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A guide to whos who in D.C.s Ukraine-related activities

The Ukrainian Weekly, August 7, 2005
A guide to who’s who in D.C.’s Ukraine-related activities
by Taras Kuzio and Orest Deychakiwsky

The United States has long been the most engaged Western country in Ukraine; this level of involvement has only increased since Viktor Yushchenko was elected president. Yet, little information is made public about activities pertaining to Ukraine in Washington. Little is reported in most Ukrainian American, American or Ukrainian media on these regular, if not daily, developments.
This article has three purposes. First, it attempts to direct a spotlight onto the high level of activity in Washington, and the U.S. more generally, regarding Ukraine. This article focuses on myriad non-governmental actors who interact with the U.S. government on Ukrainian issues, as well as provides a “Who’s Who” of U.S. government officials who work on Ukraine. Second, we feel that the issues it raises – particularly the changing nature of Ukrainian affairs in Washington – requires more open discussion, especially as it relates to the Ukrainian American community. The environment in Washington has evolved in the last five to 10 years. Yet, this changing environment has largely bypassed the Ukrainian American community.

Third, the election of Mr. Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution have radically altered Western images of Ukraine for the better. Ukraine-U.S. relations have now returned to the strategic partnership they were in the second half of the 1990s under President Bill Clinton.

The United States will be the key Western country supporting President Yushchenko’s reform drive and desire for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration. To give one example of how rapidly the situation is changing, next year Ukraine will obtain a Membership Action Plan (MAP) that will provide the roadmap for Ukraine’s membership in NATO later in the decade.

Therefore, the time has arrived for Ukrainian Americans and their organizations to reassess how they can assist and become involved in these processes and take advantage of the new, more positive image of Ukraine.

Washington during the Yushchenko presidency is very different from what it was under Leonid Kravchuk in the early 1990s, when Ukraine became an independent state. Two important changes have taken place. First, today, it is well-placed individuals in government or think-tanks, far more than Ukrainian American organizations, that have the greatest influence. Second, many non-Ukrainian individuals or organizations are today more active and influential than many Ukrainian American organizations.

Declining community organizations

The Orange Revolution witnessed a burst of activity within the Ukrainian American community – one not seen since independence. Ukrainian Americans acted as election observers, especially during the third round of the presidential election, provided financial resources and held demonstrations in numerous cities, including Washington.

This burst of activity must be seen against the backdrop of a decline in community political activity and presence over the last decade or so. It remains to be seen whether it can be translated into a sustained, active and professional presence in Washington with sufficient personnel and resources. If one were to look at the landscape of interest in Ukraine in Washington prior to Ukraine’s independence, one would have seen a relatively small, albeit active, universe. This universe consisted largely of the Ukrainian American community and its friends in the U.S. Congress and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), with whom various community organizations and individuals worked closely. Because Ukraine was not a separate state entity, the attention given to Ukraine by the State Department and other executive branch agencies was limited.

Prior to Ukrainian independence, the U.S. Congress would pass resolutions pertaining to human rights matters in Ukraine, including on behalf of imprisoned Ukrainian political prisoners and Helsinki monitors, or regarding the Millennium of Christianity in Rus’-Ukraine, which called for the legalization of the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches. These issues were raised by U.S. delegations to various international meetings, much to the displeasure of the Soviets.

There were also annual Captive Nations Week events, several large rallies – in 1983 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Famine-Genocide, in 1984 protesting the Russification of Ukraine, and in 1988 marking the Millennium of Christianity. The Ukrainian American community successfully lobbied many of these human rights-related resolutions, was instrumental in the creation of the important U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine and vocally protested the return of Ukrainian seaman Myroslav Medvid to the Soviets.

