Ukrainians Always Come Back

Marie Yovanovitch, a distinguished career American diplomat, reflects on the distinct cultural differences between Russia and Ukraine and how Ukrainians have pursued a path to democracy and freedom while the Russians have not.

Marie Yovanovitch had a distinguished career as an American diplomat, serving as an ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and, most recently, Ukraine from 2016-2019. She also held key State Department positions, where she worked on issues affecting Europe and Eurasia. The retired diplomat now is a Non-Resident Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of the Study of Diplomacy and a Senior Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A child of parents who fled the Soviet Union to Canada to escape the Soviets and Nazis, she became an American citizen as a teenager and later graduated from Princeton University. She recently authored Lessons from the Edge: A Memoir.


Yovanovitch speaks in depth about Ukraine and Russia in this conversation with David Kramer, the Bradford M. Freeman Managing Director of Global Policy at the George W. Bush Institute; Christopher Walsh, Deputy Director of Freedom and Democracy at the Bush Institute; and William McKenzie, Senior Editorial Advisor at the Bush Institute. As she notes, the historical differences between the two nations led to distinct cultures, allowing Ukrainians to pursue democracy and freedom while the Russians have not. She also observes how absolutely critical a vibrant civil society and independent media are to a nation’s freedom from authoritarianism. In her eyes, the Ukrainians are standing strong against Vladimir Putin’s invading troops because Ukraine has the underpinnings for a democratic society. “Ukrainians always come back,” she concludes with conviction.