Russians are a special breed of political animals. It’s not that they don’t appreciate their neighbours. They do but only when they deserve it. In order to do that, a country must either be great, a model to follow, more powerful either militarily or economically, or has managed to hold its own against Russia.
By this measure only a handful of countries have fallen into those categories over the last 200 years.
Germany is a country that Russia has tried very hard to emulate. Both before WW1/WW2, when Russia imported German colonists, as well as after the world wars, when Feldmarschal Von Paulus, the loser of Stalingrad, was persuaded to teach military strategy and tactics in Moscow.
Finland is another example of a small country that managed to elicit Russian respect and gained neutral status on the merits of its military performance during the Winter War, Continuation War, and Lapland War. Bottom line, when Stalin threw 1,000,000 Red Army soldiers and 2,500 tanks against the 5 times smaller Finnish Army, he failed to annex Finland.
All other countries, that could neither defeat or draw Russia militarily, outperform her economically, are considered well, unworthy of Russia’s respect. That does not mean that Russia will shun them. That means Russia won’t look up to them or use them as role models.
Now that being said, Romanians have always had a disconcerting relationship with Mother Russia.
Even their movie about Princess Sophia that positions Stephen the Great, one of Romania’s most respected historical characters, as a malevolent scheming little potentate, or the Turkish Gambit, set in the late 19th century, are rife with deprecatory remarks, aspersing Romania’s national character.
But since every argument has two sides, the same goes for the optics of Russian geopolitics. I would be remiss if I was to consider only the interests of Ukraine, NATO, Romania or Russia. That is why we must know who we are dealing with.
Besides, if one examines every war’s outcome, one will find two categories of states: winners and losers. In the case of winners, the situation is crystal clear: they make the shots, they divide the post-bellum world, and they make it into the history books as the good guys. And before I forget, they actually get ‘fat’ by ingurgitating lands and people they remove from the losers. It’s called spoils of war for a reason, people. Ah, and they also receive reparations from the vanquished.
When it comes to losers, it is also clear that they end up footing the bill for the damages they made, and sometimes also for the cost of the entire war. Yeah, yeah, that is what happened in 1919, when the Congress of Peace of Paris decided that Germany was going to pay not only for destroying northern France and most of Belgium, but also for the price of every single bullet, shell, torpedo, ship, tank, piece of artillery, grenade the Allies had used during the war against Germany.
Losers end up also assuming all the blame for the war, regardless of historical truth. And they make it into the history books too. Albeit this happens for a different set of reasons. Future generations find out that the defeated also lost territory, treasure and people to the winners of the conflict.
And that is exactly what Putin is trying to avoid. NATO and America are treating Russia as if they truly lost the Cold War. They are trying to reduce it in size by chopping at its satellites, allies, and dependents. They understand very well that Russia in its current size and configuration is too big and stands in the way of their plans of world domination.
If Putin was as evil as the Western media portray him to be, then I guess he would not care about his place in the history books. It is my learned opinion after watching him for the past 20 years or so, that Putin is in it for the long haul. What do I mean by this?
Putin is like Lucius Cornelius Sulla. He is not really interested in his auctoritas (authority). Putin only cares about his dignitas (fitness, suitability, worthiness, visual impressiveness or distinction, dignity of style and gesture, rank, status, position, standing, esteem, importance, and honour). Where auctoritas represents the measure of a politician’s clout within his state and society, dignitas has to do with the reputation, good will, level of impressiveness and endurance of one’s legacy past one’s demise. In other words, if Putin does his job rightly, once he passes, Russia will always remember him with pride, honour, and gratefulness.
I believe this is what drives Putin, what animates and moves him to take the decisions he takes. I truly think that once the dust settles, he will have saved Russia not only from political insignificance on the world stage, but also from extinction, division, and destruction at the hands of her enemies.
America is positioning itself to become the hegemonic power of the world. Russia is not going to allow this. It has come to war. It is still war by proxy at this stage. But it is war nonetheless. Usually wars are decided by the side that holds out longer, by the more ruthless and technologically able of the combatants. We have the misfortune of living in the most interesting and dangerous of times our planet has ever seen at the hands of the human race.
THE ACTORS OF THE GEOPOLITICAL PLAY – DRAMATIS PERSONAE
UKRAINE’S HISTORICAL AND SECURITY CONTEXT
Russia’s birthplace is the Kievan Rus or Rusland, which started as a loose Varengian or Viking, if you will, federation in Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. The Kievan Rus included East Slavic, Baltic, and Finnic peoples and was ruled by the Rurik dynasty, founded by the Varangian prince Rurik.