With the active involvement of the Ukrainian American community, hearings were held before the Helsinki Commission on the Ukrainian Helsinki Monitoring Group, including with former dissidents who had made it to the U.S., as well as on the Chornobyl nuclear accident. The Ukrainian American community also supported efforts to establish a U.S. Consulate in Kyiv. Shortly before independence, a resolution introduced by Helsinki Commissioners Don Ritter in the House of Representatives and Dennis DeConcini in the Senate called for the administration to recognize Ukraine’s independence. It was passed over the objections of the State Department.

Few U.S. government entities published reports on developments in Ukraine, with the exception of the Helsinki Commission, which published documents of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and, later, reports on elections held in Ukraine in 1990 and 1991, which also discussed the political context of these elections, thereby helping to inform the State Department and other executive branch agencies, think-tanks and NGOs about what was going on in Ukraine.

As Ukraine was a submerged republic of the Soviet Union, there was relatively little interest in political developments in Ukraine, which in large part involved pressing the Soviets to cease their repression of human rights. The media showed little interest, and it was a big deal when major newspaper articles appeared on developments in Ukraine. And Ukraine was largely terra incognita to think-tanks and non-governmental organizations, other than, of course, Ukrainian American community organizations, including the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) and the Washington Office of the Ukrainian National Association, as well as Smoloskyp, Prolog, Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine (AHRU) and the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, among others.

The renewal of an independent Ukrainian state set up a different dynamic with respect to all this, with not only the U.S. government setting up or expanding institutions to deal with this new entity, but also foreign relations-oriented NGOs and think-tanks taking a newfound interest. This was largely unnoticed by many Ukrainian Americans. Indeed, the election of President Yushchenko suggests that this is an opportune time to re-assess why the situation has dramatically changed since the 1980s and early 1990s.

The influence of Ukrainian American organizations in Washington has been on the decline for a number of years; but, the actual start of this decline is difficult to pinpoint. The Ukrainian National Association (UNA) closed its Washington Office in 1995, a move that significantly weakened the ability of Ukrainian Americans to get their message across to policy-makers. Indeed, the Ukrainian American community has never completely understood nor devoted the necessary resources for a significant, professional presence in Washington, and many efforts pertaining to Ukraine, even before independence, were done on an ad-hoc, volunteer basis by devoted and committed individuals.
The Ukrainian Congress Committee America (UCCA) still has an office in Washington – UNIS. Since 2000, UCCA has held annual conferences – together with other Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian U.S. NGOs – on Ukraine which have brought leading Ukrainian officials to Washington. UCCA has recently initiated the U.S.-Ukrainian Security Dialogue as a joint project with the American Foreign Policy Council and the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus. The UCCA has also initiated several congressional resolutions, notably one calling for the building of a Famine monument in Washington, and interacts with some members of Congress, particularly members of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus.

Surprisingly though, UCCA personnel and those of other Ukrainian American community organizations are infrequently invited to internal U.S. government events that deal with Ukraine. UCCA personnel also do not usually attend think-tank events on Ukraine, which are also typically by invitation only. Why this is the case has to do with how the U.S. government relates to Ukrainian American organizations, a subject that is beyond the scope of this article but nevertheless is worthy of further discussion.

The Action Ukraine Coalition, consisting of the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council (UACC), the Ukrainian Federation of America and the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, has put on a few policy forums over the last few years with both U.S. and Ukrainian officials. The UACC was instrumental in supporting former Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s resolution on the genocidal Famine in Ukraine, which garnered an impressive one-third of the Senate – both Democrats and Republicans – as co-sponsors. This action, which took place in 2003, was reminiscent of the frequent grass-roots efforts by the Ukrainian community in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, when organizations and individuals would bombard their representatives and senators with letters or phone calls on issues of concern.

The Washington Group, from its establishment in 1984 until just a few years ago, provided numerous venues for the discussion of Ukrainian political developments. However, in the last three to four years it has focused on cultural and social events.

Other once-active Ukrainian American organizations have simply become inactive or have ceased to exist.

