Friday, February 6, 2015

Federalism Will Not Solve the Ukraine Crisis - Russia Insider

In an article in today’s Russia Insider, Alexander Mercouris has called attention to the latest editorial on the Ukrainian crisis in The New York Times, which he considers to be a diplomatic message from Washington to Moscow that it is ready to cut a deal to end the Ukrainian civil war roughly on terms that the Kremlin had laid out last spring. Specifically this means changing the Ukrainian constitution into a federal system with broad autonomy for the Donbass and assurances that Ukraine would remain neutral and not seek NATO membership.

Mercouris raises the question whether those terms would satisfy the rebels of the Lugansk and Donetsk self-declared republics given the degree of bloodshed and hatred that the intervening period of war has generated, and the fact that in their ongoing winter offensive the rebels appear to be winning the war on the ground.

Mercouris’ point may be well taken. However, it leaves unresolved other serious problems with taking the proposed settlement from before the war as a basis for peace now. Not least of them is the inadequacy of federalism per se to meet the needs of the Donbass, or to meet the needs of the Russian speaking population in the rest of Ukraine.

As a long-time resident and political observer in the Kingdom of Belgium, a country riven by resentments between the two major language communities which also have disparate economic and social models that approach the situation in Ukraine, I can affirm that federalism is not the end game and will solve nothing in Ukraine today.

Belgium was for decades held up in international forums as the poster child for “consocial” harmony, meaning power-sharing. Over the past half century the country has been transformed from a unitary state to a federal state with a succession of devolutions of power from the center to the regions. And yet the separatists in the North have each time clamored for more and the country now faces debate over its possible 7th constitutional reform into a “confederal” state, meaning essentially two states sharing only common borders and common sovereignty.

In the Ukrainian case federalism will not solve the economic contradictions that underlie the political fault lines. Federalism, which assumes unitary defense, unitary foreign policy and trade policy is a band-aid on a cancer. A Donbass or Novorossiya which is part of Ukraine operating under the conditions of the Association Agreement with the European Union is an economically dead Donbass.

Complete story at - Federalism Will Not Solve the Ukraine Crisis - Russia Insider

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