American Foreign Policy And Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

Despite an ongoing investigation of Russia’s connection to Trump’s election campaign team back in Washington, the President recently joined other G-7 leaders in Sicily in supporting sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.  Concerns that the new President would back off this position were raised earlier, at the April 11th, 2017 meeting of the G-7 foreign ministers, when Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, asked, “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” Oddly, that question was largely ignored by the mainstream media except for the appearance of two articles. One, published by the Washington Post as on opinion piece, written by Anne Applebaum made the point that Russia’s attack on Ukraine threatened European peace. As she put it, “The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 were an open attack on the principle of border security in Europe. The principle of border security, in turn, is what turned Europe, once a continent wracked by bloody conflicts, into a safe and peaceful trading alliance in the second half of the 20th century.” The other article was written by Victor Rud, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs for the Ukrainian American Bar Association and published by Forbes.  That article was more extensive and worthy of reflection. This commentary will reiterate Rud’s main points, seeking to both clarify and expand on his thoughts.

Contrary to what Rex Tillerson seems to think, American foreign policy is not just about what is in the best economic interests of “taxpayers.” The principles of American foreign policy are guided by the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution. These founding documents talk about equality, about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the general welfare – universal themes that require America to look beyond simple economic interests in foreign policy.

That being said, however, in his article Rud provides another more basic answer to Tillerson’s misguided question. “The overarching answer is that Ukraine’s independence in 1991 ensured the dissolution of the ‘Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.’” To remind us of just how important Ukraine was to the former Soviet Union, Rud quoted Lenin, “If we lose Ukraine, we lose our head,” thus pointing out that Ukraine was important to the Soviet Union from its very formation to the last day of its existence. The point is that the Soviet Union was even a greater threat to world peace than Russia is today.

Rud reminds us of America’s historic revolutionary war of independence with Britain, quoting from the American Declaration of Independence, “When in the course of human events . . .” The reference helps explain why Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 was in America’s best interests. He points out the irony of President Bush Sr.’s visit to Ukraine when the President delivered his “Chicken Kyiv” speech warning Ukraine against “suicidal nationalism.” Bush clearly did not see he was warning Ukraine against the sort of ‘suicidal nationalism’ George Washington led in 1776. Even after Ukraine reclaimed its independence, however, there was no acknowledgement of American foreign policy shortcomings. Instead, Washington simply adopted what happened, as if Ukraine’s independence was the successful direct result of its foreign policy efforts. Amazingly, President Bush Sr. declared in his State of the Union address, “by the grace of God, America won the Cold War.” Really? In considering the President’s remarks, we might ask what about Ukraine’s independence – did that play a role? His son, President Bush Jr., later wrote that the demise of the Soviet Union was “one of the most stunning diplomatic achievements in history” and “a peaceful end to the Cold War.” Really? Again, exactly whose achievement was it? And where was America’s acknowledgement of Ukraine’s role, given it cost Ukraine “mountains of corpses and a river of blood,” as Cardinal Yosef Slipyi once put it, to overcome the U.S.S.R.’s colossal oppression of Ukraine. Sliyi should know – he spent 18 years in Soviet concentration camps in Siberia before his release to the West.

Despite America’s taking credit for events that it did not shape, surely it must be in America’s best interests to maintain Ukraine’s newly won independence? Have we not moved beyond Mutual Assured Destruction? – Rud asks. No. Along came President Obama, who declared that Ukraine’s fate was not a “core interest” of the United States.  It seems American foreign policy seems to suffer from a bad case of dementia. Rud then reiterates exactly what America must understand and remember.

Ukraine’s independence is a sine qua non for not just American, but global security and stability.” Ukraine’s independence is the safest, most effective and cheapest strategy the U.S. can adopt against Russian aggression. Unlike Russians, “Ukrainians have traditionally harbored a sense of democracy, individualism and a drive toward civic society that any American would recognize. Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, the size of England, Germany, Hungary and Israel, combined.” Citing a historic democratic and civic tradition that Russia never had, Rud reminds us that Ukraine produced Europe’s first constitution for a representative democracy, setting out the separation of powers, and the concept of checks and balances preceding Philadelphia by 77 years and ahead of Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.

