Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

European Security Unsettled: The Debates Unleashed by Russia’s War Against Ukraine


Over the course of six sessions, a student study group, led by former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, examined key foreign policy questions flowing from Russia’s war against Ukraine. The objective was to provide a deeper understanding of the geopolitics of the war in Ukraine and the implications for U.S. interests. Two teams of four students each debated the weekly topic as the rest of the study group observed.



Debate One

Should the U.S. Continue to Provide the Substantial Level of Military Assistance to Ukraine That is has Over the Past 18 Month?

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has pushed the United States’ substantial level of military assistance to Ukraine over the past 18 months to the forefront of international conversations and debates alike. While some question the assistance altogether, many ask whether or not Europe should be stepping up to do more.


Debate Two

Is the War in Ukraine Distracting the U.S. From the Much Larger Challenge China Poses in Asia Specifically and to the U.S.-led World Order Generally?

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has prompted policymakers in Washington to devote substantial attention and resources over the past 20 months to supporting Kyiv. Some observers fear that the war in Ukraine could divert the United States’ focus from other priorities, most notably the wide-ranging challenges posed to U.S. interests by a powerful and ambitious China.


Debate Three

Has Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Strengthened Transatlantic Ties?

Transatlantic ties and unity have experienced substantial transformation as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The question as to whether or not the transatlantic alliance is fraying or strengthening remains central to current debates.


Debate Four

Is the Invasion of Ukraine a Strategic Failure for Russia?

Experts in the international community have been quick to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a strategic defeat, both in security and economic terms. However, some members within the foreign policy arena claim it is still premature to draw any definitive conclusions as the war continues its course.


Debate Five

Should the Biden Administration Pressure the Ukrainians to Go to the Negotiating Table and Resolve the Dispute With Russia Diplomatically?

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reaches a stalemate, whether there is a need to push for diplomatic negotiations has come to the forefront of debates. Some argue that the Biden administration should pressure the Ukrainians to go to the negotiating table and resolve the dispute with Russia diplomatically. Others firmly oppose any such negotiations out of fear for Ukrainian capitulation.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:European Security Unsettled: The Debates Unleashed by Russia’s War Against Ukraine.” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, November 16, 2023.