I speak from personal experience on this topic: In 2012, Russian intelligence services interfered in the Georgian parliamentary elections, boosting the Kremlin’s preferred candidate through disinformation operations.
Thus, my opinion of President Trump’s policy vis-à-vis Russia is perhaps more positive than one might assume from my background. My reasoning is two-fold: After a lifetime of firsthand experience with Russian aggression, I must evaluate Trump’s actions against the proper historical context. In doing so, I have found that Trump’s actions speak for themselves.
The Outrage Seems Selective
On the first point, I consider it unfair that Trump’s performance in Helsinki has garnered harsher criticism than other incidents in recent memory. In 2012, for example, a hot microphone at a global nuclear security summit picked up then-President Barack Obama assuring Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate with Putin after the presidential election.
During a debate with GOP opponent Mitt Romney the same year, Obama casually dismissed the Russian threat, quipping: “The 1980s called; they want their foreign policy back.”
. . . .
This brings me to my second point: Trump’s actions toward Russia speak louder than words—and so did his predecessor’s. Indeed, the Obama administration’s foreign policy undermined America’s credibility in my region, which Putin considers Russia’s “backyard.” There are many opinions about Trump’s rhetoric on Crimea, but it is a fact that the Russian land grab in Ukraine happened on Obama’s watch.
How, exactly, did this happen? During and after Ukraine’s revolution of 2014, which ousted a Kremlin-backed dictator, on a daily basis the United States cautioned Ukraine not to escalate in response to Russian aggression. Thus, Putin saw an opportunity to annex Crimea without risking a direct confrontation with the West—and he seized it. Putin is a bully, but not a fool.
What a Difference Two Years Makes
Rather than changing his course after Moscow redrew the borders of Europe by force, Obama doubled down. Despite bipartisan consensus in favor of selling lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, and vocal support from his own administration officials (including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton), Obama repeatedly refused to authorize the sales.
Instead of anti-tank weapons, the Ukrainians defending their territory from Russian invasion received hot blankets and canned goods from the Obama administration. At the same time, Obama asserted that the Ukraine conflict had “no military solution.” With these words—and more importantly, these actions—he was perceived by some on the Russian side as accepting the Kremlin’s sphere of influence in Ukraine.
Despite my warnings, the Obama administration also essentially turned a blind eye to Russian meddling in Georgia’s 2012 elections.
Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk unified the cruiserweight division by beating Russian Murat Gassiev by unanimous decision on Saturday.
Despite facing a hostile crowd, Usyk controlled the fight with his jab to add Gassiev’s World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation titles to his own World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization belts.
Gassiev landed some heavy body shots when he got inside Usyk’s reach, but started to tire and the Ukrainian was utterly dominant in the later rounds as Gassiev swung haymakers.
Usyk, a former Olympic gold medalist, holds all four major titles after only 15 professional fights, all wins.
In a storybook that I read to my son, there is a recurring picture of a room with many things in it, including a mouse and bowl of oatmeal. On one of the early pages, my son said “myska xoche jisty kashu” (“the mouse wants to eat the oatmeal”). And that I thought was very cute and imaginative.
On the last page, I noticed something I’ve never noticed before, despite reading the book a dozen times at least — the mouse is now beside the bowl of oatmeal! They’re very small and difficult to notice, but I guess my son did notice. :-)
In the video, posted on YouTube, pony-tailed Besiktas stopper Vida shouts out “Glory to Ukraine”, which is the chant of the Ukrainian army and the nationalist cause that is opposed to Russian territorial claims on the country.
Vukojevic, who earned 55 caps as a defensive midfielder before ending his international career after the 2014 World Cup, then bellowed: “This victory is for Dynamo (Kiev) and for Ukraine.”
The video has caused outrage in Russia, with TV networks showing the pictures and clearly furious.
The hardest case I ever had involved convincing a [Russian] court that it was actually the British guy who cheated the Russian guy. The evidence was rock solid, but nobody could believe it.
“The court refused to open proceedings due to the fact that the former owner of PrivatBank cancelled registration in the Dnipropetrovsk region in March, 2017, and sold his local apartments. The court did not find other real estate belonging to Kolomoisky. According to the court’s information, Kolomoisky’s current residence is Geneva.”
Comments from a friend:
Knowing how things work in Ukraine, and the fact that oligarchs have a huge preference for courts in England – until it doesn’t suit them – I wonder if the NBU proceedings were delayed until Kolomoisky could scoot to Geneva.
After all, the former standard procedure was to “get sick”, go to hospital, and then disappear.