Turning to Russia, Rud maintains that its internal oppression and external marauding depend on Russia’s ability to entrap over 10 percent of the Earth’s landmass in a hermetically sealed truthlessness, unconnected to the rest of the globe. He argues that like Israel in the Middle East, Ukraine must anchor stability in Europe. “Russia is a whole separate world, submissive to the will, caprice, fantasy of a single man. . . . Russia moves only in the direction of her own enslavement and the enslavement of all the neighboring peoples. For this reason, it would be in the interest of not only other peoples, but also her own that she be compelled to take a new path.” Surprising us, Rud reveals that this description of Russia by Pyotr Chaadavey, was written in 1854. He adds, the example of an independent, democratic Ukraine would puncture Putin’s hermetically sealed encased truthless empire, forcing the Kremlin at last to turn inward to address the infection of democracy seeping in from Ukraine on its border.

Pavel Sudoplatov, (who Rud calls Stalin’s favorite killer and who Rud reminds us masterminded the ice pick into the skull of Stalin’s foe, Leon Trotsky in Mexico,) wrote openly in his memoirs about Moscow’s “75 year war against Ukraine.” As a key player in battling Ukraine’s resistance to Moscow’s rule, Sudoplatov wrote that the war “formally [Rud’s emphasis] ended” with world recognition of Ukraine.

Rud is right when he says, “It’s bizarre that what is of such strategic interest to the Kremlin has not been of strategic interest to the United States.” He then turns to one of the most significant historical events dealing with Ukraine in the last century. Rud reminds us that just three years after the “end of the Cold War” we required Ukraine to surrender the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal and to transfer much of it and Ukraine’s uranium to Russia.” He asks us, why did we pick on Ukraine and not Russia? Good question. Who was the real threat to world peace here?

The inducement was multi-lateral assurances of Ukraine’s sovereignty. We now know what they were worth. In case you are in doubt, take a look at Crimea and the Eastern Ukrainian front today. What is even more appalling was Washington’s subsequent destruction of Ukraine’s conventional weaponry, with a junior Senator from Illinois, that is to say Senator Barack Obama, declaring:  “We need to eliminate these stockpiles for the safety of the Ukrainian people (my emphasis) and people around the world by keeping them out of conflicts.”  To say that turned out to be an ironic comment would be an understatement. Meanwhile, Russia as the largest country in the world followed its own rules and invaded, occupied and annexed parts of Ukraine. Rud adds, “the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, where Senator Obama stood, is now devastated and occupied by Russia. The largest war in Europe since World War II is now in its fourth year.” Ukraine, less than three percent the size of the colossus of Russia to the North, is fighting alone. (My emphasis). As for U.S. sanctions against Russia, Rud describes them as largely useless.

Rud then turns his attention to America’s historical relationship with the former Soviet Union, the predecessor of today’s Russia, that both he and I regard as really nothing more than the reincarnation of the old empire. “We awarded diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union in 1933, as Stalin was waging a war of starvation against Ukraine.” Instead of opposing the U.S.S.R., the United States sought to “do business” with it. Rud records the results: millions of Ukrainians killed, one-third of them infants and children, while the viability of the Soviet Union ensured for a few more generations to come. The result was that America faced the new menace of an emboldened U.S.S.R. Rud goes on to point out that after World War II, again instead of opposing the U.S.S.R., America joint ventured with Russia’s predecessor to capture the escapees of Soviet repressions, returning them to the U.S.S.R. through “Operation Keelhaul.” In other words, instead of welcoming the escapees, America chased the truth-tellers who sought America as their salvation turning them back over to their persecutors. The implication is that a more enlightened American foreign policy is needed, particularly in understanding the crucial role of Ukraine in world affairs today.

