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Date and Location

November 8, 2023
4:15 PM - 5:45 PM ET
B-500 Bell Hall


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​Harvard Kennedy School Study Group led by Dr. Karen Donfried, Belfer Center Senior Fellow
Dr. Karen Donfried served as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from 2021-2023, a tenure marked by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  She also served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council in 2013 and 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and as National Intelligence Officer for Europe on the National Intelligence Council in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2011-2013.  Between these assignments in the Obama and Biden Administrations, she was president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, headquartered in DC with seven offices across Europe.

Dates:  Every Wednesday from October 11-November 15

Time:  4:15 – 5:45 p.m.


  • October 11: NYE C (Taubman building, 5th Floor)
  • October 18, October 25, November 1, November 8: BELL HALL (Belfer building, 5th Floor)
  • November 15: R-G-21 NEUSTADT, (Rubenstein building, ground floor)

Eligibility requirements: Harvard graduate and post-graduate students, who can attend all sessions.  We will seek to accommodate several undergraduates.  Applicants with a strong interest in foreign affairs are encouraged to apply.  No specific experience or first-hand knowledge of the issues is required.

  • Apply online through this link by 12pm on October 2, 2023. Late applications will not be considered.

Over the course of six sessions, a study group, led by Dr. Karen Donfried, will examine key foreign policy debates flowing from Russia’s war against Ukraine.  The objective is to provide a deeper understanding of the geopolitics of the war in Ukraine and the implications for U.S. interests. 

Assuming a study group of 30 students, two teams of three students per team will debate each of the five topics. Students will be asked to develop their key arguments and then the two teams for each topic will participate in a live debate, with the rest of the study group serving as the audience.  Each debate will be followed by an in-depth discussion of the relevant issues.  Students will be asked to represent and actively argue views that they may not espouse.  All participants need to share an understanding that the objective is not only to explore all elements of a particular issue around which there is legitimate debate, but also to model how to have a respectful exchange of informed, diverse views and how to disagree about policy matters in a civil and professional manner.

Some minimal reading – about 20 pages – will be required before each session for all participants.  Students responsible for a debate are expected to do their own research and preparation in addition to the assigned reading.  No debate experience is necessary. 


Session 5 | November 8, 2023
Fourth debate:  The Ukraine war is/is not a strategic failure for Russia.

  • Debate is likely to center on both security and economic aspects. On the security front, the decisions by Finland and Sweden to join NATO loom large. If Putin’s stated concern at the outset of the war was NATO encroaching on Russian borders, isn’t Finnish and Swedish membership a self-inflicted wound? Or does Turkey’s foot-dragging on Swedish accession showcase NATO’s division? How significantly have sanctions and export controls harmed Russia’s economy? Has Putin lost Europe as a market for Russian oil and gas permanently?

Speakers and Presenters


Additional Organizers

​Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship