Office of External Relations
October 4, 2019
The Kremlin's Anti-Ukraine Narrative
Gets a Full and Favorable Presentation



The American people deserve a debate about Ukrainian military aid

By Robert Moore, opinion contributor — 10/03/19 05:00 PM EDT

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill [ I would hope so. RAM ]

As Congress gears up to investigate President Trump ’s dealings with the Ukrainian government, there is an opportunity to exercise prudent oversight on U.S. assistance to the eastern European nation and provide public accountability for the military aid at the center of the controversy.

While it certainly won’t be the centerpiece of the upcoming hearings and investigations, the  $391 million  in U.S. military aid that was recently released to the Ukrainian government is the latest of nearly $1.5 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars going to Kiev since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. [ Let me go through the previous sentence in order. (a) Monies “recently released to the Ukrainian government…” The author seems to know about as much as President Trump who has said the money has gone to Ukraine. No money has gone to Ukraine. That isn’t what was intended or what happened. Among other things the Department of Defense has a thorough system in such circumstances to identify not only what military equipment Ukraine wants, but what it best can use, and service effectively. Once identified DoD determines American companies that make or can make what is needed and contracts with those companies to produce the equipment the U.S. will then provide Ukraine. Money did not go to Ukraine – equipment will go to Ukraine. (b) If the author insists upon using “Kiev” the translation of the Ukrainian capital from Russian instead of “Kyiv” the translation from Ukrainian it, among other things, suggests – at least to me – a disingenuous presentation of the Kremlin’s narrative instead of some thoughtful concern about American foreign assistance interests. And (c) “Russian annexation of Crimea....” I am sorry, while technically I suppose correct, those words are far too bland to describe what Russia did and is doing. Russia violated numerous international treaties, agreements and memoranda and invaded Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, has installed a brutal regime and is making the peninsula into a major Russian military base. RAM ]

Overall U.S. assistance, which nearly  doubled between 2013 and 2016 , to more than half a billion dollars annually, comes through multiple funding streams within the U.S. government.
This ranges from developmental aid to anti-tank missiles and Humvees. All funding is aimed at building resilience in the Ukrainian government against external Russian destabilization and internal threats of corruption and anti-democratic activity.  [“External Russian destabilization” – How about Russia’s multifaceted war on Ukraine. RAM ]

Most Americans tuning in to the issue for the first time are likely surprised at the significant amounts of assistance their government is providing to Ukraine. They will hopefully raise important questions about what national security interests we have there and how we are measuring the effectiveness of our efforts. [ Hum, maybe the author just tuned in – or maybe tuned out. Setting aside simply because of space the commitments the U.S. made to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty there still is not enough space here to describe the extensive U.S. national security interests at stake in Ukraine.  So, I will just make one point that isn’t often mentioned in the context of our interests in Ukraine – if we are going to meet the aggressive Chinese challenges to our interests and influence – Ukraine is ground zero! Are we paying attention? The author apparently hasn’t a clue. RAM ]

Claims of  unanimous support  in Congress for the increased assistance to Ukraine are misleading to those who don’t have a granular understanding of the complicated legislative processes in the House and Senate.

Most legislation in the Senate is moved by the unanimous consent process, where a bill is passed out of a committee and brought to the floor to ask for “unanimous consent” for passage or a voice vote — meaning not the standard aye or nay recorded vote we imagine. Instead, the process simply allows any Senator to object to the bill’s passage. If there are no objections, the bill will pass (by either UC or unrecorded voice vote) at the end of the day.

Unanimous consent is sought for multiple bills each day, from simple issues like naming post offices to more complicated issues that members may not want a recorded vote on or take the time to consider.

In practice, this creates a process where only a handful of committed Senators are needed to pressure the committee chair and the majority leader into allowing a unanimous consent request to be offered, and then together bully any objecting members into relenting. (Senate leaders hate when other members object to unanimous consent requests, as it slows down the Senate process and threatens leadership’s power).