An exception to the general decline is the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF), which – while not strictly a community membership-based organization – has its roots in and receives support from the Ukrainian American community, as well as far more significant support from the U.S. government for its various programs in Ukraine. The USUF continues to be highly active and visible in Washington. Its personnel are regularly seen at think-tank and some closed U.S. government events, and have meaningful contacts with both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.
The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation this year launched a highly successful policy dialogue with Ukrainian and Western experts in four fields: politics/governance, economics, media and foreign policy. Recently, report language was added to both the House and Senate appropriations legislation which cover assistance to Ukraine that indicates strong support for the USUF, with the Senate stating its expectation that U.S. funding toward various USUF projects will exceed that of previous years. The Senate also urges the State Department to consider a proposal from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

Throughout much of the 1990s and less frequently since, the State Department and National Security Council would periodically meet with invited representatives of Ukrainian American organizations as well as individuals from the Ukrainian American community who also worked professionally on issues related to Ukraine. Such venues provided for an informal exchange of ideas and an opportunity for Ukrainian Americans to weigh in on policy toward Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Ukrainian American community organizations have provided relatively little in the way of input into U.S. policy formulation regarding Ukraine. And, much of the legislation devoted to Ukraine that has been passed by Congress in the last few years was approved without much input or active support from Ukrainian American community organizations. Maybe Ukrainian American organizations need to learn from the activities undertaken by Armenian and Jewish lobbyists in Washington.
A final comment should be made about an important aspect of how the U.S. government and policy-makers perceive Ukrainian Americans. During the Kuchma era an important group of influential Ukrainian Americans from a wide range of émigré political orientations were “derzhavnyky” (statists, literally meaning supporters of Ukrainian statehood regardless of its domestic politics), which led them to defend some of the dubious policies and practices of the Kuchma regime. Not surprisingly, these apologists turned the U.S. government and policy-makers away from dealing with some Ukrainian American organizations.

The most visible example was the president of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), who was regularly an apologist for the Kuchma regime and a staunch critic of American policies and legislative initiatives. These included congressional resolutions in 2002 and 2004 that called for free and fair elections in Ukraine, which were overwhelmingly passed by both the House and the Senate.
This is a good example of one wing of the organized Ukrainian community undermining the other. The UCCA’s work with the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and organization of election observers in Ukraine was undermined by the UWC president’s hostility to congressional election resolutions and U.S. policy to Ukraine.

But, there were other derzhavnyky from the academic, judicial and military fields. Some, inspired by Ukrainian officials, launched spurious attacks on individuals in Washington and elsewhere who were critical of the corrupt and undemocratic practices of the Kuchma regime. An academic institution refused to host panels on Kuchmagate and the murder of journalist Heorhii Gongadze. Ukrainian sociologists from the Academy of Sciences were castigated by Ukrainian American and Ukrainian Canadian professors at an annual Ukrainian American academic conference in the U.S. for being too critical of domestic developments inside Ukraine (the episode was recounted in the April 2004 issue of Suchasnist magazine). These derzhavnyky were so cross-party that among them was an ex-Canadian-Ukrainian Trotskyist working in Ukraine since the early 1990s.

Today, of course, they have – not surprisingly – all re-painted themselves Orange.

Ukraine’s diplomats

Although some Ukrainian Embassy officials did attend events on Ukraine at think-tanks and were brave in lobbying Ukrainian diplomats to support free and fair elections after the second round of the presidential election and during the Orange Revolution, other Embassy actions were disappointing. The Embassy’s reputation was harmed during the 2004 election when it officially complained to George Washington University about visiting Prof. Kuzio’s writings in The Ukrainian Weekly on the 2004 election. The university replied that the Embassy should write to The Ukrainian Weekly to voice its opposing opinions. With the anticipated posting of the new ambassador, the Embassy of Ukraine could improve its performance in this field. Embassies of countries that are now members of NATO and the European Union played an active role in lobbying for their countries’ Euro-Atlantic integration in Washington. The Ukrainian Embassy should follow suit.
Disinterested academia
The decline in the influence of Ukrainian American organizations in Washington is compounded by an academic world that has not adjusted to the emergence of independent Ukraine. “Ukrainian studies” continues to be understood as, primarily, culture, history and diaspora studies – not political science and the study of contemporary Ukraine. Annual prizes given by the American Association for Ukrainian Studies never go to political science books or articles.

