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DC “Occasional Briefings” Series

CUSUR & the DC ‘Occasional Briefings’ Series (2023)

CUSUR did not turn its attention to having a DC presence until summer 2012. Borrowing space when the need arose (particularly for various forum steering committees meetings) from the American Foreign Policy Council, its longest abiding partner, seemed to suffice; an Acela ride from the Center’s NY office did the rest. If there was a concern, it was to find appropriate representation in Kyiv.

Matters changed when Zenovia and George Jurkiw decided to provide the Center with a truly munificent ‘pozhertva’ (offering); it allowed CUSUR to open a fully functional bureau in DC (on the premises of APFC). With the acquisition of the stated space, CUSUR was given access to what has fondly come to be called AFPC’s own ‘Situation Room’. The room is equipped with the latest in ‘global communications’ equipment and fitted to seat several dozen ‘discussants’ comfortably. In addition, it sports detailed maps of ‘world’s geopolitical pivot points’.

The additional capabilities led the CUSUR Board of Directors to add one more item to the Center’s busy menu—the Occasional Briefings Series. The new series helped provide CUSUR (and, by extension, the US-UA Working Group) with the ability to analyze changing developments in the Ukrainian political landscape and provide timely appropriate responses throughout 2013.

Such flexibility proved of utmost importance once a truly unsettled stated of affairs in Ukraine appeared in 2014. To enhance the flexibility, the Occasional Briefings Series brought new (and younger) actors in the political, social, intellectual and cultural arenas of Ukrainian life to DC to explore ‘novel trends’, as they emerged. It also brought recently minted UA military commanders and senior security analysts to Capitol Hill to provide a proper understanding of the ‘conflict’ taking place first in Crimea and then on ‘UA’s Eastern Front’.
The latter surfaced as an crucial exercise starting in October 2014, after Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, arrived in Washington DC to ask for means with which to contain an massive/open Russian military incursion into Eastern Ukraine that had started in August of the same year (in contrast to earlier RU escapades using ‘little green men’ and ‘secessionist cadres’). When the Obama Administration balked at the request, the Ukrainian American Hromada, in the form of an Ad Hoc Committee on Ukraine (AHCU), sought to mobilize the US Congress to counter the balk. AHCU, impressed with the military and security personnel that CUSUR had earlier sponsored, asked the Center to do a reprise of its ‘defense discussions on the Hill’ in mid November. The reprise and serious lobbying by the AHCU helped obtain passage of a Ukraine Freedom Support Act in mid December (2014) authorizing the POTUS to provide lethal weaponry to the UA Armed Forces (and providing the appropriate funds for the authorization).

In 2015-2020, CUSUR kept pursuing the Occasional Briefing Series construct on two fronts:

[1] Using frequently blunt Chatham House style ‘conversations’ (richly enhanced by ‘top flight discussion leaders’ and ‘absolutely salient topics for review’) as often as once a month, the Center kept a watchful eye over the Ukraine Freedom Support Act and AHCU. When the Act stalled in the implementation stage in early 2015, CUSUR helped the AHCU press for the creation of a ‘Senate Task Force on Ukraine’ (modeled on the 1980s Senate Task Force on Afghanistan) designed to pressure the POTUS to release and deliver materiel (anti armor weapons, crew weapons, counter artillery radars, secure forms of communication) that had already received the proper legislative authorization and appropriation. When it became clear that a longer term lobbying effort might be needed ‘to keep all the mentioned parties enthusiastic about helping Ukraine’, CUSUR helped transform the AHCU into a more permanent entity: the America Ukraine Committee (AUC). In mid 2016, CUSUR, working with AUC, managed to elicit an even more comprehensive authorization/appropriation packet from Congress: The Stand for Ukraine bill. The process was repeated in 2017 and has resulted in passage of an amendment to the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes $350 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

[2] Starting in 2019, CUSUR took to sponsoring (private & public) meetings/discussions between various Rada deputies from the most reform minded of UA’s political parties (using the newly created Ukrainian Strategic Initiative group headed by Rada Deputy Andrij Levus) and senior level US government and NGO officials at myriad venues through DC to keep everyone abreast of the ‘actual pace’ of needed internal improvements in UA. In 2020, before COVID 19 essentially shut down DC in late March of the year, CUSUR managed to organize two prominent Occasional Briefing gatherings, one featuring the two-time Hero of Ukraine, Lt. General Zabrodsky and the other highlighting a delegation from the Resist Capitulation Committee (an outgrowth of the USI). In 2021, work was initially suspended (COVID related), but CUSUR managed in Oct. to organize a ‘special presentation event’ for UCU Vice Rector Myroslav Marynowych, a very prominent chronicler of Ukraine’s liberation struggles in the late mid 20th century.

In 2022, the Russo-Ukrainian war intervened and postponed CUSUR’s attempt to open two new fronts in its Occasional Briefings efforts. For one, CUSUR had hoped to bring smaller scale Ukrainian entrepreneurs to DC, particularly in the fields that can rather quickly yield success: agriculture, steel & steel products, aerospace, information technology. The message that CUSUR ultimately planned to promote with the said visits: the idea of ‘a mini-Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine (something that, if executed properly, could cause Vladimir Putin more problems than any
military/diplomatic option the West might attempt). Second, CUSUR intended to invite academics from various institutions of higher learning (civilian and military: Ukrainian, European, Canadian and US) to discuss Russian advances in the art of ‘informational warfare’ at gatherings on Capitol Hill. The topic of ‘memory wars’ would be given top ‘expository’ priority; calls for acquiring a real understanding of the ‘RU Dezinform Apparat’—and finding appropriate responses it—would be encouraged at every proceeding. If 2023 sees easier transportation options, CUSUR unquestionably intends to return to the projected endeavors, clearly with certain modifications.