President Ford said of the Helsinki Accords at the time: “History will judge us not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.” America has not been doing well in this regard as far as Ukraine is concerned. As Rud correctly points out, all the multinational and bi-lateral negotiations, treaties and accords of all stripes, somberly presented at the time, and all the furrowed brows and sonorous clichés paraded out in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere, are meaningless.  Let’s face it, America failed to support Ukraine’s sovereignty as was promised in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of December 5th, 1994. That promise induced Ukraine to surrender its nuclear arsenal. If anyone has any doubts about America’s failures regarding Ukraine, one need look no further than that Memorandum and consider whose troops are occupying Crimea today.

If America fails to protect Ukraine, surrendering it into Russia’s sphere of influence, or indeed under its rule, what will friend or foe, (to use President Kennedy’s words,) conclude about Washington’s foreign policy about them? Will Putin’s unbridled contempt for America—and Europe become even more outrageous? What behavior can we expect from North Korea, Iran, Syria and China? What result can we expect if America faces another “Cuban Missile Crisis” today?

Twenty years before Mr. Tillerson’s question, a study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded: “Whether Russian led integration on the territory of the former USSR will pose a serious, long-term military challenge to the West, depends in large part on the role that Ukraine plays or is compelled to play. . . . Ukraine will do much to determine whether Europe and the world in the twenty-first century will be as bloody as they were in the twentieth.” No truer words were written. As Rud points out, if ‘U.S. taxpayers’ are not interested in Ukraine, a tour of  ‘Memory Lane’ is in order. Without that, taxes will be the least of our concerns.

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Review of my book by Brittany Cripps

It is rare that someone takes the trouble, as Brittany did, to write such a beautiful review of a book.
It is clear she took the time and found the patience to do a first rate job …. Here is the review, which you
can find at: http://dynamicsofthemind.blogspot.ca/2014/10/a-promise-kept.html
“A promise kept” is a heart felt, inspiring story of Andriy Semotiuk and his mother Salomea Drozdowska’s life. Andriy’s first person perspective of his life with his mother is creative, well written and inspiring. I must admit when first reading the summary, and first few pages of the novel I summarized the book up quickly to be an uninviting, simplified version of a run of the mill mother’s life events. Although I ignorantly and silently made a conclusion of this story, curiosity got the better of me. I am very glad it did. Mr. Semotiuk taught me the true meaning of ‘never judging a book by it’s cover’. The knowledge and admiration Andriy has for his family is not only conveyed through his skills in writing but with a talent many writer’s lack. Putting life’s trials and tribulations into words with a grace and a dignity that allows the story to relate to many other’s, while remaining completely unique to mother and himself. This incredible story not only teaches us about a strong, beautiful, independent, but stubborn woman, Salomea Drozdowska. It teaches just exactly what a mother facing severe adversities and disabilities can overcome her son and herself. With in such lesson’s we also gain a new and much needed perspective of life in other countries, surviving WWII and how Canada has grown, not only technologically but culturally. Salomea’s life begins in an average family. With little reason’s to for see the trials and tribulations, her family, child, and herself would be dealt. Through personal and political tragedies everywhere she turns, Salomea overcomes and conquers her own fate. From childhood illness, a war torn a plagued country, and physical abuse she never gives up her hope of a successful and safe life. With many loses and setbacks, she survives to see such success and beauty in life. Although life was never easy, she proves determination knows no bounds. The knowledge, the research Andriy put’s into his work leaves you with a craving to learn more. To appreciate all we have and what those whom love us will endure for our well being. Salomea’s life no longer faces the fear of fading away through passing year’s as so many before us have. He keeps her spirit and strength alive through print, through his own personal success, but also through life lesson’s he now passes on to his families new generations. We are lucky enough to have had him share such intimate events with us. Her legacy may now live on through us, his readers. Thank you Mr. Semotiuk for reminding us, life is not always black and white, life is, in any generation what we choose to make of it.

