(1) Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, visits Capitol Hill - MFA, January 25, 2017 

Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly held a meeting with U.S. Representative for Utah’s Second Congressional District and member of the Republican Party Chris Stewart

The Ambassador called on the Congressman, who is also a member of the House Appropriations and Permanent Select Intelligence Committees, to help promote the U.S. leadership in ensuring a continued Trans-Atlantic solidarity with Ukraine. He also briefed the Congressman on recent developments in the occupied territories of Ukraine’s Donbas and Crimea and stressed the importance of further political, military, financial and other forms of U.S. assistance to Ukraine in countering the Russian aggressive policies.

Congressman Stewart invited Ambassador Chaly to participate as a key note speaker at his annual national security conference with a focus on the subject of Ukraine’s security challenges and how the United States can help overcome them, which is to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Ambassador emphasized the importance of organizing Ukraine-related events in various parts of the U.S., particularly in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Ukraine-U.S. diplomatic relations marked this year.

In his turn, the Ambassador said he would welcome a decision of the Congressman to join the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus – an informal group of friends of Ukraine in the U.S. House of Representatives.

LINK:  http://usa.mfa.gov.ua/en/press-center/news/54027-posol-ukrajini-v-ssha-valerij-chalij-proviv-zustrich-z-kongresmenom-respublikancem-vid-shtatu-juta-krisom-styuartom

(2) Congress, Russia, and Sanctions – Brookings – Ambassador Seven Pifer – 

Ambassador Pifer reports congressional interest is growing in enacting sanctions on Russia related to its continuing aggression against Ukraine and its efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election. The proposed legislation would codify and supplement sanctions applied by the Obama administration through.  Pifer argues effectively for how such codification of sanctions should be applied.

COMMENTARY:  It is true, as reported in earlier Washington Watch newsletters, that a number of senators are in strong support of moving such legislation but, unfortunately, broader Congressional support is no longer so predictable. 

The key though to Congressional action as well as U.S. foreign policy, as this newsletter has reported before, is the President.  Until President Trump takes actions as President it is essentially impossible to predict next steps in U.S.-Ukraine relations. But at this early stage one very important thing predicted in this newsletter earlier is coming true.  

Members of Congress – Republican Members of Congress – who have previously been strong supporters of Ukraine are holding back on new public expressions of support for Ukraine.  For those working Ukraine issues in the House of Representatives the unwillingness of long-time supporters to speak up is very discouraging.  

NOTE:  The reason for this?  A primary reason is not knowing how Trump might respond to strong expressions that might turn out to be contrary to where he wants American foreign policy to go. 

During the campaign House Members saw how Trump attacked candidates you disagreed with him through tweets and how Trump supporters, in turn, turned on those candidates. With House Members again up for election in two years there is genuine fear based on what might happen if they get on the wrong side of the President.  

NOTE: This is not an trivial concern, it well could have significant impact on Congressional support for Ukraine-related legislation. The “fear factor” among House Republicans is going to have to be addressed strategically in any legislative effort to support Ukraine. 

And, not to be forgotten, if what has been broad, bipartisan congressional support for Ukraine is exposed as weakening, understand that the Kremlin’s massive and sophisticated lobbying operation in Washington will see it and use every means available to take advantage.  [Keep this analysis of the situation in the House of Representatives in mind as you read on.]

LINK: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/01/18/congress-russia-and-sanctions/

(3)  Ukraine demands say in any Russia-U.S. talks to end conflict on its territory – Reuters - 

Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal told Reuters Ukraine must have a say in any deal struck between Russia and the United States aimed at ending violence in eastern Ukraine.  Based upon some of his statements there is deep concern in Kyiv that American President Donald Trump might try to exclude Ukraine from any peace negotiations as he attempts to improve ties with Moscow. 

"I don't believe in gentleman's agreements anymore," Zerkal said, noting Russia had violated an earlier deal - the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, under which Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan gave up nuclear weapons in exchange for assurances of territorial integrity.

NOTE:  Why would Ukraine trust anyone or any nation to negotiate on its behalf?  On what grounds could Ukraine trust any Russian promise?

LINK: http://reut.rs/2k1018L


COMMENTARY by Timothy Ash - Bluebay Asset Manage --- IFAX headline saying Kremlin unaware of decree prepared by Trump to lift sanctions..but implying that a decree has been prepared.  While many think Trump is willing to lift sanctions, it would be strange for a guy who sees himself as the king of the deal to give something so big without first securing some form of concession from Putin.


This would be manna from heaven for Putin - and would not go down well just ahead of the meeting with May. Also would Trump risk a major battle with Congress over this - Republicans and Dems - so soon into his term without getting something first in return from Putin. 

