Neutralizing Ukraine

LONDON – Though no one imagines that a lasting cease-fire in Gaza will, in itself, produce a substantive breakthrough in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the United States and other concerned governments continue to work tirelessly to halt the fighting. Yet, when it comes to the escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine, the relevant external powers – that is, the US, the European Union, and Russia – are not only failing to achieve a cease-fire; they are refusing to pursue a solution that, unlike in the case of Israel and Palestine, is there for the taking.

All that is needed is to introduce into the Ukrainian constitution a provision that significantly impedes membership in any military alliance, whether NATO or the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization of the Commonwealth of Independent States. For example, the decision to join such an alliance – or even to implement an agreement that allows a foreign country to base its troops on Ukrainian soil – could require the approval of a qualified majority of, say, two-thirds of voters or regional legislatures.

Introducing such a requirement would amount to granting veto power to Ukraine’s two camps – that is, the country’s more Russia-aligned east and its NATO-leaning west. The practical result – Ukraine remaining unaligned in military and security terms – would reflect the will of the Ukrainian population as a whole.

This approach would be consistent with the principle, which US President Barack Obama highlighted when announcing the latest round of sanctions against Russia last month, that Ukraine must be permitted to “chart its own path.” Above all, it would help the people of Ukraine – divided between inherently antagonistic identities – to live together peacefully.