WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by a decisive 96-to-4 vote on January 24. Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina won support from most Democratic senators because she testified that she does not support Republican efforts to slash U.S. funding for the U.N.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said Gov. Haley also said that “Crimea is not Russian” despite Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014, and she spoke “very strongly” about defending Ukrainian sovereignty. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Gov. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, will be a “fierce advocate” for U.S. interests at the U.N.
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The Washington Post reported that during her confirmation hearing on January 18 Gov. Haley said she agrees that Russia invaded and seized Ukrainian territory in 2014 and that U.S. and international sanctions were an appropriate response. She said she would consider additional sanctions, which Mr. Trump has said he may oppose. The New York Times quoted Gov. Haley as saying: “Russia is trying to show their muscle right now.
KYIV – Petro Matiaszek prefers “government relations and communications” to the streetwise adage of “fixer” to describe his 23-year illustrious role in Ukraine. For nearly two decades, the New York Law School graduate has smoothly navigated among the three sectors of society – public, private and civil society – with such fluidity that he could easily build a checklist of accomplishments:
Bring Kentucky Fried Chicken to Ukraine – done. Translate for ex-President Viktor Yushchenko – done. Send parliamentary delegations to Europe – done. Help raise some $25 million to help Ukraine’s war refugees – done.
WASHINGTON – The outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has accused Russia of engaging in aggressive and destabilizing actions that she says are threatening the rules-based international order. Samantha Power made the remarks on January 17 at the Washington-based Atlantic Council in her last major speech as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She cited the illegal seizure by Russia of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the Kremlin’s intervention in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, support of the Syrian government in that country’s war, and efforts to influence elections in Western democracies through computer hacking and misinformation campaigns designed to influence public opinion. Ambassador Power said: “Russia’s actions are not standing up a new world order. They are tearing down the one that exists.”
KYIV – Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak has urged U.S. President Donald Trump to continue providing his crisis-stricken country with political and military assistance, urging Trump to continue sanctions against Russia to deter “further escalation” of the war in eastern Ukraine by the Kremlin. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL on January 21, a day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Mr. Poltorak said it is “very important for Ukraine to have the political backing of the United States” and for Mr. Trump to “keep sanctions imposed against Russia in place, as this is one of the major aspects that is deterring any further escalation on the part of President [Vladimir] Putin.”
Mr. Poltorak said lifting sanctions would send a dangerous signal to Russia and other countries that violate international law – possibly bringing “chaos to the world” – because it suggests they will likely face minimal consequences for future illegalities. He suggested that Russia would be enticed to seize more Ukrainian territory or even invade a NATO-member country. Mr. Trump, who has spoken admiringly of Mr. Putin, told The Wall Street Journal recently that he plans to keep the sanctions in place “at least a period of time,” but suggested he would consider lifting them if Russia helps the United States fight terrorists. The Obama administration first imposed sanctions against Russia after it invaded and illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
KYIV – The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine has received a copy of a statement by Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president at the time, requesting Moscow to deploy its military forces in Ukraine, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko wrote on Facebook. “The Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office received, through the Permanent Mission of Ukraine [to the U.N.] the official letter of the U.N. Secretariat with a photocopy certified with the official seal of the United Nations of Yanukovych’s statement from March 1, 2014, with a request to deploy Russian troops in Ukraine, and all official materials that Russia had enclosed with the application by Russia’s envoy to the U.N. Churkin,” wrote Mr. Lutsenko. He stressed that all papers Ukraine received were recognized by the U.N. as official documents, which had been provided by the Russian Federation. “The investigators from the military prosecutor’s office received irrefutable documentary evidence of Yanukovych’s treason. I received the permit for the publication of data obtained in a pre-trial investigation from a senior prosecutor in the case of Yanukovych treason,” the prosecutor general wrote.
In the run-up to his inauguration this week (January 20), President-elect Donald Trump has been saying all the right words Moscow would seem to want to hear. The Kremlin openly supported Mr. Trump’s recent characterization of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as “obsolete.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, declared, “We fully agree – NATO is hell-bent on promoting confrontation, and we have been for a long time insisting it is a leftover [of the Cold War]” (Militarynews.ru, January 16). Moreover, Moscow has for decades struggled and failed to find common ground with the European Commission – the European Union’s executive arm. So Mr. Trump’s prediction to journalists (published in The Times and Bild on January 15) that the European Union is likely to disintegrate into disrepair after last June’s Brexit vote is an outcome the Kremlin would surely want to see. Russia has traditionally preferred to broker separate arrangements with individual Western countries instead of dealing with strong multinational institutions – an attitude apparently very similar to that of Mr. Trump.
KYIV – Ukraine slightly improved on the yearly corruption index compiled by Transparency International, placing in the 26th percentile alongside regional peers Russia and Kazakhstan. The Berlin-based corruption watchdog said Ukraine ranked 131st out of 176 countries last year, a minor improvement over the previous year when it ranked 130 out of 167 countries – or in the 23rd percentile. The upgrade, which saw Ukraine garner 29 out of 100 points on perceived corruption that the non-profit gauges via its surveys, was “attributed to the launch of the e-declaration system that allows Ukrainians to see the assets of politicians and senior civil servants, including those of the president,” TI said on January 25. Multiple surveys conducted by Ukrainian polling firms last year found that the mandatory electronic asset declarations were by far the most popular anti-graft measure implemented by the government. More than 50,000 officials filed declarations last year, exposing their extraordinary wealth amid the paltry official salaries they receive.
PHILADELPHIA – A Ukrainian contingent at the January 21 Women’s March on Philadelphia gave voice to the concerns of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans following the presidential inauguration, in particular the relationship with Russia. The event was one of 600-plus protests around the world affiliated with the Women’s March on Washington, which drew a record half-million participants. From left are: Jeanne Schmolze, Mary Kalyna, Olena Mishchuk, Irina Bronshteyn, Yulia Kurka and Roman Cybriwsky.
In assessing Vladimir Putin’s influence over Donald Trump, many focus on reports about “kompromat,” sexual or financial, or Moscow’s role in last year’s U.S. elections. But a Moscow newspaper on January 17 pointed to what may be an even greater source of this sway: the shift in bilateral relations from a politics of values to a politics of making deals. When values informed the relationship between Moscow and Washington, each side had reasons both to reach agreements and also to walk away from any that didn’t meet those values. But now, first in Russia and now in the U.S., there are two leaders who approach talks looking for deals in the first instance rather than the promotion of anything but naked interest. And in this brave new world, the one who wants or needs an agreement more – and in this case, it is almost certainly the incoming president, given his commitment to be seen making deals – who is at a disadvantage relative to the one, also wants deals [the Russian president], but who knows that his opposite number wants them more desperately and quickly than he. That conclusion is suggested by an editorial in Nezavisimaya Gazeta titled “The Politics of Deals in Place of the Politics of Values,” in which the paper seeks to explain why Russia is so hopeful that it will get more of what it wants when Mr. Trump takes office (ng.ru/editorial/2017-01-17/ 2_6904_red.html).
Below are excerpts from President Donald J. Trump’s inaugural address that are related to foreign policy (from the transcript posted online on January 20 by The Washington Post). … We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.