tv Atlantic Council Discussion Focuses on Tensions Between Russia and Ukraine CSPAN March 2, 2017 9:49pm-11:18pm EST
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the history of russian influence in ukraine. it was hosted by the atlantic council. good afternoon. we have a different event for you this afternoon. thank you for coming. the title of i say this is a little bit unusual because this is kind of a deeper dive than usual into history. it is very fornt understand the past and understand what we are today. we spend a little more time on
the historical today than on the current dimension. it has gotten short since the awful events in the early 1930s. we have a wonderful panel for you today. i don't think i need to name all of them. you have people well prepared to discuss this very serious topic. let me just say two more things. one, this event is timed in part to something very unusual. a full length regular movie, bitter harvest is coming to a theater near you later this week. you may have seen this over the weekend. i have seen it. i have seen it more than once.
good evening everyone. thank you for joining us. we have a great panel to discuss past and present. i can't think a better group to discuss that today. look before we begin with questions that i'll moderate. as you know we have john, the director of the center hoar at the atlantic center. next we have nadia. she is the president of the ukraine foundation. to her left is neftali. last but not least we have michael. he is the director of the national information service
which is part of the ukrainean congress committee. michael, i'll start with you and work our way back. very little is known to the outside world. can you talk about this lack of information and lack of understanding specifically what many would describe as the soviet disinformation come pain. >> absolutely. >> it is not every day that we get a group together such as this of experts and of participants that can talk about it. it is one of the least known atrocities in the world. frankly speaking we call it a
genocide. we call it a genocide because even the person that termed the coin genocide i look at this and i look in the perspective of what happens nearly 85 years ago in ukraine and what is happening right now. the two are parallel. looking at it the two are quite similar as well. i would like to begin with a quote. a quote from a french writer, an aristocrat when the mid-18 hundreds use today travel and had an opportunity to meet various noble men and you went into the country side. in his book, which is letters from russia french writer quotes
a russian sefl servant proudly proclaiming the falling. russia lies, denies the facts and wins. that, i think is the perspective of what we are doing right now. whether this book, letters from russia written nearly 175 years ago, this happened 85 years ago and incidents that are happening right now shows that russia lies and russia makes war on the facts. this is not necessarily a historical lesson i would like to give you today. what i would tlilike to give yos a philosophical of what is from moscow. it is not so much a territory y'all of ukraine.
it is a traction as to what you get out there for the people to believe and at the same time do as much of the unfortunate as possible. it is a matter of principal. it is a matter of the of democratic principals versus a matter of authoritarianism, dictato dictatorship and how you wield power. there was some associated with it. there was traction associated with it. members of congress, presidents
of the united states issued their particular statements. frankly speaking it culminated with a statement by george w. bush that said it was a crime against humanity. so the soviets having denied it for so long and only after a lot of the information started trickling out did they even knowledge that ka s what happens. it is the same thing fast forward 85 years from what is happening on eastern ukraine and crimea. nearly three years to the date the russians started invading crimea with quote unquote little green men. obviously no notion it was being done in terms of illegal
annexation in ukraine. so this is the point of the story. what we see is not so much about how history repeats itself. unfortunately it does repeat itself, but how we have to tackle those historical burdens of not being silent. >> i had an opportunity which saw a very short trailer. the movie is riveting. it encaptures your heart and your soul. it is in the dire circumstances of a forced famine in ukraine. i picked up one amazing quote from that particular movie. the quotes came from a soviet commissary saying reality is the
enemy. is this information that is being stroen about the enemy? and this is what i would like to leave you. i would like to leave you with certain instances of what is happening in today's world. unfortunately there are a lot happening. a lot being said in terms of fake news. a lot being said in terms of facts, how to look at these particular facts. the facts are there, ladies and gentlemen. the facts have always been there 85 years ago. the facts were there nearly 175 years ago when they traveled throughout russia. the facts are all there. in 1932, 33 there were journalists that did get out.
it is unfortunate it did not receive the prom nance of one particular writer for the new york times which he has a fewer surprise within the new york times building. these are all of the attributes we have to deal with in today's world. in today's world since we know a lot of the facts we know a lot of the information that is already stroen about. it is our opportunity now to make sure it doesn't repeat itself. it's not about the history. the history is necessary. it is about the perception and the perception that is being made, unfortunately from russia, whether it was the soviet yun do -- soviet union rusrussia.
