January 13, 2017

Exit memos from outgoing U.S. Cabinet members


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. Because of Russia’s actions to destabilize Ukraine, we and our partners put in place sanctions on Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sector, which have had a significant effect on Russia’s economy. We have also made clear that if Russia implements its commitments, these sanctions can be rolled back. …

“During President Obama’s first term, the United States and Russia reset our relationship, which led to tangible benefits on nuclear arms control and supply routes for our troops in Afghanistan. …Still, the United States and Russia continue to have strong disagreements on a range of issues as well. In the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, we have led an international effort to support the Ukrainian people and to impose economic sanctions on Russia for its illegal actions. We also launched a major deterrence initiative that ensures that we will maintain our capability, readiness and responsiveness to address any threat and to deter further destabilizing activities. …it is critical that we remain vigilant against these and other threats, even as we look for areas where it is in our interest to cooperate with Russia.”

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Secretary of Defense Carter, writing in his Cabinet exit memo on January 5, noted:

“Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the United States mobilized the international community in support of Ukraine. Since that point, DoD [the Department of Defense] has taken a series of measures aimed at deterring further aggressive Russian actions and defending U.S. and allied interests. Under Operation Atlantic Resolve, we have also increased joint multi-national exercises in frequency and scale, and improved regional infrastructure. We created the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), funding approximately $800 million in FY 2016 to support enhanced U.S. force posture through rotational deployments, preposition equipment and materiel, and further develop the capability and resilience of our NATO allies and partners. To further reinforce our allies and build our deterrence posture, we requested $3.4 billion for ERI in FY 2017, more than quadrupling our prior year request. Led by the United States, NATO recently agreed to establish an enhanced forward presence, including positioning four battalion-sized battlegroups in the Baltic states and Poland. In addition, the United States has worked to help build the capacity of Ukraine’s forces, with DoD leading efforts to enhance Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities through training programs and the provision of equipment. “