Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the flamboyant and often outrageous leader of the misnamed Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, must not be ignored because he often expresses ideas circulating among more powerful figures in Moscow who for various reasons are not prepared to advance them in public.
That pattern makes Zhirinovsky’s latest remarks about the future of Ukraine especially troubling. He said on the First Studio talk show at the end of last week that “the final result” to the conflict in Ukraine will be that country’s partition “not tomorrow” but after many rounds of negotiations.
According to Zhirinovsky, “south-eastern Ukraine and the Russian population will go to Russia, but the north-west will become a nationalist state of seven to eight million people … will become a member of NATO and the European Union.” In this way, “the problem will be concluded: there will be no Ukrainian question!”
Lviv will be the capital of this new state, the LDPR leader says, because Kyiv, “the mother of Russian cities,” must be part of Russia; and the new country centered on Lviv will be called Galicia, a land-locked place, and in no way Ukraine with an outlet to the sea. Thus, the name “Ukraine” will disappear from the map of the earth.
Two things make Zhirinovsky’s remark noteworthy. On the one hand, his ideas about partition are not as far removed from those that Vladimir Putin’s Novorossiya project would appear to call for, one that would give Russia a land bridge not only to Crimea but to the Transdniestria region of Moldova as well, while depriving Ukraine of access to the sea.
And on the other, Zhirinovsky suggests that he sees a future in which a Ukrainian state, albeit one not called that and not in anything like its current borders, would be a member of the two key Western institutions, NATO and the EU, an indication that his words in this case likely reflect what Moscow may believe it can offer as a compromise some in the West might accept.
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