This event has passed

Date and Location

November 15, 2023
4:15 PM - 5:45 PM ET
R-g-21 Neustadt Classroom


HKS events calendar icon

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 6 | November 15, 2023
Fifth debate: The Biden Administration should/should not pressure the Ukrainians to go to the negotiating table and resolve the dispute with Russia diplomatically.

  • Focus of the debate is likely to be on Putin’s interest in diplomatic negotiations to end the war: Is he ready to compromise or is he only interested in Ukrainian concessions? The other key issue is the implications for U.S. leadership of appearing to sell out the Ukrainians. How our European partners view this issue is an important factor here too, as is the perspective in other parts of the world, from Africa to Latin America.  
  • The ensuing discussion will focus on what is most likely to happen next and how the war will end.  The implications for European security, transatlantic relations, and global order will also feature prominently.  Dr. Donfried will conclude the study group by summing up the learnings of the six sessions and the key takeaways.

Speakers and Presenters

​Dr. Karen Donfried, Belfer Center Senior Fellow and former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs


Additional Organizers

​Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship