What is the Danger of the American Congresswoman’s letter to Biden?
Victoria Spartz rose from obscurity to the Ukrainian information spacelike a jack-in-the-box. It is still unclear who holds this box, however the congresswoman, whose name is still unknown to most of both Ukrainians and Americans, for some reason opened Pandora’s box with a bang and shook out some of its contents – well known but carefully concealed on both sides of the ocean with a camouflage net after the beginning of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Ms Spartz’s claims against Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, and her calls to more strictly control American military aid to Ukraine have so far caused a slight information stir, and so far only in Ukraine, but, as recent history of the relations between Kyiv and Washington shows, sometimes light ripples from a stone thrown in muddy water can cause a real storm.
Who are Your People, Congresswoman Spartz?
Previously a native of Ukraine who left her homeland 22 years ago, she was never noticed among the great friends of our country and guardians of its bright and free democratic future. We heard nothing about her during the two Maidans, namely the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity, as well as at the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2014, the occupation of Crimea and part of Donbas. Victoria Spartz did not maintain close contacts with the Ukrainian embassy in the USA, she never was an active member of the Ukrainian community there, moreover, according to our data, she is treated quite warily in the diaspora. We prided ourselves on a native of Ukraine who took a seat in the US Congress in 2020 for the first time, and even then Ms Spartz did not show much interest in her former homeland, dealing with purely domestic American problems, such as social, educational, and legal, in the House of Representatives. We do not know whether the newly minted congresswoman Spartz delved into the ups and downs of judicial reform in Ukraine, whether she monitored the anticorruption fight and what her position was in the heat of the famous Wagnergate.
Russia’s treacherous invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 shocked not only the whole world, but also Ms Spartz, awakening her interest in the historical homeland. However, in communication with compatriots, she stubbornly prefers to call Ukraine “your country,” obviously not considering it as her own. Let’s be fair though; after the start of the “great war,” Republican congresswoman Spartz called on the American authorities to increase aid to Ukraine; harshly criticized President Biden for its insufficient volumes; advocated the termination of supplies of Russian energy carriers to the United States, proposing to expand the drilling of oil and gas wells in the United States; and supported relaxing American immigration laws for Ukrainians fleeing the war.
The first and only congresswoman from Ukraine, undoubtedly, became the object of journalists’ attention, and the face of the parliamentary neophyte little-noticed until last February flashed in the American media – not only conservative ones like Fox News, but also liberal ones like the Washington Post. The “Ukrainian Wave” brought Viktoria Spartz even to the Oval Office; she was one of the four (along with the vice president and two other lawmakers) invited by President Biden to sign the Lend-Lease for Ukraine.
However, in Ukraine, where Spartz began to travel regularly after the beginning of the “great war,” as far as can be judged both from her interviews and from the testimonies of our confidants, things did not go as smoothly for her as in her new homeland. Not only did the congresswoman fail to have a good relationship with the Ze!Team (the President’s team), but also her rather clumsy attempts to lobby the interests of some American companies crashed, as several sources told ZN.UA.
What motivates Victoria Spartz?
Who and what eventually motivated Ms Spartz to make a public appeal on July 8 with a letter to President Biden, in which she asks him to arrange an urgent briefing for congressmen on July 12 and provide them with confirmation or disproof of “serious accusations”ofties to Russia against Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak? Although this is not the main question in our history, many people are scratching their heads over it. To date, we do not have a definitive answer hereto. However, we have collected several versions.
“I’m Sorry for the State and for Myself.” Supporters of this version are inclined to believe that Victoria Spartz, who really visited various parts of Ukraine in recent months and met with many people – from forcibly displaced persons to the military, from local leaders to people’s deputies and Bankova (the Office of the President of Ukraine) representatives – suddenly discovered modern Ukraine herself along with her problems.
Part of supporters of this version believe that Spartz sincerely cares about her historical homeland and wants to aid it. That does not prevent her from being equally concerned about the money of American taxpayers, her voters, demanding transparent use of American multibillion-dollar aid in Ukraine. Not finding understanding and response to her confidential proposals to “change Ukraine for the better” from representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, Spartz decided to publicly appeal to the American leadership.
