For those that missed it, I published my first essay for Foreign Exchanges last month. (I’ll be a regular columnist for FX; look for next piece in a few weeks on the political economy of military spending since the Cold War). As a proponent of a foreign policy of restraint, I’ve been frustrated by the discussion of Ukraine policy now that the war has entered a period of stasis, of incremental progress for Ukraine that inches toward a stalemate. My piece laid out the landscape of policy options, posited some potential paths for the war, and tried to convince restrainers to codify an internationalist vision for restraint—premised on global equity, demilitarization, and international cooperation on issues like climate change and pandemic relief— that can be employed when the war does end.
I also avoided the “diplomacy or not” debate that has preoccupied the discourse on Ukraine. I find it reductive and circular, and too controlled by the most hawkish voices, whether motivated by good intentions or self-interest (media appearances, solicitations for op-eds, likes and retweets on Twitter). I’ve been struck—but not surprised— by how the requisite support for Ukraine has prevent foresight and squashed a fair-minded assessment of the war’s future.
This is a space, I argued, where restrainers can make an impact. Restrainers have thus far been preoccupied with lobbing critiques at hawkish pundits or advocating for a diplomatic resolution to the war. But the former is unfulfilling, and the latter is not going to happen now. (I’m suspicious of those who claim to know when the right conditions will be for diplomacy, whether on the restraint or liberal internationalist camp.) Putin does not want to end the war and recognize Ukrainian sovereignty—Ukraine’s precondition for negotiations. And as much as restrainers, and all of us, want the war to end soon, it is unreasonable to think Ukraine will capitulate to Russian demands (including the annexation of the four regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia) after making significant inroads against Russia’s military—and with the reliable help of American weapons and financial support. Few nations would seek diplomacy from a place of strength—or in Putin’s case, from an unwillingness to lose face.
But a brokered diplomatic settlement, the most likely outcome at this point, should not just be the basis for ending the war, but the foundation for a new international order. When the war ends, the perennial question remains: How can national interests be leveraged to the ends of a more peaceful world?
Read the full piece in Substack.