it is what is reality. if reality is the enemy that is what we have to deal with. how do you combat that? how do you combat this information that's happening? there are many ways. first and foremost if the example of mh 17 in july of 2014, the facts are out there more needs to be done. more investigations, more trials frankly speaking have to be brought. other instances in terms of combatting the disinformation is the movie itself. the movie itself combats all types of misinformation stemming from moscow. it is very fornt have these types of instances, curriculum within our high school social studies programs. i went through the high school
systems in the united states and frankly speaking, if i didn't raise the issues unfortunately i don't think much would have been said. i even have an example of russian history from the mid-18 hundreds to the mid-19 hundreds going from russia to communist russia or to the soviet union and talking about five-year plans. it was not necessarily in the capacity of what it meant for the starving of nearly 5, 7, 10 million people in you careeukra. we need to make sure this is evidence one of the greatest terms is recognizing it as its
true genocide. i leave you with one particular quote as well, and this is a quote from desmond tutu. it is about what should inspire us to debunk a lot of this misinformation and a lot of this propaganda. it is a quote as follows. if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the opessor. i think those a poiwords we neeo remember in this panel discussion and if you have the unique opportunity of watching the film bitter harvest. thank you. >> thank you. >> following up with what michael talked about, you done a lot of research regarding how reporters misrepresented the events in early 1930s. can you talk about this a little
bit more and how this misrepresentation of the facts effe effected past events and what's going on currently and how it effects culture of the society? >> yes. thank you. i apologize. i picked the worst day to get a cold. i don't know how it's going to sound, my voice coming through the mic. i want to pick up on something he talked about. it is important to note the way we talk about history, the words that we use here in ukraine and in russia have an impact on younger generations. i was sifting through some russian high school textbooks. i found an example of how russian children are taught
about basic history like the famine in ukraine. this was published and it says the famine was a result of weather conditions as well as the incompleteness of collectivization processes. collective farms were not yet able to provide the protection level while the wealthy farmers were lick by kated and did not participate in the production. so this is just to substantiate this further, that the disinformation has an impact in the way we educate our children here and in russia. i wanted to pick up on something you mentioned here. how many people here now who walter is? i think a sizable portion of the room. for those who don't know who she, he was the new york times
correspondent in moscow from 1917 to -- i believe he was there until 34 and then -- 34 or 35 and stayed on as a reporter. he won for a series of 11 articles. and for those who don't think he deserves it, which i do not, you may change your mind. it is for the gymnastics in his article. he writes simply, there is no actual starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases doo yue to malnutritio. we could dismiss him as a liar. famous people, intelligent
people like george bernard shaw, hg wells, french prime minister were all fooled by russia's propaganda campaign. even author of darkness at noon, which i think is one of the best books on communism ever written dismis d dismised as enemies of the people who are begging to work. my question is why the shameness lying, the complete denienl of reality? who do these people think they are fooling? as always george holds the key to the mind that can believe freedom of slavery. in 1945 orwell wrote it was considered equally proper to publicize famines when they
happened in india and conceal them when they happened in ukraine. many of them were fooled by russia's campaign which removed starving or fans before the arrival of the french prime minister. it is that it is fashionable to the war to create false equivalents between the human condition and deliberate systematic and malicious aggression of russian regime. i want to share with you a quote from another journalist, a good guy this time. jones broke the story. he interviewed soviet foreign
minister in 1933. in that interview he took a line we have heard from many since. he said flat out well, there is no famine, which is a fwblatant lie. he amended his statement a little bit. he said you must take a longer view. the present hunger is temporary. in writing books you must have a longer view. it would be difficult to describe it as hunger. notice the sentence construction. there are no active verbs. my college english profess sore would be apolled. he was trying to say it just occurred without any cause or any effect necessarily. similarly over the past week or so russian officials have been
asking to stop the attack as if it simply occurred in a vacuum. the russian regime and many people who don't know better talk about it as one famine in a year that killed million of people. similarly others who don't know better talk about him as a semi frozen conflict that seems to be symptomatic. it seems that is just the way the world is these days. it is the so-called longview that he wanted us to take. >> thank you. >> it seems like a pattern here, sort of a struggle for the truth. >> what's left to say, huh? >> yeah. >> can you talk about why in is
and are there similarities between the 1930s and today? >> well, definitely. i guess i would like to divide my remarks into two parts. looking back what happened then and actually looking at various issues regarding you crane, be it the christianity there are just parallels that are just so striking. first i want to talk about the parallels here in the united states. as michael said, the first official recognition of the famine occurred in the mid-80s. we began to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famine. so first there were resolutions to commemorate and then there was a resolution to have the
commission. the united states was the first government in the world to officially recognize that the famine took place. several of us old-timers had a little group. we called ourselves the caucus and our head quarters were in the monogal. she was detailed to senator holings. guess who sponsored the resolution on the famine in the senate? it was senator hollings. that was the beginning of this campaign to officially recognize. there were interesting things that happened. we tried to get a hearing ton senate side and the senator of foreign relations didn't want to do it.
