Bugajski Talk at Ukrainian Symposium, New York

Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Modern Ukrainian State

September 17, 2016

Princeton Club , New York

8:30 am – 9:00 am — Registration

9:00 am – 9:40 am — Focus Session I: A First Word About Modern Ukraine’s 25th Birthday


Roma Lisovych [Ukrainian National Association]

 Featured Remarks: 

Volodymyr Yelchenko [UA Permanent Representative to the UN]

Eliot Engel [US Representative (D-NY)

9:40 am – 11:05 am — Panel Discussion I:  Taking Measure of Ukraine’s Distant Past


               Lubomyr Hajda [Harvard University]                      

Three Speakers:

Frank Sysyn [University of Alberta/CIUS]

Mark Von Hagen [Arizona State University]

Yuri Shapoval [National Academy of Sciences Of Ukraine]

Suggested Topics:

Kyivan State & Hetmanate Ukraine

Ukrainian National Republic 1917-1921

               National Liberation Struggles 1921-1991

11:05 am – 11:10 am — Coffee Break

11:10 am – 12:35 pm — Panel Discussion II:  Assessing Ukraine’s Recent Past 


               Adrian Karmazyn [VOA UA Desk Director Emeritus]

Three Speakers:

Alexander Motyl [Rutgers University]

James Sherr [Royal Institute of International Affairs]

               Oleksandr Sushko [Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation]

Suggested Topics:

               The Granite Rebellion

               The Orange Revolution


12:35 pm – 12:55 pm — Lunch  

[Served as a buffet in the Alexander Hamilton Room]

12:55 pm – 1:25 pm — Focus Session II: Reflecting on Ukraine’s Current ‘War in the East’


            Anders Corr [Journal of Political Risk]

Featured Speaker: 

Phillip Karber [Potomac Foundation]


1:25 pm – 2:50 pm — Panel Discussion III:  Divining Ukraine’s Near Future


               William Courtney [RAND Corporation]

Three Speakers:

               David Kramer [McCain Institute]

               Ariel Cohen [Atlantic Council]

               Volodymyr Vyatrovych [Institute of National Memory of Ukraine]

Suggested Topics:

Chances for Building a Developed Democratic Polity

Chances for Erecting a Mature Market Economy

               Chances for Achieving an Established National Identity

2:50 pm – 2:55 pm — Coffee Break

2:55 pm – 4:20 pm — Panel Discussion IV:  Contemplating Ukraine’s Further Future


               Paul Goble [WOE/Jamestown Foundation]            

Three Speakers:

               Janusz Bugajski [Center for European Policy Analysis]  

               Herman Pirchner [American Foreign Policy Council]

                Yuri Sergeyev [Yale University/Macmillan Center]

Suggested Topics:

               Chances of Playing on the European Stage

               Chances of Performing on the Euro-Atlantic Stage

               Chances of Becoming a ‘Player of Global Note’ 

4:20 pm – 5:00 pm — A Final Word About Modern Ukraine’s 25th Birthday


               Marianna Zajac [Ukrainian National Women’s League of America]

Featured Remarks:

               Mustafa Dzhemiliev [Member of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada]

                Paul Roderick Gregory [Stanford University/Hoover Institute]



5:00 pm – 7:00 pm — Intercession

In the Alexander Hamilton Room: 

[5:40] A Talk by (Three Time Oscar Winning) Director Mark Harris & Producer Peter Borisow About Their Documentary: “Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine”

[6:30] The Ukrainian Choir ‘Dymka ‘ Performs a Medley of Ukraine’s Folkloric Classics

In the John Dickinson Room:

VIP Reception


7:00 pm – 9:00 pm — Speakers and Patrons Banquet  



Tamara Gallo-Olexy [Ukrainian Congress Committee of America]


               Featured Speakers:                  

            US Secretary of Homeland Security (2003-2005) Tom Ridge

               US Secretary of State (1997-2001) Madeline Albright

               UA Rada Foreign Affairs Committee Deputy Chair Borys Tarasyuk 

               [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (1998-2000; 2005-2007]


Bugajski Talk

Three initial points. First, the “further future” is not that far away. Second, we must try to be creative and imaginative in our predictions. And third, my assumption is that Ukraine in one form or another will continue to exist in 25 years.

Since the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc over a quarter century ago, political developments have been on very fast forward and speeding up each year. Moreover, many things have already happened that we probably would not have imagined 26 years ago, such as the entry of the three Baltic states into NATO or the exit of the UK from the EU.

We have been given three long-term questions, presumably for the next quarter century and beyond. They concern Ukraine’s place in Europe, in the trans-Atlantic sphere, and on the world stage. I will briefly raise the prospects and possibilities for each in turn.

First question, what are the Chances for Ukraine of Playing on the European Stage? In other words, does Ukraine becomes a member of the EU or the major post-EU institutions, if any are actually formed. Much of course depends on what form if any the EU actually exists in 25 years time. And if it does not enter the EU where will Ukraine belong, institutionally and geo-politically?

Following the UK’s departure, and maybe several other states in the years ahead, the EU may develop over the coming two decades either into a multi-tier union or a tighter but smaller federation. In the first variant, an inner core will be more effectively integrated politically, economically, and fiscally than several outer layers of membership. In such a scenario, if Ukraine pursues effective reforms it will qualify for membership in the outer layer. This could involve such benefits as free trade, full harmonization of laws and standards, and EU subsidies to various regions and industries. On the other hand, Kyiv would probably have to contribute to the EU budget and fully open its economy to European investment. But Ukraine is unlikely to have a common monetary policy or currency with the EU or be part of the free travel Schengen zone.