Through this process, and similar ones in the House, programs like foreign assistance to Ukraine are passed with “unanimous support” and reauthorized year after year with little public debate or accountability. [ Well, having worked on the Hill “for nearly a decade” the author seeks to educate the readers – most of whom surely know the process as well as the author. However, he uses the procedural “unanimous consent” to argue against the notion that congressional support for Ukraine since independence – and certainly since Putin invaded – has been nearly unanimous. Conveniently for his purpose he discusses "floor" votes. What about the consideration given the issues in multiple committees? Having worked the Hill on Ukrainian issues since before independence – meeting with Members and staff, attending hearings, participating in briefings and following Member and committee follow-up to Administrations of both political parties urging support for Ukraine, I must say one seldom could find such broad support for an issue as there has been for Ukraine. And, in the national security interests of Ukraine and our United States that needs to continue. RAM ]

Now that our relationship with Ukraine is back in the spotlight, the congressional foreign relations and defense committees, one wonders if they will be made to reexamine the assistance with critical attention. [ Wow! Really? This guy doesn’t think the foreign relations and defense committees – as well as the appropriations committees – have given “critical” attention to Ukraine and what they felt and feel the U.S. should be providing? Where has he been? I am sure his criticism would surprise the Members and staff of all those committees. RAM ]

The current controversy surrounding President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky centers on the possible corruption of previous and current Ukrainian officials. [ That is a pretty narrow and convenient for his purposes description of the “controversy.” RAM ]

According to the oversight group Transparency International, Ukraine ranks  120 out of 180 countries  on their corruption index. Any country riddled with such corruption deserves extra attention before any taxpayer-funded resources are delivered — no matter how noble the intention. [ True, but the author is assuming that has not been done and is not being done. Hello! He and Transparency International have not been sharing some secret. A major concern in Ukraine – with its civil society – and with the United States and other countries seeking to assist Ukraine is the corruption and our government has pursued the corruption issue in many ways. DoD has to make certain certifications before delivering assistance for example. RAM ]

But more important is examining our assumptions about U.S. interests in Ukraine, which cannot be properly calibrated without understanding Russian interests in the region. Even the strongest supporters of continuing aid to Ukraine acknowledge U.S. strategic interests there are limited or at least “indirect.” Russian interests, however, are strong. And they will always be greater due to their shared 1,200-mile border and rich cultural and historical ties.

If the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 proved anything, it’s that Russia views Ukraine as a critical security interest. [ Now we are getting to it! These Kremlin talking points are used over-and-over and – in my opinion – only the sloppy and ill-educated buy into the arguments. The author drivels on with this Putin pabulum into the next paragraph. It is enough to make a genuine student of the region, U.S. interests, and Russia’s pathetic focus on regional domination simply shake their head. RAM ]

Despite a territorial sovereignty agreement between the United States, Russia, and Ukraine in 1994 and the assuredness of international outrage and sanctions for invading another country, leaders in Moscow went through with their activities in eastern Ukraine because they calculated their security was at stake — in this case the threat of a western-aligned government in Kiev blocking a naval port on the Black Sea (giving access to the Mediterranean) — outweighed other concerns. [ If only Putin or this author had the slightest evidence to support Kremlin paranoia maybe – maybe – listening/reading would have some value. They do not. RAM ]

The defined U.S. interests on the other hand, as stated in legislation, are limited to vague proclamations about fostering democracy and world order and protecting the  territorial integrity of counties  on the other side of the world of little to no direct connection to U.S. security or prosperity. [ Not sure one can find that exact description in any legislative language – fast and loose he goes. RAM ]

Sure, a predictable world order is certainly idyllic, but a cost-benefit analysis should be factored in. These sets of interests dictate that in a game of chicken over Ukraine, the United States would surely—and wisely—blink first. The Russians are willing to offset and raise any escalation from the United States, creating a daunting scenario between two nuclear powers. And the problem for the United States in continuing to pursue this sort of military assistance is that both sides ultimately understand these factors.

Congress has an opportunity to exercise its authority and make good on public accountability by including stringent oversight of our foreign assistance to Ukraine in the coming months. Will it take it? [ Congress will not be doing its job if it considers seriously the arguments in this article. This guy, knowingly or not, has completely bought into the tired and discredited narrative out of the Kremlin – poor soul. RAM ]

Robert Moore is a public policy adviser for Defense Priorities Foundation. He worked on Capitol Hill for nearly a decade, most recently from 2013-2017 as the lead staffer for Senator Mike Lee on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

You might want to look up the Defense Priorities Foundation. RAM

Bob McConnell
Coordinator, External Relations
U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network
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