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Partition Ukraine Now Before It Is Too Late



Superpowers love their geographic boundaries despite the fact that most have no basis in history. Time and time again we have seen world wars, civil wars and senseless violence break out over who really belongs in what country. We have seen literally millions die over these artificial barriers.

Most of the nations in the Middle East were created by energy companies, Africa was cruelly divided by colonists around the early part of the 20th Century, the Balkans have been the source of one war after another, and numerous ethnic groups are still fighting for their 'homelands'.

With each passing day, the stakes in Ukraine grow higher and higher. Civil war is a real possibility, the resumption of the Cold War is not out of the question, thousands could still die, and entire cities could be destroyed. Any sane person only has to look to Syria to see the consequences of endless civil war.

Count me among those who were moved to tears by the barricades in Kiev. The entire scene was right out of Les Miz except with a different ending. You could literally hear 'the people sing' as they gave their lives for freedom. If just somehow we could just hit 'pause' and that would be the end of the story.

Unfortunately, that is not happening. President Putin, who has blood on his hands in Syria and so many other places, is determined to use any means necessary to exert the influence of the Russian Bear and save his own sad face. The major powers have a very narrow window to restore sanity to this situation and seek creative solutions before the entire world and the people of Ukraine are thrown into another spiral of brutal violence.

Right now it is clear the Russians and their surrogates are determined to keep the strategically placed Crimea. This peninsula on the Black Sea has historically been the source of much pain. Over half a million died in the Crimean War between the superpowers in the mid-1800's. Stalin deported the entire population of Crimean Tatars from the peninsula and most died in that process. Crimea became completely Russian and currently most of its population are Russian speakers.

Bp7In 1954, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev 'gave' Crimea to the Ukrainian people. Khrushchev, who was a native Russian, rose to power through the Ukrainian Communist Party. Some say it was an act of madness created in a drunken stupor and others consider it a brilliant move by the Russian leader.

Ukraine is split between those who consider themselves Europeans and those who have a historic bond to Russia. The split has been clear in election after election. There are enough facts and figures to sanely partition Ukraine now before it is too late. Minimally, give the damn Crimea back to Russia where it historically belongs.

Drawing the 'line in the sand' over fake boundaries is inviting massive violence, international confrontation and death and destruction. Over what?

Read this National Geographic article on the history of Ukraine to fully understand why we can fully resolve this crisis peacefully and sanely. The history of Ukraine has been one of great struggle and a place that major powers have used and abused over time.

The solution is simple. Let the European section continue as the Ukraine and allow the Russian section to vote on their future either as Russians or a new nation. Finally, return Crimea to the Russians.

America has a unique opportunity to look at the concept of nation states in an innovative way that is more suited to the 21st century and not a return to the 19th Century. Let's embrace it now or the consequences may be horrific.

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  1. Don't write about things you don't understand. If you insist on doing so, at least the name right: it's "Ukraine", not "The Ukraine".

    Posted by: tcw | Feb 28, 2014 12:28:19 PM

  2. *get the name right

    Posted by: tcw | Feb 28, 2014 12:28:38 PM

  3. The only person who wants blood here is Putin. Don't let this become another Munich 38.

    Posted by: litper | Feb 28, 2014 12:29:40 PM

  4. I think advocating partition is grossly irresponsible. Cooler heads will likely prevail, thankfully.

    Posted by: Josh | Feb 28, 2014 12:35:04 PM

  5. "There are enough facts and figures to sanely partition Ukraine now before it is too late." No, no, no, no, no - the author clearly has not grasp of the intricacies of politics and society in Ukraine. You certainly cannot simply draw a dividing line based on the 2010 election results. Russsian-speakers can pro-European, rural Ukrainians can yearn for a nostalgic past with Russia in the USSR.

    Try some wider reading such as: or to get beyond lazy dichotomies. Citizens on either side of your purported simple dividing line are not irreconcilably different! Has the author ever been to Ukraine or met a Ukrainian?

    By the way, Kiev is the transliteration of the Russian spelling of the capital, Kyiv is the transliteration of the Ukrainian spelling.

    Posted by: Michael | Feb 28, 2014 12:51:53 PM

  6. It's hard to believe that Ukraine would split in two sides, it's more easy to think 3 or 4 "mini-Ukraines". There're a lot of variables that would undermine the unity of that country and personally I don't think that the EU should carry on the same policy of sanctions that has already used on Belarus (with no effect). The best idea is that The USA and Russia would negotiate how the question should be resolved. Don't you notice that the Cold War has never ended?

    Posted by: Andrea | Feb 28, 2014 12:52:15 PM

  7. Bisecting the "country" might prevent civil war but it won't prevent the IMF from taking up the invitation of Ukraine's appointed slumlords to swoop in and suck the place dry.

