(1) U.S. Department of State - Reaffirming U.S. Commitment to a Sovereign and

Whole Ukraine on the Third Anniversary of Russia's Crimean "Referendum"

Press Statement - Mark C. Toner - Acting Spokesperson - Washington, DC

WASHINGTON - Three years ago, Russia seized and occupied Crimea. Russia then staged an illegitimate referendum in which residents of Crimea were compelled to vote while heavily armed foreign forces occupied their land. The United States does not recognize Russia's “referendum” of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and continued violation of international law. We once again reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Over the past three years, Russian occupation “authorities” in Crimea have engaged in a campaign to suppress dissent. In Russian-occupied Crimea, human rights monitors have documented enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and punitive psychiatric hospitalizations. Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists, and independent journalists have been subjected to politically motivated prosecution and face ongoing repression.

Russian occupation “authorities” have silenced and forced the closure of nongovernmental organizations and independent media and have consistently denied international observers access to the peninsula. We call on Russia to cease its attempts to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion.
Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
Link: https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/03/268482.htm 

(2) Key U.S. Senate committee leaders say Russia sanctions must remain – Reuters:
WASHINGTON - Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs committee says reducing sanctions could encourage Moscow to continue aggressive actions, three years after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea region.  The Committee’s top Democrat, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), agreed said the panel should look at increasing sanctions.

The senators discussed the sanctions at a Committee hearing on: “Assessing U.S. Sanctions on Russia: Next Steps.” The witnesses were: Mr. Eric B. Lorber, Senior Advisor, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD); Dr. Rodney D. Ludema, Associate Professor of Economics, Georgetown University (formerly Chief Economist, U.S. Department of State); and Ms. Elizabeth Rosenberg, Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program, Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
LINK: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-congress-idUSKBN16M2H0

(3) USTR nominee: 'awaiting instructions' from Trump on US EXIM Bank – Reuters:

WASHINGTON - President Trump's nominee to be U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, said at his confirmation hearing last week he is "awaiting instructions" from Trump on whether to support a restoration of the Export-Import Bank's full lending powers. The U.S. government trade bank's loans have been capped at $10 million for more than a year because it has too few board members, with Republican opponents to the bank blocking recent nominees.

The cap means that EXIM cannot finance the largest export U.S. products such as Boeing Co aircraft or Westinghouse nuclear reactors. Asked by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) at his confirmation hearing whether he supports nominating new board members as part of a broad trade strategy aimed at reducing U.S. trade deficits and boosting exports,

Lighthizer said that decision would ultimately be up to Trump. Conservative Republicans in Congress have tried to kill EXIM because they view it as providing unnecessary "corporate welfare" and putting U.S. taxpayers at risk for foreign projects.

COMMENTARY:  US EXIM will be needed if Pres Trump is going to fulfill his massive export program, if the US is going to compete on a level playing field with other countries that have very active EXIM banks and if the U.S. is really interested in exporting goods rathen than jobs.  The EXIM fully operational is critically needed for Ukraine. 

The bank has been closed for deals related to Ukraine for at least the last three years.  The U.S. has lost a considerable number of exports to Ukraine because US EXIM is not open for deals related to Ukraine.  US  EXIM should be open for transactions related to Ukraine.

Link:  http://reut.rs/2nqf1MG.  .

(4) 'Out of sight, out of mind': Humanitarian crisis worsens

      in Ukraine as world focuses on Syria, Iraq – CBC News:
Canadian delegation travels to region to hear first-hand accounts of 4-year conflict.  According to UN figures, at least 10,000 people have been killed, including 2,000 civilians, and another 23,000 injured in the fighting between the Ukrainian military and the combined Russian-separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.

Another estimated two million people have been affected, many of whom were forced to flee their homes and are now living with limited access to water, food, heat and electricity. Calling the situation "dire," Ontario Conservative MP Tony Clement said Ukraine is no longer front of mind for most Canadians and others in the West, even though it's a war taking place within Europe.
"I think that's the way Putin wants it," he said. "This is where it gets very dangerous for the sovereignty of Ukraine and the order in Europe, which, of course, Putin wants to disrupt. So, it fits in to his geopolitical game."
COMMENTARY: For some reason the catastrophe in Ukraine has gotten very little exposure in the West, nothing comparable to the situation in the Middle East. Perhaps it is because so far the displaced in Ukraine has stayed within the borders of Ukraine. 