Now the problem is that all these peoples, which have shared a common history once, are no longer in sync. But let us go back to Ukraine and its history, which is, I promise you, enmeshed with that of its neighbours. Btw, before we proceed, Ukraine means border lands in Slavonic. Quite ominous, if you asked me.
Still after Yaroslav’s passing, the Cradle of Russia also saw come to light the first written legal code of the Slavs, Russkaya Pravda (“Rus’ Justice”). By the 11th century, the original Varangians had assimilated into the first ruling dynasty of the Slavs, the Ruriks. By the 12th century, Kievan Rus was so rich and powerful, it became a mythical place for all Europe and Asia. Christianized since before the Schism, Kievan Rus succumbed to the Mongol Invasion, with Kiev falling in 1240.
THE IMPORT OF SHARED HISTORY ON UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
In a sense, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict of 2022 has as much in common with the American Civil War as it has with most civil wars. This is why it is so nasty and brutish, Because it is a war opposing brother against brother, ripping families apart, and pushing one half of the Slavic nation against the other. Like Lincoln’s North in 1861, Putin’s Russia is trying to subdue the Rebel and Secessionist South (in this case her West) and bring it back into the fold. And yeah, in this analogy, the Confederate States of America’s slavery is now matched by Ukraine’s opening to the European Union, NATO, and its anti-Russian nationalist and neo-Nazi leanings.
But we all remember that after 4 years of war, the United States brought by force the CSA back into the Union. I predict a similar outcome in this instance.
In the end, Russia will prevail but the cost will be a heavy one.
Returning to the historical context, after 1240, the Kievan Rus entered a period of upheaval.
In the intervening 300 years, the region saw a series of wars between Poland, Lithuania, Prussia, and the Crimean Tartars, which gave rise of the emerging Zaporozhian Cossacks, who assumed the role of protectors of the peasants and townspeople, who by 1569, included a mix of Polish, Russian, Tartar, Ruthenian, Lithuanian, Baltic and Prussian peoples, of both Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish faith.
In these border lands, the Cossacks were a force to be reckoned with. They became self-reliant and independent after defying the Ottoman Sultan who increasingly relied on its Tartar allies from Crimea (or Krim) to ravage and pillage the Slav lands from Lwow/Lviv to Minsk and from Kiev to Moscow, which they sacked and burned to a crisp in 1571. From 1500 and until 1699, the Golden Horde took two million Slavonic slaves.
BTW, in old French, slave and Slav are the same thing (Sclavon is the equivalent of esclavon, meaning Slav or Slavon, from Sclavonia).
The Eastern danger was real and mortal. But the Cossacks, who are Orthodox, rose up to the challenge and saved the border lands from both the Polish and the Ottoman/Tartar invaders.
Wikipedia tells us that by mid-17th century, a Cossack military quasi-state, the Zaporozhian Host, was formed by Dnieper Cossacks and Ruthenian peasants who fled Polish serfdom. Poland exercised little real control over this population, but found the Cossacks to be a useful opposing force to the Turks and Tatars, and at times the two were allies in military campaigns. However, the Polish nobility actively suppressing the Orthodox Church alienated the Cossacks, who sought representation in the Polish Sejm or Parliament, recognition of Orthodox traditions, and the gradual expansion of the Cossack Registry. These were rejected by the Polish nobility, who dominated the Sejm.
In 1648, Hatman or Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky established the independent Ukrainian Cossack state after leading an uprising against Poland.
The Cossacks were defeated by the Poles in 1651, and this is when they pivoted to Russia, asking for the Czar’s help, who came to their aid because why, because Russia had been previously invaded by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Times of the Troubles (1598-1613).
So Russia took the fight to the Polish enemy who had tried to destroy and take over its state.
Between 1657–1686 “The Ruin“, a devastating 30-year war broke between Russia, Poland, the Crimean Khanate, the Ottoman Empire, and Cossacks for control of Ukraine, which occurred at about the same time as the Deluge (or Potop) of Poland.
The wars escalated in intensity with hundreds of thousands of casualties. The “Treaty of Perpetual Peace” between Russia and Poland in 1686 divided the lands of the Cossack Hetmanate between them, reducing the portion over which Poland had claimed sovereignty.
Again, the Cossacks are being used and abused by their erstwhile allies, the Russians and Polish.
In 1709, Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1639–1709) defected to Sweden taking arms up against Russia in the Great Northern War (1700–1721). Eventually Tsar Peter I the Great recognized that to consolidate and modernize Russia’s political and economic power it was necessary to do away with the Cossack Hetmanate as well as Ukrainian and Cossack aspirations to autonomy. Mazepa died in exile after fleeing from the Battle of Poltava (1709), in which the Swedes and their Cossack allies suffered a catastrophic defeat.
