The conflict in the eastern Ukraine region can only be resolved at the political level: on the basis of (a) recognition of the right to self-rule, (b) federalism, and (c) an international status of neutrality of the Republic of Ukraine.
Agreement on a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy arms and on a demarcation line between the warring parties can only be a first step towards a broader political settlement. In order to achieve durable peace, all parties will have to agree on the right to self-rule of the people in the conflict zone. In modern international law, self-determination is the core principle that is at the roots of democracy and legitimacy of any political system. National (state) sovereignty is ultimately based on the right of the people to decide, as citizens, on the political identity of the territory they are living in.
Because the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine is also the result of unconstitutional and violent change of government in the Republic of Ukraine, confidence among ethnic groups on the territory of Ukraine can only be restored on the basis of a federal system that provides for genuine autonomy of the territories in Eastern Ukraine.
In view of the international dimension the conflict has acquired, the security interests of neighboring countries, including Russia, will have to be considered. This means that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) can have no role in the ongoing conflict, and that the Republic of Ukraine should commit itself to a status of permanent neutrality (similar to the status the Republic of Austria committed itself to in 1955, during the time of rivalry between the era’s two superpowers). The Ukraine must not be part of a geostrategic plan that is aimed at the so-called “containment” of Russia. This would not only endanger peace and stability in Europe, but at the global level. A lasting solution will also require that the member states of the European Union refrain from using the instrument of economic sanctions, which are part and parcel of a violent approach, not of a political strategy aimed at a negotiated settlement.
It is to be hoped that the European Union (EU) will eventually be able to act independently of United States influence, and that its member states will seek a consensus with the Russian Federation in the common European framework. The negotiations of the “Normandy 4” in Minsk (comprising the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine) that have this morning [12 February 2015] led to a ceasefire agreement are an encouraging sign in that regard.
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