US-Ukraine “Working Group” Initiative
DC “Occasional Briefings” Series
Kyiv Seminars for Senior UA MOD/JNSDC/MVD Officials
US-Ukraine “Working Group” Initiative
The US-Ukraine “Working Group” Initiative was launched in 2007 in order to secure an array of experts in “”areas 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 presently 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 US-UA 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”s ”analytic sectors”): 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 ”experts” 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 ”invited observers” (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 and 2020 (despite the COVID pandemic), CUSUR’s running of the Summit II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII (in ZOOM webinar format) 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 plus (renewed efforts at) integration into the Euro-Atlantic Community. Given the emerging persistence of Russia’s ‘stealth intrusion’ into Ukraine (indicating that RU might not relent for a long time), steady/regular monitoring of the condition of the Ukrainian state was a ‘must do’ proposition. Ukraine’s new 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 as well as Rada National Security Committee Sub Chair Andrij Levus in 2019, Fmr. Vice Prime of Euro-Integration [currently Rada Member) Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze in 2020 and Rada Speaker Dmytro Razumkov in 2021, all doing highly praised received follow-ups.
In 2022, CUSUR intends to provide an ‘official report card’ as well as prepare an edited/annotated transcript of the proceedings and distribute the combined material to the various US governmental and non-governmental agencies and institutions that have an interest in Ukraine. Given the various new winds in Washington (a large scale post 2020 election change in personnel on Ukraine-watch) and given Russia’s growing efforts (in 2021) to ‘reverse’ the reverse effectuated by the ‘Revolution of Dignity, such efforts are imperative in nature. The material’s translated counterpart will in likewise fashion be distributed in Ukraine—obviously, to those Ukrainian institutions that retain an interest in working with the United States. Additionally, the Center plans to ‘formally expand the US-UA WG’s activity into six analytic sectors’ to properly reflect the categories now under traditional consideration at the Summit.
Recognizing the urgent need to set up proper channels for the maximum circulation of the information/analysis CUSUR possessed or had at its disposal, the Center long focused (starting as early as 2008) on having ‘a publication presence’ of some form or another.
CUSUR experimented with the ‘publication presence’ along two general lines of approach.
Exploring along a traditional publishing path (originally centered on printing annotated/edited versions of the various Center proceedings or ‘collected occasional paper’ monographs) eventually spawned an interest in establishing a bi-annual Journal of Ukrainian Affairs. As stated in the section on the work of the US-UA Working Group, “for each anticipated issue, each WG 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].”
Exploring along the Internet publishing path (originally an informal e-mail network that kept interested parties informed about ‘the latest news from Ukraine’ via short weekly summaries), CUSUR was eventually led to create its popular (particularly in academic and US NGO circles) website: www.
To this end, the Center conducted a series of publishing experiments during the 2010-2012 period. In order to get the proper ‘feel’ for the material the JUA might provide, CUSUR’s website (which itself become a valuable purveyor of newsworthy data) featured several prequel “articles/ commentaries” written by US-UA Working Group members and additionally provided “interviews” with some of Ukraine’s most prominent political players (thought to be an interim move at the time).
While proceeding with the listed efforts, CUSUR came to an important conclusion (and equally important decision) in 2013. Noting the fact that a number of its abiding partners were already putting out first rate and long established “hard” or “paper” copy journals, the Center decided that it would not publish its JUA in the stated format; such “competition” would be valueless. Rather, CUSUR would keep the project strictly Internet based; if nothing else, the Internet based format would allow the Center to introduce an ‘interactive’ dimension to the endeavor (and, in the age of ‘web-surfing’, that might be the ultimate selling point).
Each electronic JUA issue would still include, as originally designed, four articles related to the Center’s areas of analytic interest as well as four reviews of recent books written in the said areas of interest. And the Journal would retain the ‘interviews’ feature (supplemented by a Internet available ‘video component’). Additionally, the JUA would provide a blog-site for every member of the US-UA Working Group. The blog-sites would allow for a fruitful exchange between the bloggers and the readers of the blogs as well as among the readers themselves.
The 2014-2015 period brought one further twist to CUSUR’s work and plans in the realm of information dissemination. With ‘the RU-Ukraine Hybrid War’ gathering strength in the wake of the ‘Crimea grab’ and the RU-led secessionist gambit in Donbas, accurate information and cogent analysis (regardless of the scope or location of the source) proved to be ‘at a premium’. To help ‘distribute’ such information/analysis, the NY Bureau of CUSUR agreed to set up (or more accurately, restart) an informal e-mail effort that would daily feature 5-10 leading stories, op-eds or columns on the UA crisis as well as well as commentary on the sent material by the US-UA WG members (all leading analysts in their own right).
The effort, dubbed “the UA bcc chain”, eventually found its way to several thousand e-addresses spanning six continents; many of the recipients were likewise key players in the dramatic events that were unfolding and began, in turn, sending material they thought relevant. The emerging dynamic led the CUSUR DC office to explore the use of ‘newer’ social media networking constructs: Facebook, Twitter & Instagram; in mid 2015, the Director of the DC Bureau established a (personal) presence on Facebook (as a way of disseminating CUSUR material still more widely).
In 2016-2018, all the various delineated CUSUR ‘informational’ efforts/endeavors (whether engaged in or planned for) saw a stringent review (to test for relevance), followed by an attempt to build a fully integrated system of ‘information dispensation’. In 2019, CUSUR turned to its website managing agent, GO-DADDY.COM to create a new platform, replacing the old Joolma software with a far more use friendly Word Press mechanism. Notwithstanding the COVID pandemic in 2020-2021, work on the new platform proceeded apace; equally important, two ‘handlers’ were found who, upon completion of the effort, would move the existing archived material (forum programs, presentations, photo reports, articles, interviews, etc.) from one platform to another.
The said review and the mentioned platform replacement effort have yielded very good results. In the 2022 period, the CUSUR website will be restructured to: (1) continue highlighting key presentations from all the various forums CUSUR does; (2) feature the Center’s electronic Journal
(with maximum focus on ‘interactive’ capabilities); (3) carry daily digests of relevant news about Ukraine in the manner of the FDD Overnight Briefs; (4) provide access to a CUSUR Facebook page and a CUSUR Twitter link and (5) feature links to both the sites of organizations in global Ukrainian Hromada network and NGOs throughout the world who are considered reputable ‘Ukraine watchers’.
A wonderful additional effort, about to reach fruition in 2022, merits mention. In November 2020, Ostap Kryvdyk, former Senior Advisor to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Andrij Parubij and presently Chair of the Ukraine and the World Program at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, sent CUSUR a memo proposing a additional project that the Center, at least in part, had envisioned doing for more than a decade –i.e.- publishing a collection of the most prominent presentations of the venerable 22 years old UA Quest RT Series. While Mr. Kryvdyk’s proposal did not encompass a multi-tome approach originally contemplated by CUSUR, it very concretely elaborated on the idea of a single volume of the ‘best of the best’ dopovids/remarks with a solid foreword & afterword — all paid for by funds provided by UCU patrons. The UCU/UWP thought that publishing such a volume, highlighting ‘the thinking on US-Ukrainian Relations at its very finest’, would benefit all parties concerned.
CUSUR responded positively to the Mr. Kryvdyk’s and UCU’s probe. A series of Zoom and ‘in person’ meetings (both in the US and Ukraine) were held to organize the work team and select the ‘sets of remarks’ that deserved to be featured throughout the first head of 2021; in August 2021, a prominent policy analyst, Dr. Hanna Shelest, was appointed as work team head.
It now appears that the volume in question, appropriately dubbed ‘The Best of the Quest” will be ready for presentation at UA Quest RT XXIII in Oct. 2022.