The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, a 1710 constitutional document written by Hetman Pylyp Orlyk, established a standard for the separation of powers in government between the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches, well before the publication of Montesquieu‘s The Spirit of the Laws. The Constitution limited the executive authority of the hetman, and established a democratically elected Cossack parliament called the General Council.
And this ladies and gentlemen, I did not know. I had no clue that the Cossacks were not only this literate, they were actually ahead of the French Enlightenment. Kudoz to them. I mean it.
In 1768, the Cossacks led yet another anti-Polish uprising, called Koliivshchyna, in the Ukrainian borderlands (somewhat redundant) of Poland–Lithuania. Ethnicity was one root cause of this revolt, which included the Massacre of Uman that killed tens of thousands of Poles and Jews who settled Ukraine in the previous centuries.
And this is exactly what my Jewish friends warned me about. There is a robust streak of anti-Semitism permeating the history of these lands, which I do not call Ukrainian because Ukraine sounds like a state to people, but the name actually means borderland. Let us hear what Holy Wikipedia has in store for us in this respect.
In the 18th century, religious warfare broke out between two Ukrainian groups. Increasing conflict between the Ruthenian Uniate Church and Orthodox parishes along the newly reinforced Polish-Russian border on the Dnieper eventually led to the uprising. As Uniate religious practices had become more Latinized, Orthodoxy in this region became even more dependent on the Russian Orthodox Church. Faith also reflected the opposing Polish (Western Catholic) and Russian (Eastern Orthodox) political allegiances.
This tells us two things. One, since cca. 1700 there is no longer just one Ukraine, but two. One Polish-Lithuanian west of the Dnieper, which is either Roman-Catholic or Uniate (Greco-Catholic). And another, east of Dnieper, which is Russian Orthodox. And therein lies the problem, which endures to our day and age.
After the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire in 1783, the newly acquired lands, now called Novorossiya were opened up to settlement by Ukrainians and Russians. Despite promises in the Treaty of Pereyaslav, the Ukrainian elite and the Cossacks never received the freedoms and the autonomy they had expected. However, within the Empire, Ukrainians rose to the highest Russian state and church offices. In a later period, tsarists established a policy of Russification, suppressing the use of the Ukrainian language in print and in public.
After the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), Catherine the Great and her immediate successors encouraged German immigration into Ukraine and especially into Crimea, to thin the previously dominant Turk population and encourage agriculture. Numerous Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks moved into the northern Black Sea steppe formerly known as the “Wild Fields“.
In the 19th century, nationalist and socialist parties started taking roots in Ukraine, but also over the border in Austrian Galicia, which under the relatively lenient rule of the Habsburgs, became the centre of the nationalist movement.
WORLD WAR I AND THE INTERWAR PERIOD
During World War I, Ukrainians fought on both sides, Austria-Hungary and Russia, although the majority fought for the latter. The Ukrainian Galician Legion that fought for the Central Powers during the War, continued fighting against the Bolsheviks and Poles, between 1919 and 1923.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Ukraine becomes independent in January 1918, but in reality the Republic falls prey to civil wars between the Hetmanate, the Directorate and the Bolshevik Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine.
On top of this state of chaos, the Black Army of insurgent Nestor Makhno takes over Southern Ukraine, dominating it during the Russian Civil War. Makhno ended up fighting both Denikin’s White Army and Trotsky’s Red Army. And when all was said and done, a defeated Makhno took flight and escaped to Romania in 1921.
Poland defeated Western Ukraine in the Polish–Ukrainian War, but failed against the Bolsheviks in an offensive against Kyiv. According to the Peace of Riga, western Ukraine was incorporated into Poland, which in turn recognised the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in March 1919. With establishment of the Soviet power, Ukraine lost half of its territory, while Moldavian autonomy was established on the left bank of the Dniester River. Ukraine became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December 1922.
The war in Ukraine continued for another two years; by 1921, however, most of Ukraine had been taken over by the Soviet Union, while Galicia and Volhynia (mostly today’s West Ukraine) were incorporated into the Second Polish Republic.
Modern-day Bukovina declared itself independent and democratically voted to join Romania, while Carpathian Ruthenia was admitted to the Czechoslovak Republic as an autonomy.
A powerful underground Ukrainian nationalist movement arose in eastern Poland in the 1920s and 1930s, formed by Ukrainian veterans of the Ukrainian-Soviet war (including Yevhen Konovalets, Andriy Melnyk, and Yuriy Tyutyunyk) and was transformed into the Ukrainian Military Organization and later the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). The movement attracted a militant following among students. Hostilities between Polish state authorities and the popular movement led to a substantial number of fatalities, and the autonomy which had been promised was never implemented.
