Prominent foreign policy expert Kori Schake returns to Sonoma to talk Ukraine
She’s one of the world’s preeminent foreign policy experts, having served in leadership positions on the staffs of Gen. Colin Powell and Sen. John McCain as well as for some of the nation’s top policy organizations, but back in the 1970s she was a self-described “dreamy, impractical kid” at Sonoma Valley High School after attending Altimira Middle School and El Verano Elementary School.
And quite literally, she’s coming soon to a theater near you.
She’s Kori Schake, and she’s returning to her roots to share her expertise during a presentation at Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma on the topic, “Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine” on Monday, May 9. Schake will be conversing with Andy Gibson, chair of the history department at SVHS and an alumnus of the school. The event will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the discussion at 7 p.m.
The presentation is part of Barn Talks, a series of events presented by the Barn Talks team, Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and SVHS that began in 2017 featuring alumni who have made notable accomplishments in their fields.
Angela Ryan, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, is particularly excited about featuring Schake to kick off the renewed series.
“We’re thrilled and honored Kori has been added Barn Talks to her West Coast trip schedule,” Ryan said. “The convergence of the mask mandate being lifted from schools, Kori’s visit to the West Coast, and her unique expertise on the Ukraine conflict and world events make her an ideal speaker at this time.”
Schake also gave a Barn Talk in 2017, when she discussed national security challenges facing the United States. This year, she will concentrate on what Russia is attempting in Ukraine, why it’s not succeeding, why it’s important that it fails and how security in Europe should be shored up going forward. These issues are direct areas of emphasis in her work.
“I’m focusing on Ukraine to help people understand what’s at stake and I’m advocating for policies that result in Russia’s failure to subjugate Ukraine,” she said.
Schake is confident that Russia will ultimately fail in its efforts.
“The Russians will lose,” she said. “The most worrying question for me is how much damage Russia will inflict as they lose. It seems to me possible Russia will escalate—that is, use chemical or nuclear weapons and wreak even more destruction on civilians—before they capitulate. Sweden and Finland will become NATO members because Russia has just proven there’s no security outside the protection of the alliance. Ukraine will be a NATO member in a few years, too, because they fought so bravely for their freedom.”
Schake has been working on European security issues for her entire professional life.
“It’s what I studied in graduate school and worked on intermittently ever since,” she said. “I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the Berlin crises in the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, was responsible for Europe in Gen. Powell’s staff, taught it [European security issues] at Johns Hopkins and worked on it again in the State Department and in the White House. I think a lot about what it takes to create peace, and how important American ideals and leadership are to secure it.”
Highlights of a distinguished career
Schake currently serves as a senior fellow and director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., specializing in NATO and national security.
“I now have the privilege of leading a team of 54 scholars of foreign and defense policy at an institution committed to principled conservatism,” she said. “Right now, we’re doing really important work on the chasm between U.S. defense strategy and spending, on the war in Ukraine—if you see a map of the war in the newspaper, it’s likely my team helped make it—and on China. Our assessment is that China’s rise has stalled, and we need to be preparing for the problems of a failing China rather than a successful China.”
Schake also spends about half her time doing her own work. She’s a contributing writer for The Atlantic and at the War on the Rocks smart defense website and is on the advisory boards to the Secretary of Defense and the commander of the U.S. Nuclear Forces.
“I also wrote a chapter in a forthcoming book, ‘Makers of Modern Strategy,’ about [Chief] Tecumseh and the Shawnee Confederacy, because they had an incredibly legant and effective strategy for trying to prevent settlers from moving into their land,” she said. “And I’m gearing up to write a long historical piece on whether there’s such a thing an accidental war.”