Many do think we see Russia pushing the limits of Western sanctions this year - with unsanctioned entities taking advantage of opportunities to issue where they can to get dollar liquidity while the window is open, but Trump seems more likely to hang back from signing an executive order lifting these sooner rather than later.

(5) Kremlin Confirms Putin, Trump to Speak by Phone on Saturday - Bloomberg - by Stepan Kravchenko and Andrey Biryukov, January 27, 2017

Bloomberg -- President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump will exchange views on Russia-U.S. relations in first official phone talks on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters on conference call.

* Russia doesn’t expect substantive discussions on broad range of issues in initial call
* Peskov says he doesn’t know if U.S. intends to lift Russia sanctions
* Putin to meet with members of Russian Security Council on Friday
* Peskov declines to comment on reports of Federal Security Service officials arrested on treason charges related to hacking
* Putin to visit Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan soon

(6) Trump’s First Putin Tests - Two Senate moves would give the U.S. more leverage with Russia – The Wall Street Journal -- 

President Trump has vowed to improve relations with Moscow, but the new Administration’s Russia diplomacy is still taking shape. In the meantime two measures working their way through the U.S. Senate will provide an early test of whether this latest outreach to Moscow will do better than Barack Obama’s failed “reset,” one of those bills focuses on Ukraine.  As reported earlier a group of Senators, led by Republican John McCain and Democrat Ben Cardin, introduced a bill that strengthens existing Ukraine sanctions imposed by Mr. Obama’s executive orders. 

S.94 - A bill to impose sanctions in response to cyber intrusions by the Government of the Russian Federation and other aggressive activities of the Russian Federation, and for other purposes is co-sponsored by Cardin, McCain, Menendez (D-NJ), Graham (R-SC), Shaheen (D-NH), Rubio (R-FL), Klobuchar (D-MN), Sasse (R-NE), Durbin (D-IL), and Portman (R-OH). 

NOTE:  Now it’s up to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker to schedule a hearing.  [It will be instructive to see what happens, starting in the Senate where there is not as much concern about President Trump’s tweet strategy.  In the House, as noted above, things are different regarding Ukraine than in the past.]

LINK: http://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-first-putin-tests-1485391175?emailToken=JRrzcfh+Zn2QhNEyaswgzkAtdrJNBe6TXU+SNG3WO06JqHHOvfnknvll2oDm+DrwGA==

(7) How to Trump-Proof Sanctions on Russia – Atlantic Council – 

This is another article regarding S. 94, The Counteracting Russian Hostilities Act of 2017, discussed immediately above.  The article calls the legislation the “gold standard” standard for bipartisan legislation that would make the United States safer and our allies more secure. The legislation incorporates language from the STAND for Ukraine Act, which stalled in Congress at the end of the last session but also sought to codify the sanctions policy. 

To remove sanctions, the new bill would require the president to apply for a case-by-case waiver and submit a notice to Congress justifying the waiver request. The Senate would have to approve any sanctions removal. 

In addition to Ukraine-related sanctions, it also outlines a policy of non-recognition for the Russian occupied territories in Ukraine and Georgia, imposes new sanctions related to cyberattacks, authorizes additional funds for counter-disinformation efforts, and seeks to clamp down on Russia’s kleptocratic networks by “tracing, mapping, and prosecuting illicit financial flows linked to the Russian Federation if such flows interact with the United States financial system.”

LINK: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/how-to-trump-proof-sanctions-on-russia

(8) Can Nikki Haley Change Trump’s Mind About Russia and Putin? - 
        America’s new U.N. envoy tries to chart her own course, putting her at odds with the White House – Foreign Policy  

The Senate has confirmed the out-going governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.  In her responses to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during her confirmation hearing she took a very strong position on Ukraine and Putin. 

“Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine — and its invasion and illegal occupation of Crimea — establish a very dangerous precedent only last seen in Europe during World War II,” she wrote in one of her written responses. “This could lead to a complete breakdown in the postwar settlement that has largely endured peace and stability throughout much of Europe since 1945. This would have a profound negative impact on U.S. national interests.”

NOTE:  The big question is whether Haley, from her cabinet seat and through day-to-day diplomacy in the U.N. trenches, can actually prevail upon Trump to revise his foreign-policy priorities, and to view Putin more as America’s adversary than a partner, 

LINK http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/25/can-nikki-haley-change-trumps-mind-about-russia-and-putin/

(9) Key Claims in Trump Dossier Said to Come From Head of Russian-American Business Group – The Wall Street Journal -

Belarus-born head of a Russian-American business group, Sergei Millian, an American citizen, is said to have passed along unverified allegations of Donald Trump’s ties to Russia to at least one third party to the British ex-spy who prepared the dossier.  The article includes a number of denials.

LINK  http://www.wsj.com/articles/key-claims-in-trump-dossier-came-from-head-of-russian-american-business-group-source-1485253804?


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