so we went to see jessie and he was chair of the agriculture committee. he claimed he had jurisdiction over this topic because they had to do with collectivization so this was the beginning of pressing for recognition. i thank them for organizing this event. i wanted to thank the people who put together this film. i think it represents a milestone in the world recognizing this event. when you have an event like this now being introduced into the popular culture be it film or books, i think this is a another step towards more widely people recognizing it and accepting the
historical fact of this. now, when we were doing this resolution we thought we were uncovering sort of the world for the congress. this year we are celebrating 100 years of congress supporting the people of ukraine. one of the things we discovered was actually in 1934 hamilton fish iii of new york introduced a resolution in regards to the famine. so the world knew. people knew. nechb washington people knew. we had the pleasure of interviewing him. he was already in his mid-90s. he ranted and raved about president roosevelt. because at that time it was the time when we in the united
states wanted to recognize russia so it got in the way of the congress being able to officially recognize what was taking place. does anybody see parallels to today? so actually if we look at the history, congress has been always in the forefront and throughout history there have been different reasons why presidents may not have wanted to support or endorse certain positions. so it seems like history continues. now it's already been some what discussed about the disinformation. i will call it the kremlin play
played. it was much more than writing articles to cover up what was going on. he was an integral part of promoting the soviet position. looking up walter there is an interesting quote. in november of 33 after there had been negotiations about the recognition of russia there was a dinner at the his toia. one of the participants who wrote about that said during the dinner as people were being introduced there was mild applau applau applause, but when walter was introduced it was thunderous applause. this is the quote. one quite got the impression that america in a spasm of
decertainment was recognizing russia and walter. the other part is to identify people of stature and recognize status who are either paid experts or to find useful id yachts. some times it's hard to figure out in which category people fit. i pulled out an article not about the this but actually about reverend gram attending a peace conference in moscow in 1983. the reason i pulled it out because can you think of another
person who is so respected, an american icon than reverend gram? spiritual adviser, respected by people of all faiths. i don't think anybody would attack reverend gram. so when he goes to moscow and says he sees no signs of religious persecution despite the fact that he visited with six pentcostal believers who had been living in the u.s. embassy for five years he then went onto say things like he went to several orthodox churches and they were packed, something he would not see in charlotte, north carolina, his home. and the final one which was
really hard to read when talking about food shortages, he said i had wonderful meals, caviar i am trying to illustrate when you have someone of this stature who for whatever reason is promoting a certain line, now, this was a prelude to 1988 when we were commemorating the millenniamill. the kremlin was trying to seize it as a millennium of christianity the final step is
to vilify and attack those who speak the truth. it has been already brought up. jones was a journalist who bravely was under cover in ukraine. he spoke the language and he held a press conference in 1933 talking about the famine. he was denounced, attacked and just two years later he was murdered under suspicious circumstances. i don't think we see much changes in the situation in the play book or maybe some times in terms of politics here in washington. thank. >> thank you.
john, if i may ask a very proud and sweeping question, why is it so important to understand the events of 1932 and 1933? >> let me give seven main points to answer your totally unscripted question. one, it's important to understand that is who rors of the come communist regime were world class ror rors, among the worst things in human experience and that the people brutalized under come communist rule were all of the people of the soviet union not to mention. i mention that because right now we are talking about one specific, perhaps the most horrific of all of the come
communist crimes. you can talk about what happened in cam bode yum after the come communists came to power. everyone suffered including the russians. point two putin's russia. this is something we have been talking about, is a serious problem and a serious human rights problem, but not nearly on the same magnitude as the soviet union in either category. point three. in that period of not quite a decade of possible russia democracy that followed the fall or the implosion of the soviet union there was real interest in
russia serious research was done. we are thankful for findings of the that research. you also have a civic organization that appeared in the last days of the soviet union that was interested and that means memorial which is interested in memorializing the sufferings under communism. point four, sadly this brief russian flirtation with democracy ended when you had to hand off from president to then prime minister putin. he was and is a kgb agent. he says you never leave the
service except with extreme prejudice, of course. and he represented the people who ran the kgb, the ministry of defense and various other -- the power ministries of the soviet union. it meant the return of this psychological type to power in russia, and that psychological type greatly enjoyed the g.o. political and to this day they feel for that the way a person
wloz leg is amputated feels their vanished leg. it's no surprise, therefore, that under this regime of former kgb, there is no interest in looking at the who rors or come communism. the extent that putinis an idologist, his contribution, if you want to use that now, is to creating a fusion of gateness and soviet greatness, which is a legacy which the russian people today have as a point of navigation as they look to the future. that legacy includes that
