It has been said that Russia is not a superpower without Ukraine. The breadbasket of Europe lies in the very core of the Russian sphere of influence and the Motherland calls for its right to keep it so, even if by force.

Ukraine as the playground of battling ideologies has been absolutely devastated by the current crisis, and while much of it is to blame on Vladimir Putin’s aggressive foreign policy and nationalism, the West is surely pulling the other end of the rope in this international tug of war with Ukraine in the middle.

If the world is, as the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev recently claimed, on the brink of a new Cold War, then perhaps the international actors could consider the splitting of Ukraine in two in that true Cold War manner.

Ideally of course every sovereign state would have the right to choose their political alignments and to solve their national issues, but unfortunately for some, in realpolitik the ones with the most power make the decisions. Russia’s concerns over its buffer zone between the West and itself have escalated after the possibility that Ukraine might join the Western alliances clarified last year.

Russia has been on its hind legs ever since these Western alliances, NATO and the EU, began their eastern expansion. During the last 15 years the area considered as Russia’s backyard has become a part of the West. What this means in realist terms is that Russia’s national security is being threatened by the opposing power on its doorstep.

And the West keeps adding fuel to the fire by hinting at the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO.

Political crisis in Ukraine is nothing new. The last ten years from the Orange Revolution onwards have seen one parliamentary crisis after another and the country has been steadily torn apart by corruption and electoral fraud as well as the schism between the pro-European and pro-Russian camps. But since the Euromaidan movement began last year and the following escalation of civil unrest to a revolution, the divisions within the country have grown too wide to be mended again.

The population in Ukraine has split between the Ukrainian-speaking majority and the Russian-speaking minority. While Russia has rushed to aid the Russophones in eastern Ukraine, it has widely alienated the western, Ukrainian side of the country. Even if the current situation would be solved with Ukraine still intact, it is highly unlikely that the Ukrainians would want anything to do with the Russian regime afterwards. This would be a huge blow for the Kremlin and its plans to involve Ukraine in the Eurasian Economic Union. The last thing Moscow needs is more common border with a NATO member state and the ideal situation for Putin would be another pro-Russian regime in Ukraine.

The West, on the other hand, has understandably provided support for the new Europe-leaning leadership in Kiev. The recently elected government in Ukraine has made joining NATO its primary target, and for NATO, this is the chance of further securing its position next to a rivalling military power. But fears of possible Russian dominance in the Black Sea have been raised if Ukraine were to be split in half.

For a long time the main goal for the actors of this conflict, apart from the pro-Russian separatists in Donbass, was to keep Ukraine together. However, Putin has been accused of offering the westernmost part of Ukraine to Poland in a trade-off for the rest of the country in 2013. Clearly after obtaining Crimea, the Kremlin won’t leave the crisis before it has secured a land route to the peninsula heavily reliant on Ukrainian infrastructure and supplies. The importance of the Sevastopol naval base for Russia cannot be overstated.

Separating Ukraine in two would not be the ideal outcome for most sides of the conflict nor would it fix all the problems, but it may well be the only option for fixing any of those issues, even if that means the Russian annexation of eastern Ukraine. In this scenario, the enclave problem of pro-Russians being confined in the Ukrainian side and vice versa certainly exists, but it is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.

Furthermore, a unified Ukraine is a relatively modern invention. Before the country gained its current borders as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic under the USSR, much of western Ukraine was for centuries controlled by changing rulers, from the Polish Kingdom to the Ottoman Empire. So the history argument of one Ukraine is only barely valid in this context.

But the secession needs to be mutual. It is no use for the foreign aggressors from the East and the West to forcefully impose the division of Ukraine like they have done in the past. It would be as foolish as artificially keeping the pieces united, such as is the case in Bosnia.

There’s no turning back in Ukraine. The country is practically split already and the division is being driven further by the outside powers as well. Kiev needs to now recognise that it is better off without the rebellious pro-Russian areas, whose support the government has lost for good. At least then the regime could began to pursue its pro-Western ideals, while separatists could continue following the Russian lead.

At the moment Ukraine just cannot carry on pretending to be a single functioning nation. And the rest of us just have to invest in a new world atlas on our bookshelves.

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