October 28, 2016

UCCA initiates presidential questionnaire on Ukrainian American issues

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WASHINGTON – In preparation for the upcoming November 8 presidential election, the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington, D.C. public affairs bureau of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), initiated a questionnaire to the presidential candidates. Several Ukrainian American activists volunteered their services and expertise to create a list of questions and series of documents to send to the candidates about the Ukrainian American issues. The documents consisted of an overview of legislative actions in support of Ukraine, a statistical abstract of Ukrainian American and Central and East European ancestry in the United States, and a five-part questionnaire.

The issues covered in the questionnaire include topics that have been a part of public discourse in Washington since the Revolution of Dignity – military assistance to Ukraine; sanctions against Russia for its illegal annexation and invasion of Ukraine; combatting Russian disinformation; NATO membership for Ukraine; and U.S. support for reform efforts in Ukraine. Each question in the questionnaire was preceded with an overall statement about the topic followed by a series of questions. The questionnaire was designed for yes/no responses, but each candidate was given an opportunity to explain their answers more in-depth should they choose. The purpose of the questionnaire was to convey pertinent foreign policy matters that are of concern to the Ukrainian American community.

The questionnaires were disseminated to the five presidential candidates in late July and early August. Each campaign received a cover letter emphasizing America’s leadership in the world and how a recalcitrant Russia has caused chaos on the world stage. Of the five candidates to whom the questionnaire was sent, only two responded – Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Evan McMullin (Independent). Candidates Donald Trump (Republican), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), and Jill Stein (Green) did not respond to the questionnaire. Surrogates for the Trump campaign advised that the campaign does not respond to questionnaires from special interest groups. There were no responses from the Johnson or Stein campaigns.

Questions and answers from the UCCA presidential questionnaire:

Military assistance

A. Would you support sending defensive weapons such as “Javelin” anti-tank missiles, radars to protect soldiers from attacks, anti-drone weapons, and artillery, either directly or through NATO, to assist Ukraine? (Yes/No/No position)

B. Would you support granting Ukraine the status of “Major Non-NATO Ally” in order to expedite the transfer of military aid? (Yes/No/No position)

C. Would you support increasing the current level of U.S. provided military training for Ukraine’s armed forces? (Yes/No/No position)

D. Would you support increased non-lethal, military support and supplies for Ukraine, such as field medical supplies, rehabilitation support, and real-time intelligence sharing of enemy movement and positions? (Yes/No/No position)

• McMullin answered all the questions in the affirmative, stating “yes” in each response.

• Clinton responded in paragraph form stating in part: “We will stand up to Russia’s continuing aggression in eastern Ukraine, and its attempted annexation of Crimea. As president, I’ll make clear to Putin that the United States will provide equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces to help them defend their country’s sovereignty and borders. And we’ll work with the international community to ensure Ukraine has the economic assistance it needs.”

Economic sanctions

A. Would you favor expanding and strengthening existing sanctions until Russian forces withdraw from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea?

B. If so, which of the following would you support?

• Expulsion from the SWIFT system of international currency exchange;

• Expanding sanctions on Russia’s fuel exports, including gas; 

• Boycotting the World Cup in 2018 to be held in Russia;

• Expanding the Magnitsky List;

• Enforcing existing sanctions to prevent bypassing of the restrictions;

• Other

C. Do you favor keeping sanctions as they are now?

• McMullin: “Yes. We also need to think carefully about the sequencing of sanctions and the precise details of implementation, which can make a big difference.” The candidate also responded in the affirmative regarding the various proposed sanctions.

• Clinton: “At a minimum, we must maintain sanctions on Russia until the Minsk conditions are met. And if its behavior worsens – or even fails to improve – we ought to expand those sanctions even further… Sanctions would remain in place indefinitely until the Minsk conditions are satisfied and Russia has withdrawn its troops and military equipment from Donetsk and Luhansk. In the meantime, our top priority must be ensuring we continue to have support from our European partners in this endeavor. And over the long term, we must work to diversify Europe’s energy supplies away from Russian oil and gas to put even more pressure on Putin.”

Russian disinformation

A. Should the United States take on the task of leading a multilateral campaign to combat Russian disinformation? (Yes/No/No position)

• McMullin: Yes

• Clinton: “The Kremlin is spreading dangerous disinformation in order to undermine democracies in Europe and the United States. Truth and objectivity are largely meaningless – and furthering Putin’s political objectives is its overriding goal. As a result, Russia’s state-controlled television and radio stations, social media platforms, and an army of internet trolls are continually stoking anti-EU, anti-NATO, and anti-American sentiments, while painting Russia as a defender of conservative, traditional values… We must support and expand efforts to counter these campaigns, including through reinvesting in Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, promoting people-to-people exchanges and cultural outreach, and offering a truthful picture of the United States, its allies, and its values.”

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

A. Do you support strengthening NATO defensive capability by stationing of NATO units in those member states that are most vulnerable to Russian aggression? (Yes/No/No position)

B. Ukraine and Georgia have been seeking membership in NATO and have participated in NATO peacekeeping missions throughout the world. At the NATO Bucharest Summit in 2008 they were assured NATO membership upon meeting certain qualifications. Would you support NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia if these qualifications are met? (Yes/No/No position)

• McMullin: Yes to all responses

• Clinton: “As president, I will work with our NATO allies to stand up to Russia and support the extension of peace, democracy, and stability in Europe, including in Ukraine, the Baltics, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. The recent measures adopted at the Warsaw Summit will help strengthen NATO’s defense capabilities, but we must do more… Acquiring NATO membership has proven to be a powerful motivator for countries to implement difficult but necessary reforms, resolve internal and external diplomatic differences, and contribute to security operations that benefit us all. Moreover, NATO’s open door policy has produced some of our most active and committed allies, and it has helped promote stability and cooperation across Europe. That’s why I continue to support NATO enlargement, and I support the membership aspirations of the Republic of Georgia. Whether Ukraine chooses to seek NATO membership is a decision for the Ukrainian people. Nevertheless, I am committed to helping both Georgia and Ukraine demonstrate that they share NATO values and are important NATO partners.”

Government reform in Ukraine

A. Would you support a more active U.S. involvement in training, equipping, and implementing of key reform and anti-corruption programs? (Yes/No/No position)

• McMullin: Yes

• Clinton: “I strongly support Ukrainian efforts to root out the corruption that threatens that nation’s economy and democracy, and we must continue to press Ukraine to undertake additional necessary measures. The United States must work with international partners like the International Monetary Fund to push for institutional reforms that will improve governance and increase transparency and accountability. And Ukraine’s vibrant civil society should be allowed to serve as a watchdog – to keep the nation on the right track and hold the government accountable. From professionalizing the Ukrainian bureaucracy to strengthening the rule of law and establishing new open government practices, the United States must stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine as it undertakes the difficult but necessary reforms that are needed to ensure it becomes a strong and independent country.”

For more information about UNIS and UCCA, readers may contact the national headquarters of the UCCA at 212-228-6840 or ucca@ucca.org.