Last week, reports of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s high-profile visit to the United Nations in New York and meetings with President Joe Biden and lawmakers from both parties in Washington centered on three questions: How long will this war last? How will it end? What are the social prospects in Ukraine?
Having just returned from a visit to Kiev sponsored by the Yalta European Strategy Forum of the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation, I have the answer – and it’s surprisingly optimistic. No, Ukraine will not become a miserable ruin trapped in a perpetual war dependent on global largesse. Instead, it will be a breadbasket for the world, a beacon of arts and culture, and a leader in technology. Yes, peace will most likely be restored by January 2025, when Vladimir Putin finds out that the United States will continue to firmly support freedom and democracy in Ukraine after the presidential election.
My conclusions are based on a lifetime of study of history, economics, business, diplomacy, psychology, leadership and management, as well as extensive economic research on the region. However, my best data comes from my first-hand conversations with President Zelensky, his leadership team, and the Ukrainian people he serves over the past 20 months, during which I have worked tirelessly to support Ukraine in defending its own struggle as a sovereign, peaceful nation. , democracies are buffering the world from their oppressive, imperialist, totalitarian neighbors.
Russian economic recession
With the help of my research team, we triggered a historic stampede in which 1,200 large multinational companies fled Russia in protest, crippling more than a third of the Russian economy. I helped push for government sanctions that would only succeed if there was a massive exodus from the private sector. The administration’s disappointing sanctions on Cuba, North Korea and Iran show that diplomats’ methods are not enough. In contrast, economic blockades in South Africa, Romania, East Germany, Poland, Chile, and Libya were far more effective, suggesting that a cross-sector approach taken by public policy leaders in conjunction with business was far more effective. We’re also uncovering the trade paths U.S. chipmakers are taking to circumvent sanctions, intentionally or unintentionally, in research with former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul of Stanford University and our friends at the resurgent Kyiv School of Economics, setting the stage for Russian and Iranian weapons are equipped with important technical components.
I also show how some naïve Western media, as well as the International Monetary Fund, fell victim to Putin’s propaganda of Russia’s carefully concealed economic performance indicators and exposed the reality of the country’s economic decline. I hosted President Zelensky for a series of live, hours-long public interactions with hundreds of U.S. leaders, including America’s most prominent CEO, Senator Richard Blumenthal and bipartisan lawmakers like Lindsey Graham, as well as Yale academics and students.
Although my mother was born in a small village on the outskirts of Kiev, this was my first visit there. To my delight, I found that Ukraine’s political leaders, soldiers returning from the front lines, and baristas in street cafes were very aware and appreciative of efforts like ours, not to mention the full support of democratic countries for Ukraine’s military and humanitarian Assisted. assistance. I don’t see any resentment or isolation. Instead, they are proud of each other and proud that the world is united with them.
Yes, Putin’s economy is faltering — but it’s precarious. Evan Gershkovich, the intrepid reporter for the Wall Street Journal, remains in jail on charges that he escaped the fantasies of some of the flattered fellow Western journalists who were feted in Moscow’s cafe society , and reported on the reality of store closings and factory closures in Russia. Not found in the Potemkin villages invented for Western media. Certain sectors of the Russian economy have declined by 60% to 90%. Before the war, two-thirds of Russia’s export revenue came from energy – even Putin admits that this has now been halved due to the success of the oil price cap. With no gas pipelines to Asia yet built, his bluff that he could turn to India and China to sell gas has been proven false. Europe, the former destination for natural gas, is now no longer dependent on Russia. Since more than 60% of Russia’s remaining economy is state-controlled, Putin overtaxes and cannibalizes the productive economy to replenish his coffers. He’s essentially throwing his living room furniture into the stove and letting the war continue to buy time — possibly in the unlikely event that Donald Trump returns to power in 2025.
Willingness to survive and thrive
In stark contrast to Russia’s decline, Ukrainians today possess an extraordinary asset: creativity and ingenuity. In each of our three events that spanned the globe, uniting leaders with President Zelensky in offices, hotels, schools, libraries and bomb shelters, Ukrainian engineers fixed vexing technical glitches remotely from bomb shelters , averting the event from crashing even if my own team couldn’t.
When my friend Tymofiy Mylovanov, the dean of the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), arranged for me to visit his institution, with which we had been working closely as research partners for more than a year, I was Hundreds of students were shocked. The young Ukrainian students I met were full of creative, original ideas about how each of them could play a role in Ukraine’s victory and rejuvenation. In the past year, the school’s enrollment has grown an astounding 3.5 times. A student named Anastasia showed me her research on Western companies exiting Russia. Another student, Serafim, told me how he traveled alone from his village in eastern Ukraine to Kiev in an effort to break the harmful spell of Russian disinformation and propaganda. The entrepreneurial energy and scrappy attitude of these students, rooted in their patriotic values and moral beliefs, made it clear to me that these rising young leaders were ushering in a new, modern, Westernized Ukraine .
