Sunday July 5, 2015
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I've been reading, and no doubt you have been listening to, a lot of flack over what is going on in Crimea. Frankly, I am troubled, not just by the mass of misinformation I keep reading, but by the vast amount of historic information that keeps being left out. I became very interested in Crimea as a young man because it was part of an empire which was conquered by Tamerlane, someone I studied at length. So I thought I'd post some verifiable facts about Crimea to clear the air.
Back in the middle ages, when Genghis Khan ruled Mongolia, Crimea was part of his empire. Next came Tamerlane, and so on.
During the Middle Ages the Crimean Khanate, which was much larger than the current Crimea, was a slave raiding Islamic nation which captured so many Poles, Russians, Lithuanians and other slavs (well over 4 million of them) that most of the Khanate eventually became slavic. In fact, the ethnic term "caucasian" derives from the area.
At about the same time the United States was formed, Crimea became part of Russia. With the slight exception noted below, it has been part of Russia ever since.
Crimea was part of Russia even during the days of the Soviet Union, until Nikita Kruschev, who was a Ukrainian, had a brain storm during a Communist Party meeting in 1954, and transferred Crimea on paper to the Ukraine, his homeland in the USSR, in "celebration of 300 years of peace" between Russia and the Ukraine. Crimea did not actually change hands; it was a paper transaction because Kruschev lacked the legal authority to make the transfer.
However, when the USSR fell, Russia, which is much larger than the Ukraine and could have done whatever it wanted, allowed Crimea to become an "Independent Republic" to foster the sharing of the Black Sea fleet with the Ukraine, thereby letting both nations use the already existing Crimean naval ports where the Black Sea fleet was stationed. At that time, the agreement included the stationing of large numbers of Russian troops in Crimea; they are still there.
The Ukraine has long wanted to have Crimea for itself, but there have been repeated referendums in Crimea in each of which the people have chosen to be part of Russia. The new referendum which is going to be held in a few days will no doubt go the same way.
Ethnic Russians and others who are the majority in Crimea, have complained about poor treatment from the Ukraine for decades.
The United Nations Charter, written in 1944, and reaffirmed many times, calls for peoples to have the right of self-determination; in other words to decide which nation they wish to be part of. That makes the transfer of historically Russian Crimea back to Russia a perfectly legal move.
It was under the self-determination clause of the United Nations Charter that Israel was formed so as to allow a homeland for the Jews.
The Question Is....
Do we believe in self-determination or do we just pay lip service to it?
Tom, Your references to the past of the Crimea should serve to focus our attention. The U.S. and like-thinkers lost this confrontation before it began. We have no chance of bluffing Russia with the threat of military force because we all know that we will not use military force so long as Russia does not attempt to take the rest of Ukraine. Even if that happened it is doubtful if we would be willing to go to war and Europe would not be willing to go to war. The larger point is that Putin/Russia behaved in a brutish and clumsy fashion . We and allies must attempt to make Russia look evil because it is behaving so brutishly. Possibly the entire episode is a lesson for us : Russia under Putin is, in fact, just what Romney said : our greatest geopolitical enemy on the global map ( at the moment). We should impose sanctions of the Russians and do whatever else we can to demonstrate to the Russians and to others that will not allow states to do as they wish.
You are dead right as far as the need to stand up for the rights of all countries against aggressive moves by their neighbors. We cannot allow it if we are going to keep on claiming that we believe in a world ruled by fairness and honesty. The trouble is we have placed ourselves in such a lousy position for 60 years by supporting Israel's invasion of its neighbors and the taking of their lands that no one believes us anymore. I read a comment in a Japanese paper about a year ago which I wish I had saved. Japan is our friend — and a good one! — but the editorial I read asked whether or not it was wise to rely on our support against China when we have stood aside and let Israel get away with what it called "repeated aggression by Israel against its neighbors."
