Kyiv Post speaks to international attorney and well-known political operative, Stephen Nix, who serves as Senior Director of the Eurasia Division at the International Republican Institute (IRI), and is considered one of the top specialists on the former Soviet Union. Nix gives Kyiv Post his views on the recent history of Ukraine and the ongoing Russian invasion.
You knew Sen. John McCain for many years and travelled with him across the former USSR, including to Kyiv multiple times. What can you relay about the late Senator’s views towards Ukraine?
Senator McCain loved Ukraine and its people, and he foresaw the strategic importance of Ukraine both to Europe and the former Soviet Union. Immediately after the Revolution of Dignity (also known as the Maidan Revolution in February 2014), he predicted the Russian invasion of Donbas and the annexation of Crimea and led the fight in Washington to provide arms to Ukraine at that time. His final international trip before his death was to Mariupol, where he promised a unit of Ukrainian marines that he would secure the Javelin missiles and other weapons they needed to defend their country
Can you give a story of a time that you were in Ukraine with the Senator?
One of the greatest memories was Senator McCain’s speech to the crowd on the Maidan Square at the height of the Revolution of Dignity. The electricity of the moment was memorable, and we crafted a speech for the Senator that included quotes from the great poet Taras Shevchenko. McCain acknowledged Ukraine’s wish to be part of Europe and promised his support to this great cause. Hundreds of thousands were chanting his name. It was truly an inspiring event in history and, in McCain’s own words, “one of the greatest moments of my life.”
You have regularly done polling in Ukraine for nearly twenty years. Have you done any polling recently? What did you see?
Yes, we just completed our latest national survey in Ukraine and the results are amazing. 98 percent of Ukrainians feel that Ukraine will prevail in the war with Russia, and President Zelensky has a 94 percent job approval rating, which shows that the Ukrainian people have rallied around their president. The survey also shows that Ukrainians do not wish to make any territorial concessions and want to be part of not just the EU but also NATO.
Do you think what is happening in Ukraine will have any effect on the eventual collapse of dictatorship in Russia or Belarus?
Yes, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko‘s ill-fated decision to allow his country to support military aggression against Ukraine is completely unsupported by the Belarusian people and creates new opportunities for the democratic forces of Belarus. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the other democratic leaders have created an anti-war coalition and are linking Lukashenko directly with Vladimir Putin’s cruel and evil campaign against innocents. When Ukraine prevails in the conflict, it will mark the end of the Lukashenko regime. The war also has impacted Russia, and a similar fate awaits Putin when the Russian people see the continued loss of their sons’ lives and find themselves on the losing side of the war against Ukraine. Putin’s seat on the docket in The Hague is guaranteed.
You often have high-level meetings in the US Congress, Senate, State Department, etc.: How solid is American support for Ukraine?
IRI has brought five separate Ukrainian delegations to Washington since the war began because we assessed that Ukraine’s voice in terms of weapons, sanctions and other support needed to be elevated. While much more needs to be done, I am proud of what has been accomplished to date and IRI’s role in assisting Ukraine. During many, many meetings in Congress, I am gratified with the strong, bipartisan support shown across the board in Washington.
Should the Republicans gain the majority from the Democrats in the November Congressional elections, do you think that would change US foreign policy towards Ukraine or towards Russia? How so?
I do not see any appreciable change in Ukraine policy or approaches on Russia, given the strong bipartisan support for Ukraine that currently exists in Congress.
From what you have seen in DC: Do you think that sanctions on Russia will be dropped right after the war ends? Or is the US no longer willing to tolerate Putin’s war-crime-making regime?
My assessment is that US-imposed sanctions will be continued. The American Government and American people strongly support Ukraine. The larger question goes to the European Union’s commitment to sanctions, as Europe has conducted far more business with Russian entities than the US. My hope is that we remain unified on this question.
How likely do you think it is that Russia will be added to the US government’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SST)?
Speaker Pelosi and others in Congress have stated that, in the event that the US State Department does not designate Russia as an SST, Congress would do so. Consequently, I think the chances are quite good.
Name one Ukraine memory that stays with you today – or has forever changed your life.
I served as outside legal counsel to the Committee on Legal Reform in the Verkhovna Rada under then chairman Volodymyr Stretovych. This was in 1994-1998. I had the honor and privilege of serving on the working group charged with drafting certain sections of Ukraine’s constitution, election laws and law on the Constitutional Court. My wife Natalia and I met in Kyiv and were married in Saint Alexander Cathedral in the heart of the city. The four years I lived in Ukraine were monumental in terms of both my professional career and my personal life and instilled in me a mixture of great affection and respect for the Ukrainian people and their culture.
How will this war end?
Ukraine will be victorious in war and will join the European Union sooner than expected!
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