Nadia K. McConnell, President of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, spoke on a panel titled “A World in Disarray” at the 12th annual Kyiv Security Forum. The yearly event was launched by the Arseniy Yatsenyuk Open Ukraine Foundation in 2007. Since then, the Forum has become a platform for high-level international discussions on current issues of Ukrainian national security and security issues of the Black Sea region, Europe and the world. A report by Markian Bilynskyj, USUF Vice-President (Kyiv) about USUF’s participation in the Forum follows:
US-Ukraine Foundation Makes Debut at the Kyiv Security Forum
Words should be used accurately and responsibly and so-called ‘Ukraine fatigue’ is a misleading term concocted by western policy makers reluctant to face the inconvenient fact that Ukraine is fighting a very real war in defense of Western values. These were the principal thoughts offered by U.S.-Ukraine Foundation president, Nadia McConnell, at the 12th Kyiv Security Forum “The Restless Wave: Strategic Choice of Ukraine and the West” held in the Ukrainian capital on April 11-12. Mrs. McConnell’s participation marked USUF’s debut at the event.
The Forum – an initiative of former Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Open Ukraine Foundation – is arguably the preeminent annual event of its kind in Ukraine. It is certainly the most inclusive. The Forum examines how pressing international issues affect Ukraine and consistently features principal foreign policy and security experts as well as former and serving high level officials from the Euro-Atlantic community.
This year’s key Ukrainian speakers included President Petro Poroshenko, Rada Chairman Andriy Parubiy, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and other principal officials. Long-term opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko also featured. Held regularly in mid-April, this year’s Forum took place in the midst of the Ukrainian presidential elections. The moderators generally kept the discussion away from electoral controversies even if many of the issues discussed fall under the constitutional ambit of the presidency. But the fact that the Forum was sandwiched between the two rounds undoubtedly contributed to the record number of attendees at this year’s event.
Mrs. McConnell participated in a panel entitled “Ukraine and the West: What to Expect Now?” Other participants were: former Estonian prime minister, Taavi Roivas; Canadian member of parliament and shadow foreign minister, James Bezan; and the outspoken pro-Ukrainian German member of the European People’s Party, Elmar Brok. The panel was virtually unanimous that Ukraine deserved more support in fighting Russian aggression and Mrs. McConnell’s provocative observations were well received by the audience and in great measure set the tone for the panel’s spirited discussion. [Click here to view a video of the panel which begins at 3:28:00]
The previous day, Mrs McConnell had also featured in a discussion on Richard Haas’ book, “A World in Disarray,” the Ukrainian version of which was published by Osnovy Publishing and was presented at the Forum. This was one of several panels held throughout the Forum in parallel to the plenary event. The format provided greater scope for expression. Moderated by former deputy foreign minister, Danylo Lubkivsky, the three-person panel also included the prominent Ukrainian publicist and philosopher, Vakhtang Kebuladze.
The discussion reflected a generally negative reaction to Mr. Haas’ view on American foreign policy and the crisis of the old order – the book’s subtitle – and Ukraine’s place in his world view. Drawing on her Ukraine advocacy experience Mrs. McConnell described the problems associated with promoting the facts about Ukraine in Washington – in other words, getting the message across in the face of the historically predominant ‘realist’ foreign policy school of thought and its derivatives, a view that is all too often prepared “to sacrifice Ukraine on the altar of Big Power politics” – a theme she also raised the following day during the panel discussion. The narrative that such thinking promoted in Washington (and not only) meant that policy was loaded against Ukraine and in Russia’s favor.
The forum concluded with an invitation-only commemorative dinner for the late Senator John McCain – a genuine advocate of Ukraine in U.S. policy circles whose passing is still mourned by Ukrainians across the political spectrum.
During her visit to Kyiv, Nadia McConnell also met with representatives of the Ukrainian chapter of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
Putin’s war on Ukraine continues to produce casualties far away from the line of conflict. Apart from the 13,000 fatalities and the immediate problem posed by approximately 1.5 million internally displaced persons – a humanitarian crisis that has all but vanished from the international community’s radar screen – there are many other victims of the conflict. Many seriously wounded and traumatized former combatants are facing up the problems of becoming fully integrated members of society. In addition, children of IDPs and veterans – including orphans – are also confronting new realities. Five years after the commencement of hostilities, the Ukrainian authorities are still struggling to help those of its citizens having to cope with the consequences of the Kremlin’s aggression.
During her recent visit to Kyiv, USUF President Nadia McConnell met with Yuliia Dmytrova, Lilia Kravets and Tetyana Horolskaya of TAPS Ukraine, Major General Volodymyr Havrylov of the Veterans Dozen Foundation, and Larissa Verbitskaya of the Women’s Partnership Circle to discuss how these initiatives and organizations could cooperate to assist the families of soldiers killed or wounded in the war and to raise awareness of their plight, particularly within appropriate circles and entities in the U.S.
Founded in 1994 by Bonnie Carrol, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) has provided emotional support to more than 75,000 U.S. military families, casualty officers and caregivers grieving the loss of a beloved service member. A peer-based emotional support program was set up in Ukraine last year, with its central office located in the southeastern city of Dnipro. There are plans to expand TAPS Ukraine into a nationwide organization.
Veterans Dozen is a charity organization created by a team of wounded Ukrainian warriors who fought in the war against Russia in 2014-2015. The principal aim is to aid the rehabilitation of badly wounded veterans through team-based sporting activities in Ukraine and abroad where they can interact with their fellow wounded veterans. The organization collects funds to enable wounded veterans to compete in 10 km races. In October, Ukrainian veterans will participate in the U.S. Marine Corps marathon in Washington, DC.
In a broad ranging discussion, the parties decided to work on identifying priority areas of cooperation. The Women’s Partnership Circle offered to head a Humanitarian Coordinating Platform. Among its members and partners the Circle currently has approximately 40 NGOs working with veterans and their families and already works with the newly-formed Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs and the Ministry of Regional Development.