This is the beginning of a series of reports on the influence of the OUN-B—the clandestine, self-described “revolutionary” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—in Washington now that Joe Biden occupies the White House. Right now I’m planning at least four installments to be spread out over the next several months.
PART 1: Dr. WAZ’s 2021 “US-Ukraine Security Dialogue”
PART 2: The Rojansky Affair
PART 2.5: Spring Updates (coming soon)
PART 3: TBA
PART 4: TBA
On Friday, March 5, the Atlantic Council (AC) published a policy paper, Biden and Ukraine: A strategy for the new administration. For the most part, its recommendations amounted to getting the bipartisan U.S. agenda in Ukraine back on track—advocate for miscellaneous reforms, keep a spotlight on Crimea, stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, promote NATO integration, etc. It also called on the White House to sharply increase military aid to Kyiv to half a billion dollars per year and meanwhile take charge of negotiations to end the war in eastern Ukraine, which is going on seven years old.
Less than 48 hours before the AC unveiled its Biden-Ukraine paper, five of its six co-authors participated in a “US-Ukraine Security Dialogue” conference that is annually organized by the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations (CUSUR). The two days of Zoom webinars, more than 3.5 hours each, were hosted by the CUSUR’s everlasting executive director, Walter A. Zaryckyj (“WAZ”), whose involvement with the ultranationalist OUN-B can be traced back to the 1970s. He is a longtime important member of the OUN-B in the United States, and allegedly he’s the leader of the U.S. network.
Among other things, Zaryckyj is also the president of the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation (UAFF), which owns the problematic Ukrainian Home Dnipro in Buffalo, New York and is a co-owner of the OUN-B’s “Yaroslava” headquarters building in Ukraine. My first post on the “Bandera Lobby Blog” was an anonymous whistleblower complaint submitted to the New York Attorney General’s office in 2019 about the UAFF and OUN-B. Zaryckyj’s Center for US-Ukrainian Relations, established in 2000, appears to be a crucial “facade structure” for the Banderites to network in Washington, D.C. by hosting conferences featuring prominent speakers from the U.S. and Ukraine.
This year’s “Security Dialogue” was titled, “Divining the New Administration’s Approach to Ukraine’s Most Pressing Security Issues.” Just one of the AC paper’s five co-authors that participated in the CUSUR event—William Brockenbrough Taylor, Jr.—isn’t employed by the Atlantic Council. Better known as Bill Taylor, he is the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (2006-09, 2019-20) and served as a star witness during Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment hearings held by House Democrats.
During the CUSUR conference, Taylor said he met with “members of the Biden administration team that’s focused on Ukraine” in the last week of February. (At this time the composition of that “team” is unclear to me.) Taylor was likely referring to a meeting he and his counterparts at the Atlantic Council had with the Biden administration regarding their policy recommendations.
As usual, the Banderites, by which I mean confirmed and plausible OUN-B members, constituted a majority on the steering committee that organized this CUSUR conference, including representatives of the longtime Banderite-dominated Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). The non-Ukrainians were all leaders of the neoconservative American Foreign Policy Council, including its founding president Herman Pirchner, who is a “Gold Circle” member (apparently for high-level donors) of the ultra-secretive Council on National Policy.
This just scratches the surface of this proudly bipartisan affair, which I think might be the ideal introduction / launching off point for a multi-part investigation of the Banderites’ influence with those who can be expected to have the ear of Joe Biden’s inner circle on Russia and Ukraine.
Day One — Wednesday, March 3, 2021
The Zoom conference began just after 9:30 a.m. with some brief introductory remarks by the Banderite program coordinator Walter Zaryckyj. Then came the official “Words of Welcome” from Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, Volodymyr Yelchenko, and U.S. Representative Andrew “Andy” Levin (D-MI) on behalf of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus (CUC). Levin, the deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is the only person who submitted a pre-recorded speech.