Disillusionment with the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI), in part, has led to some Ukrainian Americans shifting their hopes to Columbia University. During and after Ukraine’s 2004 election, Columbia hosted panels dealing with this historic event. Columbia hosts the annual convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, which holds the largest number of panels on contemporary Ukraine of any North American conference.

It is still too early to say if Columbia’s Ukrainian studies – unlike HURI’s – will include contemporary Ukraine as an important and equal area of research and teaching. We can only hope Columbia does not follow HURI in not giving sufficient attention to contemporary Ukraine.

Active individuals

Research, publication and teaching on contemporary Ukraine is being undertaken primarily by individuals outside of HURI or Columbia, the two locations where Ukrainian Americans have invested resources. Leading academics working on contemporary Ukraine include Lucan Way (Temple University), Alexander Motyl (Rutgers), Paul D’Anieri and Erik Herron (Kansas), Stephen Shulman (South Illinois), Robert Krawchuk and Charles Wise (Indiana) and Taras Kuzio (George Washington).
The centrality of the U.S. to contemporary Ukrainian studies can also be seen in two other ways. First, in the large number of books published by U.S.-based academics since 1992. Second, in the number of special issues of U.S.-published journals that have devoted special issues to contemporary Ukraine. In 2005 alone, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Problems of Post-Communism and Demokratizatsiya will publish special issues.

Dr. Kuzio’s courses on contemporary Ukraine attract large numbers of students, most of whom are not of Ukrainian American background. During the fall 2005 semester these will include 30 undergraduates signed up for “Transition and Democratization in Ukraine” and 18 graduate students signed up for “NATO, EU Enlargement: Ukraine, Russia.” These class sizes show the missed opportunities that established structures, such as HURI, have lost out on by not including courses on contemporary Ukraine.

The growing importance and influence of individuals can be seen in many other areas in Washington. Some of the people in Washington working on a daily basis on contemporary Ukraine in, or with, U.S. government institutions and affiliated structures include: Gene Fishel, David Kramer, Karen Stewart, Marcus Micelli, Dan Rosenblum, George Frowick, Paul Carter (State Department); Damon Wilson (National Security Council); Jessica Kehl; Gen. (ret.) Nicholas Krawciw (Department of Defense); Christine Lucyk, Andrew Bihun (Commerce Department); Orest Deychakiwsky, Ron McNamara (Helsinki Commission); Nadia Diuk, John Squier (National Endowment for Democracy); and Bill Gleason (Foreign Service Institute).

There are many individuals in the U.S. government, including a number of Ukrainian Americans, who work on Ukraine at the State, Defense, Commerce, Energy, Treasury and Justice departments and other agencies, such as the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), as well as entities that deal with trade and economic relations with Ukraine.

Former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine, particularly Steven Pifer and William Green Miller, have also maintained an active interest and involvement in Ukraine. Both are members of the USUF policy dialogue group.

