BOISTO AGENDA - discussion




a response

1. A 24-Step Plan to Resolve the Ukraine Crisis

Meeting in Finland, a group of Americans and Russians develops an agenda for peace.

Vladimir Putin may be meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko for peace talks in Belarus on Tuesday, but the conflict between the two countries, and more broadly between Russia and the West, is in fact escalating, with Russia most recently sending aid convoys and apparent military equipment and armored vehicles into Ukrainian territory. Since April, fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels has killed more than 2,000 people and displaced around 360,000 more. Kiev accuses Moscow of directly and indirectly violating its sovereignty and waging war against it; Moscow accuses Kiev of violently repressing Russian-speakers and creating a humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. 

In an effort to break the impasse, a group of American and Russian experts and former officials—including an ex-director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and a top Russia advisor to George W. Bush—recently met on an island in Finland. Working privately, in an approach known as “Track II diplomacy,” they developed a plan for a possible high-level diplomatic discussion on resolving the crisis in Ukraine. In a climate of intensifying hostilities, their ideas—among others, establishing a UN-authorized peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, granting amnesty to combatants who have not committed war crimes, and respecting Ukrainian legislation on the country's "non-aligned" status—chart a path to peace.

The Ukraine crisis remains in a highly dangerous phase. Escalating violence on the ground in Ukraine and fears of a descent into a more intense confrontation between Ukraine and Russia have focused the world’s attention.

Despite these tensions, there is reason to believe that all the major parties to the dispute are open to a non-military solution if satisfactory terms can be devised. However, finding those terms has not been easy. A bitter information war obscures ground truth, deepening the gulf between Russia on the one hand and the United States and Europe on the other. Voices on each side exaggerate the objectives of the other. Meanwhile, the challenges of reconciliation and building a stable, prosperous Ukraine mount the longer the violence continues. People in eastern Ukraine, whatever their political allegiances, suffer, most the innocent victims of disputes and policies in which they have little voice.

The Ukraine crisis will ultimately end with a diplomatic solution. The only question is how much devastation will occur, and how many future grievances will be born and nurtured, before diplomacy will be able to resolve the crisis. As always, a diplomatic solution will require all sides to make concessions and to focus on their essential needs, not on ideal outcomes or unconditional victory.

We are not privy to the confidential discussions between our governments. It would help whatever diplomacy may be underway if the public debate in both Russia and the West were focused not so much on fixing blame and stoking passions as finding ways to reduce the risk of further escalation and end the crisis. In that spirit, a group of high-ranking Russian and American experts with strong experience in executive and legislative branches of power and analysis of international relations—with the generous support of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO)—recently met outside Helsinki on an island retreat called Boisto to consider the Ukraine crisis and a way forward. What follows is the fruit of that session: a set of issues for a high-level U.S.-Russian dialogue, which should be part of a larger discussion that must include Ukrainian as well as European representatives. The issues could become a framework for resolving the crisis. We think it especially notable that the group focused part of its efforts on the terms for an enduring and verifiable ceasefire with significant international participation. Obviously, much tough diplomacy would be required to reach agreement on all the issues. But it is time to reinforce the diplomatic effort, starting with a ceasefire, as outlined here.

* * *


Elements of an Enduring, Verifiable Ceasefire

  1. Ceasefire and ceasefire-monitoring by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
  2. Formation and deployment of a UN-authorized peacekeeping mission under Chapter 7 of the UN charter
  3. Withdrawal of regular Russian and Ukrainian army units to an agreed distance from conflict zones
  4. Removal of Ukrainian National Guard units from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions
  5. Establishment of effective border control and halt of illegal trans-border transit of military equipment and personnel
  6. Agreed limits on significant armed-forces concentration in the vicinity of the Russian-Ukrainian border
  7. Confidence-building measures under OSCE auspices
  8. Verified demilitarization of illegal armed groups on both sides under OSCE auspices
  9. Formation of new Ukrainian law-enforcement forces in the conflict zone