discussed by my fellow panelist. what does the importance want? it is really important in national consciousness. for people of ukraine to understand what was done to them but also in order to quash ukraine yan national feeling at a critical moment is important to understand ukraine as indepent dent country. just as putin's aggression has so solidified as a -- so that's reason one. reason two, this comes more to what i have already said. it is a wedge for understanding more broadly the who horrors of
communism. it leads to the things that happened in the soviet union. i'm surprised -- i'm delighted to be the free safety on this panel. i'm surprised no bone mentioned. if you look at the various writings on it the number of fatalities ranges from a low 3 million to high of 10 or 11 million, a very large number, very large number. finally, the recognition of the extent and recognition of who is
responsible and who is responsible is of the soviet union, is an important political fact today and that political fact of prime importance to the kr kremlin for two reasons. they understand that a true recognition of this who ror makes it hard for them to ignore the problem ofrs communism. how can they speak positively about this past of theirs if everyone understands that several million people were starved to death by conscious policy. therefore they have attacked ukraine's commemoration and
tendencies, which is nonsense. point b is that this commemoration is also a danger to putin's authoritarian project in russia. again, the same regime that nuked, the same regime is a regime does not want to knowledge the who rhorrors on ae ft it is ultimately the significance of talking about this film. i think i have said enough. >> excellent. thank you for your remarks. we have a little less than 15 minutes less. i would like to ask for one more
round of questions. if you could keep your remarks to about two or three minutes, michael, if i could go back to you. you touched on this a little bit but looking at sort of present day and looking at the campaign coming autoof moscow, how does it effect events in ukraine and i'm talking about crimea. >> great question. i think actually john answered a bit of it in terms of looking aat it. it is a narrative. it is something coming out of the kremlin that in terms of this fake news in terms of a narrative and how the world is supposed to believe this narrative. obviously it is a matter of self-consciousness of the ukrai ukrainean,
ukraineans. it is harboring ideas we need to stand up for ourselves. the world is not the same as it was 85 years ago. there are different tactics that are being used. luckily enough the world is open enough to new technologies in terms of social media and so forth obviously that already we knew as a fact. that was out there. it means unfortunately what is necessary is something that happened even 85 years ago, though the information was known 85 years ago it was a matter at times of appeasement. i'll give you a quote as well.
luckily enough i have something ready. it was a document compiled by the british foreign service. it says the truth of the matter is of course that we have a certain amount of information about famine conditions in ukraine. we do not want to make it public, however because the soviet government would resent it and our relations with them would be prejudice. it makes a complete circle here that it's a matter of api appeasement. we cannot appease right now. that, i think in terms of an answer to your question, it solidifies what they are try to go establiaccomplish, what they trying to do. this is not the first time they have had a democratic republican but it's sefl society which
makes the difference. that is one of the things that he wanted to annihilate as much as possible is that free will and that free thinking because he needed their land for his collectivization and he needed the population. today the population won't be but if ths matter of apuzment on larger scales then they feel they could be back 85 years ago. >> thank you can you talk more about the positive developments taking place?
>> sure. the memorial can definitely talk about it more than i can. i guess where i want to go with this is that there has definitely been examples of good cultural memory in the post soviet space that can be followed. protection one of the first things they did after it became independent again was they changed all of the street names in the city. people were asking the mayor at the time, you know, why are you focusing on street names when people need to adopt to an entire new type of lifestyle and people feed to eat? his response was public symbols matter. your publish references and cultural spear matters in the way that you perceive the world and die just information. that is why the memorial here in
d.c. matters and is a good step in the right direction. that's why the film matters. as much as i hope that this panel is seen by a lot of people i think the film will be seen by a lot more. that is a step in the right direction. in russia that step hasn't been taken. if you walk through the street in moscow you see hammers all over the metro stations, where as in post soviet the monsterous statues have been torn down but actually just moved to a park in moscow. you can still go and see it. and of course textbooks, the way school children commemorate their own history is unapologetic. you crane on this is a country in flux. they have been democratic and
they have been working tirelessly since the collapse of the soviet union. it's not always eesz si. people don't want to, you know, tear down the statue where they celebrated their 13th birthday 50 years ago. it is hard to change the smaller villages, the textbooks but that's where the fight has to happen. >> thanks. how might one or how might organizations or international community combat this? what programs could be done? how do we raise awareness? >> well, i think it's constant vigilance. i think you have done a fantastic job of putting out, you know, credible information.
if i might make some other comments, one of the things i don't think we have come to understand is the impact on ukraine society as such. i think it's something worthy of maybe analysis as well. i'm just going to site three examples. ambassador was here one time and he talked about the fear that remains within ukraine. and this whole -- so when you think about that this is still in society i think it makes the recent striving that much more remarkable. i'm also going give you a couple of examples.
