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Ukraine: Some Historical Background

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President . . . is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

Theodore Roosevelt, Editorial in The Kansas City Star May 7, 1918

With the revelations by Lev Parnas (apparently backed up by all kinds of documentation, on paper, in emails, in texts, on cell phones, and etc.), that Trump was up to his neck in the Ukraine/Zelensky attempted extortion/bribery plot has become clear. (And remember, for both bribery and extortion to be crimes, one does not have to succeed, only try.) Parnas has already turned over all of this documentation to the House Intelligence Committee (and of course the Federal DOJ Southern District of New York has it as well).

Of course, do these reveals mean that McConnell will crack and admit anti-Trump's-case witnesses to the Senate Impeachment Trial? Well no. Does it mean that Susan Collins will not do her usual fade after saying that she would "consider all of the evidence" (and most recently saying that she might, well maybe she would, consider it, if the timing were right). Well, of course not. The Senator from Maine always fades, like the rays of the sun glinting off the slopes at Sugarloaf Mountain, ME, (where I skied in 1962, at that time riding the world's longest T-bar: 7000 ft.!) as it sinks in the West. In fact she has already announced that she likely will (fade).

But in this column, I am taking a step back, to 2014, and taking a look at the US-sponsored "regime change" in Ukraine that set up the current picture. There was at that time an elected President, Viktor Yanukovych . He was apparently quite corrupt and apparently incompetent as well. But he was the elected President. (Sound familiar?) Under Russia, physically as well as politically, at one point nevertheless he was open to attempting to negotiate Ukrainian entry into the European Union and possibly even NATO. (For the United States that latter would have been like Mexico joining some Russian-Chinese international military alliance. At that point Trump might actually read up a bit on U.S. history [OMG] and invoke the Monroe Doctrine.) But then, thinking better of it in terms of Ukraine's geo-poltical situation, Yanukovych started considering joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union , something the U.S. under Obama didn't like so much. And that's when the current version of the Ukrainian "Great Game" got going again in earnest.

Europe-Ukraine.  It's a pretty big place.
Europe-Ukraine. It's a pretty big place.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Dƶoxar, Author: Dƶoxar)
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The current "Great Game" that is still being played in Ukraine --- the Trump bribery/extortion scandal aside --- began in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was leading what would turn out to be the final campaign of Western Imperialism's 75-Year War Against the Soviet Union. While Reagan was already in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, he was surrounded by a cleaver bunch of handlers who a) made sure that the onset of his final illness would be concealed from the US public and perhaps even from Soviet Intelligence, and b) made sure that the US stayed on track for that final offensive.

Part of that final campaign was on the one hand to continue the heavy US military spending program, even throwing in the impossible-to-achieve "Star Wars" program (which would, if it had ever come to pass, given the U.S. First Nuclear Strike capability --- currently reactivated by Trump with the "Space Force" but not noticed much because of impeachment, the Trump Middle East Mess, and etc.), spending that the Soviet Union could never hope to match. At the same time a gullible Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was being lulled into thinking that deals could be made which would allow the pressure to be taken of his country. Unfortunately for the Soviet Union as a nation-state, Gorbachev never did learn the real meaning of Reagan's constantly stated mantra, which he used when talking about dealing with the Soviet Union: "trust but verify." That is that for Reagan, it only went one way.

George H.W. Bush became President when the Soviet Union, under increasing military-spending pressure from the United States, was entering the final throes of its death as a nation-state. Part of the plan of Western imperialism was to undermine not only socialism in the Soviet Union, but whatever state power was held in the Soviet Bloc nations, not, surely, by truly Communist Parties, but by the variety of governments which nevertheless were beholden in one way or another to the Soviet Union. Among them, the East German government came to be on shakier and shakier ground. Eventually, reunification with the much more prosperous West Germany (whose destroyed industry after World War II had been very quickly restored by the US under the "Marshall Plan," which sent no aid any further east than the Elbe River) and the end of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) became inevitable.

Reagan and Gorbachev hold discussions.  And Gorbachev was snookered.
Reagan and Gorbachev hold discussions. And Gorbachev was snookered.
(Image by (Not Known) Wikipedia (, Author: Author Not Given)
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The only obstacle to that occurrence was the presence of about 300,000 troops of the Red Army in the GDR. Gorbachev agreed to remove them, allowing German re-unification. In return, he received a promise from G. H.W. Bush that while the re-united Germany would belong to NATO, there would be no expansion of NATO eastward. Unfortunately for the Soviet Union and the successor state of Russia, Gorbachev trusted the West but did not demand verification (see the note above). No such treaty or even agreement was ever put on paper and signed by all parties concerned. And thus we have the origins of the current situation in Ukraine.

