15:58 Oct. 4, 2016
Post-war Germany once faced the same challenges Ukraine does today. Here's how it overcame them
Ukraine has been fortunate in its misfortune. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea formally and the eastern Donbas informally, and thousands of Ukrainians have died in the conflict. But, most of the West rallied to Kiev's side, imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting reforms. Ukraine has become stronger, more stable, and more secure since 2014.
But the path Kiev must walk remains precarious — not least because there is an inherent contradiction between pursuing reunification with its breakaway regions and implementing pro-western reforms. Not only does Ukraine not know what to do with the 35,000 heavily armed separatists who currently control the eastern Donbass, but the occupied territories are also home to pro-Russian elites and populations who would have blocked reforms if they had remained within Ukraine.
Maneuvering between these contradictions will be easier if Kiev models its policies on those of postwar West Germany. The similarities are striking. Like postwar Germany, Ukraine is divided into western-oriented and Russian-occupied zones, needs to rebuild its state, society, and economy, and lies on the fault line between a democratic West and an authoritarian East. Most importantly, just like Kiev today, Bonn had to make difficult trade-offs between reunification and building a pro-western state — and it did so successfully, in the end attaining both.