Key individuals working on Ukraine in the policy-making domain in Washington include: Stephen Larrabee, Jennifer Moroney, Keith Crane, Olga Oliker (Rand Corporation); Anders Aslund (Carnegie Endowment); Blair Ruble (Kennan Institute); Michael McFaul (Stanford University – Washington); Zbigniew Brzezinski, Celleste Wallander, Richard Murphy, Ambassador Keith Smith and Janusz Bugajski (Center for Strategic and International Studies); Bruce Jackson (Project on Democracy); Radek Sikorski (American Enterprise Institute); Ariel Cohen (Heritage Foundation); Jaroslaw Martyniuk (Intermedia); and Morgan Williams (Ukraine-United States Business Council and Sigma Bleyzer). [Mr. Williams also publishes the daily Action Ukraine Report distributed via e-mail.] U.S. institutions
No other Western country approaches the level of U.S. government outreach to academic and think-tank specialists. The U.S. government and think-tanks – not Ukrainian American organizations – led the way in the last few years in organizing seminars, panels and roundtables on Ukraine. The speakers for these U.S. government and think-tank events are drawn from the academic or think-tank world. Leading the way in giving presentations from the academic community have been Profs. Motyl and D’Anieri, and visiting Prof. Kuzio.

These by-invitation-only U.S. government seminars on Ukraine’s upcoming election took place in September and December 2003, March and July 2004 and June 2005. The U.S. government has also sponsored more in-depth daylong discussions on Ukraine at Booz-Allen consultants dealing with generation change in Ukraine.

The U.S. government also draws in academic and think-tank experts to assist in the formulation of strategy and forecast documents on Ukraine. These are drawn up irregularly for strategically important countries. The U.S. government has also sponsored roundtables comparing Ukraine’s Orange Revolution to revolutions in Serbia and Georgia. Other briefings have investigated how Ukraine is progressing since President Yushchenko’s election. Prior to President George W. Bush’s visit to Europe in February, the National Intelligence Council was briefed on Ukraine by Profs. D’Anieri, Motyl and Kuzio.

Within the last few years, the U.S. Congress’s Helsinki Commission has held hearings and briefings on Ukraine, sponsored panels on the 2002 and 2004 elections, sponsored congressional resolutions, and issued numerous Congressional Record statements. The House International Relations Committee (HIRC) held a hearing on the Ukrainian elections in 2004 as well. The committee also held a hearing on Ukraine in July where Stephen Nix (International Republican Institute), Ambassador Nelson Ledsky and Visiting Prof. Kuzio testified. As mentioned earlier, what differentiates Washington from the 1980s and 1990s is that think-tanks now take an active interest in contemporary Ukraine. The greatest number of panels have been organized by the Carnegie Endowment, reflecting a high degree of interest in Ukraine by Dr. Aslund, who heads its Russia and Eurasia Program. Dr. Aslund is also the co-author of the Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Ukraine produced in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Dr. Aslund and Prof. McFaul have edited a book on the Orange Revolution that is to be published by Carnegie at the end of 2005.

The Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) has also been active on Ukraine. The CSIS has had long-established working groups on Ukraine, including those focusing on the 2002 and 2004 elections. In the 1990s the CSIS organized the American Ukrainian Advisory Committee that included prominent Americans and Ukrainians and held periodic meetings in Washington and Kyiv.

The United States is also the most active Western country in the field of supporting democracy in Ukraine. The National Endowment for Democracy was created in the era of Ronald Reagan, and its Eurasia department is headed by Dr. Nadia Diuk.

The International Republican Institute (IRI), whose Eurasia department is headed by Mr. Nix, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), whose Eurasia department is headed by Ambassador Ledsky, are very active in Ukraine and in Washington. In March-April, IRI hosted a talk by Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and IRI-NDI hosted a reception for President Yushchenko, both in Washington.

Freedom House, whose most prominent Ukrainian specialist is Adrian Karatnycky, has also played a vital role in supporting democracy in Ukraine since the 1990s. Since 1997 Freedom House has published the excellent annual report “Nations in Transit,” which covers Ukraine and 26 other post-Communist states. These prominent and respected NGOs interact extensively with U.S. policy-makers in both the executive and legislative branches.

