Keep in mind: politicians will start foreign wars to distract us from domestic issues. Call me cynical, but if Trump ordered ground troops to protect a country that paid his family millions in illegal cash, the media would be covering it differently. There are factions saying that we should let our troops die in Ukraine to preserve democracy, but they forget that the country currently trades justice for cash bribes from Biden that gave Ukraine a $1B loan after they fired the prosecutor general he didn’t like because Biden’s son was making $50,000 a month from a Ukrainian oligarch-owned energy group. Remember, when things go south domestically, as they are for Biden, Presidents like to muddy the water with conflict.
BREAKING: Ukrainian president had to correct Biden multiple times on their call today when he insisted Kyiv was about to be ‘sacked’ by Russian forces. At one point he even asked Biden to calm down. Apparently, Biden was unaware of the talks going on this week in Paris between Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine.
In reality, Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea are very layered situations. But first, let’s look at the history and cultural significance of the Russia-Ukraine relationship.
During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus’ forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation into several principalities in the 13th century and the devastation created by the Mongol invasion, the territorial unity collapsed and the area was contested, ruled, and divided by a variety of powers, including the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Tsardom of Russia. A Cossack Hetmanate emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but its territory was eventually split between Poland and the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, a Ukrainian national movement for self-determination emerged, and the internationally recognized Ukrainian People’s Republic was declared on 23 June 1917. After World War II, the western part of Ukraine merged into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the whole country became a part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The period after World War I saw Czarist Russia collapse, and then a series of brutal civil wars. The wheat fields of Ukraine were too valuable to the Soviet Union to be allowed to just go their own way. Ukraine had to be brought back into the Soviet fold.
With the collectivization campaign, vigorously resisted, the farmers and peoples of Ukraine were put down.
This was continued with two famines and the counter-kulak campaign that resulted in the chłodomor or Голодомор (in Ukrainian, the “Hunger-extermination”), the serial starving of Ukraine by the Soviets. Estimates range from 2.5 to 7.5 million killed.
During World War II, Ukraine was a bitterly contested sub-theater of operations. Some Ukrainians fought for the Germans, others for the Soviets, still others (especially in western portions) for their own independence.
Accurate statistics are difficult to come by, but Ukraine along with Poland and Germany certainly saw a greater percentage of death and destruction than any other region in the war. Stalin was replaced by Nikita Khrushchev, who was born in a small village close by the Ukrainian border, and worked as a young apparatchik in Ukraine.
He was party to the crimes and policies of Stalin, yet during World War II he tried — with limited effect—to alleviate some of Ukraine’s suffering. The USSR “gave” Crimea to Ukraine in 1950s in the immediate aftermath of the “Secret Speech” denouncing the legacy of Stalin and Khrushchev’s bungling attempts to reverse decades of brutal Soviet policy.
Khrushchev, though, never anticipated that the USSR would dissolve and that one day Ukraine would no longer be a satellite but a free and sovereign nation.
Today a central flashpoint is not “just” Crimea, but the entire complex post-USSR period in grappling with the fallout of two Russian empires collapsing in 75 years. One cannot understand Ukraine and Crimea without considering this pivotal period in Russian (Soviet)-Ukrainian relations.
Context: For centuries Ukraine had anchored Russia’s identity. As the centre of the storied medieval confederation known as Kyivan Rus, which stretched from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, Kyiv was seen as the cradle of Russian and Belarusian culture and the font of their Orthodox faith. Being united with Ukraine was fundamental to Russia’s vision of itself, especially in its ability to see itself as part of Europe. The idea of Kievan Rus’ is also integral to the Russian identity.
On Christmas Day 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, stating that the, “disintegration of the Soviet Union had been a most tragic event.” By January 1992, Ukraine and 14 other former Soviet Republics had become independent nations.
Ukraine handed over all of its nuclear weapons, leading to the signing of the Budapest Memorandum of “Assurances” (a complicated term and document in international law and diplomacy) in 1994.
Now, in 2022, the world is in an uproar over Russia’s possible invasion of Ukraine. But remember,
Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991. Today, however, pieces of culture are still shared, and they are more closely tied than Ukraine would admit. For instance, while Ukrainian is the primary language, most people living in Ukraine also speak Russian.
As far back as Tolstoy, been dubbed “the breadbasket of Europe” and has roughly a quarter of the Earth’s extra-fertile “black soil,” according to the Atlantic Council think tank. The organization says Ukraine is one of the world’s top grain exporters and a global leader in production of products like sunflower oil and soybeans. Logistically, having control of that agricultural market would be a strategic victory for Russia, as would running Ukraine’s well-placed seaports along the Black Sea.
If Russia annexes the pro-Russian separatist factions, much the way it did Crimea, what does this really mean geopolitically? Is this something that needs to be worked out between these two, and done on their turf?
Something has got to give- for Russia, there is a real fear of shifting military power balance between Kiev and Donbas separatists. Putin observed the Karabakh War last year and has a good appreciation for what a military armed with modern NATO weapons, such as Turkish TB2 drones, can do to retake territory. He has lost faith that Zelensky has any interest in resolving the issue of Donbas diplomatically and believes he needs to forestall a change in the status quo there militarily – sooner or later.
Saakashvili’s push to rearm and take over Georgian separatist territories and change the status quo is what triggered the Georgia War in 2008.
The same appears to be happening now.