Ukraine is existential to Russia, but peripheral to American interests. The “escalation dominance” advantage is with Moscow, and no amount of military aid or economic coercion, short of an actual war, will deter Moscow, given the asymmetry of interests and differing threat perceptions. American public opinion remains firmly opposed to risking a potential great power war. That said, a Ukraine—if it exists as a state after the war—at peace with its neighbours is in everyone’s interest, as is a decreased risk of a great power conflict. This policy brief identifies some confidence-building measures that might, in a similar situation in the future, result in a more realist grand bargain. A potential war might be a short punitive campaign by Russia, in which case the central thesis of this policy brief, a neutral zone in Ukraine, will remain intact. It might also be a war of occupation and conquest, in which case this paper might be considered a study in a counterfactual history of what could have been.
Published in International Journal.