in 19923 i happened to be in ukraine with a league of mine. we are all euphoric because ukraine is independent. she tell me that her aunt is squirrelling away dry bread the notion that ukraine's independence some how may threaten them, because that's how it is all about, there is another documentary film that i would recommend that was done by an american woman. it is strangely uplifting. it is about these women in their 80s and 90s that have gone back. a lot have made about the fact that they are living with radiation. there are people coming out and testing them and their water and all of that. but in the film one of them says
they have no fear about the radiation. the thing that they fear is famine not having enough food to eat. so this is, i think, has seeped into society in ways that we have not really yet come to understand. and on this point, you know, we could talk about this information by the kremlin. i have to, i think, bring out the fact that the party of regions was not ready to recognize this horrific event even though the most harshest of this was suffered in eastern ukraine. so i think this is something
that was to me of interest. you know, in 2008 when the president was doing a major program to recognize it there was a lot of criticism. i was in a forum and someone said oh, he is wasting his time. there are more important things to focus on. i contradicted him. i happened to be there. one of the things i observed was people in eastern ukraine who had lived through it and had never spoken about it were finally feeling free to talk about it. so can you imagine the impact of keeping this inside, the fear and the terror and what it has done to i think the ukrainean society? i think the fact of what we are seeing in ukraine's fight for
independen independence, is that much more remarkable given they have this rep rans of terror? >> thank you. we have a couple minutes. do you have any other remarks in response to what they have said. >> no. i have a reading assignment for the audience. probably the book to read is harvest of sorrow. there is another author. his name is named james mace. and everyone is speaking about the concept of useful id yachts, doing soviet bidding fechb they didn't understand it. a person to remember is hol lander. great book. with that i'm done. >> thank you. we would love to open it up for questions from the audience and if you could please identify yourself and give your affiliation.
yes, sir. we have a mic. >> thank you so much for organizing this wonderful panel. my name is davidal bit. i work at victims memorial foundation. i would like to offer it to you to defer the question where you see it best answered. one of the things in thinking about the future of the ukraine that didn't come up in the conversation today was the future of ukraine. i would love to hear thoughts about how people who love you crane are thinking and strike that jazzing right now for the welfare of their people.
>> interesting question. you know, i think you have to put everything in per speckive. given if we are discussing the events of 85 years ago and the world not knowing and the quote that i had written -- that i had mentioned about the british foreign service diplomats, taking about they knew about it yet they didn't say anything about it, meaning az peppeaseme lead to in 1933. we know what that lead to. i'm looking at this as a global context of that the issue of appeasement for whose sake? we have to know that the facts are out there.
we have know what builds a strong world and that is democracy and democratic principals and free and open society. there is a fight going on right now not in some on cure part of the world, not in some small little plot of land, this is at the heart of europe's principals. it is exactly a fight for freedom that is happening. if we in the west, in particular the united states don't realize that for exactly what it is then i'm fearful it may lead to other aspects in the future. most importantly a lot of affection for the united states.
we have a serious political problem and the leader of the world's second most powerful military. it is one of the two great super powers, wants to weaken nato and transatlantic ties. gym matters is correct to say this is the most important danger we face today. we need a policy that recognizes that. just about everyone seems to understand that. the new national security adviser seems to get it. secretary of state seems to get it. the vice president seems to get it. it's not so clear that the president of the united states seems to get it. that is worrying. have been said that, we have seen in the wake of inclination on the part of our commander in chief to offer preemptive
concessions to the kremlin, resistance coming from within administration and from congress. we have seen this -- with this quote unquote ukrainian peace plan as reported by the "new york times." all this is making people here wonder what is up. and i believe as a result of this we will ultimately see a sound policy recognizing the dangers of putin's revisionism and the need to make putin pay a price for his aggression in ukraine by supporting the ukrainian people as they deserve to be supported especially since they gave up their nuclear weapons in response to assurances from the united states and britain and france and china not to mention russia. >> naphtali first, jumped in. >> i have two things that i think everyone in this room could do to help ukraine in the next week, next month. concrete things. one, educate our own american
kids about the real history of ukraine. make sure they are completely inoculated against whatever you want to call it, fake news, fake facts, it's just incorrect things. educate them. and two is assist ukrainian civil society. train their journalists, fund their schools, support their democratic movements. and then ukraine will make an educated choice for itself. >> i would say that we need to have more americans understand that people of ukraine are on the front lines, not only just for their independence and sovereignty but really defending euro-atlantic values. as somebody said, unlike vegas what happens in ukraine doesn't just stay in ukraine.
and if you look at what putin is doing all over, whether it's in the arctic, whether it's working in europe, so this is not an isolated -- ukraine is not an isolated case but ukraine is on the front lines literally, militarily, and ukraine is succeeding and it can succeed if we honor our commitments of the budapest memorandum and given the tools militarily to ultimately succeed. so they are fighting our fight. and that's i think the message that we need to i think more broadly understand within our own country. thank you. >> another question. yes, sir. >> my name's bob holmes. one difference -- sorry.
