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Save Ukraine!

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(5) Finally, and this is the most difficult and painful step of all, accept de facto, if not de jure, that Crimea is effectively lost. On March 16 the local population indicated overwhelmingly that it no longer feels comfortable within Ukraine. Russian troops enabled this decision, but its roots go back years, if not decades. The current government in Kiev can waste precious resources trying to reverse this decision but, as Harvard professor Graham Allison has suggested, it would be better advised to focus on nation building at home.

 

It is conceivable that the more radical elements in the current government in Kiev would rather fight for a more ideologically compact Ukraine than compromise on the principles of the revolution. That is where international mediation can still play an important role.

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Western governments clearly have enormous influence over the decisions made by the current Ukrainian government. This influence should be used to encourage more meaningful steps toward national unity. On the other side, Russian influence is just as vital for bringing the East and the South into a national dialogue.

 

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The main obstacle to the obvious need for a partnership with Russia seems to be the widespread Western perception of Ukraine as, first and foremost, a geostrategic asset in some sort of ongoing struggle against Russian imperialism. When shorn of rhetorical hyperbole, however, the truth is that Russia and the West share a common interest in a strong, prosperous, and united Ukraine, albeit for different reasons. The West wants an ally that can exert pressure on Russia; Russia does not want a failed state on its doorstep.

 

Both sides in Ukraine's domestic conflict therefore need their respective international supporters to agree on a common framework for resolving the crisis so that they can begrudgingly, but with great relief, begin to implement it.

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Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He has served as special assistant for policy in the U.S. State Department and as civic affairs advisor to the mayor of the Russian city of Novgorod the Great. His books include: The Rebirth of Russian Democracy (Harvard,1995), Russian Foreign Policy (Longman, 1997), and (more...)
 

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