Two decades ago, former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt foresaw this very danger, and warned of the need to embrace a broader conception of Europe. “We also know,” he wrote presciently, “that the historical spiritual reality of Europe does not consist of . . . the [European Economic] Community, but that Byzantium and Novgorod, Krakow and Prague have also contributed to our old common civilisation. And our concept of Europe will one day have to once again encompass the whole intellectual and artistic life of our Eastern European neighbours if we do not wish to become impoverished. 
Until the rich heritage of Byzantium truly becomes Europe’s common cultural inheritance, proclamations by Russian and Ukrainian leaders of their European bona fides will continue to fall on deaf ears. Working together is the only way they stand a chance of bringing about the fundamental change in Western attitudes that is needed to place the task of European integration on a solid footing.
It would therefore be an unexpected boon for all Europeans if, as a result of this latest crisis, Ukrainian elites finally realized the pivotal contribution they could make to European security by re-casting Ukrainian identity from a border region (Russia’s border with Europe; Europe’s border with Russia) into a European cultural center binding its Eastern and Western halves. Doing so would offer Western Europeans a manageable bridge for integrating Orthodoxy into their political and cultural horizons, while at the same time serving as an opening for Russia, which can hardly disavow this part of its heritage, into Europe.
Ukrainian politicians who embrace such a strategy will find a largely untapped domestic constituency eager to support it, as well as allies in Russia and Belarus, two of the country’s most important economic trading partner, eager to assist.
This combination might just be enough to allow Ukrainian society to overcome the malaise that has been afflicting it for the past two decades.
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