Why Should The US Care About Ukraine? The Center for the National Interest Debates the Eurasia Center


America’s policy towards Ukraine is an important but under-debated issue among international relations experts in Washington. In an effort to expand upon both sides of this vital discussion, the Center for the National Interest and the Eurasia Center co-hosted a debate on March 4, 2020 at the Atlantic Council’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The topic at hand: “Why should the US care about Ukraine?”

This important debate was spurred by Center Vice President George Beebe’s article entitled “Groupthink Resurgent,” which was published in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of The National Interest and argued that the Washington consensus on Ukraine has produced failed policies based on mistaken assumptions and unobtainable goals. In response to this article, John Herbst, former Ambassador to Ukraine and director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, wrote his own piece which was published by The National Interest defending Ukraine’s current role in American foreign policy. These competing perspectives revealed a meaningful disagreement on how Ukraine fits into America’s national interest and what level of influence it should have on America’s foreign policy towards Europe as a whole, one which merits deeper discussion.

Joining George Beebe in advocating against America’s status quo policies towards Ukraine was Dr. William Ruger, Vice President for Research and Policy at the Charles Koch Institute and a member of the Center’s board of directors. Their opponents were Ambassador Herbst and Dr. Alina Polyakova, President & CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. Both teams were given opportunities to present both opening and closing remarks, ask questions of one another, and receive questions from both audience members and the moderators (The National Interest’s Editor Jacob Heilbrunn and the Eurasia Center’s Deputy Director Melinda Haring).

(Credit for all photos goes to the Atlantic Council)

Debate participants from left to right: William Ruger (Charles Koch Institute), George Beebe (Center for the National Interest), Melinda Haring (Eurasia Center), Jacob Heilbrunn (The National Interest), Ambassador John Herbst (Eurasia Center), and Alina Polyakova (Center for European Policy Analysis)
Center for the National Interest Vice President George Beebe responds to a question during the debate.
The debate participants listen to a question from the audience.