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Marbella, Spain – Here in Spain’s sunny south, you wouldn’t know that a new world war over Eastern Europe threatens. In fact, rumor has it that none other than Vlad Putin is house-shopping in this glamorous resort.

Easter is Europe’s most important holiday. While churches are empty, restaurants, clubs and boutiques are packed with visitors and residents. Northern Spain is racked by record unemployment and a deep recession, but armies of British, French and German tourists are back in the south and the mood is upbeat.

To Spaniards, the dangerous fracas over Ukraine seems remote and unimportant. Western Europeans are taking this nasty business calmly. There is none of the media hysteria and patriotic drum beating found in North America. No one that I’ve met thinks Ukraine is worth a war, even a small one.

To paraphrase the great statesman Bismarck, Ukraine is not worth the life of a single Prussian grenadier. I recalled this famous maxim at dinner the other night here in Marbella where I’m a house guest of the Bismarck family, which is reunited here for Easter.

Prince Bismarck would never have allowed Ukraine to boil over and set the United States, its appendage NATO, and Russia on a collision course. He would have been horrified to see Washington foolishly making enemies of Russia and China at the same time. Divide your enemies and set then against one another was the essence of Bismarck’s brilliantly effective diplomacy. Had Kaiser Wilhelm II retained Bismarck as his premier foreign policy advisor, Germany may have avoided blundering into the horrors of World War I.

President Putin keeps bringing up history to justify his assertive policies towards Ukraine and Crimea. This annoys Americans, who know little about history and refuse to accept Russia as a great power- and certainly not as an equal.

Recently, Sen. John McCain, the voice of America’s ignorant right, sneered that Russia was merely “a gas station masquerading as a country.” Gas stations do not produce the likes of Tolstoy, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, or the very smart Vlad Putin. They do, however, produce puny intellects like McCain.

Just as Russia provided the US with a diplomatic exit from blundering into a war with Syria, so the Kremlin is again offering Washington a way out of the Ukraine imbroglio.

That way out consists of a Ukraine-wide referendum to allow each region to determine whether it wants to align with Europe or Russia. Russian must be made a second official language. Most important, the US and NATO have got to halt their daft plan to set up bases in Ukraine and bring it in the alliance. These bases will enrage Russia without boosting NATO’s power.

In fact, NATO’s would-be bases in Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, as well as the Baltic, are a major military liability to the alliance which is incapable of defending them if the Russians get really angry.


Speaking of history, it’s also worth recalling past efforts to weaken Russia by detaching Ukraine, its most important center of agriculture and coal. In 1917, after the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, Russia sued for peace. The result was the rapacious Treaty of Brest-Litowsk in which the Germany and Austria stripped away Ukraine, parts of today’s Romania, and the Baltic states from Russian control.

Ukraine was briefly independent during the 1920’s Russian civil war. Stalin crushed Ukraine’s independent farmers, murdering 6-7 million in a 1930’s holocaust. To no surprise, invading German troops were greeted as liberators by many Ukrainians. But Hitler decided to turn Ukraine into Germany’s granary and its people into serfs.

The US and NATO are now trying to impose a second Brest-Litowsk on Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia can not return to being a world power. Stalin undid Brest-Litowsk. Vlad Putin is determined that the punitive eastern version of the “Versailles Treaty” will not be again imposed on Mother Russia. Pity the poor Ukrainians caught between the crushing millstones of East and West.

After the 1878 Congress of Berlin that Bismarck organized to sort out the great power’s conflicting claims to the volatile Balkans, the Iron Chancellor observed that no one had asked the locals involved their opinion. Fast forward to today’s Ukraine where Bismarck’s wise advise still rings true.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Ukraine 
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  1. ” STALIN crushed Ukraine’s INDEPENDENT FARMERS, MURDERING 6-7 million in a 1930’s HOLOCAUST.”

    Same old propaganda & Tendenz–repeated over and over and over, as if that will make it true.

  2. Compare Margolis’s juvenilely sneering article to Patrick Cockburn’s calm and respectful exploration of the issues here: and one can easily see who is a genuine journalist and who is a self-infatuated show off.

  3. Forced collectivization and murder of “kulaks” (any peasant with a cow) did result in genocide scale starvation in the millions. To try to pretend otherwise is another kind of holocaust denial.

    Vilifying Putin as the would be restorationist of a Stalinist Soviet Union is beyond ridiculous. Stalin was a virulent atheist, despite his early seminary training, while Putin, secretly baptized and proud of it, is not. Putin pushed to make the great anti-Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” and other works required student reading in Russia. There could credibly be no greater anticommunist Russian than Solzhenitsyn and Putin officially honored him during his lifetime – which Solzhenitsyn accepted, when he had refused similar from Boris Yeltsin. To require that students be aware of previous history in the clearest condemnation of Soviet rule is hardly the cartoon propaganda of a revanchist “commie” served up for a forgetful western public being manipulated to serve elite financial interests.