In the second variant, a smaller but well integrated EU would not receive new members and indeed several south and east European countries may have already evacuated the Union or have been pushed out by Germany and its nearby satellites. The Union itself would be more nationalistic and protectionist and not immigrant or enlargement friendly. Ukraine would have trading and other economic ties with this mini-EU but without the prospect of gaining other benefits that currently come along with membership.

So what kind of a player would Ukraine be on the Europeans stage? It will be seen as the eastern border of Europe, given the likely catastrophe facing Russia (more on that in a minute) and other instabilities. It may even be give special treatment and significant funds to assist in border protection, stemming refugee flows, cooperating closely in monitoring illegal armed groups and terrorist cells, and in protecting Europe from persistent insecurities to the East. But Ukraine will be viewed from Brussels as an outpost and a border rather than an equal political entity, more of a “kraina” than a Ukraina.

There is also a third variant that cannot be excluded — of an even more fractured Europe, in which the EU has been disbanded and all states, major and minor, have turned to nationalism and protectionism. Alliances become self-serving and often temporary and the struggle for regional predominance results in periodic border clashes and the expulsion of ethnic groups perceived as betraying the nation state. No great power dominates the old continent, as the US has largely withdrawn and Russia is in the process of disintegrating. The continent is unstable and Ukraine will have to fend for itself to ensure its sovereignty and integrity.

Second question, what are the Chances for Ukraine of Performing on the Euro-Atlantic Stage? In other words, will Ukraine become a member of NATO and under what geopolitical conditions will it enter the Alliance? This of course begs the question of what NATO will actually consist of in twenty-five years, and how US-Europe relations will develop during this time.

Much may depend on our next US President who will face one of two history shaping choices: first, to develop and adapt NATO to confront the challenges of the modern era and to project US national interests and military strength in defense of our allies; or second, to sacrifice the Alliance and other international military and political entanglements to make way for a more isolated “America first” or more accurately an “America only.” The next US President will set the tone and the substance for the next two decades of trans-Atlanticism.

In the first variant, Ukraine will be a NATO member within twenty five years, as the Euro-Atlantic powers will see a net benefit to Ukraine’s integration as a concrete defense contributor and as protection against the various security threats facing the West. Of course, all entry criteria would need to be met including defense spending requirements, completion of civil-military reform, majority public support, and most important an effective military. Indeed, as the next Russian smuta unfolds Ukraine will be seen as an essential buffer along NATO’s eastern flank against post-Russian instabilities.

In the second variant, as America becomes more isolationist and protectionist, Ukraine will be viewed from Washington as a European periphery at best and an appendage of Russia at worst. In such a climate, Kyiv will need to depend on its own diplomatic skills in navigating between increasingly volatile European politics and a dangerously belligerent Moscow that will always seek opportunities to regain its western borderlands even as the Russian Federation is undergoing internal turmoil.

We can then expect expanding military clashes in various parts of Ukraine while Kyiv will seek security assistance from neighbors that see the danger of Russian expansion and destabilization – especially from Poland, the three Baltic states, and Romania. We could even witness a regional war in which NATO’s former eastern members confront Russia while the US and the West Europeans are busy trying to arrange peace talks and compromises. This is a familiar picture to what we are witnessing now in Ukraine but on a much larger and bloodier regional scale.

Third question, what are the Chances of Ukraine Becoming a Player of Global Note? In other words, can Ukraine have a more important global role whether because of its resources, diplomacy, or alliances? And if so what would that role be? The answer to this question depends on the results of the first two questions. A Ukraine that is firmly anchored within the two most important Western institutions (EU and NATO), which have adapted more effectively to the modern era, will be in a better position to exert some degree of global influence, including in international institutions. Ukraine’s statehood and national identity will be secure, its fear of foreign invasion and partition will be minimized, its reforms would have succeeded in developing a more transparent and productive economy, and its institutions would be strong enough to withstand domestic populist and nationalist challenges that all states face at some period in their modern history.

I would also add a fourth question to our list: What are the Chances of Ukraine benefiting from or being damaged by the impending disintegration of the Russian Federation? Putin wants to make Russia Great Again, but given the state of the economy he is unlikely to succeed but may actually hasten Russia’s fracture.

On the positive side, Ukraine would be free of its traditional imperial overlords in Moscow while domestic separatist groupings would have little foreign support and therefore minimal impact. Ukraine would be seen as a secure state that has the freedom to choose its international alliances and institutional membership. Conversely, a smaller and internally focused Russia may have more chances of becoming a standard European state and even developing democratic content in its institutional forms. And this would be directly beneficial in ensuring Ukraine’s security and integrity, as well as for the independence of other neighbors of Russia.

However, on the potentially negative side, the process of Russia’s fracture may prove chaotic and conflictive. If the actual collapse is violent with bloody struggles for power at the center and in the regions, this could have damaging spillover effects on Ukraine through military incursions, refugee outflows, and the curtailment of trade and other cross-border economic activities.

In addition, Kyiv would need to skillfully develop new relations and policies toward various states and quasi-states that emerge from a collapsing Russia. But even here it could play a positive international role as the bridge with new entities, as the protector of the West’s eastern flank against instability and insecurity, and as a valuable guarantor against the emergence of grey and black zones in Eurasia that could become new breeding grounds for anti-Western assaults.

In sum, the future holds both promise and peril. We should not be surprised by any eventuality but try to plan for and to influence the most favorable outcome. The decisions that are made today will have long-term repercussions, so they must be made with maximum awareness of possible consequences.

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