In this case we again have the odd situation of standing on the wrong side of an issue and trying to make it look like we are doing something right. Russia is, of course, both morally and legally correct. The Crimean peninsula is theirs. It always has been. For that matter so, basically, was the Ukraine if Russia wanted to push the point, since it was Russia that drove the Mongols out and incorporated the Ukraine into the Russian Empire, which is what Kruschev was "celebrating" when he "gave" part of Russia to the Ukraine in 1954. In modern times, since our revolutionary days and even before, the Ukraine has been considered to be a part of Russia. It dangles down off the base of the Ukraine, but since the Ukraine was part of Russia, and the people in the Ukraine were slavs, that was immaterial.
When the USSR broke up Russia did the nice thing. Not only did it let the Ukraine go off on its own, but it even shared Crimea with it even though the people of Crimea wanted to be part of Russia.
But what has it gotten for its trouble? Nothing but trouble. When Russia was having a terrible time with Chechnya the Ukraine made things worse by quietly supporting the Chechnians, why I don't know.
So Putin and Russia acted, just as you say, in a brutish and clumsy fashion, and Germany, never Russia's buddy has taken advantage of it to make Russia sound like the old USSR. And we — fools that we are — are caught in the middle.
You know what puzzles me? I don't see what Russia gets out of all this. Crimea produces next to nothing except people, so what good is it? I think the Russians just got fed up with the whole mess in the Ukraine and decided to step in and protect its own people.
The bottom line? If the Crimeans want to be part of Russia, and have said so more than once, how can we deny that wish?
Tom, The Ukraine does have a goodly amount of land on which wheat is grown. The Crimea, of course, is Russia's warm- water port. An irony is that Russia had long-term leases on the ports and for the most part already controlled the area. I do not understand why Putin pushed for such a clumsy move when he/Russia already controlled the situation. Perhaps all of it has to do with Putin and not with logic.
"Perhaps all of it has to do with Putin and not with logic."
As you say, Putin is Putin. No accounting for that.
On the other hand, the trouble in the Ukraine is best seen as a leftist movement to take over the country because of what happened when the USSR collapsed. You are dead right when you say that the Ukraine grows wheat; it grows an immense amount of wheat, and when I was reading Kruschev's autobiography he made a big deal out of it. And why not? I looked up what I already suspected and found out that even in 2011 the Ukraine was the third largest exporter of grain, so wheat production is a major element of its economy.
However, there are three problems with that, ones I read about way back in the 1990's. First of all, grain production never went back to private hands after the USSR fell because the people preferred to leave it in government hands and enjoy the resulting handouts. Secondly, although Kruschev was very proud of the industry in the Ukraine it fell apart after the USSR collapsed; in fact, somewhere or other back in the 1990's I read that the Ukraine went from bad to worse and poverty became a very large problem. (I checked that just today and it is THE reason for the trouble there; the GDP is $6,700.) The third problem was overpopulation and unemployment; there are no jobs. The people have been relying on government handouts and the government is broke. The Ukraine has never really made the move to a market economy.
So what we have going on here is a bunch of out-of-work leftists rioting because they want more handouts from a government which hasn't got the money to for them. I see, by the way, that while the protests in Kiev involved as many as 800,000 people, the ones around the country were small, often under a thousand and they were smallest in the Crimea.
Now, what about Russia and Crimea? Well, although the Ukraine is composed of 25 parts, and although 24 of them are provinces, Crimea — the 25th — is, just as I thought, an "Autonomous Republic." (Their words, not mine.) In other words its status is the same as that of any republic; it can do what it wants to do, its people want to be part of Russia, and that's that.
Russia has been quite fair about the whole mess. When unemployment and terrible inflation in the Ukraine caused the Ukrainian government to go shopping for loans, the EU offered a lousy $600 million, but Russia offered $15 billion. It's hard to criticize that.
But the bottom line here? Germany is up to its old tricks. It is trying a back door theft of the Russian naval base at Sevastopol (in the Crimea), wanting it to come under the control of NATO. Can you picture Russia sitting still for that? Not a chance! After the 2014 revolution in the Ukraine, where the leftists took over, the very first thing the government did was to start flirting with NATO, and making it plain that Russian interests in the Crimea would be violated.
National security, pure and simple.
