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US-Ukraine “Working Group” Initiative

CUSUR & US-UA “Working Group” Efforts (2024)

The US-Ukraine “Working Group” Initiative was launched in 2007 in order to secure an array of experts in “ʺareas of interest” for CUSUR and its various forums/proceedings; at the same time, it was hoped that the ‘experts’ might agree to write a series of ‘occasional papers’ to identify “major issues” impacting on US‐Ukrainian relations.

As a start, the “areas of interest” were identified. Once identified, ‘analytic networks’ were created in each identified sector:

  • Economic Affairs:[US-UA] Trade, Investment, Technical Assistance, Energy Issues
  •  Security Affairs:[US-UA] Training-Defense/Intel, Coordination‐Defense/Intel, Joint Operations-Defense/Intel, Organized Crime Issues
  •  Humanitarian Affairs:[US-UA] Cultural Exchanges, Academic Exchanges, NGO Development, Media Development
  • Diplomatic Affairs:[US-UA] GUAM/Policy Cooperation, Visegrad/Policy Cooperation, European Union/ Policy Cooperation, NATO/ Policy Cooperation

CUSUR’s analytic networks, when operating in tandem, came to constitute the “US-Ukraine Working Group”. The Group currently consists of 20 (5 from each sector of analytic interest for CUSUR) government, NGO and academic “specialists” from Ukraine and an equal number of counterparts from the United States (40 individuals in all).

The USUA WG initiative eventually spawned an interest in creating an informational presence capable of highlighting ‘CUSUR event presentations of particular import’ as well as ‘the mentioned occasional papers’, or more precisely, prompted a determination to establish a bi-annual Journal of Ukrainian Affairs. For each anticipated issue, each sector would elicit any number of articles from known US-UA government, NGO or academic specialists in their designated field and select one such article to be printed in the given number [four articles to an issue]; likewise, for each issue, each sector would ask the various named specialists to write reviews of recently published works in the field and select one such review to be printed in the given number [four reviews to an issue]. [More about the subject appears in the next section.]

At the same time, the network began contemplating an annual “US-UA Leadership Summit”. As originally envisioned, the gathering was intended to be a venue for focusing attention on the four categories of interest named in the US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Charter (and incidentally reflected in CUSUR’ʹs ‘ʹanalytic sectors’ʹ): politics/diplomacy, economics, security and historical/culturological issues; the effort’s ultimate objective was to find or suggest ways to strengthen ties between the two countries in the near and far future. The event planned to involve the participation of all 20 of the ‘ʹexperts’ʹ from the US side associated with the US-UA Working Group as well as their 20 counterparts from the Ukrainian side. It would also include 20 selected guest ‘specialists’ from the CUSUR run Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic Future Forum Series (hence, in reality, ‘UA experts’ from EU and Canada). Finally, it would include 20 leading CUSUR patrons (Meczenats) as well as 20 leading ‘Hromada’ activists as ‘ʹinvited observers’ʹ (the anticipated invited collective received the nickname: “Mazepa Group”).

Over time (starting in 2010), the anticipated Summit evolved a new and somewhat different task: to provide a yearly “six subject report card” on Ukraine’s “progress/regress with regard to robust democratic politics, developed market economics, ever greater general security, ever greater energy security, viable social cohesion and an established (yet tolerant) national identity”; its recalibrated goal was “to take accurate measure” of the status of the US-Ukrainian relations going forward. The step was taken because of repeated reports that the prevailing Ukrainian political leadership headed by Viktor Yanukovych was ‘backsliding’ in several of the outlined categories (the last two categories—viable social cohesion and established national identity—were, in fact, added to monitor any indication of ‘critical internal or external erosion of UA sovereignty’).

In 2012, a ‘Summit’ dress rehearsal was run as part of the UA Quest for Mature Nation Statehood RT Series—somewhat appropriately, given that any ‘backsliding’ would in fact impact on the quest in question.

2013 saw the successful launch of the gathering as a ‘stand-alone’ endeavor under a new ‘brand name’: US-UA WG Yearly Summit. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 (despite the COVID pandemic), 2021 (again, despite the COVID),  2022  and 2023, CUSUR’s running of Summits II-XI corroborated its commitment to the new series.

The said events also confirmed that an ‘annual situational update assessment’ on Ukraine would be necessary even after the ‘backsliding’ UA leadership had been removed by the Euro Maidan’s ‘Revolution of Dignity’ and replaced by a political class committed to internal reform as well as (renewed efforts at) integration into the Euro-Atlantic Community. Given Russia’s ‘stealth intrusion’ into Ukraine starting in 2014 and eventually Russia’s full scale invasion in 2022 (leaving no doubt about RU’s  long term disruptive  intentions vis a vis Ukraine), a regular monitoring of the condition of the Ukrainian state was a ‘must do’ proposition.  Ukraine’s post Euro-Maidan political forces confirmed the premise by having Prime Minister Groysman and Rada Speaker Parubiy present at the 2016 gathering, with Acting Minister of Health Suprun in 2017, Rada Budgetary Committee Sub-Chair Oleh Medunytsya and Rada Committee Sub-Chair Oleksiy Skrypnyk in 2018, Rada Foreign Affairs Chair Hanna Hopko and Rada National Security Committee Sub Chair Andrij Levus in 2019, Fmr. Vice Prime of Euro-Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze in 2020, Rada Speaker Dmytro Razumkov in 2021, Deputy Minister Volodymyr Havrylov (soon after the start of Russia real’s intrusion) in 2022 and National Security & Defense Secretary Danilov (2023), all doing highly praised followups.

Starting in 2021, CUSUR began to press the issue of providing a ‘formal annual report card’ as well as preparing edited/annotated transcripts of the proceedings (plus U-Tube video recordings of self same) and distributing the combined material to the various US governmental and non-governmental agencies that have an interest in Ukraine. In 2022 and early 2023, the technical aspects of the project were set in place. Presently, CUSUR is pleased to report that it has assembled a team of interns whose sole purpose will be to handle the needed operations, starting in 2024. Plans are also afoot to eventually translate the material to be distributed in Ukraine.

[A short word about the Mazepa Group concept is necessary. Very recently, CUSUR has been approached to revive the idea, while leaving the existing US-UA WG Summits to do what they do. The idea would be to gather the earlier envisioned collective once a year to ‘produce/provide a pro-active rather reactive annual plan of action for Ukraine, its diaspora and its various Euro-Atlantic friends; the suggested venue would be the elegant Ukrainan Institute of America in NYC, often described as Ukraine’s answer to Russia’s Valdai setting.]