If they chose to leave Ukraine Western Europe would have on its hands a refuge situation far greater than what they face now – at least in terms of numbers. In Washington, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, a member of USUBC, among others, has held several conferences on the situation in Ukraine and the realities of the situation are more than just numbers.  Only a faction of the promised humanitarian assistance has been forthcoming.
Link:  http://www.cbc.ca/1.4019601

(5) Dr. Phillip Karber: Ukraine faces Russia’s ‘new-generation warfare’ –

WASHINGTON - Dr. Phillip Karber, President, Potomac Foundation, never projected that Ukraine would be able to withstand Russian military aggression for as long as it has – three years already. The president of the Potomac Foundation, an independent policy center in Virginia, said Ukraine’s army has “substantially improved” since Moscow engineered an armed uprising in the easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in April 2014. 

“It was a miracle,” the expert in defense and national security told The Ukrainian Weekly in a telephone interview, noting that Kyiv was “struggling to get 10 battalions ready to fight.” Today, three years into the Donbas war, and after 10,000 people killed, Ukraine has 22 brigades and close to 70 battalions, and has the structure to have up to 30 brigades.

Link:  https://toinformistoinfluence.com/2017/02/24/phillip-karber-ukraine-faces-russias-new-generation-warfare/

(6) Ukraine’s fight against fake news goes global – Countering Kremlin

disinformation is one area where Kiev has the upper hand – Vajai Mahesshware - Politico
WASHINGTON - After Putin invaded Crimea and his propaganda machine exploded with self-serving fake news a group of professors and students from Kiev Mohyla University stuck back launching www.StopFake.org, the first site to tackle directly and refute Russian propaganda. The site quickly gained a cult following by exposing false facts in anti-Ukraine Russia news reports. Almost overnight, the founders of StopFake went from provincial do-gooders to international media stars.

COMMENTARY: There doesn’t seem to be any question that StopFake is making an impact.  Among other things the fact that its team speak and write Russian and have easy access to the many Russian propaganda distribution sites and relatively easy access to actual facts involving Ukraine does make StopFake a great resource.

But “Countering Kremlin disinformation is one area where Kyiv has the upper hand” is a really overstated and optimistic.  The author of this Politico article, Vijai Mahesshwari, is a writer who spent six years in Moscow in the 1990s, and was for a time editor in chief of Russian Playboy. 

Putin spends millions-upon-millions on his vast propaganda machine and the influence of the phony narrative he peddles can be found in almost every article published about Russia, Ukraine and anything else Putin wants to influence.  Then of course, maybe Mr. Maheshwari isn’t responsible for the headline.  In that case the editors of Politico need some more schooling.
But the point is, there is nothing negative about StopFake being the David to the Kremlin’s Goliath.  StopFake is slinging some pretty effective stones, but we should not overstate its accomplishments.  Much more is needed.  The efforts to counter and defeat the Kremlin’s lies needs focused and well-funded efforts from all across the West.

Link: http://www.politico.eu/article/on-the-fake-news-frontline/

(7) Six Immediate Steps to Stop Putin’s Aggression – Atlantic Council:
WASHINGTON - Security experts who follow the West’s responses to Russia’s meddling in its internal affairs—through cyber hacks, massive disinformation, corruption of Western leaders, and espionage—have good reason to be disappointed. With a few exceptions in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries, and recently in the Czech Republic, very few real counter-measures have been put into practice.

Despite almost every Western intelligence agency urgently warning about the Russian threat, only a few Western leaders are ordering their security institutions to develop and implement robust strategies and policies against it. Author Jakub Janda  head of the Kremlin Watch Program and deputy director at the European Values Think-Tank, based in Prague, offers solid suggestions.
COMMENTARY: Jakub Janda’s suggestions are straightforward and actually plain common sense.  Unfortunately common sense seldom prevails in international relations, especially it seems when the Kremlin is a part of the equation.  In American tort law there is the “attractive nuisance doctrine” and there seems to be a corollary in international relations as it relates to Russia.  The attractive nuisance doctrine essentially states that a property owner may be held liable for injuries usually to children trespassing if the injury is caused by something on the property likely to attract children.

Consider at least a century of western “leaders” and their attraction to have positive relations with the Kremlin - - despite repeated efforts that do not bear fruit.  We elect them and then watch the same car crash over-and-over. There is also the seldom mentioned Russian “corruption of Western leaders” mentioned by Janda.  Read Janda’s #4 on the calling out of Putin’s Trojan Horses in European politics.
Link: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/six-immediate-steps-to-stop-putin-s-aggression#.WMhNebtivv4.email

 (8) 6 Policies Trump Shoup Pursue to Block Putin in Ukraine –

      Mike Carpenter, Foreign Policy – Shadow Government:
WASHINGTON - Michael Carpenter, former member of Vice President Joe Biden’s senior staff, and immediate past Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and solid supporter of Ukraine also has six recommendations for the new Administration on how to stop Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.  Carpenter is direct, his recommendations well worth reading and, in the case of the Administration, following.


