FROM THE BANKS OF THE POTOMAC

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FROM THE BANKS OF THE POTOMAC

As you might expect critical legislation has yet to be acted upon as the time for the First Session of the 117th Congress is running out.

Indeed, the Senate is only scheduled to be in session three weeks for the rest of 2021 with a recess to start on December 10. To me meeting that schedule surely comes under the doctrine of the “fat chance”. The Congress is facing a daunting to-do list including needing to fund the government past December 3rd Then there are those critical FY22 appropriations bills that must be considered and passed among other pieces of major legislation.

While the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and its Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) try to monitor all legislative and Executive Branch actions important to Ukraine and U.S.-Ukraine relations our primary congressional focus centers on specific authorization and appropriations bills.

In this status report I will start with authorization and appropriation bills and then provide a more comprehensive (though not complete) listing of some Ukraine-related legislation that has been introduced in this Session of Congress.

I will end with a couple of comments on a few other related activities in Washington. 

 

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT

House of Representatives – H.R. 4550

The House version of this legislation, H.R. 4550, passed the House of Representatives on September 23 and was received in the Senate on October 18, read twice and then placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. The House bill would authorize an increase funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative by 20% over what was authorized for FY21 ($250,000,000 to $300,000,000). In addition, the House bill would authorize an increase in funding for other Ukraine-related military activities, some by substantial margins and, of course, there are numerous provisions not directly relating to Ukraine through which specific types of assistance could be provided to Ukraine. I do believe for those interested in some of the “details” of expressed Congressional intent .there is some language in the House Report (117-118) that accompanies H.R. 4550.

First, I set out some language from the report relating to Poland an “NATO’s Eastern flank facing Russia’s on-going aggression":

Briefing on Foreign Military Sales to Poland

 

   The Committee continues to place high priority on deterring Russian aggressive action on NATO’s Eastern flank and in empowering our allies in the region. Since the illegal seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, Russia has supported continued conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas province, massed and maintained armed forces on Ukraine’s Eastern borders, harassed NATO allies and activities in the Black Sea, and discussed integration of Russian and Belarusian military forces on Poland’s border.

   Poland has become the anchor of NATO’s deterrence strategy on the Eastern European flank and the United States’ strongest ally. It continues to meet defense budget targets in accordance with the Wales Summit Declaration by which the NATO member states agreed to spend 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense, 20 percent of which is spent on major equipment, including related research and development. Poland has also aggressively pursued modernization of its military capability, emphasizing interoperability with U.S. Army and Air Force capabilities based in Poland.

   The Committee approves of Poland’s recent decision to purchase 250 of the most modern versions of the U.S. Abrams main battle tank to increase the capability of its armored forces. This will enhance NATO’s ability to deter Russian aggression on its Eastern flank and the Committee encourages the Administration to facilitate this foreign military sale as soon as possible

   Therefore, the Committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, to brief the congressional defense committees not later than December 31, 2021 on the process and timeline to facilitate the foreign military sales of U.S. Abrams tanks to Poland.

Likewise, you may be interested in the House report language addressing Russia and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative:

Subtitle D–Matters Relating to Russia 

 Section 1231–Extension of Limitation on Military Cooperation between the United States and Russia

    This section would extend for 1 year section 1232(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328). This section would limit the use of fiscal year 2022 funds for bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the Government of the United States and Russia until the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, provides a certification to appropriate congressional committees relating to certain actions by Russia.

    Section 1232–Prohibition on Availability of Funds Relating to 

                   Sovereignty of Russia over Crimea 

    This section would extend by 1 year the prohibition imposed by section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92). This section would prohibit the use of fiscal year 2022 funds to implement any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of Russia over Crimea. This section would also allow the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to waive the prohibition if the Secretary of Defense determines that doing so would be in the national security interest of the United States and submits a notification to the House Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Section 1233–Modification and Extension of Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative

     This section would extend by 1 year section 1250 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92) to authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide security assistance and intelligence support to the Government of Ukraine, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State. 

