Last Tango in Ukraine

 

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Now that the first smoke has cleared from the Russia/Ukraine kerfuffle, many of our leaders in the West need to take a valium and substitute some thinking for the incoherent rambling of the past few weeks.

First, Ukraine. Ukraine, unfortunately, has a very checkered past. It has been a subject state in various empires and has not had fixed borders for much of its life. After a very brief period of independence, it was subsumed in the Soviet Union after the Red Army defeated the Whites in the Russian Civil War in the early 1920s. For two hundred years prior to that, it was essentially part of Russia, with the eastern part of the country populated by ethnic Russians.

Crimea was handed over to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954 by Krushchev, allegedly in a drunken stupor. Needless to say the Russians in Crimea were never consulted.

Communism is certainly dead in Russia; it only survives in the sociology departments of some American universities. Its diseased fanaticism no longer haunts the world. But Great Power realpolitik has returned in its place. This is the domain of real men and real nations, not the playpen of weaklings “drawing red lines with pink crayons” as Ollie North said recently.

The real loser in this game will be the EU—the new state behemoth seeking to absorb Ukraine into its empire of debt slavery. Not satisfied with impoverishing Greece, Spain and Italy, among others, the eurocrats, the commissars of Brussels, seek ever greater expansion, called “integration” in EU-speak. What infuriates them is a national leader who will not kowtow to their mind-numbing drivel of “ever closer union.” For that, read “ever greater power”.

Seeing that Ukraine might fall into the hands these rapacious bandits posing as democrats and liberals, the Russians saw that Crimea, Russian for hundreds of years and home to their Black Sea fleet, might fall into the hands of the EU by means of a Ukrainian regime newly subservient to their debt masters in Brussels.

Such a situation would be a strategic disaster for Russia, or, for any other nation in a similar position. So President Putin acted. So far, the Crimea operation has proceeded very smoothly without a shot being fired. The Russians are assured of a local population that largely supports them, a Ukraine in turmoil without a functioning government, and the Western Powers caught flat-footed and without a clue as to what to do. Nice move Vlad. Notice that I haven’t even mentioned the US with the man-child in the White House.

There are several reasons for this. One, President Obama is really, I mean really, clueless about international politics. On this stage he is simply an empty suit that reads teleprompters. This only impresses his toadies in the liberal media; it does not impress anyone on the world stage.

Two, his main object is to weaken the US in the world and to degrade its ability to act forcefully and definitively. This stems from his inherent left-wing ideology that seeks to weaken and emasculate every thing to do with Western Civilization.

Three, while he is weakening sanctions against the Mullahs in Iran, the world’s leaders in supporting Islamic terrorism, and easing their way toward a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel, he is seeking sanctions against Russia, which is on our side in fighting the jihadis. Go figure.

The next pothole in the road for the Americans will be the Crimean referendum. Let’s suppose that the vote is heavily in favor of union with the Russian Federation? Then Obama will be in the position of saying that a democratic vote on self-determination is “illegal”. So the Russians will be supporting democracy and the Americans opposing it! Doubles all round at the Kremlin happy hour.

Is it any wonder that Putin’s popularity is sky high in Russia and Obama’s is pathetic in the US?

Western leaders from Berlin to Washington need to shape up fast and see the world as it is, not as they would like. I suspect that they will not.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that the Russians are actually sorry for the Americans for putting such a clown in the White House.

Rebel Yell

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TangoJuliette

“… Crimea was handed over to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954 by Krushchev, allegedly in a drunken stupor. Needless to say the Russians in Crimea were never consulted…”

Wrong!

Just a brief clarification follows. Quoting Victor Ostapchuk.

[Victor Ostapchuk is an associate professor in the department of Near and Middle Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto, specializing in the history of the Black Sea region and Crimean Khanate.]

Don’t let Russia abuse Crimean history
VICTOR OSTAPCHUK
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Mar. 07 2014, 6:00 AM EST
Last updated Friday, Mar. 07 2014, 6:00 AM EST

