In the aftermath of Russia’s attack on and seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews in the Kerch strait area the National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) met on November 29th to discuss and formulate recommendations for the U.S. Administration and Congress regarding how best to respond to Russia’s latest flagrant act of aggression against Ukraine. Amb. Alexander Vershbow (Atlantic Council), Amb. John Herbst (Atlantic Council), Amb. Temuri Yakobashvili (PASS), Michael Carpenter (Penn Biden Center), Glen Howard (Jamestown Foundation), Mykola Hryckowian (Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations), Donald Jensen (Center for European Policy Analysis), Ian Brzezinski (Atlantic Council), Nadia K. McConnell (U.S.-Ukraine Foundation) and Robert A. McConnell (U.S.-Ukraine Foundation) participated in the meeting.  The discussion included such issues as placing additional economic sanctions on Russia, providing more weapons and other military assistance to Ukraine, conducting briefings for lawmakers, adopting additional congressional legislation in support of Ukraine and developing a coordinated response with U.S. allies and partners, including NATO.

On December 1st, Robert A. McConnell, Vice Chairman of the FOUN National Security Task Force, transmitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on behalf of the group.  The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

 On behalf of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) this letter is written regarding next week’s NATO Foreign Minister’s meeting.  We respectfully urge that you do everything possible to see that the issue of Russia’s aggression be at the top of the Ministerial ’s agenda.  And, that you convene a side meeting with ministers from countries most concerned about the Black Sea and Russia’s steadily increasing aggression in the region. 

 All NATO members should have significant concern about the Russian aggression and we believe there are numerous actions NATO can and should take beyond simple statements of concern. However, in addition it would seem the countries most directly involved in the Black Sea region could and should jointly signal genuine support for Ukraine’s free access to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.  Whether it is naval visits to Odessa, accompanying Ukrainian naval movements in these waters and aerial exercises over the Black Sea clear actions need to be taken.  Time is of the essence to signal genuine support for Ukraine and against Russia’s unwarranted and unjustified thwarting of free access to these waters.

 FOUN Task Forces are working on specific recommendations that we would very much like to forward to you soon, but with your ministers’ meeting imminent we wish to urge that you do as much as possible with your colleagues to prompt immediate and clearly recognizable resistance to Russia’s actions.

 By way of introduction the Friends of Ukraine Network is an informal working group that includes most of the former United States Ambassadors to Ukraine, military and other subject matter experts in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.  The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation essentially serves as the secretariat for the group.


 Robert A. McConnell


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