This section would also authorize $300.0 million to carry out this authority in fiscal year 2022. [Emphasis added. RAM]

 Section 1234–Report on Options for Assisting the Government of Ukraine in Addressing Integrated Air and Missile Defense Gaps

 This section would require a report on options for the United States to support Ukraine in addressing integrated air and missile defense gaps. [I note here that FOUN’s National Security Task Force has presented to the relevant House and Senate Committees, as well as the Department of Defense, specific recommendations in this regard. Included within those recommendations is a critical recommendation for the United States to begin training Ukrainian pilots:

“Assistance in building layered air defense in Ukraine should begin, including: 

-   Modern aircraft comparable to what other European countries are putting in the air. Ukraine is defending Russia’s violation of European stability and needs the best fighter.  Ukraine’s air force cannot be modernized overnight but the effort must begin.

-   Training with aircraft mentioned above should begin now.

-   Transfer to Ukraine new Stinger short-range air defense missiles with training package.

-   Air Command-and-Control systems

-   For mid and high altitude defense Ukraine needs U.S. and NATO compatible systems   RAM]

Senate – S 2792

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY22, S. 2792 was received in the full Senate on October 18 and read twice and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.

Given that once the Senate has acted on the FY22 NDAA a House-Senate Conference will be required to finalize compromise language and given that much of the Ukraine-related language in the two versions is quite similar here I will only note two provisions of the Senate version.

In Senate Report 117-39 accompanying S. 2792 the discussion of the extension of Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative includes the following:

The committee recommends a provision that would extend through December 31, 2024, the authority under section 1250 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114–92), as amended by section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (Public Law 116–92), for the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to provide security assistance, including defensive lethal assistance, and intelligence support to military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine. The provision would authorize up to $300.0 million in fiscal year 2022 to provide security assistance to Ukraine, of which $75.0 million would be available only for lethal assistance. [Emphasis added RAM] The committee continues to believe that defense institutional reforms are critical to sustaining capabilities developed using security assistance provided under this and other authorities. Moreover, defense institutional reforms will ultimately enable a more effective defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and allow Ukraine to achieve its full potential as a strategic partner of the United States. Therefore, the provision would prohibit the obligation or expenditure of 50 percent of the funds authorized to be appropriated in fiscal year 2022 under this authority until the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, certifies that Ukraine has taken substantial action to make defense institutional reforms. [Emphasis added RAM

The committee notes that Ukraine has significant organic capabilities in its defense industrial base, which should be leveraged and enhanced for the purposes of providing for Ukraine’s self-defense. The committee believes that, in developing a program of security assistance for Ukraine, more consideration should be given to striking the appropriate balance between capabilities that are resident or could be developed within Ukraine’s organic industrial base and those that are most appropriate for United States ….” [I note here that the subject of how strike that appropriate balance has been raised by the Senate Committee on Armed Services with FOUN and FOUN is working to develop suggestions.  RAM]

I also note the Senate Report language regarding support for Ukrainian soldiers. When Ukrainian President Zelenskyy met with the Congressional Ukraine Caucus an issue he gave great priority was U.S. support to help Ukraine help its wounded worriers returning from Putin’s war against Ukraine. The Senate Report includes the following:

Medical support for Ukrainian soldiers 

 Section 1234 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (Public Law 115–91) expanded the use of the Secretarial Designee Program to provide for Ukrainian soldiers’ receipt of treatment at Department of Defense military treatment facilities when the necessary care cannot be provided in Ukraine. The committee notes that implementation issues persist with regard to covering non-medical expenses in connection with such treatment. Such expenses include, but are not limited to, the cost of transportation, lodging, meals, and incidentals for the wounded and associated caregivers. The committee urges the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with the Secretary of State, Administrator of United States Agency for International Development, relevant nongovernmental organizations, and senior Ukrainian officials to resolve these non-medical funding issues. Further, the committee encourages the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to continue efforts to develop Ukraine’s capacity to care for wounded members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces within Ukraine, including building on notable progress in the areas of point-of-injury care, medical evacuation, and the establishment of a combat medic training program. The Department of Defense should continue to consider Secretarial Designee Program requests to provide specialized care in U.S. military medical treatment facilities in the areas of polytrauma, amputations, burn treatment, prosthetics, and rehabilitation on a case-by-case basis. 

DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS FY22

House of Representatives

The following House language regarding Defense Security Cooperation Agency Programs is of note relating to Ukraine:

The Committee is concerned by Russia’s aggressive actions this year, including increased deployment of troops in the border region with Ukraine and the restriction of navigation in the Black Sea. The Committee continues to support the defense of Ukraine by providing $275,000,000 for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, $25,000,000 above the budget request. [And $25,000,000 less than authorized in the draft NDAA. RAM

 The Committee expects the Secretary of Defense to obligate funds in a timely manner and continues to include legislative language requiring the Secretary to inform the congressional defense committees if funds have not been obligated 60 days after a notification is submitted. The Committee directs that congressional notifications submitted for International Security Cooperation Programs and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative specify the fiscal year, whether funds support ongoing or new programs, and the duration and expected cost over the life of each program. The Committee encourages the Government of Ukraine to continue to adopt reforms in the defense sector, including in the areas of capability-based planning, defense industry and procurement, human resources management, democratic civilian control of the military, and establishing a process to review foreign direct investments on national security grounds. The Committee also supports measures to reduce corruption in Ukraine’s security services and directs the Secretary of Defense to update the report required by House Report 116–84 and to submit it concurrently with the second notification of funds... the Act requires the Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the Secretary of State, to submit an integrated security cooperation strategy for assistance for certain priority partner countries, including …Ukraine. Each strategy shall include an overview of the security relationship between the United States and the country; a description of the goals, objectives, and milestones of security cooperation programs and initiatives supported by the Department of Defense and the Department of State; a description of how programs complement rather than duplicate one another; funding by account and program for fiscal year 2022 and the prior two fiscal years; and a description of host country capabilities and financial contributions towards shared security goals. 

One specific mention in the House Report I call to the attention of the FOUN’s National Security Task Force. Given that FOUN has successfully advocated providing Ukraine Mark VI patrol boats for several years we need to monitor what arises from the following language having to do with MK VI Patrol Boats.

MK VI PATROL BOATS 

The Committee is concerned by conflicting announcements from the Department of the Navy regarding possible divestiture of Mk VI patrol boats from its inventory. Given these inconsistencies, the Committee directs the Secretary of the Navy to conduct a review prior to making any final decision on the program, and submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act that includes an assessment of the Mk VI platform’s current and future mission capabilities; any capability gaps that are not currently fulfilled by the Mk VI fleet; any possible modifications necessary to ensure identified capability gaps are filled and the system engineering, testing, and evaluation data to support such conclusions; the vessel’s utility in foreign partnership building and engagement with allies; and the Navy’s proposal to independently fulfill current and future patrol boat missions.

Senate

The Senate version of Defense Appropriations for FY22, S. 3023, was introduced on October 20 and referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

Relevant in this initial version of the bill is:

Sec. 8113. Of the amounts appropriated in this Act under the heading “Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide”, for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, $300,000,000, of which $150,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2023, shall be for the   Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative: Provided, That such funds shall be available to the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide assistance, including training; equipment; lethal assistance [Emphasis added RAM]; logistics support, supplies and services; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and for replacement of any weapons or articles provided to the Government of Ukraine from the inventory of the United States: Provided further, That the Secretary of Defense shall, not less than 15 days prior to obligating funds made available by this section, notify the congressional defense committees in writing of the details of any such obligation: Provided further, That the United States may accept equipment procured using funds made available in this section in this or prior Acts that was transferred to the security forces of  Ukraine and returned by such forces to the United States: Provided further, That equipment procured using funds made available in this section in this or prior Acts, and not yet transferred to the military or National Security Forces of Ukraine or returned by such forces to the United States, may be treated as stocks of the Department of Defense upon written notification to the congressional defense committees. 

