Here’s Why the West Should Stop Pushing Decentralization NowIn the coming days the Ukrainian parliament is expected to debate a draft law that would amend Ukraine's Constitution on decentralization to expand local governments' powers.
The West has enthusiastically encouraged Ukraine to embrace decentralization, provide special status for the Donbas, and hold local elections in the areas under de-facto Russian occupation. Many Western politicians consider these steps a path toward de-escalation and implementation of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement.
Thousands marched on Yerevan's Baghramyan Avenue—a main artery fronting the presidential palace—insisting they weren't seeking to overthrow the regime but rather to get the government to reverse its price increase. This was not a new Maidan supporting the European Union and opposing corruption. Instead, the 20,000 citizens protesting at its peak took to the streets to express their distrust with traditional political authority.
The Kremlin has presented one false objective after the other for this aggression. On February 27, 2014, "little green men"—that is, Russian special forces in Russian uniforms but without insignia—occupied the Crimean regional parliament. The next day, they took over the peninsula's two international airports. Within two weeks, these troops had skillfully occupied all of Crimea.
While the tank was impressive—when it worked—it pales in comparison to Russia's other main weapon: its own history. Throughout the Ukraine conflict, Russia has weaponized its own history to suit its purposes. These range from absurd announcements, such as the recent proclamation by the Russian prosecutor general's office that it began investigating the legality of the 1991 independence of the three Baltic republics to its reliance on historically dubious ideologies like Novorossiya to justify the Donbas insurgency.
There is much talk of reform, but the reality is less impressive. No one doubts that the country's institutions desperately need restructuring. Even before Russian forces annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas, the country stood on the brink of bankruptcy. After a painful currency devaluation, it is now the poorest in Europe. It is also the most corrupt. The parliament is controlled by oligarchs, and the police are as crooked as the mafia.