The pre-war Polish government also exercised anti-Ukrainian sentiment; it restricted rights of people who declared Ukrainian nationality, belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church and inhabited the Eastern Borderlands. The Ukrainian language was restricted in every field possible, especially in governmental institutions, and the term “Ruthenian” was enforced in an attempt to ban the use of the term “Ukrainian”. Despite this, a number of Ukrainian parties, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, an active press, and a business sector existed in Poland. Economic conditions improved in the 1920s, but the region suffered from the Great Depression in the early 1930s.
The Russian Civil War devastated the whole Russian Empire including Ukraine. It left over 1.5 million people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the former Russian Empire territory. Soviet Ukraine also faced the Russian famine of 1921 (primarily affecting the Russian Volga–Ural region). During the 1920s, under the Ukrainisation policy pursued by the national Communist leadership of Mykola Skrypnyk, Soviet leadership encouraged a national renaissance in Ukrainian culture and language. Ukrainisation was part of the Soviet-wide policy of Korenisation (literally indigenisation).
The Bolsheviks were also committed to universal health care, education and social-security benefits, as well as the right to work and housing. Women’s rights were greatly increased through new laws. Most of these policies were sharply reversed by the early 1930s after Joseph Stalin became the de facto communist party leader.
Starting from the late 1920s with a centrally planned economy, Ukraine took part in Soviet industrialisation and the republic’s industrial output quadrupled during the 1930s. The peasantry suffered from the programme of collectivisation of agriculture, which was part of the first five-year plan and was enforced by regular troops and secret police – CEKA. Those who resisted were arrested and deported and agricultural productivity greatly declined. As members of the collective farms were sometimes not allowed to receive any grain until unrealistic quotas were met, millions starved to death in a famine known as the Holodomor or the “Great Famine”.
There is no question about this. Holomodor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian society and people. The Communist leadership saw famine as a means of class struggle using it as a punishment tool to force peasants into collective farms.
The same Stalinist cadre were responsible for the mass killing operations during the Civil War, collectivisation, and the Great Terror. In 2010, Kiev Appellate Court posthumously found Stalin, Kaganovich and other Soviet Communist Party functionaries guilty of genocide against Ukrainians during the Holodomor famine.
Following the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided the territory of Poland. Thus, Eastern Galicia and Volhynia with their Ukrainian population became part of Ukraine. For the first time in history, the nation was united.
In 1940, the Soviets brutally annexed Bessarabia and northern Bukovina by imposing a military ultimatum to Romania. The Ukrainian SSR incorporated the northern and southern districts of Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and the Hertsa region. But it ceded the western part of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to the newly created Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. These territorial gains of the USSR were internationally recognized by the Paris peace treaties of 1947.
These territories have always been inhabited by Romanian speakers and became Soviet by force of arms and by way of the principle to the victors belong the spoils. International law be damned for all its misshapen sense of justice.
WORLD WAR II
Marshal Timoshenko (born in the Budjak region that is the three southernmost counties of Romanian Bessarabia) commanded numerous fronts throughout the war, including the Southwestern Front east of Kyiv in 1941.
German armies invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, initiating nearly four years of total war. The Axis initially advanced against desperate but unsuccessful efforts of the Red Army. In the encirclement battle of Kyiv, the city was acclaimed as a “Hero City“, because of its fierce resistance. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers (or one-quarter of the Soviet Western Front) were killed or taken captive there, with many suffering severe mistreatment.
Although the majority of Ukrainians fought in or alongside the Red Army and Soviet resistance, in Western Ukraine an independent Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) movement arose in 1942. It was created as the armed forces of the underground Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which had developed in interwar Poland as a reactionary nationalist organization. During the interwar period, the Polish government’s policies towards the Ukrainian minority were initially very accommodating; however, in the late 1930s they became increasingly harsh due to civil unrest.
Both organizations, the OUN and the UPA, supported the goal of an independent Ukrainian state on the territory with a Ukrainian ethnic majority. Although this brought conflict with Nazi Germany, at times the Melnyk wing of the OUN allied with the Nazi forces. From mid-1943 until the end of the war the UPA carried out massacres of ethnic Poles in the Volhynia and Eastern Galicia regions, killing around 100,000 Polish civilians, which brought reprisals.
These organized massacres were an attempt by the OUN to create a homogeneous Ukrainian state without a Polish minority living within its borders, and to prevent the post-war Polish state from asserting its sovereignty over areas that had been part of prewar Poland. After the war, the UPA continued to fight the USSR until the 1950s. At the same time, the Ukrainian Liberation Army, another nationalist movement, fought alongside the Nazis.
