May 27, 2021

Inaction is a sin


When I was young my mother dragged me to church for recollections. The guest speaker was Father Mudryj who later became bishop. He said much of note but the only phrase that left an impression on this teenager at the time was, if you see something wrong and you do nothing, this is a sin. Frankly, I have tried to comfort myself according to these words ever since.

Unarguably the single most important issue for Ukraine is NATO membership. This requires consensual action on the part of the 30 NATO member countries affording Ukraine a Membership Action Plan. A NATO Summit is scheduled for June 14 in Brussels. Prior to that, the G-7 will meet in London on June 11. To date, the NATO Summit agenda does not include a discussion on MAP for Ukraine.

It seems to me that leaving Ukraine out of NATO is quite simply wrong. Ukraine is a democratic country, albeit with corruption issues (every country has some level of corruption), but with the second greatest defensive wherewithal in Europe. Some of the NATO members, frankly, please excuse me, are members of a military alliance in name only. Consider the last two admissions: Montenegro and North Macedonia.

I reached out to the Ukrainian World Congress and in particular the diaspora communities in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Hungary and Belgium to simply write letters to their country leaders to support Ukraine NATO MAP. The UWC has been entirely silent on this issue and in response.

Unfortunately, this is not unusual. The UWC is mostly a Canadian structure. Over the last 12 years on issues requiring not much, but some initiative and integrity, the UWC has been missing in action. In fact, it appears to have operated essentially as a ministry of the Ukrainian government with the assent of the Canadian government. It seems to take direction from both. Perhaps strangely enough it operated this way even during the rogue term of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. For some time now I have advocated that the UWC move its main office and its mentality from Canada to Europe.

During those years the UWC has been very much intertwined with a U.S. think tank generally favorably inclined towards Ukraine. A significant amount of money passes through both bank accounts. Unfortunately, over the last few years, at least three, the UWC has experienced financial shortfalls to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars annually. The subject think tank is the Atlantic Council based in Washington. While purporting to be independent, the Council takes direction from the U.S. Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Atlantic Council website appears to be entirely bereft of the three words Ukraine NATO MAP and this is with seemingly Ukrainian members and benefactors. A document was compiled in March titled, “Biden and Ukraine: A Strategy for the New Administration.” The authors include such friends as Anders Aslund, William B. Taylor and John E. Herbst. That paper refers to deepening Ukraine’s integration with NATO, brazenly referring to Bucharest 2008 but proffers additional defensive military equipment, establishment of a permanent NATO training center in Ukraine, an increased NATO maritime presence in the Black Sea and granting Ukraine major non-NATO ally status – everything but NATO membership.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. State Department and the CIA offered Ukrainians all types of support except independence because that would have offended the great Russians. Today, NATO MAP for Ukraine would offend the great Russians as well, particularly the most offensive great Russian Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is a similar problem. Its history is a tale of caution, perhaps formulated at its inception because the UCC was formed by the Canadian government. I can only assume that the UCC gets money and direction from Canada and does Canada’s bidding. I struggled mightily to get the UCC to write a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with no success. Finally, I gave up because, let’s be frank, Canada does not really matter. It will go the way of the United States. And ultimately, the UCC will follow.

The central umbrella organizations of Ukrainians in the United States, Germany and France were most receptive and reactive. German and French support may be in its infant stage requiring the retirement or removal of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. The community in Hungary simply ignored my request and that was disappointing since much work needs to be done there. Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban is much more pro Russia than pro Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian leadership there is more Hungarian than Ukrainian. The Ukrainian Belgian community is simply dead but, frankly, that does not matter much, since Belgium is hardly a leader except that it provides a venue.

I am optimistic that at the very least the Brussels Summit will begin anew the discussion about Ukraine NATO MAP, essentially dormant since Bucharest 2008.

The lesson here is that this issue has been dormant because the global community fears Russian President Vladimir Putin and thus is not willing to stand up to him. This is a form of appeasement. Ukraine has been less than forceful and the global Ukrainian diaspora community has been cautious and has been taking direction from its cautious, appeasing country leaders. Nevertheless, keeping Ukraine out of NATO is wrong as defined by Father Mudryj. Standing by and witnessing this wrong while doing nothing is a sin. By the way, mudryj means wise in Ukrainian. Father Mudryj was not only wise. He was principled and possessed great integrity.

Askold S. Lozynskyj is an attorney at law based in New York City who served as president of the Ukrainian World Congress in 1998-2008.