The OUN-B’s relationship with the CUC and Senate Ukraine Caucus deserves its own deep-dive. Levin is the son of his predecessor, Sander “Sandy” Levin, who co-founded the CUC and was quite possibly the Banderites’ chief ally in Congress—more about that another day. “Know that you have a champion in me,” Andy Levin said, addressing the organized Ukrainian community. “The Levin family,” Zaryckyj remarked, “starting with Carl Levin [b.1934]—Senator Levin [1979-2015]—and Sandy Levin [b.1931]—Congressman Levin [1983-2019]—have always been true supporters and this seems to continue with Andrew Levin. That’s very important for us.”
Yulia Laputina, the Minister of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine, joined the webinar around 10:00 a.m. Her participation was recommended by another conference speaker, Hannah Hopko, who briefly appeared on screen during the first “focus session” with Laputina. In March 2020, Lupatina became the first woman to attain the rank of Major General in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), working her way up since 1992. As detailed by journalist Oleksiy Kuzmenko, the far-right has in recent years played an outsized role in the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. While writing this, I learned that extremists have again taken over the Ministry’s “Public Council.”
Before Bill Taylor introduced Minister Laputina, the OUN-B’s Walter Zaryckyj introduced him as “an old friend who has been with us [CUSUR] since the very beginning, the very first conference we did in 2000, and I don’t think we could have a better friend here in the United States.” About ten minutes later, Taylor began to make the point that Ukrainians have a lot to teach the West about Russia. “They [Russia] hacked into our… uh… incredible hacking job… and meddling in our elections,” said Taylor, struggling to articulate what he thinks transpired in 2016, “so Ukraine being on the frontline is why we must support — we, Europeans, the world, international [community] — ought to support Ukraine.”
Fielding a question on the U.S. possibly designating Ukraine a “major non-NATO ally,” the former Ambassador said, “now I think this is a very interesting question. And it turns out, I had a conversation with members of the Biden administration team that’s focused on Ukraine, just about this exact question last week…” Indeed, it’s one of the AC policy paper’s key recommendations.
Herman Pirchner, the president of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) and a Gold Circle member of the Council for National Policy, moderated the first panel discussion: “How Might the New Administration Aid Ukraine in Securing Itself Against Internal Subversion?” Pirchner’s AFPC appears to be the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations’ longtime chief partner. (If the aforementioned anonymous whistleblower’s allegation about a CUSUR-CIA relationship is true, I’d think that makes Pirchner the most likely cut-out.)
Before introducing Hannah Hopko, Pirchner said, “Thank you Walter, and I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to you, Mykola [Hryckowian—CUSUR], Tamara [Olexy—UCCA], and Andrij [Dobriansky—UCCA] for putting together yet another great conference.” Hryckowian, CUSUR’s pro-Trump DC bureau chief, is another leading OUN-B member in the United States. Pirchner then introduced Hopko, a mutual friend of the Banderites and the U.S. government. She later praised Pirchner’s book Post Putin, in which Zaryckyj is named in the acknowledgements section.
At a previous CUSUR conference, the Australian OUN-B leader joked that Hannah Hopko practically lived in Washington. She chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee of the eighth convocation of the Verkhovna Rada, or Parliament of Ukraine (2014-19). In 2018, she co-authored a law officially rehabilitating members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its Ukrainian Insurgent Army as freedom fighters.
Hopko was elected to Parliament as a member of the Samopomich party (“Self Reliance”), headquartered in her nationalist hometown of Lviv, the unofficial capital of western Ukraine. “As I understand it,” then-President Petro Poroshenko told Vice President Joe Biden in a leaked phone conversation from 2016, “our partners and our American friends have a significant influence on the leaders of Samopomich.”
Hopko co-founded and initially coordinated the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) Coalition, an association of “patriotic” Ukrainian NGOs established in early 2014. I’ve previously written about the OUN-B’s ties to the U.S. government-funded RPR Coalition. Later in 2014, Hopko was elected to Parliament. In December, shortly after being tapped to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee, she visited Washington to receive a “Democracy Award” from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an arm of the Democratic Party.
