Ukrainians register the deepening scandal around the alleged quid pro quo—U.S. President Donald Trump’s pressuring of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—as a sideshow to the mind-bending problem that has hung over their country since 2014: Should Ukraine reintegrate the territories of its eastern region, known as Donbas, that are controlled by Russia and its separatist clients? If so, when? And how?
The war is now in its fifth year. During this time, the Donbas has split in two. One part, centering on the industrial cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, is administered by separatists installed by the Kremlin. The other part remains under the administration of the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. Heavy fighting is confined to a narrow strip along the front, and thousands of people cross back and forth between Russia-controlled and government-controlled areas every day. But trade is extremely limited, because Kyiv imposed a blockade in 2017 when