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The Crisis in Ukraine

By Dr John Sydenham

The war in Ukraine is largely the result of a terrible mistake when assigning the territorial boundaries at the end of the Soviet Union.  To understand this mistake we need to be aware of the history of Ukraine.

What is now the country of Ukraine was the centre of the Kingdom of Kievan Rus in the 13th century which became what we know as Russia today. However, the South Western population of Kievan Rus was linguistically and culturally distinct from that of the northern part of Rus.


By the mid fourteenth century the southern part of Kievan Rus fell under Polish and Lithuanian rule and developed as the Duchy of Ruthenia


Ruthenia (dark grey): Courtesy Wikipedia

Ukraine (the old Duchy of Ruthenia) gained a transitory independence as the "Cossack Hetmanate" between c.1648 and 1764 although it accepted a vassal state relationship with the Russian Empire until 1764 when it was formally annexed.  The Ukrainians resisted but by 1775 resistance was crushed.

Notice that in all of its incarnations the Ukraine never included Crimea or the Black Sea and Sea of Azov coast.  These were part of the hated Crimean Khanate which had been imposed on Russia by the Golden Horde for the purpose of the collection of tribute.  After defeating the Crimean Khanate the Russian Empire effectively depopulated the already thinly populated east and south of Ukraine and the Soviet Union completed the genocidal "task" by deporting and killing most of the Tatar population of Crimea.  The depopulated areas were colonised by Russians. These areas were  administrative divisions under the Russian Empire (known as "South Russia") and formed part of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine in the Soviet Era. 

The Russian colonisation has resulted in a sharp division between Russian speaking and Ukrainian speaking populations:

Percentage of Russian Speakers

This language divide is reflected in the political division of the country where the Russian population tends to support different aspirations from the Ukrainian population:

Voting patterns reflect ethnicity

The origin of the Ukrainian crisis is immediately obvious.  In June 1990 the Soviet Union made a Declaration of State Sovereignty that allowed Soviet Socialist Republics (administrative areas) of the old USSR to be independent.  This took no account of the mismatch between Soviet Administrative boundaries and cultural and ethnic boundaries.

The Russian areas look towards Russia and the Ukrainian areas look towards Europe.  The EU precipitated the Ukrainian Crisis by offering associate membership with Ukraine from 2008, the  EU-Ukraine Association Agreement finally being signed on 27th June 2014.  Some EU members were extremely wary of the Association Agreement.  The Dutch even held a belated advisory Referendum that rejected it.  Part of the reason for the wariness was that it was obvious that, with the incendiary state of relations between the Ukrainian and Russian ethnic groups in Ukraine, it could precipitate disaster.  The EU administration ignored the voices favouring peace.

The dangling of an Association Agreement by the EU tore Ukraine apart in 2013 as the Ukrainian ethnic group mounted the EUMaidan Protests that culminated in the overthrow of the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.  After this putsch a caretaker government was installed under President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arsenyi Yatsenyuk  and the Association Agreement became fully implemented in June 2014.

The EU was not the only malignant actor in the recent history of Ukraine.  The Russians had been meddling in Ukrainian politics and had probably poisoned Victor Yushchenko, a candidate in the 2004 election (President from 2005-2010).  The Americans are also implicated. When the EU was negotiating with Yanukovytch during the Maidan protests the Russian FSB (Federal Security Bureau) seems to have intercepted a discussion on a mobile phone between US Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland,  and the US Ambassador to Ukraine in which she says of EU negotiations: "Fuck the EU".  Apparently Nuland apologised for this statement, rashly confirming the US manipulation of EU and Ukrainian politics.

Not since Blair's "New World Order" speech after 9/11, which was wiped from  every web site and newspaper archive to avoid offending the American militias, have we witnessed such tight control of the media as in the Russian intervention in Ukraine.  In particular the role of the EU is hushed up by the mass media and the origins of the conflict are almost entirely suppressed.

In the 1990s the West gave several assurances that NATO and the EU would not become involved in the recently liberated Soviet Socialist Republics.  U.S. Secretary of State James Baker gave a verbal assurance to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in February 1990 that if Germany were allowed to reunify within NATO then the alliance would not move “one inch eastward” (See ForeignPolicy.com).

