Ukraine in Context

Letter from the Editor


Thinking about how to frame this edition’s focus on Ukraine, I kept coming back to Maria Primachenko (1909-1997), the folk-art painter whose works illustrate those articles. Admired around the world, she inspired such artists as Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso, who said of her in 1937: “I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian.”

Beloved symbols of Ukraine’s cultural heritage and identity, Primachenko’s work is under attack. In February, with Russia’s invasion, the museum holding some 25 paintings in her hometown—the tiny Ivankin—was set ablaze. A local man is said to have braved the burning building to save many of them.

Her fantastical creatures—like the one in “May That Nuclear War Be Cursed!” or like the peace dove that is now an anti-war emblem—are vivid, whimsical, and full of hope. They reflect an insistence on life, a stirring resilience that has been much in evidence since Ukraine and its people were plunged into the crucible of war.

As the conflict entered its sixth month, we asked four experienced diplomats for their perspectives on this international crisis. Bill Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2006-2009) and later chargé (2019), answers our questions in “Understanding Ukraine,” offering his view on why U.S. political, military, and financial support for Ukraine is critical.

Ken Moskowitz, a retired FSO with years of experience in Ukraine and the region, looks back at NATO’s 50th anniversary conference in Kyiv and asks: “Did NATO Expansion Really Cause Putin’s Invasion?

Rose Gottemoeller, a lead U.S. negotiator for the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that led to Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for assurances it would be secure from attack, asks: “Should Ukraine Have Kept Nuclear Weapons?” Michael Lally, who has served as senior commercial officer in Moscow and Kyiv, looks to the future in “Ukraine Reconstruction: Priorities, Institutions, and the Private Sector.”

In President’s Views, Ambassador Eric Rubin urges “More Diplomacy, Now.” And in Speaking Out, Ambassador (ret.) Niels Marquardt calls for U.S. government attention to those harmed by WikiLeaks, particularly Marafa Hamidou Yaya, a political prisoner in Cameroon.

In the Appreciation, former AFSA president Susan Johnson fondly remembers Ann Delavan Harrop, who led a truly inspiring Foreign Service life.

This month, we introduce a new FSJ department, Straight from the Source—a space for officials to tell the community what the foreign affairs agencies are doing, what new policies are being put in place, and why. These articles can serve as a starting point for further discussion. Agree or disagree with such and such policy, it’s important to know what it is.

Changes in how the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is used in the hiring process have produced much handwringing of late, and AFSA was not consulted on the moves. So, we went straight to the source to bring you: “FSO Selection: Changing the Path to the Oral Assessment” by BEX Senior Adviser Deidi Delahanty.

A second article in this new department describes the first major changes to diplomatic language testing in 50 years: “Language Testing Reforms: What You Need to Know” by Director of the Foreign Service Institute’s Language Testing Unit David Sawyer.

And speaking of introductions, I call your attention to our “FSJ Insider” weekly email bulletin featuring current FSJ content along with other items of FS interest. A relatively new offering, the “Insider” has more than 1,200 subscribers and is growing weekly. It’s free for AFSA members and nonmembers alike, so tell your friends and help us get Foreign Service content out to a wider audience. Sign up on our homepage,

As always, we want to hear from you. Write to

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.