Okay, look, the basics of the Ukraine crisis are this
If you look back in history, Ukraine is like East Poland. It’s a flat zone without much in the way of natural defenses – which makes it a target for conquest and for big armies moving through.
Ukraine has a hard time keeping itself in one piece. and at different times the area we now call Ukraine has been both unified and separate kingdoms.
It’s notable that Ukraine shares borders with Poland, Germany, and Russia.
Okay, so Ukraine was captured by the Soviet Union right after WWI.
In the 1920s there was an event called the “Holodomor” – The Soviets starved an insane number of Ukrainians to death.
Then they resettled the area with Russian speaking folks.
So you had Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians in the west and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east.
Then WWII started up.
When Hitler invaded in 1941, Some of the western Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians jumped up and joined with the Nazis. They saw the Nazis as an alternative to the communists (Who’d just murdered a crazy number of Ukrainians.) One of those guys was Banderas.
Now the Nazis weren’t nice to anyone, but they weren’t as big a pack of assholes to the Ukranian anti-soviet resistance.
But the Russians came back through and crushed all opposition. The Russians were not especially happy with the Ukrainians who sided with the Nazis.
Over the next 40 years, Ukraine was smashed flat (culturally) and became a solid piece of the Soviet Union. The eastern part of Ukraine was built up into an industrial, economic powerhouse. Of course, Russian speaking folks were treated better. There was always an underlying Russian favoring bias in the Soviet Union.
Then when the Soviet Union fell, Ukraine became a separate nation.
Now American Neocons never got over the cold war. They always viewed the world like a giant game of Risk. If the Soviet Union fell apart, if the various nations went their separate ways – that was time to really cinch down the win in The Big Game of Risk.
So despite George HW Bush promising Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch east – the west’s influence pushed east.
Ukraine had problems. They tried to run a modern, European-style welfare state on top of an outdated industrial base. So the government’s income never matched its outgo.
So they made this up by borrowing.
But if you borrow too much, eventually people are going to measure your debt versus your income. And if those numbers don’t match up well, they won’t lend you money so much anymore.
In the early 2000s, Ukraine suffered badly from this and struggled with too much debt and not being able to properly modernize.
And then the West, especially the Neocons wanted to flip Ukraine from one team to the other team.
So in 2004, there was the “Orange Revolution”
This was a mess and the result was sort of ambiguous.
Russia tussled with Ukraine and imposed sanctions and other measures to try and force Ukraine to, if not stay a loyal puppet, at least to not become a client state to the west.
But in 2014 it started up again
(This article has a good timeline as well)
So when there was a coup and “Protestors” overthrew the Ukrainian government – there was a problem.
The problem was that not only were the protestors and some of the militants aligned with fuckin NAZIs, but they were keenly aware of ethnicity.
They were Pro-Ukrainian Speaking Ukrainians (From west Ukraine) at the EXPENSE of Russian Speaking Ukrainians (from east Ukraine)
So when the new government started promulgating rules banning Russian…
The Russian Speaking folks felt that the Kiev Government was not only illegitimate but actively hostile to them.
So they declined to submit to the Kiev government and decided to go their own way.
Now in Crimea, their response to this was to hold a plebiscite and leave Ukraine in favor of re-joining Russia. Crimea was part of Russia until 1956 when a drunken Kruschov handed it over to Ukraine.
Not only were a huge majority of people in Crimea Russian speaking people of Russian Descent, but Crimea holds important Russian naval bases. So Russian Sailors and their dependents make up a lot of the population the of the area.
Now the Kiev gov’t was NOT HAPPY about Crimea leaving. But it was all peaceful and largely the desire of the Crimea people.
But when the large Eastern cities and provinces started to peel off, Kiev had a serious problem.
Although outdated. the eastern Ukrainian cities were industrial and heavily populated. They are a MAJOR source of tax revenue for the Kiev government.
If these eastern areas leave, then the Kiev government loses a LOT of money
and STILL has to pay off the Debts racked up by previous spendthrift Ukranian governments!
So Ukraine sent their army to stop the eastern cities from leaving.
But that gives Putin a problem.
Russians in Russia are aware of their cousins and family members over in eastern Ukraine. They want them to be protected.
Putin tried to get word to the Kiev government that he was paying attention to how Russian speakers were treated in Ukraine.
But Kiev is panicking about provinces and cities peeling away.
So Putin has to take steps to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians of Russian descent, or he’ll be seen as weak to threats right on his border. And Russians along that border who’s cousins are being abused will be pissed.
But wars are F-ing Expensive! No one knows what the west would do if the Russians rolled Armored divisions into Ukraine and hit a reset button that way.
So Putin split the difference. He set it up so deniable Russian Soldiers could go “Volunteer” with the eastern Ukrainian rebels.
This has caused this Ukrainian Civil War to drag on, be horribly expensive and cost a lot of lives.
Of course, if they asked me, I’d say to allow a sort of cultural federalism, to not fuck with Russian-speaking Ukrainians about speaking Russian.
I’d also work for a sort of economic open borders policy, so Russia and Germany can move goods and services back and forth, with Ukraine taking a light touch each way.
If Russia and Germany and Poland become strong trading partners, then they get richer. If they get richer all the rest of us do, too by second, third, fourth and so on order effects.
Happy humans are just better for everyone.
This sort of policy would cause Neocons to shit themselves and say silly things, which is another benefit of that policy.
Now, let’s be clear here. Putin is NOT a nice man.
Ask the Chechnyans
Or people who live in Apartment Buildings in Moscow
And let me be clear THERE – I strongly suspect a Russian faction of those bombings, using them as an excuse to form a more centralized and powerful government.
But if you look at Ukraine and Syria
What you see is a Dictator on a Budget. You see a strong man with a limited bank acccount. He is using force in an extremely thrifty, careful and parsimonious way.
This isn’t surprising when you considered that Russia has a GDP comparable to Italy.
They really can’t AFFORD a big conventional forces confrontation with a competitor power.
BUT Also remember
All the powers in WWI thought the war would be a done deal in a few months, and made their plans based on this assumption. They were broke early on in the war (Everyone fighting was) and they borrowed themselves almost into penury to keep the fight going.
The economic instabilities of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe can, in some measure, be traced back to the U.K. admantly refusing to admit just how bad they’d broken their bank fighting WWI, and so monkeying with the British Pound to keep it’s per-unit purchasing power up.
If modern powers are calulating fighting a war with similarly stupid unrealistic assumptions – then once it goes, the powers fighting will have no choice but to fake it until they collapse or win.
This image of Russia as a newly aggressive threat in the world really is not consistent with the facts and Russia’s actions. They’re not good guys, but they’re not rolling 50,000 tanks, either.
The Ukraine problem has a lot of East v West stupidity behind it and could be resolved if people agreed to live with each others differences, and if we could get Neocons who think they’re playing Risk away from the levers of power.
The American Media loves White Hats and Black Hats and has volunteered Russia to be the Black Hats, so they only tell the parts of the Ukraine story that support the image of Russia as black hats.
The real story is much more nuanced, complex and needs solutions that don’t buy into old story lines as part of their premises.