one difference between 85 years ago and today is the role and presence of the russian orthodox church. and the russian orthodox church, moscow patriarchate, has been supporting the separatist movement in donbass, i believe. they're also a major conduit for russian disinformation in the ukraine. i was wondering if anybody wants to comment on what you see going on in ukraine today, what seems to amount to a war within a war between the moscow patriarchate, the kiev patriarchate, and the ukraine catholic church. thank you. >> there's no question that the moscow patriarchate remains an instrument of kremlin foreign policy including in ukraine.
there's also little doubt that the russian orthodox church, moscow patriarchate, was used by the kremlin during the orange revolution, as a result of which it lost a substantial number of supporters, believers in ukraine who switched to the kiev patriarchate and to a less yes extent the autonomous orthodox church of ukraine. this circumstance also worsened in the current round -- the current crisis between russia and ukraine. the previous metropolitan of the moscow patriarchy, volodimar, in kiev, understood what happened in the orange revolution and he tried to mitigate mp support for the kremlin at the start of the crisis in the winter of '13-14. he's since passed the scene, and by and large the mp reverted to type. all this has led to a strengthening of the kiev patriarchate and to a much lesser extent of the autonomous orthodox church of the ukraine.
the uniate church doesn't really play in this. they remain strongly supportive of the ukrainian national project. but by and large, you haven't seen orthodox christians in ukraine moving to the u investment at church as a result of the mp's not very pretty game in country. by the way, one last point. when you've had a period of hierarchs of the kiev branch of the moscow patriarchate pushing back against their patrons in moscow that's led to some tensions between the mp and ukraine. >> one of the things that's added to this and jonathan's correct in terms of speaking of the actual role of the churches, but there's a little bit more that i'd like to mention in terms of i'm sure you've heard of this term, "speaki[ speakingn
language ]. "russian world." using its foreign policy arm to protect the russian-speaking population in the near abroad, as they call it. the ukraine is an example of that. the baltic states. the caucasus and so on and so on. this is a conscious effort that is being used by the kremlin and by moscow on how to stifle resistance as much as possible, and they use the church in that capacity as well. sought church here is not any type of -- the russian orthodox church, moscow patriarch, is not necessarily an altruistic type of church here. they're not out there for your sole frankly speaking. they are out there frankly part and parcel with the foreign policy arm of the crekremlin. and we must understand that. this notion of warfare in the ukraine as we have alluded to that ukraine is literally on the front lines, but it's not just militarily. whether we can go to congress
and go to the administration and ask for weaponry for ukraine, it's not just about the military aspect here. there's an informational hybrid war that's going on as well. and this russkiy mir is an aspect of it. but it has facets of cultural, facets of religious, facets of social. you look back in the 1930s, not just during homdmore times, who are the first stalin sent to prison? those that had trust within civil society. stalin knew that in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. putin knows that today. >> please. >> yes, underscore what john said. the russian orthodox church has always been and continues to be an arm of the state. and we see that continuing to play out for instance even in
terms of some of the politics with the vatican. but i think there's a -- the council of all ukrainian churches and religious organizations in ukraine is a powerful antidote to this. it unites all the protestant churches, the muslim faiths, the jewish faiths, the orthodox and the catholic. and they are a real active force and body. and so i think they are a enormous resource and weapon to i think counterbalance what's being done by the russian orthodox church. >> naphtali? >> i think it's important to note here the problem is not the russian orthodox church as such but the russian regime's c co-opting of the russian orthodox church. the catholic church in poland, for example, was an incredible
force for good in bringing down communism, specifically because polish identity was so wrapped up with the catholic church. that was a very important component. but why is the russian orthodox church so successful, or the russian regime so successful in co-opting the russian orthodox church? i think that's something that needs a little bit more exploration. when the kgb archives were opened for a brief time in the '90s, it became tragically clear that most of the russian orthodox priests were reporting what they heard in confessional to the kgb. a tremendous breach of ecumenical and personal trust. and another interesting point is that most russians, despite communism's nominal ath ymz and today identify as orthodox. it's a part of their identity,
more so even than necessarily a part of their faith. and the russian regime is very successful in playing this up. almost in some news segments harkening back to the old czarist trinity of orthodoxy, autocracy and nationhood as the pillars of what they call russian civilization. so the russian regime is successful in this because they play on very old identities and beliefs. and what needs to be done is to uncouple that. the real people of faith in the russian church have to take their church back. >> thank you. and i think you have the next question. can i get a microphone over here? >> elaine sereo, associate director of wieu in kiev, ukraine. i'd like to tie all these points made together. starting with michael. your first statement was the
french quote in the early 1800s. and basically, what we're seeing about how facts are manipulated to a particular end, to their win. and all the way right now to what we're experience iing at t very moment. we'll walk out and see the manipulation of the news, the propaganda. everything is being cranked out. it's becoming more and more difficult to know what's coming forward that's clear and accurate versus what's tainted and so on. that being said, what we're dealing with today is a very complex situation. it's ukraine. it's what's happened in the ukraine. it's the documentation which will -- of holodomor.
