Office of External Relations
February 14, 2020

Simply Deny the Facts and Win

Robert McConnell and Victor Rud
Earlier today the "Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group" put out a statement, "Twelve Steps Toward Greater Security in Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic Region." 

Surely the authors did not intend it to be so, but it is a Valentine for Putin. Dear Vladimir, deny facts, make-up whatever history suits you and win.

EASLG fired its version of Cupid’s Valentine arrow at the wrong target.

The EASLG statement is an example of Russia co-opting Western institutions and individuals to market a monumentally diversionary narrative that refuses to face cold reality.  It opens with "The conflict in and around Ukraine is a tragedy for all affected by the violence.” 

“The conflict” – with the first two words in the first sentence EASLG marginalizes reality and sets the document on a course that cannot possibly lead to a realistic consideration of the issue. The problem is that the subject of their concern is Russia’s war against Ukraine . That fundamental fact – that Russia is conducting a war against Ukraine is the controlling reality for anyone seriously addressing the situation.

It is a reality the EASLG statement refuses to address. So, no matter how many “Steps” EASLG offers they cannot lead to “Greater Security in Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic Region” if they deny reality.

The Statement accepts and legitimizes Russia's reality reversal about its six year war against Ukraine, and the consequences for Western security. "The critical element of Moscow’s present hybrid warfare against the West is informational warfare , defined here as a comprehensive and concerted state-sponsored influence campaign designed to steer social debate, hijack political, social and media narratives, and distort information context in order to influence decision-making in international organizations and countries around the world in a way that would validate and accommodate the interests of the ruling Russian kleptocracy."
Russia's information warfare and "reflexive control" are perniciously effective precisely because they harness prominent individuals to provide the necessary imprimatur , multiplying the distribution and facial credibility of what can only be described as a pro-Kremlin statement. And that is exactly what has happened with the EASLG statement.

This movie is old, its outcome is always the same

The Statement's articulated goal is "a political resolution to ending the armed conflict in the Donbas region." 

Negotiating with one’s self leads to nothing but unmatched concessions. From the very outset, the Statement is an execrable capitulation and an unadorned surrender of Russia's land-grab in Ukraine. The effect is masked by a tactic long exploited by the Kremlin. In language that has been the sinkhole for Western agreements with Moscow, Crimea (mentioned only once) is merely to be the subject of future "dialogue." Not a syllable condemns Russia, whether as concerns Crimea or the Donbas region. Nowhere is there an intimation that Russia is to "get out." 
Even more, the statement lacks any historical context. Its goal is dialogue. Where in the history of dealing with the Kremlin is there any evidence that anyone other than the Kremlin gets anything out of dialogue with the Kremlin? The movie always ends the same.

The only way to greater security in Ukraine and the region is through leverage

“Dialogue” is a siren song. What possible dialogue can there be unless it has as its purpose the dilution of Ukraine’s sovereignty and security? What is there to discuss? How can there be “greater security in Ukraine” without Russia leaving and being held responsible for the consequences of its malevolence? 

In 1994 Ukraine unilaterally gave up its nuclear weapons – and shipped them to Russia at American insistence! In return the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia assured (think guarantee as the Ukrainians were led to believe) Ukraine’s sovereignty and the sanctity of her borders in the Budapest Memorandum

And this brings us to the reality the United States, the United Kingdom and the EASLG have not faced. The fecklessness of our (U.S. and U.K.) living up to our promise not only has left Ukraine in an almost untenable position but has embolden bad guys throughout the world.

Since it’s democratically achieved independence, Ukraine has heard all the true but too easily stated platitudes about its geopolitical importance, the desire to see it take its rightful place in the community of nations and the world economy, etc. And, admittedly Ukraine has been the beneficiary of millions-upon-millions in United States and Western assistance as it has struggled to deal with the corrupt and debilitating Soviet legacy. Diplomatic boxes have been self-satisfyingly checked by Washington and others.

But then there is Putin and Russia, the reality in today’s Ukraine.
When many observers warned loudly that Putin would invade Crimea during or immediately after the Sochi Games nothing was done. In fact, after the invasion both the Pentagon and NATO said publicly they were surprised by the Russian aggression. That simply could not have been true.

A U.S. government spokesperson characterized the invasion as an “unopposed arrival.” Who talks like that? What did Washington expect? Crimean farmers and merchants to face down tanks with pitchforks and forklifts?

