemning the violation of human rights in illegally occupied Crimea by Russia. The voting was not particularly impressive or overwhelming. The resolution garnered 70 yea votes with 23 nay and 76 abstentions. Still, it was an important vote. All NATO countries voted with Ukraine.