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Thursday, July 02, 2009

The American Institute in Ukraine: A Yanukovych-Friendly Appeasement Think Tank

You’d think that the only Washington spin doctor to promote Yanukovych and his anti-NATO/pro-Kremlin platform would be Paul Manafort. You shouldn’t. Meet the American Institute in Ukraine!

In his recent article, Ukrayinska Pravda’s Serhiy Leshchenko exposes this pseudo-independent organization, whose talent did business with Yanukovych as early as in 2003.

What’s in a name?
James George Jatras. The American (read: Appeasement) Institute in Ukraine (AIU) lists him as one of his associates, and so does Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, LLC. (Public advocacy...hmmm...sounds so much sweeter than lobbying, doesn’t it?)

Jatras’ profile at Squire Sanders credits him with a wealth of experience:

  • Serving on the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee and as an American Foreign Service Officer in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs;
  • Engaging in versatile legislative advocacy and international projects;
  • Participating in panel discussions at the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the International Strategic Studies Association.

Specifically, Jatras assisted in the defense of Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague Tribunal. His organization, the American Council for Kosovo (ACK), opposes Kosovo’s independence. All of which makes the American Institute in Ukraine look like a clone.

That’s not an accident. Darren Spinck, another key AIU figure, happens to be an officer of ACK.

On March 6 and March 24, 2003, Jatras and his partner Patrick O’Donell at Venable, LLP inked two public relations deals with Alex Kiselev, a Yanukovych representative. Under the deals, Yanukovych was supposed get a dose of favorable publicity and networking in Washington, including, possibly, a meeting with then-President Bush. Price tag: $20K+$60K (for the meeting with Bush, if arranged).

Ukrayinska Pravda offers copies of the agreements:

For some reason, Yanukovych rescheduled his visit. A third agreement with Jatras and McDonnell was signed on November 24, 2003.

Cooperation between the Jatras and Yanukovych camps continued well into the fateful year of 2004. In December 2004, amid the Orange Revolution, Spinck put his signature on the addendum to a $23K+$15K Yanukovych-related consulting agreement with db communications, LLC.

What does AIU do?
“AIU is a privately funded U.S. nonprofit organization and neither receives, solicits, nor accepts funds from any government,” so they say, without disclosing their donors

“The activities of AIU are strictly informational and educational. AIU does not engage in lobbying, either in the United States or abroad.” But AIU talent has engaged in lobbying in the United States on behalf of Ukrainian clients, and the website fails to mention that, right?

Besides, if their current activities encompass “producing and distributing monographs, commentaries, analyses, news, bulletins, press releases and other informational and educational materials,” then why do they tilt to one side only? Does AIU offer a single monograph, commentary or analysis that explores the benefits of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, both for NATO and Ukraine?

If you click “About Us,” you will find this:

AIU takes no position on NATO per se. But whatever NATO's future may be, AIU questions the wisdom of further expansion without clear and convincing evidence that it would directly enhance U.S. security interests, defined as defense of American territory and the American people; protect the territorial defense of its member states, consistent with the sole mission of the alliance as specified in the North Atlantic Treaty; contribute to the security of countries considered for expansion, beginning with Ukraine; and not injure relations with Russia, which must be an ongoing priority of American foreign and security policy. There is reason to question whether any of these criteria exists now or will exist in the foreseeable future.

So if you “question whether any of these criteria exists” and have some foreign policy credentials to support your skepticism, here’s your chance! According to Ukrayinska Pravda sources, you can make $3K in speaking fees, travel and hotel expenses covered. In other words, Western scholars and policy makers who strongly oppose the idea of Ukraine’s membership in NATO and want make a few bucks would be more than welcome!

Ironically, had AIU been around in 2003-2004, then-PM Yanukovych would have probably sent trainloads of his supporters to rally outside its office. At that time, he firmly stood for NATO membership and his party rubber-stamped pro-NATO legislation. In fact, he even authored a white paper that called for NATO membership by 2008.

Serhiy Leshchenko says his interest in AIU began with an invitation to participate in one of the events held at that organization — front organization, as it turned out. Guess who called him? Dmytro Dzhangirov, a blatant Kuchma-Yanukovych propagandist whose two-minute-hate-style programs had blasted Yushchenko during the dystopian 2004 presidential campaign. Today, Dzhangirov mainly works for Kyiv mayor Leonid “Kosmos” Chernovetsky. never know.

Apparently, AIU has found Dzhangirov to be an asset to their ill-concealed “disarm and disown,” “putting Putin first,” “quid pro-Kremlin” campaign.

Among AIU’s recent guest speakers was Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute and...of the American Council for Kosovo.