Humanitarian and Legal Issues

  1. Return of and humanitarian assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)
  2. Compensation for property losses and reconstruction of housing and commercial property
  3. Credible investigation of crimes committed during the crisis
  4. Amnesty for combatants not involved in war crimes during the hostilities

Economic Relations

  1. Preservation of Russian-Ukrainian economic relations, including defense-industry cooperation in view of the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and other arrangements
  2. Enhancement of energy-related infrastructure and transportation networks
  3. International measures against illegal siphoning of gas transit
  4. Mutual guarantees for current status of labor migrants

Social and Cultural Issues

  1. Protection of the status of the Russian language and of traditional cultural ties between Russia and Ukraine
  2. Free access to mass media and television, including Russian mass media and television


  1. Discussion of the settlement of legal issues pertaining to the status of Crimea
  2. Guarantee of uninterrupted water and energy supplies
  3. Protection of the rights of ethnic minorities
  4. Discussion of access by Ukrainian companies to development of offshore oil and gas reserves

International Status of Ukraine

  1. Mutual respect for the non-bloc status of Ukraine as stipulated by Ukrainian legislation

* * *


American Participants

  1. Thomas Graham–Co-chair of the Boisto Group; managing director of Kissinger Associates; former special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia on the National Security Council staff (2004–2007)
  2. Andrew Weiss— Co-chair of the Boisto Group; vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; former director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs on the National Security Council staff (1998–2001)
  3. Deana Arsenian—Vice president of the International Program and director of the Russia Program at the Carnegie Corporation of New York
  4. Rajan Menon—Anne and Bernard Spitzer professor of political science in the Colin Powell School at the City College of New York/City University of New York
  5. Robert Nurick—Senior fellow at the Atlantic Council
  6. Jack Snyder—Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations in the Political Science Department at Columbia University

Russian Participants

  1. Alexander Dynkin—Co-chair of the Boisto Group; director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO); advisor to the prime minister of Russia (1998–1999)
  2. Aleksey Arbatov—Head of the Center for International Security at IMEMO; deputy chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation (1995–2003)
  3. Vyacheslav Trubnikov—Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary; member of the IMEMO board of directors; director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (1996 – 2000); first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Russia (2000–2004); four-star general, awarded with Hero of the Russian Federation medal
  4. Victor Kremenyuk—Deputy director of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies
  5. Artem Malgin—Vice rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University)
  6. Feodor Voitolovsky—Deputy director of IMEMO
  7. Andrey Ryabov—Editor in chief of the World Economy and International Relations monthly journal

2. 'A Ukraine Peace Plan That Excludes Ukrainians Is Unacceptable'
A response to the Boistö Group's 24-step agenda for resolving the crisis

Last week, The Atlantic published a 24-point plan for ending the conflict between Russia and Ukraine—the product of a meeting between Russian and American experts and former officials on the Finnish island of Boistö. Now, a group of American and European experts and former officials, coordinated by David Kramer of Freedom House, has written a response, rejecting the Boistö agenda and urging Russia to end its aggression against Ukraine.

The letter—which comes as Ukrainian and Russian officials are holding talks in Belarus with Ukrainian separatists and international mediators, amid escalating hostilities in the region—argues that the exclusion of Ukrainians from the summit in Finland "disqualifies this initiative from any serious consideration." The days when Russia and the U.S. could decide "the fate of other independent countries" are over, the authors write.

We the undersigned firmly reject the “24-step plan to resolve the Ukraine crisis” published on August 26 by The Atlantic in the United States and Kommersant in Russia. This ill-conceived plan emerged from a Track II initiative involving Russian and American participants who met recently on the Finnish island of Boistö, and was supported by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) in Moscow.

We reject the decision to exclude Ukrainians from this initiative. Such a decision reinforces the worst instincts that prevail in Russia—and possibly even among some Americans—that Ukraine is not a truly independent country and that Russia can, with U.S. endorsement, determine its fate. That nobody from Ukraine was invited to participate disqualifies this initiative from any serious consideration. 

