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What is a Progressive Strategy for Ukraine?
My Thoughts in Boston Review
Author’s note: My apologies for the extended hiatus from this Substack. I was busy with teaching and other writing responsibilities this semester, but I will be dedicating more time to this newsletter in the coming weeks. Expect regular posts from me over the next several months. Hang in there, and thanks for being a subscriber.
I published a new essay yesterday in Boston Review titled “Progressives and a New Global Order.” You can read it here. My essay was part of a forum, a collection of responses to an essay from Rajan Menon, “How to End the War in Ukraine.” I think Menon’s piece is excellent, if flawed. I took issue with his description of progressives’ foreign policy views, and I used that critique as an opportunity to elucidate what I think a progressive strategy for Ukraine’s reconstruction would be (or should entail). Nine other scholars responded to Menon—including some friends or colleagues in the restraint/demilitarize camp: Miriam Pemberton, Andy Bacevich, and Neta Crawford—and the entire forum is worth reading. As I said in my piece, I think the forum is an “an antidote to the reductive, circular commentary that has dominated the media landscape for over a year.”
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My piece is short, but I argued that the reconstruction of Ukraine must be a global project that incorporates the interests and needs of nations in the Global South— labelled “fence sitters” for their unwillingness to support either Ukraine or Russia. Here’s what I think is the main takeaway from my piece:
While much of the Global South has withheld support for Ukraine, the effects of the war have rippled across its nations. Just look at the African continent. As two of Ukraine’s major wheat importers, Egypt and Nigeria have seen soaring inflation and food insecurity since March 2022; countries such as Benin and Somalia import all their wheat from Ukraine and have experienced similar economic fates. High fuel and food costs associated with the war have fomented a sovereign debt crisis in the Global South that was years in the making.
A progressive strategy for postwar Ukraine would address these concerns. It would encourage the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union to redress the bifurcation between the interests of the Global North and South. U.S. and European leaders would avoid the temptation to punish the Asian, Latin American, and African “fence-sitters” for their prevarication on Ukraine during the war, and work alongside BRICS nations with democratically elected governments: Brazil, India, and South Africa. Given that Ukraine’s reconstruction will most likely be led by the EU, its leaders would accept the axiom that “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems,” as Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said last year. Finally, a progressive strategy would acknowledge that China is Ukraine’s largest trading partner and pursue agreements with China on climate change and economic trade related to Ukraine, while acknowledging that China is a pervasive abuser of human rights and squashes democratic movements.
I was pleased to be invited to participate, and I hope that Menon provokes a serious conversation about Ukraine’s future. As I said in an earlier Substack post, I think Ukraine’s reconstruction cannot be achieved in a context of “great-power competition” but within a framework of global cooperation. It is hard to envision what specific form that would take, or what applicable historical precedents should determine policy at the moment. But now is the time to offer a vision, a strategy.
Here’s to continuing the conversation…