DC “Occasional Briefings” Series
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:
 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
 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, CUSUR intends to add two new fronts (the second, partly as an after effect of the Marynowych visit), to its Occasional Briefings efforts.  It intends 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 plans to promote with the said visits: the idea of ‘a mini-Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine amendment to the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes $350 million in security assistance to Ukraine.
(something that, if executed properly, could someday cause Vladimir Putin more problems than any military or diplomatic option the West might attempt).  It intends to invite top flight 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 ‘history wars or memory wars’ will be given top ‘expository’ priority; calls for acquiring a real understanding of the ‘RU Dezinform Apparat’—and finding appropriate responses it—will be encouraged at every proceeding.
Kyiv Seminars for Senior UA MOD/JNSDC/MVD Officials
The several visits of young, fresh-minded, reform-oriented UA military commanders and national security analysts to various top-flight foreign policy think tanks and institutes of higher diplomatic or military learning in DC (prompted in good part by CUSUR invitations to its Occasional Briefings) in the latter part of 2014 prompted the UA MOD to propose a slightly different arrangement for similar discussions/conversations in 2015.
CUSUR was asked to see if key members of its US-UA Working Group might not be interested in spending a week of their time engaged in discussions in Kyiv ‘devoted to the art of strategic & tactical planning in the face of a new form of warfare not yet understood by the most able students of military science’. A number of the Center’s partner organizations were approached as well.
The response by all parties involved was in the affirmative. And a plan was hatched with the understanding that matters needed to be expedited sooner rather than later. CUSUR (and its closest partner, the AFPC) agreed to organize at least three visits to Ukraine (2015, 2016, 2017, 2021). The head of CUSUR’s Washington Bureau, Mykola Hryckowian, was involved in the first excursion; AFPC President Herman Pirchner was involved in the second and the third; both were involved in last year’s mission. The third (June 2017) included representatives from a number of the finest think tanks in DC: American Foreign Policy Council; Jamestown Foundation; Hudson Institute; Heritage Foundation and the Potomac Foundation. Their work proved extremely fruitful and confirmed that all parties were ready for a more formal ‘follow-up’ arrangement—a set of ‘lectures/colloquia’ conducted in Kyiv for Ukraine’s top level ‘security’ personnel.
In 2017, CUSUR (after studying several venues) settled on a venue for the stated project: the Kyiv Diplomatic Academy. During 2018-2019, several dozen senior UA MOD, MVD and NSDC officials were interviewed to participate in the projected lecture series; equally, several of the finest students of ‘the contemporary art of war’ hailing from the US, Canada and EU were asked to partake in the process as instructors. The spring of 2020 was targeted as the time the ‘colloquia’ would commence their work. The pandemic stopped the process cold in the latter half of 2020 and throughout 2021, but the Center is convinced that work in the area can recommence in spring 2022. AFPC and Jamestown Foundation have already broached the matter with the Center and thoughts on the best way to proceed (in lieu of the continuing issues with COVID) have been exchanged.
Given CUSUR’s increasing involvement in Kyiv-centered projects, the issue of opening a fully operational Kyiv CUSUR office was touched upon once more in the 2019-2021. The Center intends to give the matter very serious consideration; it plans to have a feasibility study done on the subject in the nearest future. The summer of 2022 should see a decision on the issue.
A final note: At the various forums and pandemic-induced webinars that were held by the Ukrainian World Congress around the world in 2017-2021, there was much talk, especially among representatives of Ukrainian hromadas in English speaking countries, of taking a page out of
CUSUR’s history and setting up a series of kindred institutions —i.e.—creating NGOs like the“Institute for Australian-Ukrainian Affairs” or the “UK-Ukraine Foundation”. In 2022 (as Canada and Australia emerge from the mega lockdowns, CUSUR is gearing up to provide as much aid as needed to make creation of such entities a reality.