The tur­moil in Ukraine could lead to two very dif­ferent ver­sions of Europe, according to Mitchell Oren­stein, chair of North­eastern University’s Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence. Europe can either con­tinue its expan­sion as a zone of peace and pros­perity, or revert back to a two-​​block landscape.

Orenstein’s lec­ture on Wednesday morning at Renais­sance Park was the fourth in the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence and Northeastern’s Human­i­ties Center’s series Con­tro­ver­sial Issues in Secu­rity Studies. Titled “The Battle for Ukraine,” his talk focused on the events leading up to the uproar there and what it means from a geopo­lit­ical standpoint.

Ukraine is obvi­ously the geopo­lit­ical pivot point in Europe,” said Oren­stein, a scholar of inter­na­tional pol­i­tics whose exper­tise includes a focus on the polit­ical economy of tran­si­tion in Cen­tral and Eastern Europe. “So what we have now is a choice between a ‘whole and free’ Europe or a two-​​block Europe with varying influ­ences. And then what are the bound­aries of those two blocks?”

Oren­stein added it’s dif­fi­cult to know how to respond to those two dif­ferent projects, which could likely result in a second Cold War.

Tur­moil began in Ukraine late last year when former Pres­i­dent Viktor Yanukovych opted against signing an asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia. Vio­lent riots broke out after that announce­ment, resulting in more than 100 deaths and Yanukovych’s even­tual ouster.

In the after­math of Yanukovych being over­thrown, Russia took con­trol of the Crimean Penin­sula, a multi-​​ethic region that declared inde­pen­dence from Ukraine ear­lier this month. The Russian gov­ern­ment said it has inter­vened in the region to help pro­tect Russian civil­ians and mil­i­tary per­sonnel in Crimea.

The U.S. and Europe responded with sanc­tions against cer­tain Russian and Ukrainian offi­cials and voting Russia out of the G8. Oren­stein said the next round of sanc­tions could be an embargo against Russian gas or even cut­ting off Russia’s links to western banking systems.

The ques­tion is do we pull the trigger,” Oren­stein said of greater U.S. sanc­tions. “And we don’t know that yet. Right now (Pres­i­dent Barack) Obama has con­nected the trigger to an inva­sion of Ukraine.”

When asked about the U.S.’s involve­ment with Ukraine, Oren­stein said U.S. for­eign policy “mad­den­ingly” did not pay enough atten­tion to Ukraine and it’s impor­tance on a geopo­lit­ical scale. “It’s an inter­esting story we are a part of now,” Oren­stein said. “It’s a rather dan­gerous time in Europe and a con­cerning time for the west in general.”

Oren­stein said he hopes to visit Ukraine to see the build up to the May elec­tions called after Yanukovych’s ouster.