In case you had doubts about what the West is supporting, arming, promoting, and defending with our hard earned taxpayer money. We all pay 50% of our income in taxes in the West so that our ‘enlightened leaders’ can send thousands of anti-tank launchers and anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine. But nobody bats an eye. Cause it’s for Ukraine. And Russia is bad. But hey, who are we to beg to differ if our governments want to give modern weaponry to Nationalists and neo-Nazi, as long as they hate Russia, I guess that makes it ok. Oh sweet irony. Well, the joke is surely on us.
Kyiv suffered significant damage during World War II, and was occupied by the Germans from 19 September 1941 until 6 November 1943.
In total, the number of ethnic Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the Soviet Army is estimated from 4.5 million to 7 million. The pro-Soviet partisan guerrilla resistance in Ukraine is estimated at 47,800 from the start of occupation to 500,000 at its peak in 1944, with about 50% being ethnic Ukrainians. Generally, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s figures are unreliable, with figures ranging anywhere from 15,000 to as many as 100,000 fighters.
Most of the Ukrainian SSR was organised within the Reichskommissariat Ukraine, with the intention of exploiting its resources and eventual German settlement. Some western Ukrainians, who had only joined the Soviet Union in 1939, hailed the Germans as liberators. Brutal German rule eventually turned their supporters against the Nazi administrators, who made little attempt to exploit dissatisfaction with Stalinist policies. Instead, the Nazis preserved the collective-farm system, carried out genocidal policies against Jews, deported millions of people to work in Germany, and began a depopulation program to prepare for German colonisation. They blockaded the transport of food on the Kyiv River.
The vast majority of the fighting in World War II took place on the Eastern Front. By some estimates, 93% of all German casualties occurred there. The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated at 6 million, including an estimated one and a half million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen, sometimes with the help of local collaborators. Of the estimated 8.6 million Soviet troop losses, 1.4 million were ethnic Ukrainians. Victory Day is celebrated as one of ten Ukrainian national holidays. The losses of the Ukrainian people in the war amounted to 40–44% of the total losses of the USSR.
UKRAINE DURING THE COLD WAR
The republic was heavily damaged by the war, and it required significant efforts to recover. More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were destroyed. The situation was worsened by a famine in 1946–1947, which was caused by a drought and the wartime destruction of infrastructure. The death toll of this famine varies, with even the lowest estimate in the tens of thousands. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations organization, part of a special agreement at the Yalta Conference.
This can be explained not just because of the preponderance of high ranking Communists hailing from SSR Ukraine, such as future Soviet First Secretaries Khrushchev and Brezhnev among them, but also because the Soviets realized they could use the Soviet Union federative constitution to fool the United Nations into according each of the Soviet Republics a seat at the table. As we all know the plot did not succeed since USSR only had one seat on the Security Council.
* Wikipedia dixit that Khrushchev was born on but not inside the Ukrainian border.
Post-war ethnic cleansing occurred in the newly expanded Soviet Union. As of 1 January 1953, Ukrainians were second only to Russians among adult “special deportees“, comprising 20% of the total. In addition, over 450,000 ethnic Germans from Ukraine and more than 200,000 Crimean Tatars were victims of forced deportations.
Following the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the new leader of the USSR. Having served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukrainian SSR in 1938–1949, Khrushchev was intimately familiar with the republic; after taking power union-wide, he began to emphasize “the friendship” between the Ukrainian and Russian nations. In 1954, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav was widely celebrated. Crimea was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.
By 1950, the republic had fully surpassed pre-war levels of industry and production. Soviet Ukraine soon became a European leader in industrial production and an important centre of the Soviet arms industry and high-tech research. Such an important role resulted in a major influence of the local elite. Many members of the Soviet leadership came from Ukraine, most notably Leonid Brezhnev. He later ousted Khrushchev and became the Soviet leader from 1964 to 1982.
On 26 April 1986, a reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history. At the time of the accident, 7 million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 2.2 million in Ukraine.
After the accident, the new city of Slavutych was built outside the exclusion zone to house and support the employees of the plant, which was decommissioned in 2000. A report prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization attributed 56 direct deaths to the accident and estimated that there may have been 4,000 extra cancer deaths.
On 21 January 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians organised a human chain for Ukrainian independence between Kyiv and Lviv, in memory of the 1919 unification of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian National Republic. Citizens came out to the streets and highways, forming live chains by holding hands in support of unity.
