April 15, 2021

UCCA-Illinois Division concerned with appointment under consideration to the National Security Council


The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America-Illinois Division released the following statement on April 12.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America-Illinois Division strongly reacted to the news that President Joe Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council.

Matthew Rojansky’s potential appointment comes at a moment in U.S.-Russia relations with continued tensions over the Kremlin’s 2020 election interference, the SolarWinds hack of U.S. agencies, detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and recent military buildup along the border of eastern Ukraine.

The issues that raise concern for UCCA-IL and its member organizations are based on information that depicts Matthew Rojansky as a biased individual and lacking of impartiality regarding U.S.-Russia relations. Those issues are as follows:
• Mr. Rojansky’s expertise is not neutral. We expect that those vetting him become aware of his negative positions regarding Ukraine: his stated support of the failed Yanukovych regime, his uncomfortable connection with Paul Manafort, an open letter protesting his actions at the Kennan Institute by 31 Ukrainian scholars, and the open record of contributions by Russian oligarchs to the Kennan Institute under his leadership.
• The 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of the Kennan Institute that criticized the think tank he runs as an “unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference.”
• While Russia interfered in U.S. elections, engaged in cyber war, invaded and occupied Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, and killed thousands of Ukrainians, Mr. Rojansky decried America and accused it of “selling war style paranoia about the Russian bogeyman.”
• The pro-Kremlin policies that Mr. Rojansky supported during his tenure at the Kennan Institute are a cause of deep concern. As Russia engaged in poisoning and killing individuals who opposed Mr. Putin, Mr. Rojansky supported a policy at the Kennan Institute that awarded Russian oligarch Petr Aven, whose name is on the U.S. “Kremlin” sanctions list, and Susan Carmel Lehrman, previously personally awarded by President Putin with an “Order of Friendship.”
• Mikhail Lesin, the founder of the Russia Today TV channel, the mastermind behind Russia’s disinformation campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, was on the Kennan Institute’s guest list for the Aven-Lehrman gala.
• Mr. Rojansky promoted the idea of the U.S.-Russia dialogue at the Dartmouth Conference, a platform that was long dead after the end of the Cold War, and was suddenly revived by Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov. Mr. Rojansky served as the conference’s executive secretary on the American side. His Russian counterparts Yuri Shafranik and Gissa Guchetl lead the Russian Union of Oil and Gas Producers.
• The Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center has a history of long-term partnership with pro-Kremlin oil tycoons and oligarchs. The Wilson Center has been awarding Russian oligarchs for strengthening the U.S.-Russia dialogue since 2005, when it first honored Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov, followed by awards to Viktor F. Vekselberg in 2007 and Petr Aven in 2015. All three sponsored the Wilson Center’s gala dinners and the proceeds were channeled to support the Kennan Institute’s U.S.-Russia work. In 2017 the U.S. Treasury Department put all three oligarchs onto the so-called “Kremlin” sanctions list. The fact that in 2015 Viktor Vekselberg, featured on the Wilson Center’s special video in honor of Petr Aven’s award testifies to continuous partnership between one of Russia’s richest oligarchs and the Wilson Center think tank.

A letter was sent to President Biden regarding the concerns of the Ukrainian community of Illinois. Similar letters were sent to Illinois Senators and Congressional Representatives.