Ukrainian troops evacuate from Starobesheve in eastern Ukraine, on August 30, 2014.

Ukrainian troops evacuate from Starobesheve in eastern Ukraine, on August 30, 2014. Sergei Grits/AP

Against the 24-Step Plan for Peace in Ukraine

The days when Russia and the U.S. decide 'the fate of other independent countries' are over, a group of more than 100 experts and ambassadors say. By Uri Friedman

Last week, The Atlantic published a 24-point plan for ending the conflict between Russia and Ukraine—the product of a meeting between Russian and American experts and former officials on the Finnish island of Boistö. Now, a group of American and European experts and former officials, coordinated by David Kramer of Freedom House, has written a response, rejecting the Boistö agenda and urging Russia to end its aggression against Ukraine.

The letter—which comes as Ukrainian and Russian officials are holding talks in Belarus with Ukrainian separatists and international mediators, amid escalating hostilities in the region—argues that the exclusion of Ukrainians from the summit in Finland "disqualifies this initiative from any serious consideration." The days when Russia and the U.S. could decide "the fate of other independent countries" are over, the authors write.

We the undersigned firmly reject the “24-step plan to resolve the Ukraine crisis” published on August 26 by The Atlantic in the United States and Kommersant in Russia. This ill-conceived plan emerged from a Track II initiative involving Russian and American participants who met recently on the Finnish island of Boistö, and was supported by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) in Moscow.

We reject the decision to exclude Ukrainians from this initiative. Such a decision reinforces the worst instincts that prevail in Russia—and possibly even among some Americans—that Ukraine is not a truly independent country and that Russia can, with U.S. endorsement, determine its fate. That nobody from Ukraine was invited to participate disqualifies this initiative from any serious consideration. 

Beyond that most fundamental problem and without addressing every objectionable “step,” four additional points are worth raising.

First, the initiative treats the Russian and Ukrainian sides as equals and fails to recognize Russia as the aggressor, having invaded Ukraine. This equivalence is particularly glaring in the plan’s call for the “withdrawal of regular Russian and Ukrainian army units to an agreed distance from conflict zones.” Ukraine has neither attacked Russia nor sought to limit its sovereignty. Ukrainian authorities have every right, indeed responsibility, to confront hostile, foreign forces on their territory. Russia must remove all of its forces from Ukraine and stop attacking and invading its neighbor.

Second, the initiative raises a number of “humanitarian and legal issues” as well as “social and cultural issues” that are the business of Ukrainians first and foremost, not Russians or Americans. Again, the exclusion of Ukrainians from this process is unacceptable.

Third, the signers of this initiative seem to have accepted the absorption of Crimea into Russia, despite the fact that Moscow has broken international law, contravened border treaties, and taken the peninsula by force. We find unacceptable recommendations that in practice would create another frozen conflict in Europe, with all that this implies for the internal and external security of Russia’s neighbors. We similarly reject the initiative’s call for “discussion of the settlement of legal issues pertaining to the status of Crimea,” for this is not merely the height of injustice but a dangerous precedent.

Fourth, the initiative calls for permanent guarantees of Ukraine’s “non-bloc status.” Such constraints on Ukraine’s security relationships—including those established under NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the 1997 NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership—are a serious infringement of national sovereignty. They would also give the impression of rewarding the Putin regime for its outrageous actions, and this, too, is wholly unacceptable.

There are many more problems with this initiative, but we have restricted ourselves to the most blatant ones. The bottom line is that Russia must end its invasion of and aggression toward Ukraine, withdraw its forces and fighters, rescind its annexation of Crimea, and end its use of energy and economic measures to punish Ukraine and its other neighbors. Russia will never become the civilized state its citizens deserve without such a transformation.

Until Russia does so, the West must ratchet up serious sanctions against the Putin regime and immediately provide Ukraine with the full support, including military equipment and intelligence cooperation, it needs and has requested to defend itself.

Ukraine is not simply a problem in the West’s relations with Russia. It is a country in its own right that is entitled to the prerogatives afforded to all sovereign states under the UN Charter and the 1990 Charter of Paris. Its borders and territorial integrity were solemnly recognized by the Russian Federation in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the 1997 Russia-Ukraine State Treaty. These are the pillars of security in Europe, and there will be serious consequences for other European states if they are disregarded or traduced. 

We should consign to the dustbin of history the days of “condominium” between Russia and the U.S. in deciding the fate of other independent countries.

