This week the National Security Task Force submitted testimony to six Congressional Committees – the House Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations. The text of the testimony was in each case identical and the text of the version delivered to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is set out below.
The Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) prepared it’s most recent set of recommendations in the later part of 2019,
Priority Recommendations For U.S. Assistance to Ukraine 2020
, and since then has had both in-person briefings relating to Ukraine and the recommendations and, because of the unique coronavirus situation, conference call briefings with numerous congressional offices over these last months, all told 53 briefings of Members and staff.
However, due to the unique current circumstances and the reality that Congress nevertheless has to move forward with its preparation of authorization and appropriation legislation for Fiscal Year 2021 the National Security Task Force felt is important to make sure its views were available on the Hill as broadly as possible. As a result this testimony has been delivered to these Committees, the individual offices of every Member of each of these Committees, the Congressional Leadership and numerous Congressional offices of Members not on these selected Committees, as well as to certain officials in the Executive Branch, a distribution totaling 421 which includes about a dozen officials in the Administration
STATEMENT OF THE FRIENDS OF UKRAINE NETWORK
TASK FORCE ON NATIONAL SECURITY
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
[Given the Coronavirus situation we submit this statement in the form of testimony for consideration during the Committee’s preparation of FY21 authorization legislation]
Thank You Mr. Chairman, the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) is a non-partisan coalition of former ambassadors, leading policy and international security professionals. It also includes other experts who have dealt with key aspects of Ukraine’s relations with the United States and the international community.
FOUN is an outgrowth of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) and U.S. Department of State-sponsored U.S.-Ukraine Policy Dialogue programs of 2005 and 2011, that brought together government officials and non-government policy experts from both countries to discuss and make recommendations on numerous issues of mutual concern.
The Foundation has organized FOUN -into several task forces on different dimensions of areas where the United States should support Ukraine’s security and prosperity. Today the FOUN Task Force on National Security offers this Committee recommendations for consideration as you develop (the FY 2021Defense Authorization/FY2021 Defense Appropriations) Bill.
In this regard FOUN emphasizes that Ukraine’s security matters to the United States and its allies for many geopolitical reasons, including the fact that Ukraine is part of the greater Black Sea region. The greater Black Sea region is where West meets Russia/China/Iran. It is where Europe, Russia, Eurasia, and the Middle East all converge. Great Power Competition prevents great power conflict and so competing here in all domains (diplomacy, information, military, economy) provides us the best chance to deter Russia, contain Iran, keep China at bay, while helping the 40 million people of Ukraine achieve their aspirations for freedom, democracy, economic prosperity, and closer integration with the European Union and NATO.
If Ukraine is not secure then Russia completely dominates the Black Sea, presents a threat to NATO allies in the region (Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey), dominates Georgia, and continues to suppress Moldova.
But beyond the Black Sea, as former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Sherman Garnett has written, Ukraine is the keystone in the arch of Central and East European security. And, as many, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, have observed, if Moscow can suborn Ukraine, then Russia will once again be an empire and have direct access to all the borders of Central and Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Since Russia has been pursuing policies designed to undermine European security for most of this century and does not accept any of the borders of the post-Cold war settlement as legally fixed and irrevocable, and does not accept the sovereignty of any European state east and south of Germany, the consignment of Ukraine to Russian influence would encourage Moscow to probe further into Europe.
Thus, if Ukraine is not secure then Belarus becomes much more vulnerable to pressure from the Kremlin and Russian ground troops are soon back in Belarus, and Russian provocations against our NATO Baltic Allies - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia – with greater risk to Poland.
Ukraine matters and the United States must provide the support Ukraine needs and must do so in a manner fully informed by the situation in Ukraine.
FOUN does acknowledge and recommend the invaluable information on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine provided regularly by the United States Mission to the OSCE. These reports are available at
Here FOUN urges direct assistance for Ukraine, presents an update on Russia’s response to the United States sanctions on Nord Stream II, recommends additional sanctions and offers suggestions on the counsel the Zelenskyy Administration needs to hear from Congress.
Recommendations for Direct Assistance.
Attached to this statement are the FOUN’s Priority Recommendations for
U.S. Assistance to Ukraine 2020
which contains the recommendations of all three FOUN task forces and was published late last year.
As many Members know, FOUN has been discussing these Recommendations with individual offices and members of committee staff since late last year. Two things need to be emphasized here. First, in regard to the recommendations from FOUN’s other two task forces (Economic Security Task Force and Democracy & Civil Society Task Force), some details are being updated and updated material will be forwarded to Congress as appropriate. Second, in that original document you will find recommendations for military assistance, priority capabilities, specific options and recommendations related to NATO and U.S. Government foreign policy but this statement provides updated emphasis on these recommendations as well.