Another part is sure that Zelenskyy’s political opponents and activists hated by Bankova got Spartz all wound up to “muckrake to Biden.” That also does not exclude her personal grudge against the Ukrainian authorities, who did not satisfy the lobbyist ambitions of the pushy congresswoman.
“The White House Asked Her To ...” Proponents of this version assume that Viktoria Spartz was asked to voice her claims against Yermak publicly by the current American administration, for which, due to obvious reasons, doing so is not comme il faut. Representatives of Biden administration have already diplomatically several times made it clear to Bankova what they feel about the head of the presidential office; since Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not make the relevant conclusions, Washington decided to initiate the “illumination” of information compromising Yermak through a congresswoman of Ukrainian origin. The version, in our opinion, is unlikely. Not only because, according to our information, Spartz is openly disliked in the State Department, or because her current activity on the “Ukrainian front” threatens the Biden administration with significant troubles on the domestic front. Also because, shortly after the publication of her letter to Biden, Spartz, giving a fiery interview to Fox News, no longer mentioned Yermak and called for “immediate actions” to regulate the huge amount of aid provided by the United States being still, according to her statement, practically uncontrollable. Notably, this performance makes the following version more likely.
“Elections Coming Soon.” The approach of the November elections to the US Congress, quite likely, can be a driving motive for Victoria Spartz. The Trump supporter repeatedly criticized Biden and his administration, and as a native of Ukraine, and therefore an “expert” on the issues of this country in the eyes of her colleagues and voters, she could easily be chosen by Trumpists for the role of one of the main critics of the “Ukrainian policy” of the Democrats and an accuser of the Biden administration in “the embezzlement of American taxpayers’ funds” in “Ukraine mired in corruption.”
“The Hand of Moscow.” We are not aware of any well-founded suspicions against Ms Spartz in connection with the aggressor country. However, some of our interlocutors do not rule out that the Kremlin PSYOP masters can use an active neophyte congresswoman, who has both insufficient political and foreign policy experience, as well as rather meager knowledge about the main Ukrainian problems, simply as a useful idiot. Because if you look in this history for whom it is beneficial, then Moscow ends up winning under almost any schedule. But more on that below.
“If Issues are Not Raised, it Does Not Mean They Do Not Exist”
One can’t help agreeing with Victoria Spartz on this. After February 24, in the face of Russian aggression to destroy our state and nation, an unspoken moratorium was established in Ukraine on public internal political fights, skirmishes, and quarrels, on harsh criticism of the government, its decisions, and actions. We tell ourselves and each other we’ll figure it out once we win. Although it is becoming more and more difficult to keep quiet about the problems. Washington has followed the same principle until now, trying not to criticize and not bring the discussion of Ukrainian problems into the public sphere during the war for the survival of Ukraine. But this does not mean that these problems do not exist or that our main strategic partner does not notice them.
Victoria Spartz can be treated differently. Her record is not clean either. However, no matter how irritating she is with her lack of appeal, incompetence in many issues of Ukrainian reality, unfounded arrogance, confused language and excessive emotionality, she is, unfortunately, right in many respects in her voiced claims to the Ukrainian authorities.
Yermak is a problem indeed. Not possessing the relevant competences, but using the exclusive trust and sympathy of the president, having excessive influence on him, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine tries to control all processes in the country, becoming, in fact, its shadow prime minister. We don’t have Western intelligence data, which Congresswoman Spartz vaguely refers to, but after the under-investigated and botched Wagnergate, Ukrainian society is left with too many questions.
Foreign representatives do meet with Yermak, he is present at almost all of Zelenskyy’s international meetings, including those with the Americans. But in the civilized world it is customary to communicate with those elected by the people, as well as with those whom these elected officials have appointed as their advisers and assistants. But this does not mean that our partners, as well as Ukrainian society, do not have questions. Truth is, that unlike you and I, who only have certain suspicions, they also have certain knowledge obtained from their own intelligence services.