I also note that included in provisions dealing with on-going restrictions on Russia the legislation would continue such restrictions unless:

…the armed forces of the Russian Federation have withdrawn from Crimea, other than armed forces present on military bases subject to agreements in force between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Ukraine; and

(3) agents of the Russian Federation have ceased taking active measures to destabilize the control of the Government of Ukraine over eastern Ukraine.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, FY22

House of Representatives

The House version of the Department of State Appropriations Bill for FY22 (H.R. 4373) has passed the House and was received in the Senate on July 6th. Section 7046 (2) provides that not less than $481,500,000 is to be available to support Ukraine. Other provisions restrict any funds being available to Russia unless and until Russia leaves Crimea and Ukraine regains control over Crimea.

Senate

The Senate version of the Department of State Appropriations Bill for FY22 (S. 3075) was introduced on October 26. It provides that not less than $559,000,000 be available to support Ukraine. The Senate bill has similar provisions to the House bill regarding restrictions relating to Russia.

NOMINATIONS

While there are a number of pending nominations quite relevant to United States dealings with and about Ukraine I must note that essentially 11 months into the Administration the White House has yet to nominate anyone to be the United States Ambassador to Ukraine. Is our American relationship with Ukraine really a “strategic partnership”?

OTHER LEGISLATION

As mentioned at the outset, this will not be a complete listing of bills that relate to Ukraine but I believe it is a fair sampling to give you an idea of what his been introduced in this Session of the 117th Congress.

House Of Representatives

H.R. 496 – Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act – Introduced January 28 – Reported by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on April 21

H.R. 3144 – Restraining Russian Imperialism – Introduced May 5.

  1. Res. 426 – Expressing opposition to removing sanctions with respect to the Nord Stream II pipeline. – Introduced May 20

H.R. 3344 – Transatlantic Telecommunications Security Act – Introduced May 19

H.R. 2046 – Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act – Introduced March 18

Senate

2876 – Transatlantic Telecommunications Security Act – Introduced on September 28

Res. 241 – A resolution widening threats to freedom of the press and free expression around the world, and reaffirming the vital role that a free and independent press plays in informing local and international audiences about public health crises, countering misinformation and disinformation, and furthering discourse and debate to advance healthy democracies in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2021. – Introduced May 26 [One might shudder a bit thinking about this resolution given the horrible announcement this week that the Kyiv Post has closed down – the only reliable English language newspaper that was available from Ukraine. There are indications the Kyiv Post was shuttered due to severe pressure from the government – a very bad, and very stupid move if true. Outrageous! RAM]

819 – Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act – Introduced on March 18.

 

SEVERAL NON-LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

-  Earlier this week Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu and while reports of their meeting made it clear NATO and NATO activities were a part of the discussions, I found it very positive that Aurescu emphasized the need for United States presence in the Black Sea region to be increased.

Given Russia’s on-going and malevolent aggression it is important for countries beside Ukraine to press for greater open U.S. involvement and activity in the region, especially NATO members

-  Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba is in town today for meetings following-up on President Zelenskyy’s earlier visit. Before Kuleba’s arrival others from Ukraine were in meetings of three post-Zelenskky trip working groups.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of the working groups and the bi-lateral agenda – serious and aggressive follow-up is essential under the circumstances. Personally I would have been happier if the Minister of Foreign Affairs trip had been scheduled so that it did not back up against and federal holiday (Veterans Day) so as to allow for longer discussions but, hey, there is some activity moving forward.

Sort of related to the Minister of Foreign Affairs meetings today seems to be an odd/strange op-ed Andriy Yermak, Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine, wrote that was published by the Atlantic Council. Yermak wrote that one subject that “will not formally be a focus during this week’s meeting, but which is of critical joint US-Ukrainian interest, is President Zelenskyy’s de-oligarchization agenda”

Why a chief of staff is out in front writing op-eds is – well - at the very least curious. Setting that aside, however, I am not sure why the subject would not come up.

I would hope that de-oligarchization and anti-corruption would come up and get a significant amount of attention. The whole subject is at best confused and a bit mysterious given the state of play in Ukraine.

I better leave it at that for now but will note that oligarch control of Ukraine’s media, mainly television, has long been one issue even though Ukrainian television is competitive and clearly not always saying favorable things about the government.

Considering the dramatic closing of the Kyiv Post in this context one has to wonder what is really going on in Kyiv?

 

Do please note that this entire issue and all the personal comments are those of Mr. McConnell and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and/or the Friends of Ukraine Network.