Bandow’s association with the Cato Institute was supposed to lend credentials to the one and only view promoted by AIU: that Ukraine is bad for NATO and that NATO is bad for Ukraine. The fact that in the mid ‘90s Ukraine had sacrificed the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal on the altar of U.S. security gets the silent treatment.

Back to Bandow: Leshchenko called the Cato Institute and asked whether Bandow represented their official policy views. Chris Kennedy, Director of Media Relations, said Bandow represented his views only.

Last, but definitely not least, Leshchenko notes, the Russian version of the AIU web site spells the organization’s name as Американский Институт на Украине rather than Американский Институт в Украине. What’s the difference? It’s the Russian way of saying the Ukraine (province, territory) as opposed to the Ukraine (independent country).

In this regard, I hope U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gets some polit-savvy toponymical tips before he visits Ukraine at the end of July. But my hope already lacks audacity. The siren calls of appeasement artists are getting stronger day by day. Some of them, such as Anthony T. Salvia of AIU, even couch their propaganda in romantic Reagan-era terms. Apparently, the Appeasement...uh...sorry, the American Institute in Ukraine has a busy work schedule.

President Obama will visit Russia on July 6-8, and all Ukraine will get is Vice President Biden two weeks later. As a Ukrainian, I think my country is being marginalized by this Eurasian pecking order.

It’s almost as if the current U.S. administration gets advice from AIU, forgets about Ukraine’s contribution to U.S. security, and ignores Ukraine’s missile technology.

As for Bill Clinton, a huge friend of the Kuchma family, he’ll probably stay out of AIU — unless they seriously rethink their budget.



elmer said...

Squires Sanders and Dempsey was, a while back, one of the "Big 5" law firms in Cleveland, Ohio.

They got outshined, so to speak, by Jones Day Reavis and Pogue, today just Jones Day, which became the number one law firm in Cleveland, Ohio, likewise with offices in other cities and countries.

Squires Sanders, like other laws firms, took to expanding all over the place during the growth era for law firms.

They even have an office in Ukraine, in Kyiv.

The Squires Sanders advocacy group is a susbsidiary of the law firm. It is a device by which many law firms tried to increase their revenues in various ways - lobbying, or "consulting" of various kinds, such as financial consulting, for example.

I don't know why Jatras is still listed on the web site of the Squires Sanders subsidiary.

This is absolutely hideous work that he and his fellow trollers are doing.

The "credentials" posted for Jatras really don't amount to much.

This is just a bunch of "consultants" trolling for dollars, and trying to create a patina of "respectability" or "authority" - where none really exists.

But, as long as Yanukovych is stupid enough to pay them, this kind of trolling for dollars will continue.

Lingüista said...

In principle, Taras, I tend to agree with you -- this is an institute with a clear anti-NATO, pro-Russia agenda. But then again: I suppose these people do have a right to express their opinion.

But I'm curious: is there in Ukraine a similar institute defending the opposite opinion? Is there someone balancing the AIU's activities with similar activities defending the other viewpoints?

Anonymous said...

"AIU does not engage in lobbying, either in the United States or abroad.” But AIU talent has engaged in lobbying in the United States on behalf of Ukrainian clients ...."

The reason that they explicitly state that the org. will not engage in lobbying is because they would lose their non-profit status with the IRS. Lobbying groups cannot be not for profit org. under IRS rules. If the org. is reported to the IRS and they are investigated and found to be guilty of "lobbying" they would be in trouble with the IRS.,,id=131651,00.html


Taras said...


Thank you for the brief!

Based on the UP article, AIU is a travel/public relations agency that employs guest speakers and other communications to promote views held by presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych.

People who founded AIU had lobbied on behalf of Yanukovych but have failed to disclose that dirty little secret.

AIU clearly recognizes Ukraine as part of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence and seeks to justify the Kremlin’s unwelcome advances toward Ukraine.

And they think they can get away with it. They’re wrong.

So I'll say it again: Mr. Obama, for America’s sake, tear them a new one! Before they realize how small a world it is.


There’s a lackadaisical pro-NATO campaign going on, sponsored by lame duck Yushchenko’s fragile NUNS.

Ukrainian organizations certainly do have the right to promote views on whether Ukraine should or should not join NATO.

Non-Ukrainian organizations don’t have that right.

A foreign organization that de facto seeks to influence Ukraine’s security should be thoroughly investigated by the SBU.


Thank you for the IRS tips!

Indeed, the professional backgrounds, travel arrangements and speaking fees mentioned in the UP article could be of interest to the IRS.

But do I stand a chance of surviving the complaint submission process:)? You know, I can’t leave my readers like that, including those at the State Department and the CIA.

A belated Happy 4th of July to you!

John Kalitka said...

Well done, Taras. Thank you for this information.