    Posted by: Gil | Feb 28, 2014 1:06:56 PM

  8. I'm not sure yet where I stand on this, but I will say that Putin can only be trusted to advance his Machivelian authoritarian goals.

    Posted by: David R. | Feb 28, 2014 1:08:17 PM

  9. "The solution is simple". Nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Mixner.

    Posted by: ger | Feb 28, 2014 1:10:49 PM

  10. I see zero chance this becomes US policy. For one thing, it would be a major victory for Putin even to concede the point. He could then argue that the entire country belongs in the Russian sphere. Further, partitioning in places like Iraq, where you have a very nice split between regions, would violate longstanding agreements the US made with the UK (made back in the 20's) and we'd probably lose support for Israel in Europe completely. It would also give China a reason to push harder against Japan. Almost all US foreign policy is based on "status quo" thinking.

    Posted by: anon | Feb 28, 2014 1:16:42 PM

  11. You are correct. This is what needs to happen.

    Posted by: Randy | Feb 28, 2014 1:20:21 PM

  12. I love you, David, and agree with you on the vast majority of political issues, but this is an utterly awful idea.

    First of all, it falls into the trap of treating Ukrainians not as people in a largely bi-lingual nation who have the right to self-determination, but as the playthings of superpowers.

    Ukrainians, east and west, russian-speaking and ukrainian-speaking, do NOT want to split up their country. The only ones who do are some die-hard Putinphiles largely confined to parts of the Crimea around Russian naval bases.

    You cannot split up Ukraine on the basis of what the bare majority of people of an oblast or raion speak as their first language - there are few areas where a "majority" is even 2/3 of the population! Are you going to have some massive forced re-settlement? What about russophiles who abhor the corruption and oppression of Putin's regime and would rather take their chances in the West?

    And that really is the crux of the issue, because most Ukrainians, regardless of region or language, are sick of CORRUPTION. They don't want to fight over "culture war" issues, they want a clean government and a strong economy with jobs! All this talk of "partition" does is enable and embolden the far-right nationalists on either side - the ones who WANT bloodshed. A partition, because of both the intermingling of people and the economic ties (and the relative weakness of the west) would result in more bloodshed, and less progress, than anything.

    Posted by: Dave Silverstone | Feb 28, 2014 1:22:14 PM

  13. I should have added - I still have relatives and friends in Ukraine, including in the poorest, most nationalistic oblast in the west, as well as in Kiev who often travel east. I am quite confident in what I say of the general sentiment. My biggest worry is that the new government will simply be Ukrainophile crooks intstead of Russian crooks, and will play more nationality games than fight corruption. But if my hopes instead come to pass, that a centrist government focuses on modernization and liberalization of the economy, it will become increasingly easy to paper over simple differences such as primary language.

    I realize you might say if I'm right, a vote would prove it - but a vote on this matter would be incredibly dangerous. Think of the leverage Putin would throw into it - not just in pushing the russophile radicals to the extreme and rigging the vote in the east and south, but also in pushing Ukrainian nationalists to step up their rhetoric in the west - scaring the east and driving the west further into the arms of the crypto-facists on the extreme right. It would, in other words, do nothing but exascerbate the very problems the putative election is supposed to solve!

    Posted by: Dave Silverstone | Feb 28, 2014 1:28:12 PM

  14. All these talks are just talks. You like it or not, international relations were and are based on power politics. If one side can get away with it, it will do so to their own advantage. US as the sole superpower, will not concede to the Russians. Even Obama may have good intention, the establishments in both parties won't allow him to do so.

    Posted by: simon | Feb 28, 2014 1:29:28 PM

  15. Oh man. I was so excited when Andy Towle announced that David Mixner would be contributing. I thought "Great. Mixner could share some of his insight into electoral politics, fundraising, and gay rights in the 90s."

    Was I ever wrong. I don't think Mixner has written one single post about any topic in which he has experience or knowledge. This latest piece is just embarrassing. He learned all about "the Ukraine" from a National Geographic article and now he declares that the country should be split in two. David, did you know that Russians only make up about 15% of Ukraine's population. So you are going to give 50% of the country to 15% of the population, against the will of 85% of the population? Divide lands based on ethnicity? Spur ethnic cleansing? OK. I wonder what other ideas he will come up with when the next National Geographic comes out.

    Dave, how about a post about Bill Clinton, or Hillary, or the state of gay fundraising? Something that doesn't make you look like a moron.

    Posted by: Michael | Feb 28, 2014 1:37:07 PM

  16. Agreeing to partition the country so that one version is landlocked and the geographically-better half is given to a dictator with plenty of land already seems like a horrible idea.