Vice President Biden attended the NDI event, where he met Hopko. While in Washington, she also used the opportunity to advocate for the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, the success of which was due in no small part to a major Ukrainian American lobbying effort coordinated by the Banderites. (See my original piece on CUSUR for more about that.)
The Ukraine Freedom Support Act authorized President Barack Obama to sell Ukraine “lethal aid.” As bemoaned by Hopko’s co-panelist, Daniel Fried of the Atlantic Council, a co-author of the Biden-Ukraine policy paper, some in the Obama administration opposed arming Ukraine (including the President). This is how Fried described the “disheartening” debate: “The Obama administration was divided about how strongly the American government should respond to Putin’s attack on Ukraine. There were those — and I know this from direct experience — who didn’t think it mattered. They didn’t think it mattered… the results of which we see.”
Michael Carpenter, a key foreign policy advisor to Joe Biden and the managing director of the Penn-Biden Center for Global Diplomacy and Engagement, put it another way during a CUSUR conference Q&A session in 2019. In response to a question about confronting Russia more directly, Carpenter began by denigrating the “ultra, uber-cautious Obama administration that was—members of which were afraid of their own shadow.” When I tried to attend last year’s CUSUR “Security Dialogue,” and a panel featuring Carpenter in particular, Hryckowian and Zaryckyj immediately escorted me out of the room but then asked for a picture of us together, to send to their Leader in Australia.
As for Daniel Fried, who retired after Trump took office, he spent his final years in the State Department as its Coordinator for Sanctions Policy after serving as the failed “Guantanamo Closure Czar” throughout President Obama’s first term in office. During George W. Bush’s second term, Fried was Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. (So Victoria Nuland got Dan Fried’s old job in 2013—and I suspect Mike Carpenter is next in line?)
To begin his remarks, Fried asked himself, why does the U.S. care about Ukraine? The first part of his answer suggests he is historically illiterate: “We fought World War II to liberate all of Europe, not just Europe up to the line that Mr. Stalin and Mr. Hitler drew.” Hawks gonna hawk (as in “clear the throat noisily”). “The second reason the United States should support Ukraine,” according to Dan Fried, “is that Ukraine’s success… as a Europeanizing democracy would be a blow, perhaps a fatal one, to Putinism”—essentially admitting that he just sees Ukraine as a pawn on the so-called Grand Chessboard. Fried did not offer a third reason the U.S. should support Ukraine.
The morning panel’s “lead discussant” was Adrian Karatnycky, who is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a former president of Freedom House and years before that a student employee of a CIA front directed by former Banderites, a longtime participant in CUSUR events (18 times at least), and a member of the Foreign Policy Council of the Banderite-dominated Ukrainian World Congress, which partnered with the Atlantic Council in 2014. Karatnycky’s quite critical of the Banderites pre-1941; after that, his takes get increasingly murky and convoluted.
Karatnycky didn’t co-author the AC’s Biden-Ukraine paper, and more or less subscribes to the CIA’s Cold War-era, half-assed critique of the OUN-B. Karatnycky might very well be the most prominent person in the foreign policy “Blob” who has openly acknowledged the continued existence of the OUN-B’s clandestine network in the 21st century. In particular, he’s identified Ukraine’s Volodymyr Viatrovych (“Memory Czar,” 2014-19) and Serhiy Kvit (Education Minister, 2014-16) as OUN-B members, which I am otherwise confident to be true. So it sure is something to see Karatnycky say with a straight face, explaining why he supports the Ukrainian government’s undemocratic banning of three TV channels earlier this year associated with the country’s pro-Russian opposition:
I think it’s wrong to even approach the problem as disinformation. The real problem is a whole media environment that holds captive substantial portions of the Ukrainian population, enabled by fifth columns that continue to perpetuate the false narratives of the history of the country, about its purpose, etc … an alternative view of history, of values, of politics of Ukrainian identity.
