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What To Do About Russia and Ukraine

Speakers: Karen E. Donfried, President, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
Robert Kahn, Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
June 9, 2014

Event Description

Ukraine's recently held presidential election has been deemed a success, but the country faces a number of continuing challenges including an ongoing separatist rebellion in the east. Karen Donfried of the German Marshall Fund and CFR Fellows Robert Kahn and Stephen Sestanovich join CFR President Richard N. Haass to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and its implications for U.S. foreign policy. The panelists outline potential steps that the United States can take to help stabilize the country and promote political and economic reform. They also consider the impact of the crisis on U.S.-Russia relations going forward.

This meeting is part of the "What to Do About" series, which highlights specific issues and features experts who put forward competing analyses and policy prescriptions in a mock high-level U.S. government meeting.

Event Highlights

Karen Donfried on how the crisis in Ukraine has affected U.S. foreign policy in Europe:

"I see Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the unrest they're trying to spark in the east of Ukraine as a fundamental challenge to our post-Cold War policy in Europe, and by our I don't just mean the U.S. It was a shared policy with our European allies, and that was to try to expand that part of Europe. I mean, the U.S. term was whole, free and at peace. And that was shared by successive U.S. administrations. That policy met with a great deal of success, if you think about NATO enlargement and E.U. enlargement. And it was premised on a belief that Russia had made a decision that cooperating with us was more in its interests than engaging in open conflict. And maybe that was already being tested in Transnistria and in Georgia, but, boy, in the case of Ukraine, there's no doubt about it. There was no precipitating factor for Russia to take over."

Stephen Sestanovich on possible trajectories for Ukraine going forward:

"I think we've probably already succeeded in not having Ukraine break up, in the sense that Crimea was annexed by Russia. But we are probably still at risk of having something like the Georgian situation be recreated, in which parts of Ukraine—and these are really significant parts of Ukraine—are sort of no-go territory for the central government. They exist politically and economically within the Russian orbit and with the much greater likelihood that Ukraine is just kind of a failed state."

Robert Kahn on the structure of additional economic aid packages for Ukraine:

"I think that, by and large, the additional aid should be unconditional on economic reforms. I do think that what we're asking of the Ukrainians is in some ways both too much and too little. It is too little in the sense that we know there are a tremendous amount of things that have to be done in terms of anti-corruption and improved governance, as well as fiscal and dealing with these unsustainable energy subsidies. But I also think this is a bad time to be asking for too much austerity of the Ukrainian government, both in terms of what they can deliver and what we should ask them to deliver."

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