Markian Kuzmowycz Attends U.S. Ukraine Security Dialogue in Washington, D.C.

Markian Kuzmowycz, MALD 2019 Candidate, The Fletcher School

On March 8, I had the opportunity to attend the 9th U.S. Ukraine Security Dialogue, Identifying Ukraine’s Security Priorities, at the Washington, D.C. Press Club, bringing together congressmen, diplomats, Ukrainian and American defense professionals and senior representatives from Washington’s security policy establishment. The event was organized by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations, and the American Foreign Policy Council. This was personally my second time attending and ultimately it proved informative for how the U.S. can support Ukraine in its defense priorities as it deals with the annexation of Crimea and a Russian occupation in separatist controlled territories in Donbas.

Related to Ukraine’s immediate security concerns, the need for a comprehensive maritime strategy to protect its exclusive economic zones was stressed. Ukraine has lost $1.72bn in gas illegally extracted from its maritime gas fields, the Crimean Kerch Strait has been closed to Ukrainian naval movement in contravention of international law, and a bridge connecting the Kerch Strait to Crimea was intentionally built low enough to prevent Panamex tankers from transporting steel from Ukrainian controlled ports in Donbas. Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council recommended Ukraine be active in the UN, international courts, and in any other means possible to prevent Russia from continuing to seize Ukrainian offshore assets. He also recommended long term cooperation with NATO in the Black Sea.

The afternoon panel on cyber security was particularly interesting, given that Ukraine has fallen prey to major attacks on its critical infrastructure, including its electrical grid. The NotPetya virus had more indirect effects, hurting business friendliness, according to Aleks Mehrle of Ukrainian Global Trade and Investor. Carly Frame, of Rep. Brendan Boyle’s (D-PA) office, highlighted that U.S. cyber cooperation policy in Ukraine has been reactive and largely based on one-off approaches. Bob Flores, former Chief Technology Officer of the CIA, stressed the need for further U.S.-Ukraine cyber cooperation, precisely because Ukraine has often been a testing ground for malicious attacks and the United States stands to learn much from bilateral cooperation. He argued Ukraine produces some of the world’s most skilled computer scientists, but these individuals either move overseas or create products for export, meaning cyber capability is not leveraged for Ukrainian defense. U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation in cyber security may help correct these incentives and in turn make the United States and its allies even more secure.

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