Josh Cohen: A Federal Model for Ukraine

Photo by EPA/BGNES

Josh Cohen, a former U.S. State Department official, involved in managing economic reform projects in the former Soviet Union, works for a satellite technology company in the Washington area.

This article is from The Moscow Times

As Russia consolidates its hold over Crimea, the world's attention has now turned to the drama beginning to play out in eastern Ukraine. In the last three weeks, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups have taken place in major cities across eastern Ukraine, and many observers believe Putin has infiltrated provocateurs from Russia's special forces and Federal Security Service to promote pro-Russian sentiment in the region.

While eastern Ukraine has historically maintained close historical, economic and cultural ties with Russia, support for secession there is not as overwhelming as in Crimea. The key for Kiev to maintain peace, security and stability in eastern Ukraine is moving toward a more decentralized, or federal, political structure is to draft a new constitution.

There is no single best distribution of powers between centralized and decentralized federal models, but here are some guidelines:

1. Above all, Kiev should allow for the direct election of governors rather than having them appointed by Kiev, which is the current practice. At the suggestion of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is running for president in the May election, the new government appointed two Ukrainian oligarchs to govern the regions of Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk. This only alienates people from their local government and exacerbates the political conflict between Ukrainians and Russians in the region.

2. Some economic decision-­making, such...

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