Ukrainians refused to accept the nihilistic despair of post-World War II Europe and united in the face of adversity.As existential novelist Albert Camus reflected in his book stranger, “It takes more courage for a person to live than to commit suicide.” I witnessed the courage of Kiev’s baristas and hundreds of optimistic and eager students at KSE, and even witnessed the tears of combat soldiers who were traumatized by the war. A weeping soldier, Alina Mykhailova, explains that her close friends were killed by the Russians, including her beloved commander Dante.
“I can’t stop crying now when asked why I fight. Recently I lost my beloved Dante on the front line. Before he was killed I asked him why he was still fighting. He said if I stop fighting , Russia will come to Kiev.” Masi Nayyem, another soldier who had his eye shot out by the Russians, explained that he was impressed by the efforts of bustling cities such as Kiev and Lviv to maintain normal life. Effort is not resentful because it represents hope for the future—belief that their goals are achievable. Likewise, junior sergeant Yehor Firsov told me, “Honestly, I was happy when I came to Kiev. I was happy to see peace here instead of a hole in the ground. That’s it. The reason we fight on the front lines. We know that if we fight on the front lines, we are ensuring peace here. Our fight will not be in vain.” This is the strength of a peaceful nation that wants to stay free.
Sofia Yushchenko, the daughter of heroic former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, took me on a tour of Kiev’s crowded Holodomor Museum. Her father survived an assassination attempt by Putin and later supported the creation of the monument to commemorate the millions of Ukrainians murdered by Stalin through forced starvation in the 1930s. Ukrainians have not forgotten.
I also saw how the spirit of Ukrainian resistance to Russia was mirrored in neighboring Poland, despite recent spats between the two governments. In some areas of Poland, up to 20% of the population are recent refugees from Ukraine. Rather than resenting cross-border migration, a crowded job market, and the inclusion of millions of dependents in the social safety net, Poles remember how their top business leaders, government officials, and intellectuals fought in the Katyn Forest in 1942 Murdered in the Holocaust.
Indeed, Poland provides a powerful blueprint for how former Soviet states can staunchly resist Russian influence and integrate with the West. Warsaw, one of the most vibrant cities in the world today, was reduced to ruins after the Nazis systematically sabotaged the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. After the war, 84% of the buildings were destroyed and only piles of bricks were found. But as one exhibition at the Warsaw Museum put it, “Rubble is to Warsaw what Carrara marble is to Rome or Portland stone is to London.” The exhibition was visited by architects and city planners who were rebuilding the city after the Russian invasion. While damaging Ukrainian cities, look to Warsaw’s experience for inspiration. Not only was Warsaw rebuilt, it was one of the most populous cities in Europe and had one of the most skyscrapers on the continent.
Today, Poland is demonstrating its independence and dynamism as one of the first Central European countries to completely break away from its energy dependence on Russia. “One of the most important ways to help Ukraine is to cut off economic ties with Russia and stop buying Russian gas. This is what we are doing in Poland, we are not buying pipeline gas from Russia at all now,” said Marcin Chludzinski, CEO of Poland’s GAZ System. Tell me weeks ago. Earlier, Warsaw Mayor Rafael Trzaskovski said when explaining the city’s warm welcome to 300,000 Ukrainian refugees: “We are doing everything we can to help Ukraine. Civil society is stepping up action.” Bell Peace Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa underlined the motivation to thwart Putin’s imperialist mission, saying: “Russia wants to conquer more than just Ukraine.”
Provided by Steven Tian
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired civil rights advocates with his visionary words, “I see the future,” and described how his desire for racial harmony was achievable. Interdisciplinary societies from Kurt Lewin and Herbert Kelman to Roger Fisher and Viktor Frankl Scientists reveal the social and psychological basis of these visions. Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived a Holocaust concentration camp, said those who survived needed to believe there was a reason to continue. They needed to imagine life beyond the barbed wire after Hitler was defeated.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last freedom a person has is to choose one’s attitude in any given situation. Happiness cannot be pursued; it It must follow. Life never becomes unbearable because of circumstances, but only because of a lack of meaning and purpose.”
There is a sense of purpose in Ukraine, and its instinctive and widespread rejection of what some misguided Western observers see as a dirty deal echoes Neville Chamberlain’s failed appeasement of Hitler in 1938. Chamberlain disastrously believed that abandoning the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia would thwart Hitler’s expansionist agenda when he occupied the Rhineland and Austria. The defeatist mentality of surrendering to Putin simply does not exist in the Ukrainian national psyche. The people of Ukraine have chosen to survive and thrive—and they will too.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is the Lester Crown Professor of the Practice of Management at the Yale School of Management. He was named “Management Professor of the Year” by Poets & Quants magazine.
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