Going to hospital probably wouldn’t work any more.
After helping me water the cactuses several times, my two year old now has full mastery of the squirt bottle, and he’s beside himself with happiness, terrorizing his mother and me.
I highly recommend tuning in to UKRAINE BUSINESS NEWS:
Here’s a sampling of teasers from a recent morning update email:
🔵In the first year of the visa-free regime with the EU, border crossings by Ukrainians to the EU jumped by 15% to 20.3 million, reports Oleg Slobodyan, spokesman for Ukraine’s Border Guard Service. Almost one quarter of crossings were with the new biometric passports. In only 3% of the crossings – 555,000 – Ukrainians tested the new regime by entering the EU without a visa.
🔵Visa free has been accompanied by a dramatic surge in east-west travel links, the Infrastructure Ministry reports. The number of passengers taking trains to the EU exploded last year, increasing 5.5 times, to over 200,000. With trains often running at capacity, Ukrzaliznytsia is launching two new EU bound trains in coming months, one to Hungary and one to Romania. Since 2015, the number of EU cities served by flights on discount airlines from Ukraine has more than doubled, hitting 38. With Wizz Air adding new destinations this summer and Ryanair starting Ukraine service this fall, air traffic to the EU is to keep expanding.
🔵Behind the numbers, there is a marked psychological shift westward, argues the EU Mission to Kyiv. Ukrainians view visa-free travel as the main political event of 2017, according to a public opinion poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Razumkov Center. Myslovo, the dictionary of modern Ukrainian language and slang, chose “visa-free” as the word of 2017. More than 575,000 people have visited the Open Europe information website which explains rules and opportunities for visa-free travel and terms of stay in the EU.
🔵Visa free is conditioned on Kyiv continuing to make free market changes and pushing through anti-corruption measures, Hugues Mingarelli, EU ambassador to Ukraine, reminded politicians Monday. He said: “While overall Ukrainian citizens are respecting the rules of the visa free regime, it is important that Ukraine continues the implementation of all benchmarks set out in their visa-liberalization process.”
🔵Norway’s Scatec Solar ASA plans to start building later this year two solar projects totaling 83 MW and costing EUR 85 million in Cherkasy region, about 200 km south of Kyiv. The EBRD is providing initial finance and Oslo-based Scatec is seeking additional equity investors. “We are very enthusiastic about securing our first two projects in Ukraine,” CEO Raymond Carlsen says in a press release. Looking to commissioning the two projects next year, he adds: “We see it as a first step to develop a larger portfolio of solar power plants in the country.”
🔵Talking to the Financial Times, Oksana Markarova, the new Acting Finance Minister, says she expects the IMF to allocate the next loan tranche to Ukraine this autumn. “Negotiations on gas tariffs and energy market reforms are now under way and we hope to conclude them soon and expect to get the IMF tranche in the autumn,” she told the London daily. “The faster we get it, the better . . it proves that we are progressing on our reform agenda [and is] a very good signal for investors.”
🔵Central bank head Yakiv Smoliy predicts that Ukraine will receive its fifth tranche of IMF money this fall. In an interview with Zn.ua, the Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine bases his confidence on last week’s passage of a law creating an anti-corruption court and progress ingas price talks. Expected to be around $1 billion, the IMF money would unlock additional macro-financial aid from the EU and the World Bank.
🔵The National Bank of Ukraine has filed lawsuits in Swiss and Ukrainian courts against Ihor Kolomoisky, seeking recovery of $385 million from five bad loans made by PrivatBank to Kolomoisky. Until the bank’s nationalization in 2016, Kolomoisky was the bank’s largest shareholder. Kolomoisky has launched lawsuits to challenge the nationalization.
🔵Integral-Bud, one of Kyiv’s largest apartment construction companies, plans to commission almost 50% more apartments this year, hitting 250,000 square meters, Hanna Layevska, the company’s commercial director tells Interfax-Ukraine. Depending on the size, this would be 5,000 new apartments. Last year, real estate professionals estimated that there were about 65,000 unsold new apartments in Kyiv and its suburbs.
🔵The Ukrainian Exchange has drawn up requirements for new software supporting exchange transactions, including clearing of derivatives. Last month, Ukraine’s government expanded its sanctions list, ordering all the Kyiv-based stock exchanges to replace their Russian-made trading software.
🔵A Chinese food safety team is in Ukraine until Friday, studying Ukraine’s cultivation, storage and packaging of sweet cherries. One of the world’s top 10 cherry growers, Ukraine produces 72,600 tons a year, about 10 cherries for each Chinese. With the list of food products approved for export to China growing, Ukraine sold $1 billion worth of food to China last year, 12 times higher the level of 2012.
🔵The average farm salary in Ukraine was $225 a month during the first quarter of 2018, 21.5% higher than the same time last year. With more and more farm labor migrating to Poland for temporary or full time jobs, farm wages are rising. The leading regions are in Western and Central Ukraine: Ivano-Frankivsk up 41%; Ternopil up 39%; Chernivtsi up 35%; Cherkasy up 35%; and Zhytomyr up 35%.
🔵In the latest industrial company to improve working conditions to dissuade workers from migrating to the EU, Zaporozhye Iron and Steel Works is investing $4 million to install air conditioners in work areas, cafeterias and bath rooms.
🔵Amadeus IT Group, the Spanish-based IT supplier to the hotel and airline industry, has opened in Kyiv its largest support center in Europe. Tasked with supporting Russian-speaking clients of the multinational giant, the Kyiv call center handles about 250 phone calls a day and numerous email queries, Interfax-Ukraine reports. Located in Podil, the center is open 14 hours a day, Monday to Saturday.
🔵Yanair started direct flights between Lviv and Batumi last Friday. On June 19, the Kyiv-based airline will increase frequencies to two times a week, Tuesdays and Fridays.
Avoid banking in Ukraine at all costs. While the rest of the countries seems to have taken small but significant steps forward, banking seems to be trapped in some barbaric, ponderous, Soviet past.
You can safely assume that you credit card is blocked for online purchases (like train tickets). That’s my default assumption.
I’ve made hour-long visits to banks on what seems like a dozen different occasions. Every time I want to use my card online, I have to start by visiting the bank to unblock it.
I can’t get help over the phone because I never pass the verification process. Sometimes I forget whether I’ve used my middle name (as per my US passport) or my patronymic (as per my Ukrainian residency). Sometimes I just don’t understand the questions they ask.
1. Your credit card is blocked for online purchases, and you should plan to spend an hours in a bank prior to any online purchase. If you succeed, your card will immediately be blocked again.
2. You will not pass verification over the phone. I suspect there’s no way to actually pass. It’s just there for show. A Potemkin Village of customer service.
3. Avoid banking in Ukraine at all costs.
Earlier rants about Ukrainian Banking:
Our son learned the names of cards, and was thrilled to run from our living room to the kitchen, present a card to his mother and say “Ace” (in Ukrainian), then he returned and looked with fascination as I searched the deck. “This one is a Queen,” I said, handing it to him. He ran off…
I walked in the door and told my wife I that I managed to get all the groceries. She was down the hall, bathing our son. She replied “Diakuiu Kotyk” (“Thank you cat” with “cat” stated in the masculine case.) Our son immediately repeated her “Diakuiu Kotyk”. He saw us laugh and said it again. :-)
(This is somewhere between accurate and Russian propaganda — I can’t tell. The problem is that Russian propaganda, where ever possible, pushes motifs that have a great of truth.)
As President Trump takes on the globalist scourge that has savaged the American middle class, it is instructive to look at other areas of the world where the so-called “Soros prescription” is alive and well.
Mr. Trump tapped into a deep, rich vein of domestic angst over the open-border, internationalist vision championed by Hungarian-American liberal billionaire George Soros. Developing nations hungry for freedom, the rule of law, and the benefits of a market economy would do well to learn from the U.S. experience and not buy a bottle of Dr. Soros’ snake oil.
Having been kicked out of Hungary, Mr. Soros and his network of NGOs are still virulently active in Eastern and Central Europe. It is a poorly-held secret that Mr. Soros has been deeply entwined in Ukrainian politics since the 2014 Maidan Revolution. Allegedly hacked documents in 2015 showed Mr. Soros appointing himself “a self-appointed advocate of the new Ukraine,” and detailed the billionaire’s intricate involvement with the Obama State and Treasury Departments in the push for weapons and billions of dollars in assistance for the Poroshenko government.
Although the visa-free regime now set up with the European Union thrills the Ukrainian people, they should beware that the offer comes with strings. At the end of the day, the globalist medicine looks to strip a country of its natural resources for the use of international corporate interests and to open the borders to millions of illegal migrants, destroying a nation’s sovereignty, culture and security forever.
The moral: Beware what you wish for. Just ask the citizens of Sweden, Italy, Germany or France how they are enjoying the massive increases in crime and the massive headaches involved with assimilating a large Muslim population.
