Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ukraine: The Solution is at hand

Foreign Minister Lavrov - the man with the answer
Within a week or so the outlines of a solution to the Ukraine predicament will become clear to all. As I expected (and hoped), wiser heads have come up with a workable formula.

The Russians are leading the way, with Obama ready to follow.

At tomorrow’s meeting between Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the Russians will table the solution:

“We are bringing our approaches closer together,” Mr. Lavrov said. “My last meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in The Hague and my contacts with Germany, France and some other countries show that a possible joint initiative that could be offered to our Ukrainian partners is taking shape.”

The Russian solution emphasizes a federation — allowing for greater autonomy for eastern Ukraine, with its heavy concentration of ethnic Russians. Moscow’s emphasis on a federation is seen partly as an attempt to ensure that Ukraine does not coalesce into a strong pro-European, anti-Russian country right next door.

Mr. Lavrov rejected as “absolutely unacceptable” the formula devised by Western officials, whereby Russia and Ukraine would negotiate directly with each other under Western auspices. Mr. Lavrov said. The Russians reject the current leadership in Kiev as illegitimate.

The key to the federation concept tabled by Russia is the ability of individual regions of the hightly-dentralized federal state of Ukraine to manage their own affairs, including – and this is the game changer for Russia and the West – that ability to forge links with other countries:

Lavrov called for "deep constitutional reform" in Ukraine, a sprawling country of 46 million people divided between those who see their future in closer ties with Europe and mainly Russian speakers in the east who look to former Soviet master Russia.

"Frankly speaking, we don't see any other way for the steady development of the Ukrainian state apart from as a federation," Lavrov said.

Each region would have jurisdiction over its economy, finances, culture, language, education and "external economic and cultural connections with neighbouring countries or regions," he said. "Given the proportion of native Russians (in Ukraine) we propose this and we are sure there is no other way."

These links can be economic ones (which would allow the Western Ukraine states within the new federation to join the EU singly or as a group, if the EU allows this), but not defence ones (which rules out the Ukraine joining NATO).

Crimea will remain a part of Russia and will not join the new Ukraine federation.

Oh, and the EU (and perhaps USA) will withdraw most of their sanctions imposed on Russia, certain Russians and some Russian entities.

Chances of Success of the Russian Proposal

The chances are virtually 100% that the EU will go along with the proposal, and the US will follow suit (while reserving the right to refuse to recognize Crimea becoming part of Russia).

The EU and USA will then exert influence (mostly financial, through loans being withheld) with conditions attached that Ukraine negotiate such a new confederation.

Future developments

If the US and EU negotiate properly with the western states in the new Ukraine federation, they could impose constitutional and political reforms in addition to far-reaching economic reforms. The purpose would be to drag these feudal fiefdoms  out of the Middle Ages, break the power of the oligarchs to run the places like their own possessions, allow Ukrapnains to vote for powerful governments that take their interests into consideration.

The eastern parts of the Ukraine will follow the Russian model.

And in 10 to 15 years time, citizens of Russia will look at the substantial improvement in living and democratic standards in the western Ukrainian states as compared to the relatively stagnant eastern ones, and start demanding similar reforms in Russia.

Democracy is still on the march.

Welcome to the Eastern Europe Arab Spring!

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