Beyond that most fundamental problem and without addressing every objectionable “step,” four additional points are worth raising.

First, the initiative treats the Russian and Ukrainian sides as equals and fails to recognize Russia as the aggressor, having invaded Ukraine. This equivalence is particularly glaring in the plan’s call for the “withdrawal of regular Russian and Ukrainian army units to an agreed distance from conflict zones.” Ukraine has neither attacked Russia nor sought to limit its sovereignty. Ukrainian authorities have every right, indeed responsibility, to confront hostile, foreign forces on their territory. Russia must remove all of its forces from Ukraine and stop attacking and invading its neighbor.

Second, the initiative raises a number of “humanitarian and legal issues” as well as “social and cultural issues” that are the business of Ukrainians first and foremost, not Russians or Americans. Again, the exclusion of Ukrainians from this process is unacceptable.

Third, the signers of this initiative seem to have accepted the absorption of Crimea into Russia, despite the fact that Moscow has broken international law, contravened border treaties, and taken the peninsula by force. We find unacceptable recommendations that in practice would create another frozen conflict in Europe, with all that this implies for the internal and external security of Russia’s neighbors. We similarly reject the initiative’s call for “discussion of the settlement of legal issues pertaining to the status of Crimea,” for this is not merely the height of injustice but a dangerous precedent.

Fourth, the initiative calls for permanent guarantees of Ukraine’s “non-bloc status.” Such constraints on Ukraine’s security relationships—including those established under NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the 1997 NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership—are a serious infringement of national sovereignty. They would also give the impression of rewarding the Putin regime for its outrageous actions, and this, too, is wholly unacceptable.

There are many more problems with this initiative, but we have restricted ourselves to the most blatant ones. The bottom line is that Russia must end its invasion of and aggression toward Ukraine, withdraw its forces and fighters, rescind its annexation of Crimea, and end its use of energy and economic measures to punish Ukraine and its other neighbors. Russia will never become the civilized state its citizens deserve without such a transformation.

Until Russia does so, the West must ratchet up serious sanctions against the Putin regime and immediately provide Ukraine with the full support, including military equipment and intelligence cooperation, it needs and has requested to defend itself.

Ukraine is not simply a problem in the West’s relations with Russia. It is a country in its own right that is entitled to the prerogatives afforded to all sovereign states under the UN Charter and the 1990 Charter of Paris. Its borders and territorial integrity were solemnly recognized by the Russian Federation in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the 1997 Russia-Ukraine State Treaty. These are the pillars of security in Europe, and there will be serious consequences for other European states if they are disregarded or traduced. 

We should consign to the dustbin of history the days of “condominium” between Russia and the U.S. in deciding the fate of other independent countries.

* * *

Hannes Adomeit: College of Europe 

Anders Aslund: Senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Iryna Bekeshkina: Director, Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiative Foundation; senior research fellow, the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences

Stephen Blank: Senior fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

Falk Bomsdorf: Director, Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, Moscow office, 1993-2009

Ellen Bork: Senior fellow, Foreign Policy Initiative

Anna Borshchevskaya: European Foundation for Democracy

Robert Brinkley: Former U.K. Ambassador to Ukraine

Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskyy: Chancellor, the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Matthew Bryza: Former ambassador; director, International Centre for Defence Studies, Tallinn, Estonia

Ian Brzezinski: Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy

Yevhen Bystrytsky

George Chopivsky, Jr.: President, Chopivsky Family Foundation

Susan Corke: Eurasia program director, Freedom House

Lorne Craner: Former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor

Charles Davidson: Publisher, The American Interest

Jim Denton: World Affairs Journal

Nadia Diuk: Vice president, National Endowment for Democracy

Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky

Wolfgang Eichwede: Vice president, German Society for East European Studies

Marta Farion: President, Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America