Something occurred to me. It isn't directly involved with this string, but it is something that affects our attitude toward "Russia"and we all need to think about it. Russia gets a bum rap. We equate the terms "Soviet Union" and "Russia" because we spent many years using them interchangeably. And Russia does not get even-handed treatment in the mainstream media
During the days of the Soviet Union we knew who the bad guys were, right? Russia! Except that is wasn't true. The revolution in the Russian Empire did not start in Russia; its roots were in the other states of the empire, which were unhappy to be under Russian rule. In particular, in Belorussia, Georgia, and the Ukraine.
Not only that, Communism was not a Russian idea; it was a German idea. It came from Karl Marx (German) and Freidrich Engels (German), and was strongest in Germany where it was pushed by the Social democratic Party.
During WWI, when Russian soldiers were dying by the hundreds of thousands on the Eastern Front, a German agent in Turkey named Alexander Parvus, who was an activist member of the Social Democratic, Party came up with a brainstorm. He managed to get returned to Germany and sold the German general staff the idea of creating massive political strikes in Russia as a way of beating Russia from the inside.
German agents inside Russia fomented strikes and other labor troubles, particularly in St. Petersburg, which because of its location close to the rest of Europe had been a center of Communist agitation for years. A revolutionary party was formed, and the fight was on in February 1917.
Then the master stroke. In a German prison was a Communist agitator named Vladmir Lenin, part ethnic German, who had been arrested for trying to overthrow the government. After the revolution was well on its way in April, the Germans secretly shipped Lenin to St. Petersburg, where he not only part of the revolution, but worked his way up to the top man. The revolutionaries won, forming a short lived more or less democratic government. Then came the second revolution.
Vladmir Lenin (part German), Leon Trotsky (Ukrainian), and Joseph Stalin (Georgian).
Now for the good part. What happened when the Soviet Union fell apart?
When the USSR fell apart did the good little Ukrainians, Georgians, Belorussians, and the rest of European Russia hasten toward democracy and capitalism?
In a pig's eye. Russia did; in fact the Russian battle for democracy was the direct cause of the downfall of the Soviet Union.
But the Ukraine? Strayed with socialism. Both farms and factories are NOW state owned. Did you know that? That's why they're going broke. Communism doesn't work.
Georgia? Even today they haven't achieved genuine democracy. First they had a civil war (1991 - 1995), and since then they have had nothing but street fighting, unrest, and internal disputes of all kinds between the leftists and those who want true democracy. The very best statement that can be made is that Georgia, after 23 years of strife is "on the road to becoming a European democracy."
Belurussia? Now known as Belorus, it is STILL a communist state where the state owns the means of production. Did you know that?
So we tend to think of "Russia" as the bad guy, but historically it is not as simple as that. The Communist idea did not arise in Russia, many thousands of Russians fought against it and lost, and the minute the Russians could do it they threw off the yoke of Communism. And now — while they may be gruff, and are by no means up for sainthood — the troubles between Russians and the still socialist republics around it stem either from Islamic terrorism or from socialist agitation.
I'll just remind you that Russia suffered more than 600 terrorist attacks in 2013 alone, and has had a long history of terrorist attacks, most but not all of them by Islamic terrorists, but some of them provably involving Ukrainians. The worst of them, in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 (4 major attacks), 2009, and 2013 (2 major attacks) have killed 100, 45, 200, 129, 50, 46, 100, 92, 90, 331, 20, 40, and 34 innocent people, including hundreds of children. Think of how hard that would be to take if it happened here.
The trouble is, our mainstream news media tends to put a positive spin on things like Chechnian terrorism, and tends to stay dead silent about Ukrainian and Belorussian Communism, and Georgian dictatorship. You know that because you have seen it yourself. The Chechnians are living in Russia. They have religious freedom. They have no call to demand that they become a separate Islamic state where Islamic law will become the law of the land and thousands of Russian Christians and other groups will be persecuted for their beliefs.
Why does out mainstream media twist the facts about places like Belorus, Chechnya, Georgia, and the Ukraine as they do? You tell me. I don't think it's entirely deliberate. At least I hope not. But there's got to be a reason.
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