A Solution For Ukraine

From the opinion pages of The New York Times comes a wonderful piece by Samuel Charap on Ukraine:

But Western pronouncements, particularly America’s, have misleadingly portrayed the violence as merely an unfortunate backdrop to otherwise successful elections, not as a symptom of an emerging rupture in the Ukrainian polity that could have profound consequences.

While noting the difficulties of voting in Donetsk and neighboring Lugansk, and praising the “courage and determination” of those who worked the polling stations there, a statement from Secretary of State John Kerry on the election did not even condemn the bloodshed, even though the death count in fierce battles between the Ukrainian military, backed by the newly formed (and poorly trained) National Guard, and armed insurgents had already reached triple digits.

Any government has the right to assert its writ on its own sovereign territory. But this “anti-terrorist operation” is being conducted in regions where the population was already overwhelmingly opposed to the government in Kiev. A mid-April poll found that over 70 percent of the population in both Donetsk and Lugansk consider that government “illegal.” A separate survey indicated that 80 percent believe it does not represent all of Ukraine.


The Ukrainian government and its Western partners need to focus on three priorities that would do far more to stabilize and unite Ukraine than the recent presidential poll: an end to the “anti-terrorist operation” and a good-faith attempt at a negotiated settlement with separatists in the east; formation of a more inclusive government; and constitutional reform that decentralizes power.

Rather than escalate the assault on the insurgents, thus ensuring more killing of Ukrainians by Ukrainians, the government in Kiev needs to halt it and make a good-faith, high-profile effort at a negotiated solution. The crackdown should resume only if the government can credibly demonstrate to the local population that the separatists refuse to accept a reasonable compromise.

Second, the Ukrainian government must bring regional balance to a government that is currently dominated by representatives from western Ukraine: About two-thirds of ministerial-level and higher portfolios have gone to those regions, which represent only 12 percent of the population. The presidential elections demonstrated that the cabinet is not only regionally skewed, it’s also politically unrepresentative; the far-right Svoboda party, whose leader got less than 2 percent of the vote, has a third of the senior portfolios. Some of these should be allocated to southerners and easterners

I’ve never heard of this Samuel Charap before, but he’s spot on. The last paragraph I quoted is especially important: the US has backed a heavily-Western Ukrainian interim government. Is it any wonder that people in the East are angry and say this government doesn’t represent them? (Hint: they’re right; it does not represent them.)

Do go and read the entire article. It’s very good.