The Americans have repeatedly demonstrated their attitude towards the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. For instance, forcing him, as an ordinary passenger, to go through airport security, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who arrived with him, was let through the “green corridor”. Or by embracing in the negotiation room all the representatives of Ukraine present, except for the head of the president’s office, as State Secretary Blinken did during a joint visit to Kyiv with Defense Secretary Austin – after Zelenskyy, at Yermak’s go-ahead, publicly announced their upcoming arrival, the date of which the American side kept strictly in secret for security reasons. Or by not approving Yermak’s another telephone conversation with Biden’s national security advisor Sullivan, until he speeds up the presentation of credentials to the new US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, which has been delayed for reasons incomprehensible to Washington, and by explaining to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine that from now on in all negotiations between Kyiv and Washington the American ambassador will also be present. Of course, these are all details, but in the subtle language of diplomacy they are quite eloquent.
The problems with the appointment of the odious Tatarov as Yermak’s deputy, the endless delay in the appointment of the heads of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine are not fabrications of the malicious congresswomen. Kyiv promised the Americans the “immediate” election of the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office in the Joint Statement on the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership by Zelenskyy and Biden dated September 1, 2021, i.e., six months before the Russian invasion; The Ukrainian authorities promised the International Monetary Fund to do this by December 2021 in the updated memorandum with the IMF; now the state promises the same to the European Union, which introduced the clause on the election and appointment of the leadership of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine to the list of conditions for Ukraine, which is applied to the decision to grant our country the status of a candidate for EU membership. Wouldn’t it be appropriate and right for Kyiv to make a nice and correct gesture in return by appointing the already elected head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office? But no, Bankova, as before, is procrastinating on this, testing the patience of Western partners, on whom Ukraine’s vital help in confronting the aggressor depends. No later than Monday, the G7 Ambassadors reminded Kyiv of the critical importance of the timely appointment of the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.
It was not Spartz who called to think about barbecues, and not about preparing for war. Accusing Western partners of “scaring away investors” with “alarmist” messages about the preparation of an attack by Russia has nothing to do with the congresswoman either. Last fall, ridiculing partners for the fact that they allegedly just discovered the war in Ukraine was also none of her business. In Ukraine, she was not the only one to hear from the mayors of the border towns that on February 24 there was not a single machine gun in their territorial defense units. It is not just her to be concerned why Russian troops were able to capture part of the southern regions of our country so quickly and who gave the order to demine the exits from Crimea to mainland Ukraine or not to blow up bridges.
The problem of the impossibility for local authorities to finance the army from their budgets was first raised not by Spartz. The Association of Ukrainian Cities declared about it, as well as the mayors of Ukrainian cities discuss it.
The issue of accounting American aid, military and humanitarian, and control over it is one of the most delicate in the “Spartz list.” Fortunately, State Department representative Bonnie Jenkins, at an urgent briefing on July 12, stated the confidence of the United States that the American weapons provided to Ukraine will not get in the wrong hands, and that our government is committed to the proper protection and accounting of American-made military equipment.
But our partners cannot but be disturbed by the reports of Western intelligence that the weapons supplied to Ukraine do not always go to those areas of the front where they are most needed at the moment. The appearance of Western, including American “humanitarian aid,” protective equipment and other “trinkets” on the shelves of Ukrainian supermarkets and in sales announcements on online platforms cannot but raise questions too.
Publications have already appeared in the Western press about the fears of our partners from NATO and the EU regarding the possibility of criminal groups smuggling weapons received by Ukraine from the West into European and other black markets, as well as the impossibility of tracking the further movement of weapons and equipment transferred to our country.