The Soros International Foundation “Vozrozhdenie, which injects millions each year into Ukraine to fund the billionaire’s agenda, has its proteges seeded throughout the halls of power in Kiev. The Soros power structure is very interested in Ukraine’s gas transit business, not to mention its agriculture, energy, health care and IT industries. With its abundance of natural resources and an educated work force, Ukraine is the perfect candidate to be “colonized” to serve the globalists’ agenda.
It seems the Sorosistas’ first choice to lead Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has been unable or unwilling to deal with the systemic corruption that paralyzes the state. He is likely going to lose the upcoming presidential election and the wolves are circling. Longtime rivals are lining up to compete against him.
Mr. Soros’ partner in Ukraine is Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of a former president and long-time friend of the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation. There are reports that Mr. Soros and Mr. Pinchuk have a new project — electing popular singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk to the Ukrainian presidency. There is ample photographic evidence of the three hobnobbing in Davos in the recent past.
Mr. Vakarchuk holds a special place in Ukrainian culture, as his music and activism have been a voice for the popular pain and discontent given the failures of the Poroshenko government and the painful separatist conflict grinding away in the east. After an initial foray into politics, he resigned his seat in parliament in 2008 after one year due to corruption concerns.
Mr. Vakarchuk loves his country and no doubt wants to do what’s in its best interests. But with very little experience in business or politics, it won’t be easy for the singer to stand up to the Soros machine once installed by the Open Society crowd.
The Ukrainian people need to think long and hard about whom they want to lead the country. The Soros track record is not one any ambitious nation would want to emulate.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.
You Control aggregates and makes available public information about contractors in Ukraine.
Though the data is officially public, it has been hard to access before You Control. Companies previously might bribe the SBU or security services of Ukraine for this information. It was incomplete, error prone, inconvenient and expensive.
Enter You Control.
They charge commercial customers for access, but for the commercial customers, it’s vastly superior than bribing the SBU.
They are free for journalists — who use it for anti-corruption research.
For their noble efforts, You Control has been searched and raided by the authorities, but so far, they’ve managed to stay open.
It’s important to keep a spotlight on this as Ukraine tried to defeat corruption, which is as important as defeating the Russian invasion.
Judicial Watch today released new documents from the U.S. Department of State showing the Podesta Group working on behalf of the pro-Russia Ukrainian political group “Party of Regions.” The new documents also show then-Obama White House Counsel John Podesta lobbying on behalf of his brother’s firm.
Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the State Department filed on November 20, 2017, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-02489)). The lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a September 13, 2017, FOIA request for:
– All records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
– All records produced related to any meetings or telephonic communications between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
– All records regarding the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
– The FOIA request covers the timeframe of January 1, 2012 to the present.
A March 28, 2013, email from now-Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State Baxter Hunt shows the Podesta Group, led by Tony Podesta, a Clinton bundler and brother of Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, represented the Party of Regions, a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.
In the March 2013 email, to a number of officials including then-U.S. Foreign Service Officer John Tefft (who would go on to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia in 2014) and State Department director for the Office of Eastern Europe Alexander Kasanof, Hunt writes:
See below, I also stressed to them the need for GOU to take concrete steps to get new SBA with IMF and avoid PFC/loss of GSP. Podesta Group is noted among host of Ukraine lobbyists in article I’ll forward in article on low side.
– Ben Chang and Mark Tavlarides of the Podesta Group, which is representing the Party of Regions, told us they were working with Klyuyev on a visit he plans to make to Washington in early May. They are working to broaden the POR’s contacts on the Hill, including setting up a meeting for Klyuyev with Chris Smith, and have advised Kyiv to stop trying to justify their actions against Tymoshenko in Washington. They also noted that during his recent meeting with former EC President Prodi, HFAC Chairman Ed Royce said that Congress would not be enacting sanctions legislation against Ukraine.
The Party of Regions served as the pro-Kremlin political base for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014.
Like Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment in the errant special counsel Russia investigation, the Podesta Group had to retroactively file Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosures with the Justice Department for Ukrainian-related work. The filing states that the Podesta group provided for the nonprofit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine “government relations and public relations services within the United States and Europe to promote political and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the West. The [Podesta Group] conducted outreach to congressional and executive branch offices, members of the media, nongovernmental organizations and think tanks.” Unlike Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, the Mueller special counsel operation hasn’t indicted anyone from the Podesta Group.
When my two year old son wants me to wake up, he puts my slippers on the pillow next to me.
Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!
By Jason Barker
Mr. Barker is an associate professor of philosophy.