It has been a while since well-known Russian nationalist and spotlight-grabbing politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, made headlines. The recent flame up of Cold War 2.0 is precisely the cover the flamboyant individual needed to reemerge once more, scandalous as ever. Because while the west scrambles to find a way to punish Russia for openly flaunting its relentless hollow threats by annexing Crimea, Zhirinovsky is back and has a "modest proposal" for Ukraine, and the countries neighboring the troubled former USSR territory: namely dividing the country along the lines of an infamous Nazi-Soviet pact, suggesting that regions in Western Ukraine hold referendums on breaking away from Kiev. In a letter sent to the governments of Poland, Romania and Hungary, Vladimir Zhirinovsky also suggested those countries hold referendums on incorporating the regions into their territory. The question is whether Zhirinovsky, who traditionally has been just a bit of a loose cannon yet whose nationalist Liberal Democratic party largely backs President Vladimir Putin in the Russian parliament,speaks only for himself, or whether Putin is using him the way the Fed uses Hilsenrath.
Before readers dismiss his ramblings as those of a deranged lunatic, it is worth reminding that he is deputy speaker at the Duma and his ideas and language resonate with a large part of the Russian population and the Kremlin's increasingly pro-nationalist rhetoric.
His letter, seen by Reuters, suggested Poland, Hungary and Romania, who are now in the European Union, might wish to take back regions which he said were in the past their territories.
The regions were incorporated into Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two and featured in a secret annex of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact under which the Soviet and Nazi German foreign ministers carved up the area.
"It's never too late to correct historical errors," Zhirinovsky wrote. It was not clear whether the letter was serious or a publicity stunt. But it follows a crisis in relations between Moscow and Kiev since the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was ousted as Ukraine's president last month.
Zhirinovsky proposed Ukraine's Chernivtsi, Zakarpattia, Volyn, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Rovensky regions, together with Poland, Romania and Hungary hold referendums on whether the regions should break away from Ukraine.
Romania might wish to have Chernivtsi, Hungary the Zakarpattia region, and Poland the rest, he said.
The proposal would allow central Ukraine to be free of "unnecessary tensions" and the referendums would "bring prosperity and tranquillity to the Ukrainian native land," the letter said.
We never said he didn't have a sense of humor. One nation, however, was not amused: Poland...
Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski dismissed the letter as a "complete oddity" and regretted some Russians "still think in terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact."
... And of course Ukraine.
Ukraine's government spokeswoman declined to comment. Sergei Sobolev, head of Ukraine's largest parliamentary faction, the Fatherland party, called Zhirinovsky a "provocateur".
"But Zhirinovsky often is the voice of Putin," he added.
Alexandr Efremov, head of the parliamentary faction Party of Regions, Ukraine's former ruling party, said he did not support Zhirinovsky's proposal.
"Just as we have some intemperate people, Russia has some of them as well," Efremov said at a briefing. "I do not support this (Zhirinovsky's) approach."
Perhaps the most important message here is that with the Russian nationalism wave increasingly a dominant talking point and motivation in voting for any one political party, hopes that the Ukraine "precedent" will promptly be buried under the rug can be soundly eliminated for good.