On 16 July 1990, the new parliament adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. This established the principles of the self-determination, democracy, independence, and the priority of Ukrainian law over Soviet law. A month earlier, a similar declaration was adopted by the parliament of the Russian SFSR. This started a period of confrontation with the central Soviet authorities. On 2–17 October 1990, the Revolution on Granite took place in Ukraine, the main purpose of the action being to prevent the signing of a new union treaty of the USSR. The demands of the students were satisfied by signing a resolution of the Verkhovna Rada, which guaranteed their implementation.
In August 1991, a faction among the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union attempted a coup to remove Mikhail Gorbachev and to restore the Communist party’s power. After it failed, the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence on 24 August 1991.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin signed the Belavezha Accords, dissolving the Soviet Union, on 8 December 1991.
A referendum and the first presidential elections took place on 1 December 1991. More than 92% of the electorate expressed their support for the Act of Independence, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk, as the first president of Ukraine. At the meeting in Brest, Belarus on 8 December, followed by the Alma Ata meeting on 21 December, the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
On 8 December 1991 the Council of Republics of the USSR Supreme Council adopted the declaration “In regards to creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States” which de jure dissolved the Soviet Union. On December 26, the Soviet flag was lowered over the Kremlin. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine did not ratify the accession, so Ukraine has never been a member of the CIS, although it chose to participate to its sessions until 2018.
Ukraine was initially viewed as having favourable economic conditions in comparison to the other regions of the Soviet Union. However, the country experienced deeper economic slowdown than some of the other former Soviet Republics. During the recession, between 1991 and 1999, Ukraine lost 60% of its GDP and suffered five-digit inflation rates. Dissatisfied with the economic conditions, as well as the amounts of crime and corruption in Ukraine, Ukrainians protested and organized strikes.
The Ukrainian economy stabilized by the end of the 1990s. A new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in 1996. After 2000, the country enjoyed steady real economic growth averaging about seven percent annually. A new Constitution of Ukraine, under the second President Leonid Kuchma in 1996, turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic and established a stable political system. Kuchma was, however, criticized by opponents for corruption, electoral fraud, discouraging free speech and concentrating too much power in his office. Ukraine also pursued full nuclear disarmament, giving up the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world and dismantling or removing all strategic bombers on its territory in exchange for various assurances.
The Euromaidan (Ukrainian: Євромайдан, literally “Eurosquare”) protests started in November 2013 after the president, Viktor Yanukovych, began moving away from an association agreement that had been in the works with the European Union and instead chose to establish closer ties with the Russian Federation. Some Ukrainians took to the streets to show their support for closer ties with Europe. While others, with pro-Russian leanings, followed suit but showing support to closer ties with Russia.
Violence escalated after 16 January 2014 when the government accepted new Anti-Protest Laws. Violent anti-government demonstrators occupied buildings in the centre of Kyiv, including the Justice Ministry building, and riots from 18 to 20 February left 98 dead, with approximately fifteen thousand injured and 100 missing. On 21 February, President Yanukovych signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders that promised constitutional changes to restore certain powers to Parliament and called for early elections to be held by December.
However, Members of Parliament voted on 22 February to remove the president and set an election for 25 May to select his replacement, a move described by Russia and US academic John Mearsheimer as a coup. The ousting of Yanukovych prompted Vladimir Putin to begin preparations to annex Crimea on 23 February 2014. Petro Poroshenko, running on a pro-European Union platform, won with over fifty percent of the vote, therefore not requiring a run-off election.
Upon his election, Poroshenko announced that his immediate priorities would be to take action on the civil unrest in Eastern Ukraine and mend ties with the Russian Federation. In October 2014 Parliament elections, the party Petro Poroshenko Bloc won 132 of the 423 contested seats.
But before Yanukovych was voted in by Ukrainian speaking Ukraine, the situation worsened.
THE EVENTS OF 2014 – RECAP
Meanwhile, in the predominantly Russian-speaking east but also in Kiev, Odessa and throughout the country, a large portion of the population opposed the Euromaidan protests, supporting instead the Yanukovych government. Over time, Euromaidan came to describe a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, the scope of which evolved to include calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government, in February 2014.
In March 2014, Crimea seceded from Ukraine, with its new prime-minister Aksenov asking Putin to send troops to ensure tranquility and peace. The Russian troops were already on site, so all they had to do was step out and disarm the Ukrainian troops, who clearly believed that “discretion is the better part of valour” and chose to live to fight another day. Little did they know that that day would come 8 years later.
In other words, Ukraine was approaching at the time a state of civil strife that needed but a spark to develop into a full blown civil war.
