“Notions of Neutralities”:A solution for the Ukrainian quagmire

Pascal Lottaz is a professor at Temple University, Japan Campus and Herbert R. Reginbogin is a fellow of the Catholic University of America, put forward a theory about how best to resolve the Ukrainian situation.


After four years of armed conflict, 10,000 casualties and 1.5 million internally displaced. Despite the blatant infringement on international law, common norms and the brutal strong-arming of Ukraine, one thing needs to be noted; to Russia, Europe has always been a security threat. European armies invaded it twice during the past century. In World War II alone the Soviet Union lost between 20 million and 30 million people, including 6 million and 7 million Ukrainian deaths. An unprecedented carnage.

Not to forget that also the demise of the U.S.S.R. came from Europe; first the loss of the Communist Eastern European satellite states, then the breaking away of the Baltic nations, and finally the declarations of independence from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. It was the “Europeanization” of its former territories that spelled the end of Moscow’s grand sphere of influence and its position as a world power.

Ever since the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych during the violent uprising in Kiev in 2014, and the subsequent change to a pro-European government, Russia fears a Ukrainian rapprochement to the EU and NATO.

Any solution to the situation must satisfy Russian security needs toward Europe. Moscow’s armed conflict with neighboring Georgia in 2008 was a stark warning that a further eastward expansion of NATO is an unacceptable risk which it will try to prevent at any cost.

Russia’s best-case scenario for Ukraine would be a close security alliance under the umbrella of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is to create a mutually beneficial outcome for all sides. That could be achieved through the “permanent neutrality” of Ukraine. Like Austria, which was neutralized through an international treaty agreement in 1955 that declared it off-limits for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the Ukrainian quagmire could be solved by utilizing permanent neutrality. In fact, since its independence in 1991, Ukraine was itself flirting with the idea of declaring neutrality. That is the reason why it did not join Belarus and Russia in the CIS already.

A stable neutral solution would, however, only be achievable through an international treaty agreement between the major powers in the region. The EU, the United States and Russia would have to declare their willingness to recognize Ukraine as a permanently neutral state. For Ukraine, this would mean a renewed guarantee for its rights as a sovereign nation, including self-determination and territorial integrity.

A permanently neutral Ukraine would be a guarantee to Russia and NATO that it never became part of a hostile alliance.As a recognized neutral, Kiev would be in a position to mediate in crisis, provide humanitarian services in war zones, protect civilians, and join peacekeeping activities like Switzerland, Austria and Sweden have been doing for decades. Therefore, a permanently neutral Ukraine should be discussed seriously among the policymakers in Moscow, Kiev, Berlin, Paris, London and Washington.