Ukraine/Russia

1) Recommendation. A two-page proposal for the US President, British Prime Minister, and French President.

2) Strategic Options Memo. Our aim: for this to be the most comprehensive – and interesting – ten-page document one can read on Ukraine. Written in a format for busy decision-makers – not as a magazine features piece. This will be evergreen; the memo will be kept up to date with a regular refresh. PDF download of the latest version.

If Rothko, Mondrian, Kandinsky and Kay Sage got together to paint the situation we find ourselves in today

Readers: Are there any creative solutions we have missed in the above documents? Rather than claim “We have the definitive answer”, we are attempting, in earnest, to create a process by which input can be crowdsourced – to arrive at a better solution than administration figures otherwise get presented.

Leave a comment at the bottom of this page. We will produce a regularly updated version of both documents, and factor in thoughtful feedback to subsequent iterations.

Further articles:

What did Bill Burns (now CIA Director) say about NATO expansion in his 2019 book?

Diplomacy in March/April 2022 – a full chronology (video)

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We would like to commission:

If you would like to write one of the below articles for us, please get in touch. We are seeking balanced writers (or writing duos – capable of harnessing civil disagreement), who can argue both sides. As Harold Ross (founder of The New Yorker) wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1929: “I wish to God you would write other things for us. You wouldn’t get rich doing it, but it ought to give you satisfaction.” We wish to commission very able writers on the following topics:

I) Lessons from the Korean War for Ukraine. Here’s our Recommendation, from Professor Stephen Kotkin: “Some type of security guarantee [not likely to be NATO in the short-term] with the US would have to be sold to the American people. The same way as the one with South Korea. We would have to prepare the US public, the US Congress, and Senate especially, to ratify a treaty like that. We’re far away from that now. But at least let’s discuss these terms publicly, so people understand how Ukraine could win the peace.” How was this achieved with South Korea? It’s noted: “The [Korean] armistice, which concluded despite opposition from Secretary Dulles, South Korean President Syngman Rhee, and also within Eisenhower’s party, has been described by [Eisenhower’s] biographer Stephen E. Ambrose as the greatest achievement of the administration. Eisenhower had the insight to realize that unlimited war in the nuclear age was unthinkable.” How was the armistice arrived at – inside Eisenhower’s administration, with the South Korean government, and agreed with the North? How strong was Eisenhower’s conviction, and how was resistance overcome? What happened to South Korea’s leaders, and what would this imply for Zelensky? What other lessons are there for the US administration today in aiding Ukraine towards something that could match South Korea’s historic economic revival?

II) “Europe is at risk”. If Russia “wins” in Ukraine, what is the likelihood of Russia being emboldened to try and take further territory, and invade another European country? This is a key assumption underlying support for Ukraine. It is worth unpacking. What is the likelihood of a next invaded country being part of NATO (and Russia challenging Article 5)? What timeframe would this realistically be in? A writer/writing team taking this on ought to be very familiar with Superforecasting.

III) Comprehensive terms for a negotiated outcome. Pitch us a two-page plan that hits all tactical points that will ultimately be in question: future security guarantees, territory, intermediate-range missile agreements (revive the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty?), trade and possible EU accession, prisoner releases, de-mining, rebuilding infrastructure, frozen Russian assets and sanctions… What should be done on each – that might actually be palatable to all sides in peace talks? We will publish any A* submissions. (Believe it or not: such a document did not exist inside the State Department during WWI, despite Woodrow Wilson wanting to broker talks.)

IV) What should the West be doing to prepare for Putin’s (eventual) death and the power struggle that will likely follow? Who are the most likely successors? The late Dr. Kissinger: “Russia’s military setbacks have not eliminated its global nuclear reach, enabling it to threaten escalation in Ukraine. Even if this capability is diminished, the dissolution of Russia or destroying its ability for strategic policy could turn its territory encompassing 11 time zones into a contested vacuum. Its competing societies might decide to settle their disputes by violence. Other countries might seek to expand their claims by force. All these dangers would be compounded by the presence of thousands of nuclear weapons which make Russia one of the world’s two largest nuclear powers.” What are the West’s serious hopes for post-Putin Russia?

V) The Maidan Revolution, 2014 – what actually happened? Was there a coup against Viktor Yanukovych, or did he flee? A lot is made of this by those arguing against Western policy today in Ukraine. The leaked Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt call isn’t a great look. But it’s also not conclusive evidence of meddling. Oliver Stone has produced his documentary. Here’s one side. Here’s (briefly) the other. We would like to assemble an authoritative, digestible account of events.

VI) Does Russia have the right not to be a democracy? And should the West be trying to encourage a change in governance structure in Russia? As noted by Michael McFaul, every enemy of the US for the past 100 years has been a dictatorship. Post-WWII transformation of autocracies into democracies (Germany, Japan, Italy…) has made countries allies of the US. Would Russia be stronger, in its own self-interest, if it became a legitimate democracy? But, is that not that country’s right to decide itself? Did Gorbachev want democracy? Include a brief history of National Endowment for Democracy activity. Best arguments for and against, presented together.

VII) The counterfactual of diplomacy. It’s now established that there were advanced diplomatic talks between Ukraine and Russia in March/April 2022. Naftali Bennett, then Prime Minister of Israel, has stated things got as far as draft 18 of an agreement. And a draft agreement produced in Istanbul, though never made public, has been viewed by the Wall Street Journal. Had the Bucha massacre not taken place, what would have happened had this gone ahead? Would Zelensky have been able to sell it to his people? Would it have emboldened Putin (and potentially Xi Jinping)? What would the world look like today, had this gone ahead? A Road Less Traveled for Ukraine.

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