How to Fix the Eastern Ukraine Problem

Dividing line.

Photographer: ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP/Getty Images

Perfection is impossible in conflict resolution, and it's usually easy to spot the weakness of paper plans. But the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, has devised a plan for resolving the simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine that avoids all the usual traps. If adopted, it would seem to offer the most realistic hope of a breakthrough.

Eastern Ukraine may be out of the headlines, but sporadic fighting between Ukrainian and Russian-sponsored forces continues. People die almost every day, and so far, no one has come up with a way to defuse the tension, much less resolve the underlying issues. Russian-Ukrainian talks mediated by France and Germany have produced the difficult-to-implement and thus largely stalled Minsk agreements. Recent negotiations between Kremlin representative Vyacheslav Surkov and U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker look as though the sides aren't listening to each other.

The Hudson plan takes a different approach. Its author, Richard Gowan, used to work for the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, and he starts rightly from the position that the UN is the only organization acceptable to both Russia and Ukraine as an intermediary.