and now we're face the facts of russia's aggression in ukraine being practiced to the extent they've been able to be exported here. through manipulation, cyber issues. how would you like to respond to how we're going to be able to aggressively bring this forward to the american public to understand how important this is in ukraine because ukraine is us. >> thank you. michael, do you want to start with you and we'll work our way down? >> sure. thank you for the question. it's a complex answer. i don't think there's an easy fix to any of this. i'd like to begin in terms of some of the things that have happened already. some positive things that have happened already and how we as
an american society can build upon that. last year within the defense authorization act, the bill, there was an amendment which added $80 million for the formation of a center which would gather information. this is to me within the state department. to gather information. this is the portman murphy disinformation act. to gather information about the disinformation that is coming from russia. and to use that and to leverage all of that disinformation that's coming and come up with the true narrative as compared to obviously putin's narrative and so forth. the issue is not so much even here in the united states of distributing that true narrative. frankly speaking, it's going back to ukraine or going back to the quote unquote near abroad and distributing that information back there. that i think is one of the first keys to our success, is that it has to start on a local civil
society-type basis in ukraine. if they get the information from us on how to combat that information, working together in unison with other western democracies, i think that's one of the first things we need to build upon. a second aspect is obviously even here what some of my colleagues on the panel have alluded to. we need to get the truth out there as much as possible, meaning it needs to start within curriculum in our high schools, not just holodomor but about everything in general. there's this geostrategic context to all of this. this again is not just about ukraine. we're discussing the issues 85 years ago of holodomor and how that relates to right now. but again, what happened 85 years ago and what is happening now, what is happening now we can actually do something about it. and the -- bringing this to american society, having more
discussions such as this i think is uniquely an opportune way to bring forth a little bit more of that -- combating that narrative, that disinformation. it's much more difficult sometimes unfortunately to deal with this because what's happening in terms of this russkiy mir which i mentioned earlier, it's weaponizing information. it's a very hard concept to understand weaponizing information. you think of information as facts and you build your case upon those facts. but it's actually weaponizing it. it's making it into its own beast, so to say. and i think that's where our work lies ahead of us. let's begin in these small steps. let's begin with civil society in the greater european venue and theater, and then obviously we need to do in parallel the same thing here in the united states. >> education, like michael
mentioned, is the key. and if i could be so bold as to add to your reading list, that's already very useful, one of my favorite books on communism is "witness" by whitaker chambers. >> yeah. >> in the introduction to the book where chambers is sitting in his farmhouse in new jersey writing the letter to his children, he writes a line that i always remember. he goes, "i want to inoculate you against communism before you ever learn the word." it's a truth as an antidote to untruth, learning the truth before you ever even learn the untruths. so let's amend that for 2017. let's inoculate our children against russian disinformation before they ever even learn the term. >> well, as everybody has noted, this is an enormously complex
situation because the amount of resources that the kremlin has devoted to this disinformation is enormous. and i don't think we need to necessarily match dollar for dollar their resources. but i do think that we need to be strategic about it. and while i have some hope for whatever program can be developed within the government to address this issue, i'm not sure that that's the total answer because we know a government bureaucracy which will be created to coordinate messaging, it cannot be nimble and quick. i think it has a role. at a conference last week that actually michael's organization sponsored, one of the people was from the i.t. world in ukraine and he mentioned that they have some volunteers who are working on this issue. most of it is happening in social media.
so i would like to challenge the ukrainians who have proven themselves in this i.t. world being cutting edge to take this initiative and somehow create a program that will bring in the volunteers that they have and to be strategic about it. it has to be fought on many, many fronts. each of us with our respective organizations can play a role, but i think it requires also a massive approach particularly in the social media world. >> we have about ten minutes left which might give us time for two questions and short responses. in the back. >> bob mcconnell. i'd like to make a comment following up on something mrs. mcconnell just said. she challenged ukrainian i.t. specialists.
i'd like to challenge the ukrainian government. they are incompetent in sending their own message. they're still talking not about a war, russia's war with ukraine, but they talk about an anti-terrorist operation. it's about time they said what was going on in true terms. >> thank you. another question or comment? yes, ma'am. >> hello. my name is roxanna winnar and i have been working with a non-profit called ukraines of colorado providing humanitarian assistance to victims of the war in the eastern ukraine. and i just recently moved here from colorado. and i would like to -- i'm also an aspiring scholar on ukrainian issues and particularly holodomor. and i'd like to thank you so much for holding this panel.
