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Stability and Democracy for Ukraine Act/STAND for Ukraine Act

April 30, 2016

In the US Congress, Bill 5094 has been submitted, entitled Stability and Democracy for Ukraine – or STAND for Ukraine Act as a reader may prefer.  It has cross-party support, the charge through Congress to be headed by Messrs Engel (Democrat) and Kinzinger (Republican).

The core of the proposed legislation seeks to reaffirm several issues – clarifying existing U.S. policy toward Ukraine and unambiguously acknowledging the Ukrainian right to self-defense.  It seeks to robustly link sanctions relief for Russia to timely, complete, and verifiable implementation of the Minsk framework.  It ergo addresses the occupied Donbas issue.

It further cements U.S. Crimean policy in the same foundation as the doctrine of non-recognition set by the US for the duration of the USSR’s 50 year occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

It seeks to further tighten existing US sanctions on Russia by creating a seemingly stricter sanctions-evasion framework and demands a regular report on foreign financial institutions that are illicitly controlling Ukraine state-owned assets in Crimea.

Of particular importance is the imposition of an Arms Export Control Act founded upon a presumption of denial standard upon any NATO member that transfers certain defense equipment or services containing US technology and/or components to Russia while Russia is forcibly occupying the territory of Ukraine (or any NATO member – read Baltic reassurances).  A reader may ponder just how much of NATO allies defence equipment and/or services employ absolutely zero US technology – even if it contains no US components.

The Bill seeks to extend the reach of the Magnitsky Act to any and all territories occupied or otherwise controlled by Russia – presumably Abkhazia, Crimea, South Ossetia, and Transnistria where Russian military are physically present, rather than those areas that Russia de facto controls by other means.

Interestingly, the Bill also directs the US Administration to liaise with Kyiv in order to create an international consortium to drive private investment in Ukraine by minimizing and pooling political risk to would-be private investors.  An oblique reference to some form of international insurance scheme backed by States to guarantee entry into Ukraine for international corporations perhaps?

Regarding the wider Ukrainian neighbourhood, the Bill requires the Secretary of State to develop and implement a strategy to respond to the Kremlin disinformation and propaganda efforts aimed at the Russian-speaking areas in countries bordering Russia.  This is perhaps a somewhat narrow view, for Kremlin disinformation, agitprop and propaganda is aimed at a far broader audience than its diaspora and ethnic Russians in its immediate neighbourhood.  Much of it is aimed at the being fly-paper for the swivel-eyed in nations beyond its immediate boarders.

All important considerations.

However, perhaps the most important of all with a new US President upon the immediate electoral horizon, is that from a legislative stance the Bill places into statute the existing Executive Order sanctions imposed on Russia for the forcible and illegal occupation of Crimea.  It is easier for a sitting US President to cancel a pre-existing Executive Order than it is to repeal existing legislation passed by Congress and the Senate.

statute

The Bill would require that a US President, prior to lifting Ukraine-related sanctions, submit official certification to Congress that Ukraine has restored its sovereignty over Crimea, or that alternatively the peninsula’s status has been resolved to the satisfaction of a sitting and democratically elected government in Kyiv.

In short, Crimean sanctions, via this Bill, will stay in place for a very long time – as they should if the reasons they were imposed are to be honoured (namely a tome of international instruments and agreements completely disregarded by The Kremlin).

There is perhaps one concern, albeit currently certainly not an issue regarding Crimea now.

As there is no way The Kremlin will leave Crimea whilst Mr Putin is alive, and there is no reason to believe any successor will undo the annexation either (living President’s/former President’s legacies etc), a reader may ponder just how many years it will be before certain western capitals would begin to pressure Kyiv to reach that “alternatively the peninsula’s status has been resolved to the satisfaction of….” status.

A reader may imagine in a truly wild flight of fancy, that Minsk is actually implemented, (which it will not be, and those that “negotiated” Ukraine into Minsk should perhaps if unable to “negotiate” it out, then at the very least be “negotiating” its continued stalling), how many years would it be before the sanctions on Crimea became simply irksome to them and sustained pressure was then put upon Kyiv to “accept reality” and strike a deal to “its” satisfaction (or more to the point, its dissatisfaction)?

After all, this Bill, is part of a policy toolkit no differently than sanctions are – but neither are actual policy.  Perhaps, “the West” will actually arrive at a policy – but to do that, it must first decide what it wants in the face of a protagonist that has for many years unambiguously stated it does not want to be like, nor part of, “the West”.

Nevertheless, the most important issue here and now, on the presumption it becomes law, is perhaps the transferring of an existing Executive Order into the US statue book prior to US presidential electoral outcomes.

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