    The succession issue would be resolved already if Russia weren't playing political games. Rewarding Putin with a prime piece of real estate would just encourage him and other actors like China. (China isn't exactly shy about claiming ownership of a certain "renegade province". They could pull the same thing with unmarked military men taking over buildings and claim that Taiwan wants to rejoin the motherland.)

    Not to mention I can't imagine the new government agreeing to this. This would be us basically giving away half their country for them.

    Posted by: Patrick Dark | Feb 28, 2014 1:51:05 PM

  17. He's replaced all references to "the Ukraine" with "Ukraine" without acknowledging the (very revealing) correction.

    How unprofessional.

    Posted by: tcw | Feb 28, 2014 1:59:42 PM

  18. @ If you insist on doing so, at least the name right: it's "Ukraine", not 'The Ukraine'."

    Mr Mixner uses the correct name of the country throughout his article. (some of y'all are so mean).

    There is a young Ukrainian who comes to my office to sit and talk every couple of weeks. His name is Vadim. Constantly when I asked him about his homeland I would say, "THE Ukraine". Then I'd realize my mistake and I'd apologize. He said to me a few months ago, "It's ok. All the Americans do that"

    He said his mother (here in Philly) is in tears everyday. I said, "well, Vadim, don't let her watch the TV news". Of course, that was stupid of me. Being a student and working he can't monitor his mother's TV viewing.

    Months ago, he told me that he often goes up to Brooklyn where there is a Russian with Russsian nightspots--hoping that he can meet a Russian girlfriend.

    I asked, "well, Vadim, why would want to meet a Russian girlfriend? Wouldn't you rather meet a Ukrainian girl?"

    He smiled and said, "Russian/Ukrainian, same thing."

    So, yes, there must be different views of identity or allegiances among the Ukrainian people themsleves.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Feb 28, 2014 2:04:19 PM

  19. @ "He's replaced all references to "the Ukraine" with "Ukraine" without acknowledging the (very revealing) correction. "

    Well, OK, TCW, I thought in the original article I saw "Ukraine" also used. But maybe you helped make the correction. OK?

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Feb 28, 2014 2:29:05 PM

  20. I am agog.

    What a dreadful dreadful article.

    Posted by: Dan | Feb 28, 2014 3:04:52 PM

  21. Lol, TCW chill. We're discussing people's lives and all you care about is 'The'?? Really? Of course.

    Posted by: Rowan | Feb 28, 2014 3:06:13 PM

  22. Whatever Mixner, I guess you're not content with vastly overstating your ties to Jerry Smith and then media whoring yourself out during the NFL films doc and the roundtable after.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Feb 28, 2014 3:23:24 PM

  23. Truly horrible ideas in this article. To begin with, who is the "we" that you suggest should lead this partition? The US? You decry colonialist re-ordering of national borders, then suggest "we" take the lead in doing so, a half world away?

    You also overstate the "European vs. Russian" divide. Corruption and oligarchy figure in much more prominently.

    This is the kind of simplistic narrative that nearly led the US to what would have been a disastrous NATO obligation to go to war with Russia over the "frozen conflicts" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    Posted by: melisma | Feb 28, 2014 3:44:23 PM

  24. I'm not sure how Mixner's logic would not also suggest returning Southern California to Mexico. Partition is a seductive solution that often fails to resolve anything: Ireland 1922, Palestine 1948, India 1948,Korea 1950, Cyprus 1974.

    Unless there's an LGBT angle, I think this discussion really belongs elsewhere.

    Posted by: Rich | Feb 28, 2014 4:10:52 PM

  25. Maybe Crimeans should vote on their independence, but not while Russian special forces are currently occupying key parts of the Crimean, including the parliament and airport. At this very moment!!

    Let's also not forget that a large part of the Crimean population is either Ukrainian or Tartar, the latter group of people being those who historically have claim to the land.

    So, yeah, there are more Russians there now, but only because of the USSR's past slaughter.

    How can this all be reconciled? Are you really going to leave the Tartars there to be slaughtered again -- because that's almost certainly what will happen in Putin's Russia.

    There's no good solution here, but we should think long and hard about any sort of votes for independence, considering them ONLY after Russia stops its aggression and intimidation, particularly given that if Crimea is just handed over to Putin now, there's nothing stopping him from using that as a staging ground to send the tanks rolling over into the rest of Ukraine.

    And don't ever think he's not willing to do that -- he doesn't think we'd have the balls to do anything about it. At the very least, if he doesn't withdraw these special forces and stop his intimidation, worldwide massive economic sanctions MUST be applied to Russia immediately to show them our resolve.

    Posted by: Ryan | Feb 28, 2014 4:24:37 PM

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