Meanwhile, according to DT.UA, an electronic system of inquiries about Ukraine’s military needs has been ready for a long time, which should replace the incredible mass of lists, with the help of which Kyiv tried to satisfy these needs in a prehistoric way. This system will also allow to control the volumes, designation, and prices of weapons arriving in Ukraine. According to our sources, Defense Minister Reznikov promised the introduction of this system to his Western colleagues at the last Ramstein meeting. But after five weeks (!) the Ministry of Defense, as before, is delaying the adoption of a resolution on the implementation of this system by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Okay, let’s say the Defense Secretary and some other government officials have doubts about the security of this application program against Russians. But there is also the LOGFAS NATO logistics program, which has been in use in NATO since 1995 and was transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine free of charge in 2019. Since the same 2019 the National University of Defense named after Chernyakhovskyi has been training specialists in this program, who are to provide logistics during the war. The program is fully adapted to Ukrainian realities and provides control over supply, storage, delivery, condition, repair, etc. of weapons and equipment. But this LOGFAS system has not been launched in Ukraine yet! And it is very difficult for us to explain to our Western partners why...
If this program had been implemented since the beginning of the war, then Spartz, as well as representatives of the Russian fifth column in the West, who have already started promoting the topic of “uncontrollability” of Western weapons in Ukraine, would not have a single reason for such accusations.
According to our data, the other day the president had a meeting where these problems were discussed. Perhaps this will help move the issue on from a dead end.
Will Congresswoman’s WordsCome Back to Bite Us?
Regardless of what was driving Victoria Spartz when she addressed a letter to President Biden, bringing the problems she disclosed to the public could have quite negative consequences for Ukraine and its relations with the United States.
With November Congress elections approaching, being an important midterm before the 2024 US presidential election, Republicans, who have a strong chance of wresting control of at least the House of Representatives from the Democrats, will be increasingly scrutinizing the actions of the Democratic administration, looking for the slightest reasons to criticize them and blowing them up in the press as much as possible. In the Trumpist wing of the Republican Party, dissatisfaction with the “enormous size” of American aid allocated to Ukraine, while America’s own economy is not going through the best of timeshas existed for a long time. Almost six dozen Republican congressmen did not vote for Lend-Lease for our country. Claims about improper control over the aid provided by the United States to Ukraine are capable of causing a real scandal and will become an undeniable pre-election gift for Republicans, who are unlikely to miss the opportunity to accuse Biden administration of insufficient control over the funds of American taxpayers and point to the mistakes of the Democrats in the “Ukrainian direction.”
There is no doubt, that the US has bipartisan support for Ukraine and its fight against the Russian aggressor. However, in the internal political struggle, every man for himself (which the British government recently clearly demonstrated by obtaining the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, despite his huge contribution to aid to Ukraine and personal warm and trusting relations with her president). Consequently, Ukraine again risks being drawn into the American pre-election battles, and this may negatively affect both the volume and designation of American aid, as well as the timing of its provision. To prevent this from happening, Kyiv needs to reach an agreement with its partners on an effective monitoring system for the aid provided as soon as possible, and then implement it as quickly as possible.
Another serious problem, deepened by the tumultuous activity of Congresswoman Spartz, is more difficult to solve, and its consequences may turn out to be no less sad for the relations between Kyiv and Washington. The name of this problem is Yermak. By publicly announcing a list of claims against the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine (some of which are incomprehensible even to Yermak’s Ukrainian opponents), Spartz is more likely to break up Zelenskyy and the USA than to get the head of the Ukrainian president’s office fired. After all, not only Zelenskyy’s deep trust in Yermak and sympathy for him, but also the painful reaction of the Ukrainian president to the slightest criticism and his sharp rejection of external pressure are well-known. If the Republicans now pick up and blow up the theme of the “bad guy” Yermak, “suspected of ties to Russia” in the pre-election battles, as well as Kyiv will take a stand and start to fiercely defend the head of the office, not only attacking “one of hundreds” of American deputies and quarreling with the Republicans (whose representative, given the catastrophic drop in Biden’s rating, may become the next president of the United States), the Ukrainian-American relations are once again facing difficult times. But this time it is during the war with Russia for the survival of Ukraine. And it is Russia that will benefit the most from the reduction and slowdown of American aid to our country, and from the cooling of relations between Kyiv and Washington.
If Biden’s administration, not wanting irritation and scandal, suddenly tries to publicly whitewash Yermak, it will give him an indulgence, a protective “body armor” impenetrable to criticism for an indefinite period of time, which is also unwelcome for our country.
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