I recommend everyone reads this book, especially mothers!
To buy your own copy please visit the link below.
A Promise Kept, A Tribute to a Mother’s Love

International Security and Ukraine’s Independence

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the independence of Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union. I remember this day well from 24 years ago. My family and I were on vacation in British Columbia, Canada when we turned on the news to learn of the independence declaration. To say we were surprised would be an understatement. After more than 1000 years of Russian domination of Ukraine, subject only to momentary moments of sovereignty, Ukraine finally had achieved what millions of Ukrainians had dreamed about for centuries.

Commentators then claimed that independence was won without blood shed. But any Ukrainian could tell you that was untrue. Those who wrote such words did not have a good grasp of the history of the nation. During the course of Russian domination, the Ukrainian nation repeatedly was the victim of the Kremlin’s sadistic policies. Chief among them was the 1932-1933 unleashing of an artificial famine, the Holodomor, that left some seven million victims dead. But there were many others. Rebellions were quashed, soldiers were killed and Ukrainian dissidents jailed. The Ukrainian countryside was Russified by Russian colonials who Moscow sent to live there while it resettled Ukrainians to Siberia and other desolate places. In the unforgettable words of former Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, Ukrainian land “was covered by a mountain of corpses and rivers of blood.”

So it is only appropriate to reflect on history in considering this day and the conflict taking place in Eastern Ukraine. In his excellent article recently published in the New York Times on that subject, Paul J. Saunders draws a lesson from history in his analysis of the current situation. The article speaks about the pressures the United States applied against Imperial Japan and the oil embargo that ultimately ended up with an attack by the Japanese fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The point being made was that the sanctions employed by America against the Japanese leadership effectively backfired in that those leaders were backed into a corner that forced them to declare war on the U.S. as part of their struggle to maintain their positions in Imperial Japan.

This is a helpful and insightful analysis. The author speaks of the current proclivity of analysts to compare what is taking place in Eastern Ukraine to the events in Europe that led to the outbreak of World War I. Like this author, I too believe that a more accurate analogy would be to the events that led to the outbreak of World Way II. But unlike this author, I believe there is more to be learned from the events in the pre-World War II European theater than those in the Pacific.

Most writers and viewers of today’s events involving Putin’s gambit in Ukraine see the general similarities to Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria and the later invasion of the Sudetenland. What I believe many readers are not registering is that the dramatic events that are unfolding in Eastern Ukraine portend the heavy costs that will be endured by the West for failing to draw the line earlier with this adventurist Putin behavior.

Like Hitler before him, Putin understands only one response to his initiatives – military strength. Putin is a bully and someone unlikely to be deterred by pious condemnations, declarations of NATO solidarity, nor meaningless sanctions that do not affect him personally nor threaten his grip on power in Russia. Meetings with Putin today to discuss ‘peace’ are identical to the meetings Western leaders held with Hitler as he moved ahead with his plans following Munich. What is there to discuss? Putin has invaded a neighboring sovereign state. He correctly reads that the United Sates and its NATO allies are not ready to confront him. They were not ready to do so about Crimea before, not ready to do so about Eastern Ukraine today and they will not be ready to do so if he steps across the EU border.

Personally the fact that Russia is fully at war with Ukraine today did not really register with me until I read the articles about the former American Ranger, Mark Paslavsky, and his recent death in a battle in Eastern Ukraine. Suddenly for me the fact that Paslavsky died brought home the message that over 2000 people have died in the war between Russia and Ukraine so far. Suddenly the over 200 recent bomb scares in Kyiv and the assassinations of political leaders even in Western Ukraine, became more alarming and menacing to me.

While these events pale in comparison to the deaths in Syria and Iraq, or even in Gaza, they are a signal of future events to come. The battles in Syria Iraq and Gaza, while significant and deserving of our attention and utmost effort to curtail, are the minor leagues compared to what we will face with Putin and his nuclear arsenal down the road. Putin will not be deterred until he directly threatens one of the major European powers, and perhaps not even then. Today’s Ukrainian Independence Day reminds us that Russia has always been a belligerent, plundering, imperial state and Putin is well placed as its leader. The biggest mistake Western leaders are making today is failing to fully and urgently arm and militarily assist Ukraine’s army in fighting the war with this invader.