The overriding objective of these recommendations is to strengthen Ukraine’s deterrence capabilities. For example, once Ukrainian forces had the American Javelin anti-tank missiles, aggression by Russian tanks in Eastern Ukraine abated noticeably. Russia wishes to avoid
, it neither wants nor can afford large numbers of body bags returning to Russia from a war it says it is not fighting. The threat the Javelins present to the Russian tank corps is a genuine deterrent.
Lesson learned, but Russian tanks have not and are not the only form of Russian aggression being faced by Ukraine where deterring weapons can and should be provided. Grenade launchers also would provide genuine deterrence against new Russian ground assaults against Ukraine. Additional counter-battery and counter-mortar systems would also deter Russian artillery and rocket attacks and help negate Russia’ huge superiority in electronic warfare (EW).
We need to help Ukraine protect its citizens and make the costs of all types of aggression prohibitive and against Russian interests.
Russia unlawfully seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and, in addition to the flagrant human rights violations Russia is committing against the people of Crimea, especially Crimean Tatars, including deportations, it is militarizing the Peninsula with troops, weapons, aircraft, ships, and missiles, including nuclear-capable missiles.
In addition, the Russian navy has become more and more aggressive in the Black Sea. Not only has the Russian navy essentially shut down Ukrainian and Ukraine-related commercial access through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov (and critical Ukrainian commercial ports there), the Russians are taking additional steps to strengthen their illegitimate control over waters vital to Ukraine and other countries on the Black Sea.
Ukraine needs the ability to deter Russian aggression at sea as well as on the land.
With this in mind, FOUN strongly supports Ukraine’s need to build a “mosquito fleet.” This would involve fast, maneuverable patrol boats equipped with weapons such as torpedoes and Hellfire missiles that will present a significant deterrence to further Russian aggression on the sea and counter Russian military and economic threats to Ukraine.
Washington has already commendably sent two Perry-class frigates to Ukraine. In the Recommendations, FOUN recommended the provision of at least six but preferably twelve Mark V patrol boats. The Department of Defense is reportedly prepared to deliver two Mark VI patrol boats and that would be a welcome step forward. Mark VIs are superior to the Mark V but the bottom line is that the Ukrainians need more boats – properly equipped -- to protect their extensive shoreline.
Likewise, Ukraine needs anti-ship missiles for coastal defense – both land-based short-range missiles and ship-based anti-ship missiles. The United States has many 1970s-vintage Harpoon anti-ship missiles in storage; they would be ideal for increasing this dimension of Ukraine’s deterrence capability.
In addition to providing Ukraine sufficient deterrent naval capability, the United States and its NATO allies must develop and implement a more effective Black Sea strategy to contain Russian ambitions. Likewise, they should work with Ukraine to help it formulate an equivalent and credible Black Sea strategy for itself. Russia’s steady efforts to establish dominance in the Black Sea is a significant threat to Ukraine and other Black Sea countries, including NATO members Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
In addition to providing the recommended weapons the Department of Defense should be directed to provide a report on U.S. and NATO Black Sea strategy by a date certain.
As a complement to the above measures, the United States and its European allies and partners should agree that Russian Navy vessels and merchant ships that sail directly from ports in Crimea should be banned from all ports in NATO and European Union nations.
Air defense capabilities
There is no possibility Ukraine could ever defeat a genuine Russian air war, but the Russians have not used air power since the first months of the war in Eastern Ukraine. Attacks by Russian aircraft would represent a major escalation on Moscow’s part and undercut the Kremlin’s propaganda that the war is an internal Ukrainian conflict in which Russian armed forces are not involved.
However, the threat remains.
FOUN recommends that the U.S. provide air defense artillery and other excess air defense systems, such as the Avenger and Hawk, to deter Russian reintroduction of air power to the conflict. Similarly, the transfer of radars to Ukraine will also counter Russian aerial and electronic superiority in the aerospace domain.
Military Industrial Complex
Corruption in the public sector of Ukraine’s defense manufacturing industry has been the source of significant concern for a long time. Indeed, our Department of Defense has been “on the case” for some time with designated representatives working with the government and management to improve the Defense Industrial Ministry and the huge manufacturing conglomerate Ukroboronprom.
Reforms, including the break-up of the Defense Industrial Ministry and Ukroboronprom, are already in progress. But Ukraine would benefit from ongoing and active U.S. participation and encouragement of ongoing reform efforts.
Relations with NATO
With the goal of attaining NATO membership, in the near-term FOUN recommends to the Administration and urges Congress to support a decision by NATO to grant Enhanced Opportunity Partner status to Ukraine in recognition of its strategic importance and substantial progress toward interoperability with NATO forces.