* * *

Hannes Adomeit: College of Europe 

Anders Aslund: Senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Iryna Bekeshkina: Director, Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiative Foundation; senior research fellow, the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences

Stephen Blank: Senior fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

Falk Bomsdorf: Director, Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, Moscow office, 1993-2009

Ellen Bork: Senior fellow, Foreign Policy Initiative

Anna Borshchevskaya: European Foundation for Democracy

Robert Brinkley: Former U.K. Ambassador to Ukraine

Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskyy: Chancellor, the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Matthew Bryza: Former ambassador; director, International Centre for Defence Studies, Tallinn, Estonia

Ian Brzezinski: Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy

Yevhen Bystrytsky

George Chopivsky, Jr.: President, Chopivsky Family Foundation

Susan Corke: Eurasia program director, Freedom House

Lorne Craner: Former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor

Charles Davidson: Publisher, The American Interest

Jim DentonWorld Affairs Journal

Nadia Diuk: Vice president, National Endowment for Democracy

Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky

Marta Farion: President, Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America

Ambassador Julie Finley: Former U.S. permanent representative to the OSCE

Oleksandr Fisun: Professor of political science, Kharkiv National University

Joerg Forbrig

Alison Fortier

Jeff Gedmin: Georgetown University

Carl Gershman: President, National Endowment for Democracy

Paul Goble

Alyona Getmanchuk: Director, Institute of World Policy, Kiev

James Greene: Former head of NATO Liaison Office, Ukraine

Janet Gunn: Former research analyst, U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Michael Haltzel: Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University SAIS

Olexiy Haran: Professor of comparative politics, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine

John Herbst: Former ambassador; director of the Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

William Hill: Public policy fellow, Kennan Institute; former OSCE head of mission in Moldova

Jeffrey Hirshberg

Volodymyr Horbach: Political analyst, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kiev

Yaroslav Hrytsak: Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Andrei Illarianov

Don Jensen: Senior fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University SAIS

Adrian Karatnycky: Senior fellow and co-director, Ukraine in Europe Program, Atlantic Council

Richard Kauzlarich: Former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Jamie Kirchick: Fellow, Foreign Policy Initiative

Evgeni Kiselev: Journalist

Igor Klyamkin: Vice president, Liberal Mission Foundation

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze: Executive director, Yalta European Strategy; board member, Ukraine Crisis Media Center

Jim Kolbe: Senior transatlantic fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States

A.F. Kolodii: Professor, dr., chair of political science and philosophy, Lviv Regional Institute of Public Administration; National Academy of Public Administration under the president of Ukraine

David J. Kramer: President, Freedom House

Robert McConnell: McConnell & Associates

Michael McFaul: Stanford University

Oleksiy Melnyk: Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Razumkov Centre

Marie Mendras: Sciences Po

Leigh Merrick: British DA Kyiv; director, NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine, 1995-2003

Wess Mitchell: President, CEPA

Alberto Mora: 2014 advanced leadership fellow, Harvard University

Julia Mostovaya: Editor in chief, Zerkalo Nedeli

Alex Motyl: Rutgers University-Newark

Josh Muravcik: Fellow at Johns Hopkins University SAIS

James Nixey: Head, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Craig Oliphant: Foreign Policy Centre

Lesya Orobets: Member of parliament of Ukraine; secretary to Foreign Affairs Committee

Inna Pidluska: Deputy executive director, International Renaissance Foundation

Arch Puddington: Vice president for research, Freedom House

Anatoly Rachok: Director general, Razumkov Centre

Roy Reeve: Former British ambassador to Ukraine

Georgii Satarov: President of INDEM

David Satter

Randy Scheunemann

Oleh Shamshur: Former Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.

James Sherr: Associate fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Andriy Shevchenko: MP; first deputy chairman, Human Rights Committee, Kiev

Lilia Shevtsova: Senior associate, Carnegie Moscow Center

Yuriy Shveda: Associate professor, Lviv Ivan Franko National University

Roland Smith: Former British ambassador to Ukraine

Maria Snegovaya: Columnist, Vedomosti

Oleksandr Sushko: Research director, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kiev

Strobe Talbott

William B. Taylor: Former ambassador to Ukraine; vice president, Middle East and Africa, United States Institute of Peace

Ed Verona: Senior advisor, McLarty Associates; former president, U.S.-Russia Business Council

Melanne Verveer: Former U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues

Kurt Volker: Executive director, McCain Institute

Christopher Walker: Executive director, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy

Leon Wieseltier

Morgan Williams: U.S.-Ukraine Business Council

Michael Weiss: Editor in chief, The Interpreter; fellow, Institute of Modern Russia

Sir Andrew Wood: Associate fellow, Chatham House; former British ambassador to Russia

Yuriy Yakymenko: Deputy director general - director of political and legal programs, Razumkov Centre, Kiev

Walter Zaryckyj: Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations   

Josef Zissels: Chairman, Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine; head, Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine

Note: Organizations, where listed, are for identification purposes only.