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Date: 2024-03-01 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00021590

Axios Scoop: Ukraine gives U.S. senators 4 specific asks

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Original article:
I have been involved in the practice of world affairs since the 1970s when I was the CFO of a US based company that operated in more than 26 jurisdictions around the world. We were a subsidiary of a bilion dollar parent company that generated zero profit. Our relatively small subsidiary together with one other of equal size generated quite reasonable profits, but offset by the performance of the other subsidiary units. Our little company had an excellent management team that knew its business. None of our management team were US nationals, and we were very careful in taking advice about international anything from US based professionals because of their very limited understanding of realities around the world.
I am reminded of this because of the ham-handed way American foreign policy has been handled in most of the time since WWII with very few exceptions. The idea of American exceptionalism when it comes to foreign policy is the ultimate oxymoron. I wish this was not true ... but the evidence is overwhelming.
I was too young to have much understanding of the issues related to the Korean War, but not those that related to the Vietnam War. For me, one of the lessons of Vietnam was that management data matters, and gaming the data is not smart. Part of my training is management accountancy. The Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara is also a management accountant who rose to become the President of the Ford Motor Company. He relied on data to make decisions in the business world ... and these data were relevant, timely and very reliable. He also used data in the Vietnam War to make military decisions, but in the military there was not the same culture as in the business world and few or no checks and balances. So the data about military performance in Vietnam that was fed to MacNamara was more what he want to hear than what he needed to hear. It is no wonder that the top decision makers in the Vietnam got it wrong almost all the time. This was not the 'fog of war' but systematic abuse of the power of data for decision making.
My first work with the World Bank was in 1978 when MacNamara was President of the Bank. MacNamara still made decisions using data. Obviously, the data was not the same as when he was at the Department of Defense, but once again the systems were flawed. I was an outside consultant rather than being a staff member of a team that was evaluating a project proposal from India. I was instructed to produce an analysis that showed that the proposed project would achieve a certain cost-benefit result. I was flabbergasted and objected ... probably, I canot remember ... pretty aggressively, I suspect! I had never in my professional life worked backwards from the desired result to fix the underlying supporting information. But while I had been trained as a professional Chartered Accountant, most people without my background would likely have caved and produced the results prescribed. While this was blatant, my experience in many other assignments was that the data flowing inside the World Bank was quite often compromised ... and the same goes for parts of the UN and many parts of the US Government.
I have worked in a lot of different parts of the world. In the course of this work I have had need to visit the Embassies of different countries to seek collaboration on various development or humanitarian assistance projects. Mostly the American Embassies were the least helpful while the Chinese Embassies were the most helpful. This was not what I would have expected, but that was the experience. I have not done any more of these visits since 2000, so things may have changed ... but maybe not. The US practice of giving the President the gift of rewarding political supporters (financial and otherwise) with Ambassadorial appointments ensures that most of the Embassies will be ineffective or worse!
There are great experts in the USA ... but few of them are in jobs that are going to make the most of their skills. It is a huge waste of talent.
It comes as no surprise that the leadership in Ukraine is worried that the US will not get it right.
Peter Burgess
Scoop: Ukraine gives U.S. senators 4 specific asks

Written by Zachary Basu ... AXIOS

January 28th, 2022

The chairman of Ukraine's parliament has sent a letter to eight U.S. senators outlining four specific requests for security assistance and sanctions that Kyiv believes will help deter a Russian invasion, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Ukrainian government is leaning on Congress — and a bipartisan group of senators negotiating compromise language on sanctions that could pass the Senate — in an effort to push the U.S. posture beyond the Biden administration's approach.

Like the Ukrainian government, Republicans are pushing for the bill to impose some sanctions now, before Russia invades.

But Ukraine's intervention in yet another U.S. legislative fight is unlikely to please a Biden administration already frustrated with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

What they're saying: 'Ukraine speaks from centuries of experience. We understand Russia,' Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk wrote in the letter, which also thanks Congress for ongoing bipartisan support. 'We know what will and will not deter the occupants of the Kremlin.'

Details: The four requests were approved by Zelensky's administration, according to two sources familiar with the matter. They are:
  • 'Expedited and higher-impact security assistance, including air defense, anti-ship and anti-armor capabilities, and flexible loans and financing mechanisms.'
  • 'Immediate, mandatory sanctions' against the operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which the letter calls 'no less an existential threat to Ukraine's security and democracy than the Russian troops on our border.'
  • 'A clear trigger' for sanctions based on Russia's actions, with a lower threshold than what has been outlined in the current Democratic-sponsored legislation under consideration.
  • 'Mandatory pre-trigger and post-trigger sanctions against all of Russia's most significant financial institutions.'
State of play: The eight senators who received the letter are Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

Menendez's White House-backed 'mother of all sanctions' bill is the framework for the negotiations, but differences among senators and with the White House remain.

The Biden administration believes that triggering preemptive sanctions would eliminate the deterrent effect, while Republicans and the Ukrainians argue that they would show Vladimir Putin that the U.S. threats are credible.

Between the lines: Zelensky has repeatedly clashed with President Biden, most notably over Biden's decision to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2.

On Thursday, the two leaders had a back-and-forth in a phone call about just how 'imminent' the threat of a Russian invasion might be, with Zelensky warning that U.S. rhetoric is causing panic.

Zelensky then delivered a lengthy press conference on Friday arguing that Western warnings and media coverage are having a destabilizing effect on Ukraine's economy.

Read the letter.

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