Energy as a weapon
FOUN acknowledges and appreciates the sanctions Congress imposed in the FY2020 NDAA related to companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. These sanctions had an immediate impact: the departure of the Swiss company laying the final segment of the pipeline in Danish waters. Moscow is now actively trying to end run U.S. sanctions and get the final 100 miles of completed. Six Nord Stream 2-related ships have recently been pre-positioned at the German Baltic port of Mukran, while others are preoccupied with the global pandemic. We would recommend that additional sanctions be considered on both the companies supplying support vessels to the Russians and on key European actors representing Russian interests in Nord Stream 2.
Various sanctions have been imposed on Russia tied to its invasion of Crimea, its war in Donbas, its meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. All these sanctions have extracted a cost, slowing Russian economic growth and discouraging foreign investment.
However, even though it faces plunging demand for oil and gas, and the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kremlin continues to make choices that impose devastating casualties and costs on Ukraine and other nations. Instead of making choices to enhance the welfare of the Russian people and protect its population from the Coronavirus pandemic, Putin and his regime continue to wage war and illegally occupy the territory of Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Moldova.
FOUN believes that sanctions on Russia need to be strengthened if we hope to change Putin’s calculus and convince him to end his aggression and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. FOUN recommends that serious consideration be given to developing a schedule of new sanctions that would prevent the Kremlin from adapting to the current sanctions regime and impose new sanctions every four to six weeks until Russia backs down from its aggressive and destabilizing behavior.
The Kremlin only responds to pressure; the costs imposed by today’s sanctions are substantial and may have acted as a deterrent, but have not proved sufficient to change Russian behavior. Sanctions should increase on a clearly defined schedule until the sanctioned acts end.
Non-recognition of Crimean Annexation
In March, 2019, the House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate H.R. 596,
the Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act.
The FY 2016-FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Acts included similar language to this bill, prohibiting Department of Defense funds from being used on any action that recognizes Russian sovereignty over Crimea. If enacted H.R. 596 would apply that prohibition across the entire federal government.
FOUN urges early enactment.
Congressional Advice and Counsel to the Government of Ukraine
Zelenskyy was elected President of Ukraine just over a year ago by a remarkable 73% majority. He ran for office as a reformer and as one who would seek an end to the war with Russia.
Here FOUN focuses on the reform efforts. For almost a year the President governed as a reformer installing many solid reformers in the ministries and pressing the Verkhovna Rada
(Ukraine’s parliament) to pass a number of good reform laws. There were primarily two areas where the President did not move forward. He did not fight for much needed reforms in Ukraine’s banking laws, most importantly for laws that would prohibit oligarch
from regaining control of Privat Bank, and he did not move aggressively to reform the judiciary. And it must be noted there are other oligarchs with considerable influence who work against the best interests of the people of Ukraine.
More recently, at the insistence of the IMF and western governments, President Zelenskyy has pushed through the Rada an important agriculture reform law and just last week the banking law. However, the push for overall reform appears to be slipping away.
The President’s first cabinet was mostly quite good and ministers were working to implement reforms and improve policy in their respective areas of responsibility. However, in early March Zelenskyy fired most of his cabinet and brought in replacements with less experience and less committed to reform and the fight against corruption.
FOUN would like to give Zelenskyy and his team the benefit of the doubt and monitor the changes over time, but indications are not good. Beyond the questionable appointments, the transition from one minister to another is disruptive at a time when Ukraine needs reform and stability.
There is a genuine concern that President Zelenskyy’s governance may be slipping away from reform and following unfortunate patterns from Ukraine’s past.
President Zelenskyy should be warned against proceeding down a path devoid of a clear and unequivocal commitment to reform. There certainly are ways Congress, or Members within Congress such as the Congressional Ukraine Caucus and Senate Ukraine Caucus, can let President Zelenskyy know that there is deep concern in Washington that he is heading in the wrong direction.
FOUN’s recommendations for assistance are not lessened because of the President’s backtracking on reform – the people of Ukraine deserve our support and Ukraine and Ukraine’s security remain of vital national interest to the United States. However, Congress and the Administration have many ways to express concern and FOUN believes such concern should be made clear now.
Friends of Ukraine Network
National Security Task Force
Dr. Stephen Blank
, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute
General Philip Breedlove
, USAF (Ret), Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations
, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy
, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
General Wesley Clark
, USA (Retired), Former SACEUR
Ambassador John Herbst
, former United States Ambassador to Ukraine, now Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council
Lieutenant General (Ret) Ben Hodges
, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)
, Jamestown Foundation
Dr. Donald Jensen
, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)
Dr. Phillip Karber
, Potomac Foundation
Nadia K. McConnell
, President, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
, R.A. McConnell & Associates and U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
, American Foreign Policy Council
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow
, Former NATO Deputy Secretary General, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense and Ambassador to Russia.