Nicolai Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island and spent much of the last year on a Fulbright research scholarship in Ukraine. His pieces include ”The Real War in Ukraine: The Battle over Ukrainian Identity.”
Nicolai Petro - This conflict is about whether Ukraine should be a monocultural or pluricultural nation. Peace is unlikely until Ukrainian politics are brought into conformity with the country’s bi-cultural reality.
The gridlock of the past two decades that prevented reforms, were Ukraine’s way of dealing with its internal split. When advocates of Western Ukraine ousted the popularly elected president in February 2014, they broke the fragile balance and conflict became inevitable.
The new political majority in Kiev believes it can create a culturally homogeneous Ukraine in which the East is assigned a permanent subordinate status. Military victory over the rebels might give them the power to do this, but Kiev’s unwillingness to compromise means more or less permanent turmoil in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.
Western proposals that ignore the domestic roots of this conflict cannot succeed in achieving a viable Ukraine.