Ambassador Julie Finley: Former U.S. permanent representative to the OSCE

Oleksandr Fisun: Professor of political science, Kharkiv National University

Joerg Forbrig

Alison Fortier

Jeff Gedmin: Georgetown University

Carl Gershman: President, National Endowment for Democracy

Paul Goble

Alyona Getmanchuk: Director, Institute of World Policy, Kiev

James Greene: Former head of NATO Liaison Office, Ukraine

Janet Gunn: Former research analyst, U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Michael Haltzel: Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University SAIS

Olexiy Haran: Professor of comparative politics, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine

John Herbst: Former ambassador; director of the Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

William Hill: Public policy fellow, Kennan Institute; former OSCE head of mission in Moldova

Jeffrey Hirshberg

Volodymyr Horbach: Political analyst, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kiev

Yaroslav Hrytsak: Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Andrei Illarianov

Don Jensen: Senior fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University SAIS

Adrian Karatnycky: Senior fellow and co-director, Ukraine in Europe Program, Atlantic Council

Richard Kauzlarich: Former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Jamie Kirchick: Fellow, Foreign Policy Initiative

Evgeni Kiselev: Journalist

Igor Klyamkin: Vice president, Liberal Mission Foundation

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze: Executive director, Yalta European Strategy; board member, Ukraine Crisis Media Center

Jim Kolbe: Senior transatlantic fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States

A.F. Kolodii: Professor, dr., chair of political science and philosophy, Lviv Regional Institute of Public Administration; National Academy of Public Administration under the president of Ukraine

David J. Kramer: President, Freedom House

Robert McConnell: McConnell & Associates

Michael McFaul: Stanford University

Oleksiy Melnyk: Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Razumkov Centre

Marie Mendras: Sciences Po

Leigh Merrick: British DA Kyiv; director, NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine, 1995-2003

Wess Mitchell: President, CEPA

Alberto Mora: 2014 advanced leadership fellow, Harvard University

Julia Mostovaya: Editor in chief, Zerkalo Nedeli

Alex Motyl: Rutgers University-Newark

Josh Muravcik: Fellow at Johns Hopkins University SAIS

James Nixey: Head, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Craig Oliphant: Foreign Policy Centre

Lesya Orobets: Member of parliament of Ukraine; secretary to Foreign Affairs Committee

Inna Pidluska: Deputy executive director, International Renaissance Foundation

Arch Puddington: Vice president for research, Freedom House

Anatoly Rachok: Director general, Razumkov Centre

Roy Reeve: Former British ambassador to Ukraine

Georgii Satarov: President of INDEM

David Satter

Randy Scheunemann

Oleh Shamshur: Former Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.

James Sherr: Associate fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Andriy Shevchenko: MP; first deputy chairman, Human Rights Committee, Kiev

Lilia Shevtsova: Senior associate, Carnegie Moscow Center

Yuriy Shveda: Associate professor, Lviv Ivan Franko National University

Roland Smith: Former British ambassador to Ukraine

Maria Snegovaya: Columnist, Vedomosti

Oleksandr Sushko: Research director, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kiev

Strobe Talbott

William B. Taylor: Former ambassador to Ukraine; vice president, Middle East and Africa, United States Institute of Peace

Ed Verona: Senior advisor, McLarty Associates; former president, U.S.-Russia Business Council

Melanne Verveer: Former U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues

Kurt Volker: Executive director, McCain Institute

Christopher Walker: Executive director, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy

Leon Wieseltier

Morgan Williams: U.S.-Ukraine Business Council

Michael Weiss: Editor in chief, The Interpreter; fellow, Institute of Modern Russia

Sir Andrew Wood: Associate fellow, Chatham House; former British ambassador to Russia

Yuriy Yakymenko: Deputy director general - director of political and legal programs, Razumkov Centre, Kiev

Walter Zaryckyj: Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations   

Josef Zissels: Chairman, Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine; head, Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine


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