  4. MarkU says:

    @ Eugene Costa

    Rehabilitating the memory of Josef Stalin appears to be a rather futile endeavour, I wonder why you bother. I don’t see that you are going to win any hearts and minds by defending Stalin, probably the opposite I would say. Perhaps you would be good enough to tell us what you are using as source material for your claims, you may possibly be right but you have provided us with nothing usable.

  5. KA says: • Website

    My understanding of the history of mass scale killings in Ukraine tell me that it started with the Poland occupying Ukraine and starting the hated oppressive Arendta system . Ukraine eventually after century ,got rid of the Polish rule and killed the Poles and the Jewish middlemen. When Ukraine came under Russian rule( soviet) ,it faced the mass sovietization and resultant famine. This was not lost on Ukraine as elite driven economic famine and the elite were Soviet Jews in politburo and Russian non Jews . When Hitler came and ran over Ukraine,he found a prepared and ready citizen body who were eager to exact revenge on the local Jews and those from Russia.
    Then came the Russian victory and with that the revenge of Stalin.

  6. Michael Meo says: • Website

    Stalin didn’t overturn the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Mr Margolis. You really jumped the shark there, as the younger generation might say. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March 1918 (I am using wikipedia here); the German government was overthrown by a revolution on 9 November 1918, and the Versailles Treaty — you are aware, it is devoutly to be hoped, that the leaders of Great Britain, France, and the United States were uninterested in the at that time obscure third-rank Bolshevik, Stalin — on 28 June 1919 drew new boundaries between several East European states, specifically between Poland and Russia. That cancelled the effect of Brest-Litovsk.

    Formally, Brest-Litovsk lasted for a year and three months; in fact only for seven months, until Germany withdrew from the war. During all that time V. I. Lenin was running the government.

  7. It’s not often Margolis lets down the half so it must be the dinner wine, or the holiday metality.

    It’s suprising to hear that the Euros are so little concerned with Ukraine as, it would seem, they are to be the main ‘bailers-out’ of Ukraine’s hopefully temporary financial embarassment. Taking on a new Greece, or Spain, I imagine, doesn’t bother them, or at least the ones on which the sun shines, very much at all. Ukraine is actually worse-off than Greece or Spain for what assets she has left are already hocked to foreign investors. What she needs is markets – and even at the ‘world-class’ prices she can command for her minerals (not), for her farm production has tanked since the metrosexual development in the cities has been fostered – Ukraine still can’t afford the Euro treats she’d have to import – chocolate aside.

    Margolis is correct in outlining that to-day’s Ukraine is the poster child for the instability of a ‘cobbled’ state. While its organization was acceptable for an SSR, it was only a matter of time until the ‘DP’ version of Ukrainians – with their western pensions – would start to return home and bring with them the alternate version of Ukrainian history – the one we all love so much- of ‘heroes’ persecuted by the Red Menace for their faith and fidelity to freedom. That some were also the ‘John Demjanjuk’ variety and veterans of Kaminsky’s SS legion, evoking a darker truth, should be no surprise. Anti-Russian, like anti-Pole and anti-Jew runs deep in the Ukrainian genetic make-up and it’s evidently a ‘modern’ force again.

    Adding the ‘sophomores’ of Kiev with US ‘support’ to the mix, hasn’t helped.

  8. Mooser says:

    Hey, if I brought my kitchen knives in, could this comment thread sharpen them? Or do you only grind axes here?

  9. traveler says:

    @mark u.
    Stating he truth doesn’t mean condoning.

  10. Chris says:

    The Soviet famine of ’34 was caused primarily by enormous exports of grain to fund the first five-year-plan. It was not caused by collectivizing kulaks.

    Nor was it localised in Ukraine. It affected all agricultural areas of the USSR, the hardest-hit being what is now Kazakhstan.


  11. Joe says:

    Someone should ask Napoleon if Russia has ever been a great power.

    And this is what’s bizarre about living in America, and being the rare reader of history. I know that at the time when America was begging for French support to keep their little fledgling country from being run over by the British, Russia was a major power that nearly single-handedly defeated a French empire that had conquered Europe and then tried to use the combined resources of Europe to conquer Russia, and failed disastrously.

    One would think that someone with a basic military education like Commandante McCain would have at least have heard vaguely of Napoleon, snow and the Russia winter. But apparently that’s not written on the gas-station bathroom stalls where McCain got his education.

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