President Zelenskyy's Meeting With the Congressional Ukraine Caucus

President Zelenskyy's Meeting With the Congressional Ukraine Caucus

President Zelenskyy had several meetings as did members of his delegation.  Of course the most important meeting was the one-on-one between Presidents Biden and Zelensky which, as I understand it, was to take place after a larger meeting headed by the two presidents that included Ministers and Cabinet members.

This is mentioned here because the Congressional Ukraine Caucus had arranged to have President Zelenskyy come to the House of Representatives immediately after the one-on-one to meet with available Members of Congress and a few invited guests.  That meeting was to be from 3:30 until 4:30.

President Zelenskyy and his delegation who accompanied him to the Capitol did not arrive until 4:30 because the scheduled one hour one-on-one between the presidents lasted for over two hours! (Unless we learn otherwise all indications are that this is very good news.)

With President Zelensky in the Capitol meeting (the meeting was held in H-137) on the first floor of the House side of the Capitol were:

            German Gelushchenko – Minister of Energy

            Sergi Lorghas – Member of Parliament

            Andrij Svbiba – Deputy Head of the Office of Presidential Administration

            Andrij Yermak – Head of Office of Presidential Administration

            Dmytro Kuleba – Minister of Foreign Affairs

            Oksana Markarova – Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States

            Andrij Taran – Ukraine’s Minister of Defense

Yuriy Vitrenko – Head of Naftogaz

Members with Caucus Co-Chair Kaptur were:

            John Garamend (D-California) – Member of the house Committee on Armed Services

            Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) – Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary

            Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana) – Born in Ukraine who came to the United States 25 years ago.

            Brad Sherman (D-California) – member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a member of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus

            Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) – member of the House Committee on Armed Services

            Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) – member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs

There were seven others who were invited by the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to attend and who were introduced by Congresswoman Kaptur:

            Ambassador John Herbst

            Ambassador Bill Taylor

            Andrij Futey – President of UCCA

            Michael Sawkiw – Head of UCCA’s Washington office

            Marta Farion – President of the Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation

            Nadia and Robert McConnell of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation

I do note that the atmosphere was one of genuine open friendliness and, the fact that six Members of Congress attended during the August recess was significant.  A seventh Member, Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Washington), may have come in before the meeting got underway but could not stay – possibly because of an on-going House Committee on Armed Services session.  Despite the recess there were several small committee meeting taking place in the building.  Also Congresswoman Spartz told me Kaptur had called her in Indiana and asked if she could fly-in as the other three co-chairs of the Caucus would not be able to attend.  Spartz flew in just for the meeting and had an evening flight back to Indiana.

The meeting began with and exchange of welcoming remarks – President Zelenskyy thanking the Members present and Congress generally for their consistent bi-partisan support or Ukraine.  Kaptur had several gifts to present to Zelenskyy and she and Spartz crossed the room to present them.  As the exchange ended Zelensky noted Congresswoman Spartz’s Ukrainian was much better than his English.

In presenting here some of the issues discussed and points made I do so in no particular order and at times simply as bullet points:

  • President Zelenskyy initially focused primarily on developing bilateral projects in key sectors – defense, aerospace, energy, agriculture.  Basically he reiterated themes he has mentioned throughout the trip.  In addition he put great emphasis on transfer of knowhow and expertise especially in veterans affairs, being able to treat veterans who have suffered physically and mentally from their war experience – integrating them back into their society and communities, being able to get jobs and work successfully.  The veterans need such support so that they do not fail in re-entering society.
  • Congressman Gallego – a veteran of the Iraq war engaged this veterans discussion.  Having suffered PTSB for sixteen years he noted that one of the most difficult things is for the veteran to accept that he or she has PTSB.  He was most interested in seeing that approaches and treatments developed in the United States be shared with Ukraine including the possibility of having veterans from both countries connect.
  • In exchanges between the President and Congresswoman Kaptur they were exploring the possibility of establishing partnerships between Ukrainian and American communities – getting Members to identify projects in their congressional districts that could be the basis for cooperative programs. President Zelenskyy seemed very keen on developing this idea.  (Listening to them it was impossible not to reflect on the Foundation’s extraordinary successes during its ten year Community Partnership Program, matching 18 mid size U.S. cities with 18 Ukrainian cities that developed and executed formalized work plans. We certainly have a blueprint.)
  • Kaptur mentioned the extraordinary number of Peace Corps volunteers to go to Ukraine and suggested they might be helpful in this regard.
  • While all Members present (and an overwhelming majority in Congress) oppose Nord Stream 2 the discussion did not discuss the pipeline, instead the discussion focused on other means of securing Ukraine’s security including energy security.
  • The Minister of Energy noted he had three meeting with Secretary of Energy and discussed future cooperative efforts.
  • Congressman Garamend thanked Ukraine for the extraordinary effort to rescue the group in Afghanistan that was trying to get out so it could travel to Canada.
  • Congressman Levin talked about working together on renewal energy sources.
  • Congressman Raskin noted that he is not on either the Armed Services or Foreign Affairs committees but that as a member of the Committee on the Judiciary he is quite familiar with Ukraine and President Zelenskyy and appreciates Zelenskyy’s standing up for democracy.
  • Levin also raised the subject of the Ukrainian-American community and its great support for Ukraine and U.S. support for Ukraine.
  • Congressman Sherman included in his remarks California’s pride in the large number of its National Guard who have been engaged in Ukraine.

The meeting lasted for just over an hour – I do note that by the end of the meeting several of the Members of Congress had excused themselves as the House Committee on Armed Services (or maybe a subcommittee) were hold votes on their mark-up of the FY22 authorization bill which, of course, includes provisions relating to Ukraine.

At the end of the discussion President Zelenskky presented Congresswoman Kaptur a Presidential medal – 3rd Order of ____(I did not catch the rest).

When the meeting concluded allowance was made for the press to enter the room and given the opportunity to ask one or two questions.

The first question was asked of both President Zelenskyy and Congresswoman Kaptur – essentially it was whether the Trump phone call and all that happened because of that phone had impacted U.S.-Ukraine relations.

President Zelenskyy basically responded that he wants Ukraine to be know for its people, their determination, contributions, etc.

Kaptur said that the phone call did not affect Congressional bi-partisan support for Ukraine – Congress did not take its eye off the ball in regard to the need to support Ukraine.

Once finished President Zelenskyy and his delegation were off to the newly leased Ukraine House for a ribbon cutting, chamapgin toast and then to the airport for their flight to California.