How To Overcome the Ukraine Stalemate

March 11, 2014 Topic: Global Governance Region: RussiaUnited StatesUkraineEurope

How To Overcome the Ukraine Stalemate

The conflicting interests of Russia and the United States won't allow a solution without a third party taking leadership.

The outlines of a framework agreement are fairly straightforward. To illustrate this, let us assume Germany takes the proxy role, and takes the following three steps;

1. Germany asks Russia if it would be prepared to discuss (on a bilateral basis in Berlin) the conditions under which it would withdraw from the Crimea, recognize the government in Ukraine, and affirm the 1994 Bucharest Agreement.

2. Germany extracts from these discussions the basic concerns of Russia and transforms them into a list of reforms that the European Union could require of the Ukrainian government in the context of the upcoming discussions on association and trade. Russian demands become European conditions. If done properly, the revised EU conditions will look remarkably similar to the major elements of the February 21 agreement that Germany, Poland and Yatseniuk have already agreed to and signed.

3. At this point, Germany asks the United States if it will support the European Framework Agreement by agreeing to drop its economic sanctions, visa bans and asset seizures in phases as Russian forces redeploy to their bases.

Obviously, there are details. But it is clear that the parties to the crisis in Ukraine have a very limited set of goods to put on the negotiating table. Russia has military withdrawal and recognition. The United States can lift sanctions and climb down from the bully pulpit. Ukraine has the ability to shape the character and composition of its government, reach out to all its citizens and deliver on free and fair elections. And the European Union (whether through Germany or Weimar) has the ability to set the sequence of diplomacy, convene the parties separately, propose the framework for discussions, provide political cover for compromise to Russia, Ukraine and the United States, and provide financial aid to cover the holes at the end. Without a European broker to rearrange the elements of the crisis, the parties will hold their current positions until Ukraine goes bankrupt and a debilitating trade war breaks out between Russia and the West.

Bruce Pitcairn Jackson is the president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, which supports the aspirations of post-Soviet and Balkan democracies to build closer relations with Euro-Atlantic institutions. From 1995-2002 he was the President of the US Committee on NATO, which supported the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe in joining NATO and the European Union.