Ukraine and the Washington Consensus


The recent impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives revealed a near unanimous consensus among U.S. government experts, media, and legislators about how the United States should approach the war between Ukraine, Russia, and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

However, an important new article in the latest issue of The National Interest entitled Groupthink Resurgent” claims that this consensus is producing failed policies based on mistaken assumptions and unobtainable goals.  It argues that successful policy will require challenging the “groupthink” that underlies our current consensus about Ukraine and Russia. The article was penned by George Beebe, the Vice President & Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest who previously served as director of Russia analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency and as a special adviser to Vice President Cheney.

Naturally, George Beebe’s contention has elicited criticism from advocates of more traditional views on U.S.-Ukrainian relations. Former Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, recently responded to Beebe’s arguments in an article entitled “Think Again on Ukraine” which was published by The National Interest. The disagreements between the two experts reveal the deep divide between competing schools of thought on this issue and lay bare the challenges in developing an effective policy that promotes both American and Ukrainian interests.

On Friday, January 17, the Center for the National Interest featured an event with George Beebe to discuss his views in greater depth. George gave an overview of Ukraine’s current geopolitical challenges, discussed the Washington consensus view on U.S.-Ukrainian relations, and outlined why he believes the conventional thinking has failed to account for the realities on the ground in Ukraine. George then took questions from other participants and engaged with a number of alternative perspectives on the subject. Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest, served as the moderator for the event.

George Beebe’s article in The National Interest can be read here.

Ambassador John Herbst’s response to “Groupthink Resurgent” can be found here.