When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Ideas

For Ukraine, It's Time For The Switzerland Solution

No one should be under any illusions that Ukraine is about to join the EU or NATO. If this war is to end in a lasting peace, Ukrainians will have to accept a new position on the world stage and a new approach. The famously "neutral" and multilingual Switzerland could be a model.

For Ukraine, It's Time For The Switzerland Solution

At the Decentralization Forum in Kyiv in July 2021

Otto Schilly

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Without a doubt, Vladimir Putin’s deadly war in Ukraine deserves the nearly universal condemnation it has sparked. But in order to understand the conflict, we must also look at the history of political miscalculations that has led up to it.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Efforts at diplomacy ended in utter failure, including the approach of foreign policy leaders in Germany and elsewhere in the West. Politicians have allowed tensions to simmer away, ignoring the very real threat that they could develop into an explosive situation.


Instead of looking for a viable solution, the West has encouraged the Ukrainian government to believe that the country could one day become a member of NATO. In September last year, NATO carried out joint military exercises in Ukrainian territory.

Advice for Kyiv

Politicians in Moscow, as well as Washington, London, Paris and Berlin, would all have done well to heed Henry Kissinger’s call for leaders on all sides to focus on concrete outcomes rather than posturing. He suggested that Ukraine should give up its ambitions of NATO membership, and reach a compromise with Russia. But this advice was ignored.

No one will "win" this war.

Faced with the current devastation in Ukraine, we must offer all possible help to the country, except for measures that would risk setting off a Third World War. Perhaps the best way we can help is to offer constructive ideas about Ukraine’s place on the world stage, ideas that are acceptable to all sides and offer the possibility of long-term peace in the region.

It’s encouraging to see media reports that French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping are seeking to work together to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis. For that to happen, all those involved need to recognize that – unless we are prepared to see thousands of deaths and widespread destruction – it is impossible for the war in Ukraine to be “won” in a military sense.

However, even after a “victory,” peace would be a political impossibility, given the far-reaching, long-lasting global economic and political devastation that will inevitably result from the war.

If the search for a political solution is to be more than just empty words, we must ask: what structures need to be in place for Ukraine to remain a free, democratic society and a sovereign state, but at the same time maintain peaceful relations with Russia and other neighboring countries?

EU heads of state met at the Versailles summit to discuss further sanctions against Russia

ANSA/ZUMA

The Swiss solution

Given Ukraine’s ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, it could take the Swiss constitution as a model. Over centuries, Switzerland found a way to successfully develop its democracy in which decisions are made at a local level, a society built on mutual respect for the different cultures, ethnicities and languages in the population.

Switzerland’s special situation means it is committed to military neutrality, but that does not mean it has had to compromise its political values.

If Ukraine were to emulate the Swiss model and structure itself as a neutral, multilingual state divided into cantons, that could allow it to enjoy better relations with both Russia and the European Union, both politically and economically.

The Russian-speaking Donbas region could be treated as an autonomous canton. It remains to be seen whether negotiations could succeed in reversing the annexation of Crimea. However, if all sides acknowledge the potential of cross-border economic and political cooperation, the Crimea question could become less important, and we may be able to find a pragmatic solution.

Avoid overreach

If Ukraine adopted this approach, it’s unlikely that the country would be able to join the European Union in the future, as the EU would be protective of its own interests and wary of overreaching itself. However, the EU, Ukraine and Russia could agree on a free-trade zone, which would bring economic benefits for all sides.

This means letting go of the anachronistic, nationalistic desire for power.

Of course, it would take courage and determination for Ukraine to seek to achieve peace through adopting a “Swiss constitution,” as it means letting go of the anachronistic, nationalistic desire for power. It would require a willingness to compromise and forego ultimatums.

For the closely related, peace-loving people of Ukraine and Russia, the Swiss model could offer a path to a promising future in which Ukraine could fulfill its rich cultural and economic potential as it never has before, bringing advantages for the country itself and for the wider world.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Jehovah's Witnesses Translate The Bible In Indigenous Language — Is This Colonialism?

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut.

A Mapuche family awaits for Chilean President Gabriel Boric to arrive at the traditional Te Deum in the Cathedral of Santiago, on Chile's Independence Day.

Claudia Andrade

NEUQUÉN — The Bible can now be read in Mapuzugun, the language of the Mapuche, an ancestral nation living across Chile and Argentina. It took the Chilean branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a latter-day Protestant church often associated with door-to-door proselytizing and cold calling, three years to translate it into "21st-century Mapuzugun".

The church's Mapuche members in Chile welcomed the book when it was launched in Santiago last June, but some of their brethren see it rather as a cultural imposition. The Mapuche were historically a fighting nation, and fiercely resisted both the Spanish conquerors and subsequent waves of European settlers. They are still fighting for land rights in Chile.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