May 7, 2021

Thank you, but…


We need more. The recent apparent pullout of Russian troops from the border with Ukraine provides time and opportunity for reassessment. No one believes that hostilities between Russia and the rest of the world have ended, least of all Ukrainians. What has become more apparent is that fortunately the Western world is more sensitive and prepared to oppose Russian aggression, albeit to what extent remains unclear, in this case fortunately.

What is also clear is that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy may be a neophyte yet he is not a clown actor but a leader with a clear agenda, even if that agenda is not fully embraced by the global civilized community. Throughout the recent crisis Mr. Zelenskyy has lobbied seeking Western commitment to the defense of Ukraine. In that regard he has been successful. In each instance Mr. Zelenskyy has raised the NATO Membership Action Plan, recognizing that membership in the defense alliance is the only long-term solution against Russian aggression.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed (in bi-partisan fashion not surprisingly) Ukraine’s Security Partner­ship Act of 2021. This is welcome, however, clearly too little. In fact, the level of support afforded is surprising given the committee chair’s long-standing relationship and familiarity with Ukraine. NATO is mentioned many times, but NATO MAP is omitted entirely and glaringly.

Statements by President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been largely perfunctory as well. In fact, U.S. action arming Ukraine has been much more resolute and effective than its pronouncements.

The aforesaid act should be sent back to the committee to include very specific language that the United States supports NATO MAP for Ukraine. Otherwise, the Act will do more harm than good as it will appease the ill-informed and stave off further lobbying. It will give the Biden Administration an excuse.

While an argument is often advanced that the initiative of Congressional members from any party should not veer from the position of its party leader, I would like to remind my fellow Democrats that if that were the case, then Ukraine would have received no support from the United States during the term of Donald Trump. However, Senators like the late John McCain and Robert Portman often prevailed despite their party leader.

Members of Congress need to lead representing the will of their constituents. Ukrainian Americans overwhelmingly support NATO MAP for Ukraine. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) must lead. Messrs. Biden and Blinken will come along.

A most positive development during this last crisis was that which transpired in Germany, historically and notoriously a pro-Russian nation and state going back centuries to the rule of the Romanovs. German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas underlined Berlin’s support for Kyiv during his first visit to the front line in eastern Ukraine. He criticized waning international attention. Finally, he addressed Ukraine, saying, “We will not leave you alone when it comes to resolving the conflict here in the east…we stand with Ukraine on these issues and that will not change.”

In an interview with Redaktionsnetz­werk Deutschland (RND), German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced a further increase in military spending and a massive rearmament program over the coming years. She threatened Russia and China, and remarked, “Russia is with its nuclear arsenal of weaponry, unlike China, a very imminent threat, both with conventional and nuclear weapons…” The recognition by the Defense Minister of Germany that an aggressive Russia being on Europe’s and thus Germany’s doorstep was very important. Several German experts have opined that Nord Stream 2 is not an economic issue for Russia but a geo-strategic one. This is a new Germany.

These may be positive developments yet they lack the ultimate recognition that the only way to stop Mr. Putin and Russia is by positioning NATO at its borders. The setting is in place. Russia has invaded Ukraine and threatens further aggression. The ultimate strategy is clear to everyone as well. The only thing missing is resolute action to make the point very clearly and precisely – NATO is a defense alliance with a mission of protecting its members from what was the USSR and now Russia, its successor in every way, including adopting the same aggressive behavior once displayed by the Soviet Union.

Ukraine is the linchpin in that alliance. The late Prof. Zbigniew Brzezinski called Ukraine the “keystone in the arch.”

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.