Numerous and various American NGOs that deal with health care, energy, agriculture, civil society, media, charitable, social and, of course, business issues also maintain contacts and interact with U.S. policymakers on Ukraine. Organizations that have USAID contracts in Ukraine have people helping to manage their programs in Washington. Also, many people such as former Peace Corps volunteers and Americans who have lived in Ukraine, including members of religious organizations, have become actors on the Ukraine Washington scene. Jewish American organizations have also taken an active interest in U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

The Ukraine-United States Business Council was first organized in 1995 when a small group of companies started meeting to form an organization. The group hired Kempton Jenkins as the executive director/CEO (his title was later changed to president).

Mr. Jenkins ran the Ukraine-United States Business Council until December 2004. The council, which at its peak had 35 members, did not have an active board of directors; there were few breakfast meetings, even fewer newsletters, and very little activity. During the Kuchma era the Ukraine-United States Business Council was tied to PR firms that had contracts with the Kuchma administration.
Since President Yushchenko’s election the situation has changed. In February a group of 20 key businessmen came together to revive the Ukraine-United States Business Council. The Ukraine-United States Business Council has a new president/CEO, Susanne Lotarski, a board of directors and an executive committee, which had its first meeting in July.

Media resources

The U.S. is also a leader in the provision of media resources. The U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA) continue and have even expanded their broadcasting to Ukraine. VOA Television, which is presented by Myroslava Gongadze, Zoreslav Baydyuk, Nataliya Leonova, Andriy Hodovanec and others, has different programs that are transmitted live on Ukraine’s Channel 5 and State Channel 1.

The Internet has provided organizations with the ability to produce publications dealing with Ukraine. RFE/RL publishes 16 Internet-based publications that are free of charge. Two of these cover Ukraine systematically – the daily Newsline and the weekly Belarus, Ukraine and Molodova Report, while others, such as Media Matters, (Un)Civil Societies and especially Organized Crime and Terrorism Watch (edited by Roman Kupchinsky), provide occasional analytical pieces on Ukraine. RFE/RL in Washington also periodically holds briefings on Ukrainian issues by visiting Ukrainian or U.S. specialists. As is common in the United States, the private sector often outdoes the government. The Jamestown Foundation, which is funded by some of the numerous private foundations found in the U.S., began publication of the Eurasia Daily Monitor in 2004. During the 2004 election it had greater analytical coverage of Ukraine than did RFE/RL. Three out of the five Eurasia Daily Monitors released each week publish articles on contemporary Ukraine.

Articles on contemporary Ukraine published in RFE/RL publications or in Eurasia Daily Monitor provide a sizable proportion of the coverage on contemporary Ukraine that appears in The Ukrainian Weekly and Canadian newspapers, such as Edmonton’s Ukrainian News. These articles are also widely disseminated over Internet forums hosted by Brama and InfoUkes, as well as by the Action Ukraine Report (Morgan Williams) and the Ukraine List (Dominique Arel).

The Ukrainian Weekly also has a Kyiv Press Bureau (Editor Zenon Zawada and Editorial Assistant Yana Sedova). It is noteworthy that The Weekly is sent free of charge to all members of the U.S. Congress.


The U.S. leads the Western world in both the degree of outreach to experts and in its high level of interest in Ukraine. Much of this activity is not publicly reported and, therefore, Ukrainian Americans, and Ukrainians, do not know of it. Indeed, even this partial guide cannot cover comprehensively the magnitude and depth of “Ucrainica” in Washington.

Washington is strategically the most important Western city for Ukraine and for its aspirations to join the WTO and NATO and, to a lesser extent, the EU. It is, therefore, imperative that Ukrainian Americans, while recognizing that many other institutions and individuals are involved with Ukraine compared with the pre-independence period, re-assess the strategic importance of providing sufficient resources and personnel to have a meaningful, sustained presence in Washington, which includes having influential and committed people on the ground.

Taras Kuzio, Ph.D., is a visiting professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. Orest Deychakiwsky is senior staff advisor at the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

The views expressed in this article represent Dr. Kuzio and Mr. Deychakiwsky’s private views and do not reflect those of George Washington University or the U.S. Helsinki Commission.


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