        1. The new administration should continue to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses against Russian aggression.
        2. The United States needs to get directly involved in the diplomacy to resolve the conflict.
        3. No resolution to the conflict is possible without increasing leverage over Russia.
        4. The time horizons must change. Right now Russia is playing the long game, determined to keep its military options

            open while it experiments with political subversion using corruption and oligarchs as tools.
        5. The new administration must continue to invest in Ukraine’s success.
        6. The new administration must enlist greater European support for Ukraine’s democratic development. 
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has raged for three years and claimed 10,000 lives, attracts scant U.S. media attention these days unless it is connected to Trump. However, even if the killings in Donbass seem routine and Americans remain (rightly) focused on Russia’s interference in their own country, the United States cannot afford to lose sight of the Kremlin’s ongoing political-military campaign to destabilize Ukraine and install a pro-Russian government in Kiev.
For the future of European security and the liberal international order, the international community needs to ensure that when Kremlin leaders reflect a decade from now on Russia’s occupation of Ukraine, they see it as a strategic blunder that set Ukraine irrevocably on a path towards Western integration and liberal democracy.
COMMENTARY: Six seems a good number but really, put both sets of recommendations together (articles 7 & 8) and raise the flag, sound the trumpets and charge!
LINK: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/15/6-policies-trump-should-pursue-to-block-putin-in-ukraine/


(9) Donald Trump's pick for national security job files to lobby for Ukrainian oligarch –

WASHINGTON - Conservative pundit Monica Crowley, who backed out of a White House national security job following allegations of plagiarism, is now lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, recently filed paperwork suggests. Crowley disclosed her consultant work of providing part-time "outreach services" on behalf of Pinchuk, a major donor to President Trump’s charity, the Trump Foundation, in a Foreign Agent Registration Statement filed late last week with the U.S. Department of Justice. 


Such outreach services, the form noted, "will include inviting government officials and other policymakers to attend conferences and meetings, such as the annual Munich Security Conference, to engage in learning and dialog regarding issues of concern to Mr. Pinchuk."
Crowley’s work will be done on behalf of Schoen Consulting, a firm run by former Bill Clinton pollster and Fox News analyst Doug Schoen, who is listed as the primary registrant on the filing.

The Ukrainian steel magnate's foundation gave a reported $150,000 to the Trump Foundation in 2015.  A spokesman for Pinchuk's foundation told the newspaper that money was donated as part of an agreement for Trump to speak via video to the Yalta European Strategy conference in September 2015. Pinchuk had also pledged donations to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, the Washington Post has reported.

Link: http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/03/monica_crowley_files_to_lobby.html

(10) Having failed twice against Ukraine, Piontkovsky Says – Window on Eurasia/Paul Goble:

MOSCOW - Kremlin leader has opened “a third stage” in his campaign by “openly supporting” these territories and raising the level of military provocations. The Russian commentator says that Moscow’s latest moves, including the recognition of the passports of the DNR and LNR, the introduction of the Russian ruble, and the integration of the economies of these territories into Russia make it clear to all who is responsible for tearing up the Minsk Accords .
Despite the fact that it has been “clear from the very beginning” that Russia had no plans to fulfill the Minsk Accords, won’t withdraw its forces or hand over control of the borders to Ukraine, Moscow has played a diplomatic game intended to muddy the waters by insisting on the question “’who is the main violator?’”  Ukraine has been restrained in its response because its chief European supporters, France and Germany, “have devoted very great significance to the Minsk Accords,” despite the fact that Russian actions made them a dead letter even before they were signed.


But now Moscow’s actions have made that clear to all, Piontkovsky says, and Ukraine can respond. Piontkovsky says that he thinks that among Moscow’s next steps will be a change in the leadership of the DNR and LNR, involving the political “reanimation” of Yanukovich and Azarov in order to put forward the absurd claim that they and the territories Moscow controls are the legitimate Ukraine and that the rest of the country is in the hands of usurpers.
COMMENTARY:  When you read things like this you might recall how we – the West – has been surprised so many times by not anticipating Putin’s next move.  Recall that after Putin seized Crimea both the Pentagon and NATO issued statements that they had not anticipated such a move - - even though a number of people had been warning Putin would do just such a thing during or immediately after the Sochi Olympics. Perhaps it would be wise to pay attention to Piontkovsky.
Link: www.windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/03/having-failed-twice-putin-launches.html


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