The following letter was sent me by Sen. Mark Warner. I would appreciate the comments of any readers who care to respond to his positions on our Ukraine policy.
Dear Dr. Herrick,
Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your concerns related to events in Ukraine.
Events in Ukraine and Crimea are deeply concerning. The Ukrainian people began protesting in November 2013 in response to then-President Viktor Yanukovych's rejection of a deal that would allow greater economic integration with the European Union. On February 22, Yanukovych was removed as President by a vote of Parliament. On May 25, in a special election called by its Parliament, Ukraine elected Petro Poroshenko as president. [tag]
Taking advantage of the turmoil in Ukraine, in March, Russia illegally annexed Crimea. The referendum under which Russia did so is not recognized by the United States or the international community. Since then, Russia has continued its provocations in Ukraine. In February, in response to pro-Russian Yanukovych's removal, Russia raised gas prices for Ukraine by nearly 80%. In mid-June, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, who along with much of Europe is highly dependent on Russia for natural gas. Russia has also been supplying increasingly sophisticated weaponry to the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine who are fighting against the democratically-elected Ukrainian government. On July 17, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot downin eastern Ukraine; 298 innocent lives, including one American, were lost. Evidence points to the fact that Moscow likely provided sophisticated antiaircraft weapons to those responsible for this horrific tragedy.
I believe Russia's actions are unacceptable. That is why, on March 27, 2014, the Senate passed with my support S.2124, the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014. This legislation authorizes aid to Ukraine to help the country recover from an economic downturn and withstand Russian aggression. It also provides broad authority for the President to sanction individuals in Ukraine and Russia who are responsible for violence, human rights abuses, and corruption in Ukraine. I fully support strong U.S. and European sanctions against Russia and have called for a series of military, energy, and cybersecurity measures to counter Moscow's inexcusable actions.
In May and July, I led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in urging President Obama to strongly oppose France's sale of two Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia. We believe that our NATO allies should not reward Russian President Vladimir Putin's inexcusable behavior by providing him with deadly weapons, which he could use not only to kill NATO soldiers, but also to attack NATO-allied territory. As a result, we urged the President to use the U.S.'s leadership role in NATO to convince all NATO members to commit to each other to end all defense sales and defense industrial cooperation with Russia.
In addition, I have written a bipartisan letter to the Administration with Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) that recommends we create a law enforcement partnership between the United States and Ukraine to combat cybercrime and improve cybersecurity. We need to support Ukraine and the new government in Kiev, but we want the government to end the previous practice of turning a blind eye to cybercrime directed outside its borders. Ukraine has been an international haven for hackers, and last year's massive data breach affecting millions of U.S. customers of Target and other American retailers has been traced to Ukraine. Our proposal recommends U.S.-Ukraine bilateral talks on cybercrime cooperation, establishes a standing senior-level working group to conduct regular dialogue on cybercrime concerns, explores opportunities to build Ukraine's capacity to combat cybercrime in cooperation with American and European law enforcement agencies, and develops improved extradition procedures between the U.S. and Ukraine.
We must reduce not just Putin's military and cyber capabilities; we must also diminish his ability to dominate European energy markets and use his energy policy as a weapon. One way to accomplish this goal is by improving Ukraine and Europe's energy security.
That is why I have also proposed a bipartisan energy security plan with Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to expedite the U.S. Department of Energy's review of applications to export U.S. natural gas and develop a comprehensive energy security plan to assist Europe and Ukraine to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. Currently, U.S. companies can export natural gas only to countries that have a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S.; exporting to countries without FTAs, which include most of Europe, requires the companies to apply for a case-by-case review by the Energy Department. The Energy Department has approved fewer than ten projects so far, and more than 20 other export applications remain pending. My bipartisan proposal urges the Obama Administration to expedite this process. This proposal also recommends a strategic review of U.S. energy policies, a joint U.S.-European Union initiative on energy security, and other efforts to promote greater energyproductivity in Ukraine.
As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I will continueto closely monitor developments in Ukraine. Again, thank you for contacting me. For further information or to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website at warner.senate.gov.
Sincerely, MARK R. WARNERUnited States