Opening Remarks by Acting DCM Joseph Pennington at the U.S.-Ukraine Cyber Bilateral Dialogue

March 3, 2020

I am glad to be here today for this next iteration of our dialogue on cybersecurity.  Before I — I’ll make brief remarks and then will introduce members of our team, and meet the members of your team.

We are here today because the United States and Ukraine both face significant threats in cyberspace.  We also are here because we think there are a lot of opportunities for cooperation.  Since our first meeting in this dialogue back in 2017, we have strengthened our cyber cooperation to face these challenges in ways that enable us to reap the benefits that cyberspace has brought to us all.

Today is an important opportunity for us to review that progress to date and to share plans for taking our joint work forward.

A lot has happened since our last cyber dialogue back in November of 2018.  At that time, our primary concern was securing Ukraine’s 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.  Our dialogue then helped set the scene for subsequent assistance that we were able to provide to the Central Election Commission, while working with other parts of the Government of Ukraine.

We believe the Government of Ukraine’s success in defending last year’s elections from malicious cyber activity shows how far we have come over the last few years in strengthening your cyber security.  And we are proud to contribute to those efforts.

We hope that our whole of government dialogue today and additional meetings tomorrow will help unlock further opportunities for cyber cooperation.

This is also our first cyber dialogue since President Zelenskyy’s election, and we are looking forward to updates today from your side about how Ukraine’s new Administration is approaching cybersecurity.  With the formation of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, changes at several agencies represented here, and new legislation being reviewed in the Rada, it is clear that evolution is underway.  We want to find ways to help you to ensure these changes lead to better cybersecurity for Ukraine.

For our part, this meeting will also provide an opportunity to review our ongoing assistance efforts with Ukraine, discuss telecommunications supply chain security, and share views regarding a range of international cyber diplomacy issues, including public attribution.

To date, the United States has contributed more than $15 million in cyber assistance to Ukraine, much of which is ongoing now in the form of equipment, training, and other activity.  We consider this money well spent, so we look forward to learning from you today about how your cyber priorities are evolving so that we can better match future assistance to Ukraine’s needs.

For our dialogue today, we have an impressive delegation representing a broad cross-section of U.S. interagency cyber experts, including officials from the Departments of State, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Treasury, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Agency for International Development.  I’ll ask them in a moment to introduce themselves.

The size, as you mentioned — the size and the breadth of our delegation shows how seriously we take this relationship. The United States does not hold these types of engagements with many governments, but we feel it is very important to have this dialogue with Ukraine. This is for two reasons:

First, the United States is Ukraine’s steadfast partner.  We stand with Ukraine as it attempts to strengthen the resiliency of its democracy and resist Russian challenges to its sovereignty and breaches of its territorial integrity, including cyber-enabled attempts to destabilize the country.

At the same time, we believe that the United States, and indeed global cybersecurity, can benefit greatly from our cooperation.

The risk, as we saw in the case of the NotPetya attack, is that harmful activity that begins within one country can spread and have a global effect.

We have also seen that good cooperation and information sharing following an incident of that kind can benefit everyone.  And we very much appreciate the information sharing and cooperation we have had to date with Ukraine and hope to continue and strengthen that in the future.

So I anticipate a highly successful day of talks today, and look forward to the coming year of cooperation on this important issue.

So now, I would like to ask our delegation to introduce themselves, so you know who they are and which agencies they come from.