That spark was the ouster of Yanukovych by the Rada, in a move that was considered by many international observers as a coup d’état. Still in 2014, the Rada passed a number of anti-Russian laws whose objective was to make Ukrainian the only official language of the country.
In May 2014, Ukrainian nationalists clashed with pro-Russian federalists in Odessa. Both sides took casualties, but the Russian minority was chased into the Trade Union House by the Ukrainian nationalists, who set it on fire. More than 30 pro-Russians protesters were burned to a crisp, threw themselves out the windows to escape the carbon monoxide fumes, dying on impact, or were clubbed and shot to death by Ukrainian nationalists and local police. Several choked to death and were left to die.
But before we move on to the outcome of the 2014 EuroMaidan, I will submit to your attention a few photos for your information.
Fact is that by 2014, Ukrainian politics had become dominated by a vocal minority of neo-Nazi sympathizers and militants advocating the ethnic cleansing of Russian people in Ukraine. This, as we recall from our previous chapters, was not the first time when ethnic cleansing had come to Ukraine. In fact, the last time this had happened, these guys were in charge in Kiev.
With Crimea in Russian hands, Ukraine turned definitely towards the West, massively voting in October 2014, for Petro Poroshenko’s party.
A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES
Let us take a peek into what happened behind the scenes. Let us unpack the facts.
Fact #1: Ukraine was part to CIS and had enjoyed excellent relations with Russia. The Russians were happy to provide cheap and plenty energy to Ukraine in exchange for stable political and economical relations.
Fact #2: America and the European Union had wanted for the previous 15 years to spirit Ukraine away from Kremlin’s orbit. So they started pouring funds into pro-euro Atlantic propaganda.
And Soros is not shy or closeted about this. He is quite unabashedly proud of the mess he created.
And this is where you can find out about why Soros wanted Ukraine to stop cooperating with Russia and start working closely with the EU and America.
Fact #3: When Yanukovych decided not to break with Russia because he was not insane and did not want Ukraine to be torn apart by civil war and invasion, he reneged on a promise to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Instead he went all in, and signed a deal with Russia (November 2013).
Fact #4: The euro Atlantic forces went nuts and started pumping hundreds of millions, perhaps even up to a couple of billion of dollars, into the propaganda machine feeding the anti-Russian parties.
Fact #5: EuroMaidan protests started on 30 November 2013, bringing together between 250 000 and 500 000 people in what was called in the West, the Orange Revolution. This was one of those revolutions that happened ‘organically’ via social media. Bovis stercus! It was all orchestrated from the centre by Western politicians, paid for with public and private money, and directed against pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians. By February 2014, 100 people were killed during the protests, from both the pro-Ukrainian pro-EU camp as well as from the pro-Russia side.
Fact #6: On 22 February 2014, Yanukovych fled the country, not waiting to be sacked by Parliament, who ousted him illegally in absentia, replacing him with Oleksandr Turchynov. Corrupt politician, Iulia Timoshenko, is released from prison, and a new government led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk is put in place. The new government starts an anti-Russian linguistic and politico-economic persecution of Russian speaking Ukrainians.
Fact #7: The pro-Russian camp doesn’t take these news sitting. The Russian speaking East secedes. War starts in the Donbass.
Fact #8: The European Union acted as the instigator and guarantor of the 22 February 2014 Coup d’état by the Ukrainian Rada that impeached and illegally ousted Viktor Yanukovych from power. According to article 111 of the Ukrainian Constitution, in order to sack the elected president, 75% or the Rada or 338 MPs must vote to that effect. As it happened, only 328 MPs did so. Furthermore, the Rada illegally dismissed 5 members of the Constitutional Council, whose senatus consultum was required prior to the dismissal of the president.
Fact is that for some political entities to have always praised the rule of law, America and Europe were quick to sanction the gross illegalities that transpired. And no amount of legalese or post-factum justification could ever make this coup d’état be anything else but a violation of the law.
2014 Russian armed intervention and invasion of Crimea
On 23 February 2014, Putin sent in an army “of little green men”, to take over and annex Crimea (shown in pink on this map). Pink in the Donbas area represents areas held by the DPR/LPR separatists in September 2014 (cities in red).
Since Russia already had access to its naval base at Sevastopol, Putin directed Russian troops and intelligence agents to disarm Ukrainian forces and take control of Crimea. After the troops entered Crimea, a referendum was held on 16 March 2014 and the official result was that 97 percent of the locals wished to join with Russia.