As the international crisis over Crimea’s status escalates, the fate of the Crimean Tatars has been nearly absent from the discussion. The West has essentially accepted a manipulation of history: According to the Russian narrative, Crimea is a traditional Russian territory with an overwhelming Russian population, whimsically transferred to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. To accept this version is to negate the histories of non-Russian peoples, above all Crimean Tatars, and tacitly sanction Russian aggression, which may lead to consequences beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Since ancient times, many peoples have populated Crimea, including Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Mongols, Slavs and Turks. However, only the Crimean Tatars have Crimea as their only homeland; their presence and rule predates the Russians by centuries. As a distinct ethnic group, they can be traced to the early 15th century and the formation of the Crimean Khanate, a successor state to Genghis Khan’s empire. For almost 350 years, the Crimean Khanate, under the protection of the Ottoman Empire, was a major power in Eastern Europe, controlling the northern Black Sea steppes. The Russian Empire eliminated the state of the Tatars in 1783, contrary to guarantees it pledged in the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainardja (1774).
So what happened to the Crimean Tatars and where did the Russians and Ukrainians come in? The Tatars fought both with and against their Ukrainian Cossack neighbours. After Russia conquered Crimea, it launched a massive colonization of Slavic settlers. Russia continued to reduce the Tatar population, decreasing it by two-thirds over the course of the 19th century through forced migration to the Ottoman Empire. The modern-day presence in Turkey of millions of people of Tatar descent explains Turkish concern over the current situation. Finally, in 1944, Joseph Stalin deported the entire Crimean Tatar population in cattle cars, dumping them in Central Asia under the pretext of supposed collaboration with Nazi Germany. About half of the 225,000 deportees perished from hunger and the elements.
This act of genocide opened the way for the settlement of additional, mostly Russian, colonists in Crimea. In the late 1980s, Tatars began returning to Crimea and found their homes irrevocably lost to the new settlers. They resigned themselves to the situation and to coexistence with the new settlers, who did not always welcome their return. Despite these hardships, the experience of the Crimean Tatars under Russian rule was so traumatic that for them, the possibility of Crimea’s return to Russia, raised Thursday in plans for a quick referendum on that prospect, is appalling. They remain staunch supporters of Ukraine.
Between the ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars and colonization, Russians eventually became the dominant population in Crimea. As of the 2001 census, the population was just over two million: 58 per cent Russians, 24 per cent Ukrainians and 12 per cent Crimean Tatars. (The Tatar proportion will have since risen due to migration and birth rate.) Russians hardly constitute a “vast majority,” as is often stated in the media.
There are two more myths Russia invokes to justify its occupation of Crimea. The first is that Crimea is a land of “Russian glory sanctified with Russian blood” because Russia conquered it in the 18th century and retook it from the Germans in the Second World War. This article of faith disregards the fact that both the Russian and Soviet empires were multinational states whose armies included plenty of non-Russians – the blood of Ukrainians and other ethnicities was spilled in the wars against the Ottoman Empire and the Third Reich.
The second relates to the transfer of Crimea from the Russian to the Ukrainian Republic in 1954. The story goes that Khrushchev, bypassing all legal norms, single-handedly gifted the peninsula to Ukraine to commemorate its 300th anniversary with Russia and earn points with the Ukrainian Communist Party in his struggle for power. (Actually, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union passed a law that sealed the transfer.) Rarely mentioned are economic motivations. The Second World War devastated Crimea and Khrushchev was particularly troubled by the abysmal pace of recovery. The Ukrainian Republic’s aid was seen as crucial, particularly in bringing water from the mainland to the arid peninsula. Ukrainian resources were a key to the recovery.
Lamentably, Russian myths about Crimea’s past are being allowed the role of a full-fledged actor in the current crisis. Ukrainians have their narrative as well. All nations have heroic myths, but when an exclusivist myth is invoked in an international conflict, it must be understood for what it is, rather than accepted as a legitimizing factor for aggression. The Tatar voice desperately needs to be heard, both as a matter of justice and as a matter of prudence, to avoid a new grievance in the Muslim world. In accepting the Russian narrative, the West may contribute not only to the triumph of oppression over justice, but to war over peace.

Dalwhinnie

Yeah, we read it too, TJ. Just another Ukrainian historian trying to tell us that the Crimea really does not belong to Russia. It was stolen fair and square in 1783 by the Russians Tsars taking away an outpost of Islamic slavers, the Crimean Tatars, for Christendom. They used to enslave tens of thousands of Christians for Islam. Just as their descendants would do today if they were given the chance.
I cannot approve of Stalin, the mass murderer, but in the case of Chechens and Tatars, the tyrant was not altogether wrong to deport them to Siberia en masse.
I deeply regret that Putin is a shit-head, and that the Ukrainians are in for more trouble, but I do not run this world, I merely observe it.

Dalwhinnie

Taras: You need to understand that we deeply believe in constitutional democracy, liberty, private property and an ordered commonwealth, and wish that the Ukraine would get some of it, though, alas! living next door to Putin prevents much of any good happening in his neighbourhood. We do not have the troops,ships and warplanes in the vicinity, and Obama is no help either. Our quarrels with Obama are legion. But even if Ronald Reagan of blessed memory were somehow in power, Putin would still get back the Crimean peninsula.This is just what is happening, and talking about Ukraine’s historical rights to Crimea is so much hot air.

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