On a Positive Sum Ukraine Solution

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The U.S. promoted a coup in Ukraine and blessed and supported it, aiming to install new leaders of its choosing. A new government with an extreme right-wing composition came in by violent means, approved and accepted by Washington but not by Russia or by all Ukrainians. In particular, the Russified portions and people in certain Ukrainian areas, such as Crimea and Donetsk, responded negatively to the overthrow of the government. Russia objected for several reasons, including its military facilities in Crimea, its relations with Ukraine, the nature of the coup, and the evident attempt by the West to shift Ukraine’s orientation toward Europe.

Russia acted in the Crimea by supporting local militia. Its own forces applied pressure to Ukrainian military installations within Crimea and have taken over some of them without shots being fired. It supported a referendum on the question of federating with Russia.

The U.S. and Russia are attempting negotiations, but they are not succeeding.

The main sticking point is that the U.S. accepts the new government and Russia does not. As the headline reads “Kremlin says Washington’s stance on negotiations unacceptable because it accepts ouster of Yanukovych as fait accompli.”

Ukraine is near default on its debts, and that’s been building up for years. If the U.S. and IMF bail out Ukraine, as they have begun to do, this doesn’t resolve the confrontation. It is an economic response to Russia’s military response.

Henry Kissinger has an op-ed on principles to end this confrontation and replace the developing negative sum game with a positive sum game. Much of what he says is what I have been saying, and so I agree with much of his analysis and recommendations. Specifically, I’ve called for mediation that includes the Ukrainians and Crimeans who are divided. Kissinger says “A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction.”

What Kissinger says makes a great deal of sense. It requires that all parties now looking into the abyss of renewed cold and/or hot war draw back and express a willingness to discuss the issues, which entails a willingness to hammer out new roles that depend on greater understanding of each other. This is not retreat. It is not compromising principles. It is seeking solutions that take into account everyone’s interests. New solutions do require changing existing positions, however. Stubborness will not resolve the Ukraine problem.

5:50 am on March 11, 2014