On 18 March 2014, Russia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea signed a treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation. The West refused to acknowledge the fait accompli with the same swiftness it employed to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo, in 2008. The West even maneuvered UNGA into passing resolution 68/262 declaring that the referendum was invalid and supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Of course, Russia voted against the resolution, which was not enforceable. And since two can play the Kosovo recognition game, Russia blocked by veto all attempts to pass enforceable resolutions in the U.N. Security Council.
Separately, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the local militia took up arms and with the support of pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings, police stations in several cities and held status referendums. They proclaimed the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, which have controlled about 1⁄3 of the oblasts since then.
Talks in Geneva between the EU, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States yielded a Joint Diplomatic Statement referred to as the 2014 Geneva Pact in which the parties requested that all unlawful militias lay down their arms and vacate seized government buildings, and also establish a political dialogue that could lead to more autonomy for Ukraine’s regions. When Petro Poroshenko won the presidential election held on 25 May 2014, he vowed to continue the military operations by the Ukrainian government forces to end the armed insurgency.
This did not sit well with either of the Donbass People’s Republics or Russia, who continued to support militarily the Russian separatists in DPR/LPR. Fighting continued and worsened with atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict against both armed soldiers and unarmed civilians.
In August 2014, a bilateral commission of leading scholars from the United States and Russia issued the Boisto Agenda outlining a 24-step plan to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. The Boisto Agenda was organized into five imperative categories for addressing the crisis requiring stabilization identified as: (1) Elements of an Enduring, Verifiable Ceasefire; (2) Economic Relations; (3) Social and Cultural Issues; (4) Crimea; and, (5) International Status of Ukraine.
In late 2014, Ukraine ratified the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, which Poroshenko described as Ukraine’s “first but most decisive step” towards EU membership. Poroshenko also set 2020 as the target for EU membership application.
This move tells us that Ukraine had by then split into two sides. One pro-Western, led by the Kiev government, and another pro-Russia, led by the two breakaway republics of DPR/LPR. The Kiev government sent in the Azov battalion into Eastern Ukraine to return the pro-Russian regions to the Ukrainian fold by steel and blood. I cannot imagine a worst way to manage an explosive situation than to send a bunch of trigger-happy neo-Nazis into Russian-speaking territory. This is the equivalent of waving the proverbial red flag before a raging bull.
In February 2015, after a summit hosted in Minsk, Belarus, Poroshenko negotiated a ceasefire with the separatist troops. The resulting agreements, known as the Minsk Protocol, included conditions such as the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front line and decentralisation of rebel regions by the end of 2015. They also included conditions such as Ukrainian control of the border with Russia in 2015 and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Ukrainian territory. The ceasefire began on 15 February 2015. Participants in this ceasefire also agreed to attend regular meetings to ensure that the agreement was respected.
Obviously, the Minsk Agreements were dead before being launched. Nobody paid any attention to them, with both the Ukrainian government and the separatists engaging in massive bombardments, civilian atrocities, and large scale warfare. Suffice to say that the last 8 years have been hell for the people in Eastern Ukraine.
In parallel with the negotiations to end the civil war in Eastern Ukraine, on 1 January 2016, Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union, which was aimed at bringing Ukraine’s economy, governance and rule of law to EU standards and gradually increase integration with the EU Internal market. The EU was jonesing and making a play for one of the biggest markets in Europe.
In 2017 the European Union approved visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens: entitling Ukrainians to travel to the Schengen area for tourism, family visits and business reasons, with the only document required being a valid biometric passport. After all, carrots sell better than the whip.
WAR STARTS – 24 FEBRUARY 2022
Finally, the war started after a few close calls and false alarms on February 24, 2022, when Russia started a “special operation”, invading Ukraine from 3 directions: North, South, East.
But more about that in the next installment of my blog.
Ukraine’s future is a bleak one. They find themselves in the unenviable position of becoming a warzone between two major powers: America backed by its NATO Euro-Atlantic partners and Russia, backed by its clients, satellites, and allies, and her mighty Asian friend, China. Their prognosis is dire and I do not think they will ever find lasting peace by choosing one camp or the other.
But perhaps the most pregnant lesson we can take away from this war is that we live in a post-Truth world. It matters not what happens on the ground or even in the hallways and corridors of power. All that seems to matter is what people think. And if people think something to be true, then it must be. Right?!
2 thoughts on “Putin’s Gambit – How the Superpowers are gambling World Peace away – Chapter II: The Background”
Wow! Super interesting, can’t finish it tonight, I want to save this one for next Sunday morning read. Love it!
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I read more this morning! I can’t wait for my vacation so I can learn learn learn. There is so much inferesting info. In this blog on Poutin . I need to take my time and really understand what your saying because I never was introduced to so much rich history before your blog, thank you!