Immediately upon the invasion of Crimea (April 2014) the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) gathered and recommended the immediate imposition of sanctions on 10 specific individuals, nine companies, as well as recommending two additional individuals to be added to the Sergei Magnitsky list.   The intention was that if these sanctions were imposed together and immediately the Kremlin would understand that the United States took seriously Russia’s violation of the Budapest Memorandum and was going to punish Russia severely – and would ratchet-up the consequences if Russia did not withdraw.

Despite FOUN petitions throughout the Executive and Legislative Branches this did not happen.

It was not until late summer that a few sanctions were imposed. Consequences delayed are consequences with little to no meaning in the malevolent world of the Kremlin.

So, there was the clear signal, one that did not show strength, did not show commitment to Ukraine or U.S. obligations, or to the United States’ own national security interests. Mr. Putin certainly got the message.

Without reciting the subsequent and on-going Russian aggression and our feckless corresponding reactions, the fact is we have not met our “assurances” to Ukraine. Despite what we have done, we have not given Ukraine what it needed or needs to face down Russia’s war against it and we need to do so.

And Putin is not the only one who can see the signals.

Kyiv, too, knows that unless something changes dramatically it is essentially on its own in the war where its sovereignty has been savaged and the people of Ukraine are killed, displaced and more.
Into this reality the EASLG offers “dialogue” against Russia’s tanks, Kalashnikovs, and saturating propaganda.

Dialogue offers Ukraine nothing unless Ukraine has genuine leverage

It's bad enough that the Statement does not articulate a word about Russia's war against Ukraine being the largest land war in Europe since WWII, or about Russia's invasion, occupation and annexation. The Statement is mute about Russia ongoing murder spree and torture of civilians and servicemen, labor camps, beheadings of teen-agers, the kidnapping and use of civilians as a shield, bombing of schools and hospitals and other war crimes. And then there's Malaysia flight 17.

A fair question is "Why?" EASLG wants to avoid offending Russia? It would rather offend the victim?

The receptive groundwork having been laid, we get to the heart of the matter in Step 12, "Launch a new national dialogue about identity." It calls on the "Euro-Atlantic Region" to force Ukraine to affect its own extinction as not just a state, but as a nation. Complete with the buzzwords du jour, the job description is in Step 12's last two sentences: "This dialogue should address themes of history and national memory, language, identity, and minority experiences It should include tolerance and respect for ethnic and religious minorities--in both domestic and international contexts--in order to increase engagement, inclusiveness, and social cohesion."

The EASLG signatories' buy in of the fraudulent call for Ukraine to reinvent itself in order to disappear is a stunning victory for the Kremlin. It means they have already digested the threshold claim upon which Putin argued his invasion and ensuing savaging -- the chimera of discrimination against Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine, etc. Now, it's just a matter of Ukraine policing itself into oblivion with the assistance of the "Euro-Atlantic” community. One can wonder about the Moscow's beneficence for Russian speakers in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. 

Thus, instead of the international community, the UN, the Hague, supporting Ukraine's claims against Russia for its ethnic cleansing and return of Ukrainian territory incorporated by Russia upon the formation of the USSR, the Statement endorses hypocritical cant about Ukraine's "intolerance" for minorities, and ignores Russian homicidal russification of Ukraine through the ages. Russia is exploiting its genocidal starvation of Ukraine 1933-32 where the murder rate was 25,000 civilians a day.
Iran claims Israel has not no right to exist. Putin simply asserts that Ukraine does not exist. The Statement is a roadmap to implementing Putin's blueprint to control Ukraine by harnessing the hydraulic pressure of the "Euro-Atlantic Region" against Ukraine to obligingly eliminate itself. The scheme is obscenely hypocritical reality reversal, akin to legitimizing a new German invasion of the Czech Republic, or Denmark or Poland, take your pick, by requiring the victim to recast its very identity.

We all know Putin denies facts and makes up history to suit his malignant purposes, but it is tragic that the EASLG adopts his approach in full.

The EASLG approach must be rejected in full.


Victor Rud is past Chairman of the Ukrainian American Bar Association, and currently Chairs its Foreign Affairs Committee. 

The views expressed above are those of Mr. McConnell and Mr. Rud and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network.

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

Robert A. McConnell is a co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Coordinator of External Relations for the Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network. He is Principal of R.A. McConnell and Associates. Previously, he has served as head of the Government Advocacy Practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Vice President – Washington for CBS, Inc, and Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration.
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