it's very important. and going off of what we heard today i would just like for you to please speak about what has been done in the u.s. and also what you think should be done as far as trying to get holodomor on the level of not only recognition as the holocaust, which ukrainians also suffered in as well as of course jews but also to -- as the holocaust has been -- you know, in several countries in europe, i think it's about 13 countries, there's been a ban to deny -- you can't deny the holocaust. and also with that the symbolism of nazism, for example, like the salute to hitler and so forth. as we've seen recently the communist symbols of the hammer and sickle have been particularly popular with hollywood. i believe it was kim kardashian
who recently appeared wearing a sweatshirt, wearing the hammer and sickle. and for many people that was very offensive. so i was just wondering, since holodomor is the epitome of the great evil of communism that has happened particularly in ukraine along with several other genocides and famines that happened in ukraine that aren't as well researched as the holodomor, for example, but i would like to know what you think can be done and what has been done to try and put holodomor on that level to ban the denial. >> anyone want to take that? a quick response. >> very nice question. thank you very much. frankly speaking, a lot has been done. it may not be evident as much. but i think this is where the rest us as american society we have to roll up our shirt sleeves and get to work a little
bit. i'll give you some examples of what has happened and obviously what is still necessary. worldwide there are only 14 countries that have acknowledged the holodomor as a genocide. that's one of the first things that needs to be done. this needs to be brought more to the world's attention. there are many ukrainian diasporas throughout various parts of the world. it is our role as a diaspora to bring forth this notion of recognizing the holodomor ace genocide. that remains first and foremost. and while the united states did have a commission on the ukraine famine as it was called back in 1988, or '86, excuse me, and it did mention that we in terms of this commission find that it was a genocide, in 1932, '33, the u.s. government as a whole has not recognized it as of yet. however, interestingly enough, if you go to the legislation, which enacted the construction and the building of the
memorial, holodomor memorial in washington, d.c., it actually does state that it is holodomor slash ukrainian famine slash genocide of 1932-33. so certain things have been done. regarding curriculum, again, what naphtali had mentioned earlier, it's all about education. this is not a centralized -- we in the united states are not a centralized educational system. so this all begins from local grassroots and goes further up. so it is necessary for you to get out there as much as possible within your school boards, within your respective states to get this done. the state of illinois is mandatory that you have to learn about the holodomor in social studies classes. massachusetts is fighting that battle right now. new york state as a matter of fact in the regents exam two years ago actually had a question on european history about holodomor, and you get to choose, do you answer that or do you answer another aspect about world war ii? another question regarding world
war ii. there are certain things that are out there. i can give you a great example. senator schumer, when he appears at our yearly commemorations of holodomor at st. patrick's cathedral, he always mentions that this is the ukrainian holocaust. so the more this information gets out there, the more that it basically gives us, enriches us and gives us the fortitude to move forward. >> thank you. please. i want to give everyone a chance to have closing remarks too. we have a few minutes left. >> i'll give you two concrete examples about education programs that we're doing. we have a high school program, as the victims of communism memorial foundation that brings high school teachers into washington, d.c., trains them on curricula, and then sends them back out to their high schools to talk to their students. we also do college programs where we bring speakers like us and 23i78z to campfilms to camp.
and film is the most important component i think. the trailer we just saw. the word holodomor was a genocide are big intimidating words that not everybody can easily access, but if you make a film about how russian troops coming over the border to confiscate grain during a time of famine kept the handsome protagonist from his beautiful fiance, now we're getting somewhere. >> yes. i would underscore that. because you can't get everybody to read a history book or sit down for a really history lesson but begin to spoon feed and i think promote it -- i haven't seen the film but i think what's been said about it was an excellent way into the deuce this topic and to maybe get people interested. i would just urge once it's out of the theaters to maybe use it in various settings in schools or organizations. again, it's sort of the soft
touch. and since people have been promoting books, i'm going to promote one. it's fiction. it's called "child 44." it's a murder mystery. you can't put it down. it is -- and it is set at the time of the holodomor. so again, it's an easy way to introduce -- the film is not nearly as good as the book. but it's an easy way to get people, again, to be introduced to the top ic in different ways. i'm going to make a comment to mr. mcconnell's comment. there's been frustration because a lot of the information coming from the ukraine government, most of the time it's been ukrainian, but i have noted in the last several weeks i have noted there's been some very interesting info graphics because i think that's what's needed. whether you're trying to go to congress, whatever. everybody wants it on one page. they're not going to read multiple reports.
we can spoon feed these various kinds of information i think that would be helpful. so hopefully there will be more coming out from the ukrainian government. >> john, we have about two minutes if you want to give any response. >> i think the last question points to a problem, which again there's no clear understanding in society as a whole of the horrors of the communist project. for that reason you see symbols, you see communist symbols. you see the continuing glorification of that thug che guevara. you need to change the culture in order for people to understand that this use of symbols from this absolutely historically unprecedented bloody project is unacceptable. we are at a preconsciousness phase right now. i try to be a realist so i can't