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The Road to War
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The surging crisis in Ukraine is a dramatic example of how wars begin. Take arrogance, toxic nationalism, tribalism, moral outrage and profound miscalculation, mix thoroughly, and, voilà !, another great leap forward in the march of human folly.

Russia just mobilized its western regions armed forces, an inevitable response to the growing turmoil in Ukraine. Most westerners are unaware that Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilization and, when properly run, one of the world’s great producers of grains.

Now that western Ukraine has fallen to anti-Russian, nationalist groups, Russia-oriented eastern Ukraine is also threatening to explode. This nation of 44 million is already de facto split into two parts. How Ukraine’s armed forces respond remains an important question. On Thursday their command vowed to resist any incursion by Russian troops, but loyalties remain uncertain.

Unrest and some violence have now erupted in Crimea. Though 80% ethnic Russian, this highly strategic peninsula was given by the Soviet leadership to the Soviet Ukrainian Republic in 1954. The result, some say, of a grandiose, drunken gesture by Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev, a former Ukraine party boss. Back then it mattered little.

Today, Khrushchev’s gift has become a poisoned chalice. On my last assignment in Crimea, it was clear that most of its people desired reunification with Russia.

Equally important, Sevastopol is Russia’s second most important naval base, and its gateway to the Mediterranean.

Adding complexity, Crimea’s remaining Muslim Tatar population is now calling for their own state independent of Russia. Crimea was once primarily Tatar, the descendants of the 13th century Golden Horde of primarily Kipchak Turkic nomads. The Khanate of Crimea lasted five hundred years until crushed by the expanding Russian Empire.

In the 1940’s, under Stalin’s orders, southern Russia’s Muslim peoples suffered a holocaust in which 3 million were murdered by NKVD secret police firing squads or from starvation and disease in the gulag.

Tatars who survived Stalin’s murderous reign, filtered back to Crimea, only to find their homes and land had been seized by ethnic Russians. Tatars remain a partly homeless internal refugee population calling for redress from the uncaring Russian state. Many Tatars want no part of Russia – like their fellow victims of Stalin, the Chechen.

For Russians, Crimea is not only the principal base of the Black Sea Fleet, the peninsula also was the scene of the epic 250-day siege siege of Sevastopol in 1941.

In a brutal battle for the port and rest of Crimea, the Germans employed monster 800mm and 600mm guns against Sevastopol’s forts that fired 6-7 ton shells that had been built to destroy France’s Maginot Line forts. Sailors of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet played a notable role in the defense. Sevastopol was rightly proclaimed a Hero City of the Soviet Union.

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Sebastopol has been Russia’s gateway to the south since the days of Catherine the Great. Crimea is renowned for its sweet wines and the historic resort of Yalta where the doddering fool Franklin Roosevelt, surrounded by Soviet spies and hidden microphones, gave half of Europe to the gleeful Stalin.

Crimea was the epicenter of the 1853-1856 Crimean War in which Britain, France and Turkey combined to block Russian expansion into the Balkans. Most famous, of course, was the disastrous charge into the face of massed Russia guns of the British Light Brigade near Balaclava. Just to the south is a remarkable former Cold War Soviet submarine base hewn into a mountain large enough to hold six-eight u-boats.

The Cold War seems to be resuming, at least in Ukraine. Unrest is also brewing in neighboring Belarus, a nasty Stalinist dictatorship closely aligned with Moscow.

The West and Moscow are trading accusation of meddling in Ukraine. In truth, both are busy stirring the pot, a dangerous game that has brought NATO and Russia to the brink of armed confrontation. The neocon Undersecretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland, said US has spent $5 billion promoting anti-Russian groups in Ukraine. Chances of a Ukrainian civil war are also rising.

Ukraine is flat broke. Kiev needs at least $35 billion in immediate loans. Russia has withdrawn its offer of $15 billion. Who wants to lend money to a bankrupt, chaotic Ukraine filled with restive, angry people?

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Ukraine 
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  1. Can you imagine if the Ukraine had already been forced into NATO alliance right up against the Russian border? It could be the start of World War III. That would be mighty profitable for the warmonger donorists, as long as it could be contained. It could so easily get beyond control, that it would wipe out profits along with everything and everyone.

  2. Ah, the inevitable Shandyism of “Stalin’s crimes” again, with the usual imaginary numbers and events, including “starvation.” Very droll–but, er, just where did these Tartars reappear from, if one may ask? Surely not from the happy hunting grounds where the United States stowed the vast majority of the American indigenous population, eh? Ah yes, and the Chechens too–all liquidated indeed.

  3. Sean says:

    “gave half of Europe to the gleeful Stalin.” The half of Europe already occupied by the Red Army?

  4. A year ago I was reading a U.S. Army officer’s article about a Ukraine contingency operation. I thought the guy was nuts, but now I see this is no sudden crisis.

  5. Politically, economically, and historically, Crimea and much of the territory east of the Dnieper River belong with Russia. That way, the smaller, but still large Ukrainian state will be more politically united and could join the EU more easily. Also, any economic bailout for Ukraine from the west can focus on a smaller population. I hope everyone involved has the common sense to settle for half a loaf.

  6. Don Nash says: • Website

    The US/NATO has been poking at the Russians for quite sometime now and it would seem that the Russians have had enough. It is unfortunate that everyday Ukrainians will be caught in the middle and suffer the most as the overreaching Obama regime gets in a pissing match with a very determined Putin. This is going to ugly.

  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I hope that the referendum scheduled for March 30 will head off a war. The demography of the Crimea is such that in a free and fair referendum there is likely to be a majority for complete autonomy (amounting to independence) from the Ukraine. Because of the weight of the principle of popular sovereignty in the modern world, those who insist that the Crimea be included in the Ukraine against the will of the majority of Crimeans, will then be discredited on this issue.

  8. Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimea#Slave_trade

    “Until the late 18th century, Crimean Tatars maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East,[16] exporting about 2 million slaves from Russia and Ukraine over the period 1500–1700.[17] In 1769 a last major Tatar raid, which took place during the Russo-Turkish War, saw the capture of 20,000 slaves.”

  9. http://www.regnum.ru/news/polit/1770039.html
    Original is in Russian. You can use Google translation yourself.
    Here is an excerpt from such a translation:

    Head of the Moscow fraternities Crimean Tatars Ernst Kudusov publicly called Russian “hereditary slaves.” The corresponding statement Kudusov made ​​during his speech in the Russian Public Television.

    Answering the question of the leader as far as the Crimea, in his opinion, politically divided between the “Russian-speaking” and parts of the Crimean Tatar population Kudusov said: “We have a little turn to history. Firstly, the Crimean Tatar people – an aboriginal people. In Secondly, it is repressed. That is, in 1944 there are no Crimean Tatar left. Stalin decided to destroy the Crimean Tatars, because they are not creeping people they never knew slavery. And Stalin used to control slaves. So he liked Russian – former slaves, hereditary slaves. Millennial slavery, there is nothing you can do with it.”

  10. Hungarians and Slovaks and Czech heroes attempted to take back what the doddering fool FDR gave to the occupying Soviet troops.

  11. Eugene Costa asks: “where did these Tartars reappear from, if one may ask?”

    From Central Asia (mainly Uzbekistan), which is where they were deported to. The USSR government overturned the conviction of collective treason against them in 1967, but they did not start returning to Crimea in large numbers until the 1980s.

  12. Uzbekistan? To quote Theophrastus, “I am astonished!”. And where is Uzbekistan, prithee?

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