Ukrainian history teaches us that without Ukraine, Russia will perish as an empire – but with it Russia will remain a power others will be forced to face. Lenin knew this in 1917 and Putin knows this in 2014. As mentioned, the cost for the West grows with each day that the war continues. Beware the future with Putin! He is on the road headed our way.

 

Russia vs. Ukraine: Let’s Cut to the Chase, Shall We?

In a previous article I talked about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the key factor being Russia’s ability to securely supply oil and gas through its pipelines to Europe, and in the future to China, given the recent supply agreement reached with that country. I went on to say,Since 70 percent of Russia’s export earnings are from oil and gas exports and 50 percent of Russia’s GDP earnings per year are from energy, a disruption in the flow of oil and gas abroad would be catastrophic … The ensuing economic chaos that such a disruption would cause would be enough to loosen Russia’s grip on Ukraine as Putin’s attention would have to focus internally to mend the problem.”

In an article recently circulated by the APT Group, a reference is made to a Symantec Security white paper that talks about a cyber espionage campaign dubbed Dragonfly (aka Energetic Bear).  According to the white paper, “The attackers … managed to compromise a number of strategically important organizations for spying purposes and could have caused damage or disruption to energy supplies in seven affected countries including the United States. Among the targets of Dragonfly were energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators, and Energy industry industrial control system (ICS) equipment manufacturers.” (Emphasis added).

The white paper continues, “This campaign follows in the footsteps of Stuxnet, which was the first known major malware campaign to target ICS systems. While there are parallels between the motivations behind the Stuxnet malware and the Dragonfly attack group, Dragonfly appears to be focused more on espionage, whereas Stuxnet was designed specifically for sabotage.” It is not known who is behind Dragonfly but the white paper seems to think that the effort is state sponsored.(1)

In an article by Dr. Yarno Limnell, the Director of Cyber Security for McAfee, a division of Intel Security, who holds a Doctor of Military Science degree from Finland’s National Defense University, posted on the CBS News web site entitled Why hasn’t Russia unleashed a cyber attack on Ukraine, the author says,Besides the reported tries at election tampering, the Russia-Ukraine conflict featured crude distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on state websites by both sides in the run-up to the March referendum on the fate of Crimea. Propaganda in digital social media is another form of cyber weapon, and the Russians have certainly uncorked that too. But the genie of full-on cyber assault remains firmly in its bottle.” The author then asks, “Why?” He goes on to provide a number of plausible explanations to the effect that once started there is no predictable end to such an attack.

It is my belief that one of the main reasons why Russia has not undertaken such a full frontal cyber attack is because of Russia’s vulnerability in respect to its energy pipelines to Europe as described earlier. One need only view the maps of the network of Russian pipelines depicted at the following two sites to perceive just how vulnerable Russia really is:
Major Russian gas pipelines to Europe
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Major_russian_gas_pipelines_to_europe.png
Russia’s Pipelines of Empire
http://www.aworldincrisis.org/2013/11/14/russias-pipelines-empire/

Were any of these pipelines seriously attacked, whether by cyber sabotage or even physically, it would not take long for Russia to descend into economic chaos and political turmoil. Putin surely understands this lesson and it is important for Ukraine’s leadership to pay attention to it as well. In the months ahead it could very well be the deciding factor in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

__________________________________________________

(1) The white paper provides the following references for its sources:

REFERENCES:

Dragonfly: Western Energy Companies Under Sabotage Threat

http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/dragonfly-western-energy-companies-under-sabotage-threat

Dragonfly Threat Against Western Energy Suppliers (Whitepaper)

http://www.symantec.com/content/en/us/enterprise/media/security_response/whitepapers/Dragonfly_Threat_Against_Western_Energy_Suppliers.pdf