NATO is also implicated in starting the conflict.  In 2008 Ukraine and Georgia signed up to a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP).  The Russian reaction to this agreement was similar to the way England would react to an independent Scotland agreeing to a mutual defence agreement with the Russians, England would utterly reject the prospect of Russian submarines based at Faslane and would seek to destabilise the Scot's government.  What did the Russians do?

Within a year the Russians invaded Georgia.

Within a year of the Ukrainian Parliament approving the NATO membership action plan (MAP) in February 2009 the Russians helped replace the Ukrainian president.  Russia's new man in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, made numerous statements to the effect that Ukraine would not pursue NATO membership and would delay EU affiliation.

On 23rd February 2014, after the Maidan coup, Oleksandr Turchynov replaced Yanukovitch as interim president.  The Russians believed that the new Ukrainian government would ask for a NATO MAP again (See Guardian/Observer article).  This fear, along with EU associate membership, is the immediate cause of the Russian intervention and the Ukrainian Crisis.

The Russian press made clear that NATO on its borders was unacceptable:

"So we’ve known for quite a long time that NATO looks toward Ukraine as a key element in its expansionist policy and its aggressive assault against Russia and this will only continue, only escalate now that the so-called government in Kiev is at their mercy."  Russia Today 28/02/14.

Is anyone committed to intervene against Russia in Ukraine?  Shortly after Ukrainian independence the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 (Full Text) was signed by Russia, the UK and the US, apparently to guarantee Ukrainian sovereignty. It does not commit anyone to military intervention in the Ukraine if its sovereignty is threatened and seems to have been about divesting ex-Soviet Republics of nuclear weapons.  It does, however, commit Russia to respect the independence of Ukraine and Russia's reneging on the Memorandum shows that the Russians must not be trusted.  The moral of the story is that any modern state that wishes to retain its independence cannot give up its nuclear weapons. No other nuclear armed state will intervene militarily if a nuclear power is on the rampage.

There has now been a civil war in Ukraine since 2014.  This has killed about 13000 to 14000 people date. 

The war has become more perilous in recent months because the Russians have stationed over 100,000 troops on the borders with Ukraine.

Courtesy Daily Mail

Ukraine is surrounded.  Whether this means that the Russians will attempt to occupy the whole country or use the northern battalions to divert Ukrainian military resources from the east will only become clear once the shooting starts.

The Russians seem to be using Ukraine to prize apart the Western Alliance.  The Germans have contracted to make themselves dependent on Russian gas from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and are loathe to fully back NATO threats of near total economic isolation should Russia invade.  The pipeline is completed but it is not supplying gas at present.  The General Secretary of the governing SPD in Germany, Kevin Kuehnert, has said that: Nord Stream 2 "should not be mixed up with responses to Russia's territorial controversies with Ukraine and human rights issues, where Berlin had clear positions and diplomatic strategies" (Reuters).   The Russians might succeed at cracking the alliance if they cut off the alternative gas supply to Germany through Ukraine - whilst accusing the Ukrainians of doing this - and then get Nord Stream 2 connected as an emergency measure to save the EU.  However, gas prices are down in January 2022 and supply is increasing from non-Russian sources.

It is possible that Russia is just putting pressure on the West and does not intend to invade.  However, on balance it is most likely that Russia will invade Ukraine and install a puppet government as well as annexing the south and east of the country.  This would be best accomplished this winter while there are fuel shortages that can be exploited.  Having been conquered Western Ukraine may be "liberated" in 10 or 20 years provided it gives undertakings not to join NATO or the EU.   This would defuse Ukrainian resistance groups.

All of this could probably have been avoided had Ukraine been given the borders of the Cossack Hetmanate, plus a narrow band of Black Sea access, when it was first created rather than the borders of the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine could give a green light to China invading Taiwan and the South China Sea.  Chinese naval forces off Taiwan have increased in strength over the past month.  A successful invasion of  Ukraine that demonstrates that Western threats are empty might encourage China to do the same.


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