Piece in Our Time


What might a deal between Russia and Ukraine look like? Patrick Smith says Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel are working one out, and it might look like this:

The international community would have to accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea last spring. Gulp. Kiev would also devolve some political and administrative powers to the eastern region. No gulp here: It is imperative that Kiev recognize the legitimacy of the Russian-majority east’s desire for greater autonomy.

The give-backs: Russia would cease its involvement in eastern Ukraine, whatever it may be, and pay $1 billion to compensate for the rent it paid for stationing its fleets in the Crimea until the region voted for independence.

Next. Poroshenko would agree not to join NATO. The trade-off here would be Russia’s commitment to accept Kiev’s new relations with the E.U. as agreed in a pact signed after Poroshenko took office. Ukraine would also get a new long-term agreement with Russia’s Gazprom covering future gas supplies and pricing - critical if Ukraine is to sustain any kind of economic recovery.

That's not a bad deal, in that it recognizes there's no getting Russia out of Crimea short of war, and there's no getting Ukraine into NATO without one either. The unanswered question is whether Putin would see "greater autonomy" as an open door for future meddling (and eventual annexations), or as the end state of the crisis he engineered.