Dragonfly: the Latest Cyber-Espionage Threat (Webcast)

https://symantecevents.verite.com/31756/262419

 

 

 

Key Issue in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

There is little doubt that the key issue in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is Russia’s capacity to supply oil and gas to Europe and now to China. Since 70 percent of Russia’s export earnings are from oil and gas exports and 50 percent of Russia’s GDP earnings per year are from energy, a disruption in the flow of oil and gas abroad would be catastrophic to Russia. The ensuing economic chaos that such a disruption would cause would be enough to loosen Russia’s grip on Ukraine as Putin’s attention would have to focus internally to mend the problem. Whether there are disgruntled elements in Russia who would be willing to resort to such measures, like the Chechens for example, remains to be seen. However, there is reason to track this concern since it would have far-reaching implications both inside Russia and in Western Europe. After all, the EU as a whole is dependent on Russian oil and gas for 29 percent of its supply, with the Baltic states the most dependent at 100 percent.

Normandy D-Day Celebrations

Andriy J. Semotiuk Author, Speaker, Immigration Lawyer

Andriy J. Semotiuk
Author, Speaker, Immigration Lawyer

Tomorrow, June 6th, 2014, the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy will be commemorated by many Allied Heads of State and hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. Among those who will be present will be Vladimir Putin, President of Russia.  For the reasons I hope to make clear in this comment, it is indeed ironic that Putin should be present on this occasion.

 

Western historians and commentators often remind us that World War II was started by Adolf Hitler’s attack on Poland on September 1st, 1939. But that is not quite correct. It was the attack of Hitler and Stalin, following their Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Poland, that started World War II. Even before that however, the Soviet Union supplied the Nazi war machine with strategic materiel for many years. In addition, for two years following the attack on Poland, Stalin supported  Hitler while Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe including the very fields of Normandy where the celebrations will be held. This joint collaboration ultimately led to the loss of some 50 million lives worldwide.

 

Today, while we seek to venerate those who laid down their lives for democracy and freedom on the fields of Normandy and elsewhere, Putin laments the loss of Soviet glory calling it the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. Instead of condemning Stalin, Putin ruminates about his past seeking to resurrect Stalin as a respected Western ally. Instead of acknowledging and condemning the U.S.S.R. for the concentration camp of nations that it was, Putin employs Nazi tactics such as “the big lie”-Goebbels-style propaganda, double-talk, duplicity and the use of mercenaries to subvert democracy and sovereignty in neighboring states while he seeks to re-establish the Soviet empire. Instead of supporting democracy and freedom in Russia and in allied states like Syria, his defiant aggressive actions, such as the invasion of Crimea, contravene international law and set precedents that jeopardize world peace everywhere.

 

On the solemn occasion of the 70th anniversary of Normandy, let us all recall this early Russian history and make it clear to Putin that his actions have not fooled anyone, nor will they be tolerated by world leaders or by those who lost their fathers, brothers, sons and friends on the fields of Normandy on D-day. Let us be mindful of the fact that in Putin’s Russia today, the publication of the words you are now reading would be enough to send this writer to jail as a criminal for “slandering” the Russian state.

 

Will Sanctions Stop Putin?

I believe the recent Western sanctions imposed on Russia will have the opposite effect from those intended. Briefly, Putin is troubled by internal dissent and cannot tolerate a democracy on his doorstep. As the Russian economy slides to the bottom, to stay in power Putin will need to become even more bellicose externally thus focusing the attention of his countrymen on external problems to keep a lid on internal dissension. His only way of keeping himself
in power is to increase his belligerency on the world stage. As he racks up more
and more ‘victories’ abroad, internal support will ride high until the tide eventually
turns, as it must. But this is a suicidal path that will be costly for all of us. The sooner the West draws a line in the sand and commits to an all-out effort to stop him the less costly the ultimate result will be. Time runs against us in this escalating showdown.