The bolded text could just as easily—I’d say more easily—describe the OUN-B’s mission in Ukraine and abroad, and Adrian Karatnycky knows this, but apparently he doesn’t think his differences with the Banderites matter in the grand scheme of things, naively wishing they’d just come clean about their Nazi-tainted past so everyone can move on to more important things, like cracking down on Ukraine’s pro-Russian “fifth columns.” (Karatnycky and others justify the Ukrainian government’s wave of unconstitutional moves since Biden took office by pointing out there is a war going on, although President Volodymyr Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko didn’t dare go so far when the war was its height and Biden practically had him on speed dial.) Anyway, the “maximalist” Banderites have been dreaming of such a crackdown—and then some—since well before the war began.
Hannah Hopko elicited big smiles from Pirchner and Karatnycky, and a laugh from Zaryckyj, when she alluded to her dream of balkanizing Russia, however indicating it is something she is deadly serious about: “we have to liberate Russian citizens and national minority groups.” She furthermore shared her probably unrealistic goal that Ukraine will become a member of NATO by 2029, the year the OUN turns 100 years old. Dan Fried also ended on an “optimistic” note that the Biden administration “will not be a return to the Obama administration. It will be a return to the best sides of the Obama administration, without some of the disheartening debates that happened internally…” By the “best sides,” he singled out Tony Blinken and Toria Nuland, who Biden picked for the #1 and #3 jobs at the State Department, respectively.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges’ unhinged comments were perhaps the highlight of the second panel discussion. Hodges retired in 2018 after serving over three years as United States Army Europe commander, and is now the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Making repeated references to the “so-called separatists” in eastern Ukraine— “they’re no separatists, these are Russian[s]…”—he went on to deny that millions of Russians died in World War II. (“It was actually millions of Ukrainians, not millions of Russians…”) He also contended, “great power competition prevents great power conflict.”
Hodges began by telling Zaryckyj he loves CUSUR events. Passing the baton over to Melinda Haring at the Atlantic Council, she thanked Zaryckyj “for the invitation to be here among so many friends, and I definitely agree with Ben that your seminars are like graduate school. You never know what’s going to happen, and they’re always very exciting, so thank you.” Most curious about this complement is that Zaryckyj, an awkward speaker, seems to primarily play the role of a gracious host at CUSUR conferences. The Banderites’ participation in these events is entirely unnecessary. Haring concluded by telling the alleged U.S. leader of OUN-B, “last point, Walter, on Friday the Atlantic Council is going to put out a new report and we would love to have you and your crowd join us.”
John Herbst, who moderated this panel discussion, has previously participated in at least 16 CUSUR events. (Altogether individuals presently and formerly tied to the AC have spoken at CUSUR conferences about 100 times.) Herbst is the director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and formerly served as the Ambassador to Ukraine (2003-2006). Herbst co-authored the AC policy paper with Haring, Fried, and Taylor, as well as Anders Åslund, who appeared in the next panel. This one ended with a discussion on the Black Sea, which the AFPC’s Stephen Blank, another CUSUR regular, admitted being “obsessed with,” like Ben Hodges. This is what the retired Lt. General had to say on the matter:
Last point I’d make, we need a NATO headquarters where everybody wakes up in the morning smelling the Black Sea… And by the way, we need to make the commander of the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet very, very uncomfortable in his illegal headquarters. He needs to wake up every morning thinking, ‘Oh man, I’m in range of all these systems…’ I mean, we’ve got to make it very, very painful. If we don’t do any of those things, then in the next two years, the so-called water crisis in Crimea will serve as a pretext for a humanitarian disaster and the Russians will have “no choice” but to go in and save the poor people dying of lack of water caused by the evil government in Kyiv. So that will be the pretext for them to finish sealing off the Ukraine’s coast and isolating Ukraine from the Black Sea.
I wonder how many millions of Ukrainians and Russians would Ben Hodges like to see die in WW3? Maybe one death for every dollar contributed by the arms industry to CEPA?
Day Two — Thursday, March 4, 2021
OUN-B member Mykola Hryckowian, who was evidently linked to the Trump 2020 campaign’s Ukrainian American outreach efforts, appeared on screen for the first fifteen and a half minutes of Day Two’s Zoom conference. As for Andrij Dobriansky, who I have previously identified as the U.S. Banderites’ go-to Zoom administrator, he took himself off camera once the event formally began.