Led by US imperialism under Pres. Clinton, NATO did expand eastwards, right up to Russia's borders, with the Baltic countries, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania as members. Recall that NATO was formed specifically as a US-led military alliance against the Soviet Union in 1949, and its charter requires that an attack on any member be regarded as an attack on all. Thus the only major part of Russia's western border that is not with a NATO country is that which is with Ukraine. And, coming down the present, the ever-expanding capitalist imperialism of the US had set its sights on it.

The threat to bring Ukraine into NATO, with the expected Russian response, had been what the US was counting on ever since the whole sordid adventure started back with the overthrow of the constitutional, however awful and corrupt, but elected, former government of Ukraine. A major figure in the regime change was one Victoria Nuland, a prote'ge' of Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, who became Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and retained that post under Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Yats is our guy" Nuland was central to the so-called color revolution that overthrew the existing elected government. The coalition was indeed a fairly broad one, but it happened to include fascists, especially the "Azov Battalion," openly neo-Nazi, and a direct descendant of the Ukrainian battalions that fought with the Wehrmacht in World War II. They not only participated in the overthrow of the Constitutionally-elected government, but engaged in very apparent false-flag events, like the sniper killings and the burning alive of opponents of the overthrow in a hotel, to which was turned a blind-eye (at best), then covered up in the Western media.

Ukraine has forever been a bi-lingual nation, Ukrainian being the national language but Russian being the lingua franca spoken in the Eastern provinces of what is called the Donets Basin. Rarely mentioned in the Western Media was the fact that the right-wing elements of the new government wanted to make Ukrainian the single national language, essentially outlawing Russian and ending its teaching the schools, nationally. One of the early demands of the Eastern provinces after the government-overthrow was that the dual-language system, as in Quebec (actually on paper for the whole of Canada) for example, be continued. The Eastern provinces also demanded a significant degree of home-rule, given the nature of the new government as they saw it, at a higher level. In part at least, it was the refusal of the new central government to countenance such arrangements that led to the current separatist moment.

Soldier and Sailor Memorial to he Heroic Soviet Defenders of Sevastopol, who withstood a 250 day Nazi siege (presumably employing some Ukrainian-Nazi troops) before surrendering in 1942.
Soldier and Sailor Memorial to he Heroic Soviet Defenders of Sevastopol, who withstood a 250 day Nazi siege (presumably employing some Ukrainian-Nazi troops) before surrendering in 1942.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Aleksander Kaasik, Author: Aleksander Kaasik)
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As for Crimea and the Russian annexation, Russia's only warm water port is at Sevastopol, at Crimea's Southern tip. Russia held the port only on a 30-year lease from Ukraine. With a frankly anti-Russian government installed in Kyiv, Putin obviously had to move quickly before that government, under US/NATO influence, could move to cancel the lease. And so, the very quick referendum to have Crimea secede from Ukraine and join (probably pretty truly representing the wishes of the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking people of Crimea, particularly given the attitude of the government in Kyiv towards the Russian-speakers in the Donets Basin to the North). On the matter of the Separatists' demands and the present smoldering war on the border between Ukraine, and the "Republics" in the Donets Basin and Russia, negotiations are ongoing. Little is known about them in any detail.

And thus, this is how we got to the desperate need for arms by the Ukrainians, despite the on-going negotiations with Russia and the Separatists, on the part of the newly elected government of Ukraine, in that smoldering war against, among others, Trump's buddy (or blackmailer???) Vladimir Putin. There must be a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on, between Putin and President Zelensky of Ukraine. For sure Putin does not want Ukraine in NATO nor as a member of the European Union.

A final note. It happens that Pres. Putin is a German speaker. Thus he can communicate directly with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Funnily enough, after the 2014 governmental overthrow the Chancellor came out for a federated Ukraine (much like Germany, she said). That's what Putin as well as the Separatists want. Of course, that would mean no Ukraine in NATO. And of course, Trump has taken a deep interest in all of these complex issues. ONLY KIDDING. You know as well as I do that while all of these complex issues need to be dealt with, as the House Impeachment Articles clearly show, the only "Ukraine thing" that Trump has been interested in is how he could possibly get dirt on Vice-President Biden, even if none exists. But in my view, this historical background does help if one wants to understand what is going on in Ukraine right now, beyond the Trump arms-for-dirt-on-the-Bidens scandal.


Parts of the text of this column was published at The Greanville Post, in 2014: : click here .

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author, he is a Senior (more...)
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