The third panel discussion featured Ariel Cohen and Anders Åslund of the Atlantic Council, as well as William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, and Mykhailo Honchar, the president of the Ukraine-based Center for Global Studies Strategy XXI. Honchar is a member of the advisory “Strategic Council” of the “Movement to Resist Capitulation,” which I’ll be writing about again soon. The Strategic Council—not to be confused with the Coordination Council—gives a liberal facade to an anti-democratic movement which is in large part spearheaded by the Banderites and powered by radical right-wing activists.
To be honest, this panel was too boring for me, and Substack tells me that I’m fast approaching the maximum length of this post, so I’ll be moving on, and keeping things brief from here on out. For that reason, suffice it to say that Åslund is a notorious hack. As for Cohen, based on what little I’ve seen of him on Facebook and Twitter, I suspect that he might stay clear of Zaryckyj’s crowd if he knew more about them. Both have participated in numerous CUSUR events.
Two people stuck out to me in the next panel: Paul Goble, a kooky analyst at the Jamestown Foundation—founded in 1984 under the auspices of the CIA—and Ostap Kryvdyk, who is among other things a former senior advisor to the white nationalist politician Andriy Parubiy.
For one, Goble has suggested that Erich Koch, the sadistic Nazi Reichskommissar of Ukraine, was secretly a Soviet agent. During this panel, Goble referenced the “Ukrainian communities inside the borders of what Russians consider their country,” indicating he supports the ultranationalist goal of a Greater Ukraine.
As for Kryvdyk, he called on the U.S. government to “throw out Russian propagandists,” which may or may not include deporting U.S. citizens who can be linked in any way to Russian media. I imagine that the Banderites would include me on such a hypothetical list regardless of my lack of ties to Russian propaganda. Zaryckyj has previously called me “the FSB - GRU’s new testing ground for conspiracy theories” in the subject line of an email he forwarded to me and presumably many others.
Orest Deychakiwsky, the son of an OUN-B member, is a policy advisor for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, A.K.A. the Helsinki Commission. Deychakiwsky also co-chairs the “Democracy & Civil Society Task Force” of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s influential Friends of Ukrainian Network (FOUN), and appears to be the key member on the steering committee of the Democratic National Committee’s still-active “Ukrainian Americans for Biden” (UAB). I’ll be getting more into the FOUN and UAB in future installments of this “Biden and the Banderites” series. Both are submitting their own policy recommendations for Ukraine to the Biden administration.
Deychakiwsky’s no Banderite, but he must be aware the OUN-B is still active in the United States, and apparently has no qualms playing footsie with Zaryckyj’s crowd. Anyway, Deychakiwsky introduced “my old boss,” Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, whom he snagged for the event. Senator Cardin candidly admitted that when it comes to Ukraine, “there is no difference among Democrats or Republicans.” Still, I am curious if he felt any type of way about a white nationalist Congressman from his state getting the final word.
“It looks like Maryland is truly popular for us today,” remarked Walter Zaryckyj, turning to “our good friend,” Congressman Andy Harris, a provocative far-right politician of Hungarian and Ukrainian descent, including a grandfather who was allegedly a chaplain in the OUN-B’s Ukrainian Insurgent Army. “Representative Harris, I’m personally gonna say that I’m very grateful,” said Zaryckyj, “because every time that I’ve actually reached out to him, I don’t think he’s ever refused us.”
Chairing the final session was UCCA president Andriy Futey, whom Zaryckyj instructed to “wrap it up from our perspective, from, let’s say, the diaspora perspective on all of this.” Futey said he looked forward to fulfilling a long list of objectives with the 117th Congress. Harris, who tried to bring a gun into the House chamber in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot, marveled that in an era of intense partisanship, Ukraine is “one area where broad bipartisanship clearly exists,” and emphasized the importance of “never losing [sight of] the bigger picture that when this pandemic is over we have to make sure we have the world in a geopolitical position we want it in.”