By Paul W. Barada
---- — The Russian invasion of Ukraine that took place just a few days ago should have every American worried. If, however, anyone isn’t sure where exactly Ukraine is in the world a quick check of a world Atlas will show that it is in Eastern Europe and is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. The country is made up of at least seven ethnic groups – none of whom I am familiar with. So, it is, to say the least, a culturally diverse country.
Ukraine also includes the Crimean Peninsula, which extends into the Black Sea. Although this probably won’t help much, Ukraine borders the countries of Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Slovakia. Some of the better known cities in Ukraine include Kiev, Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta. Yalta was the location for the famous 1945 “Yalta Conference,” where Soviet leader Josef Stalin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met to decide the fate of postwar Europe.
Some of the biggest battles of World War II were fought in Ukraine, the Battle of Kiev, for example, between the Nazis and the Soviets in 1941 in which some 660,000 Soviet troops were killed or captured. The Battle of Kharkov in 1942 killed approximately 300,000 soldiers on both sides. Later in 1942 the Battle of Kursk cost another 388,000 lives.
Ukraine has been fought over for centuries. The Crimean Peninsula is the center of the current crisis because it is a pro-Russian part of the Ukraine. It is separated from the rest of the country geographically, historically and politically. Crimea is also the primary port for the Russian Black Sea fleet, although the port is only “rented” to the Russia navy by Ukraine.
According to ABC news, “Putin rationalized the invasion by explaining to Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel that he needed to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea from ‘ultranationalistic forces’ in Ukraine. Crimea is made up of about 60 percent Russian people.”
Still quoting ABC news, “In plain language, Putin is arguing that a group of anti-Russian extremists now in power in Ukraine were a threat to Russian-speaking people who live in Crimea.
“Putin’s actions came after a change of power in Ukraine’s national government last month when the country’s Russian-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovich, left the country for Moscow and pro-European groups called for new elections.”
Others speculate that Putin is trying to restore territory that was once part of the Russian Empire and, further, that he knows Europe, and more particularly, the United States, will do nothing to stop this unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state, much as Hitler did leading up to the start of World War II.
Even more interesting, and an illustration of how history repeats itself, is the war that was fought on the Crimean Peninsula from 1853 to 1856 for fundamentally the same reasons the Russians have used to invade the same territory just a few days ago. It was called the Crimean War and was the site of the famous “Charge of the Light Brigade” immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem about the charge.
The charge itself was made by British light cavalry let by Lord Cardigan (the cardigan sweater, by the way, is named for him) against Russian troops during the Battle of Balaclava. The first stanza should have a familiar ring to many: “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred. ‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns’ he said: Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred.”
The Crimean War was lost by the Russians to an alliance of France, England, Turkey – then part of what was called The Ottoman Empire – and Sardinia. In a proverbial nutshell, the war was really about the unwillingness of the French and English to allow Russia to gain more territory and influence in that part of the world – the very thing that seems to be happening again well over 160 years later. How ironic it is that over 160 years after the fact the Russians will probably succeed this time because of lack of will on the part of Europe and the United States to do anything about it.
The last thing the people of this country and those of Europe want, at this point in history, is a war against the Russians. At this writing it remains to be seen what the outcome will be; but, between the two superpowers, the United States and Russia, it seems unlikely that this administration will do much saber-rattling, particularly in light of plans to cut the military down to pre-World War II levels. Knowing about the plans to cut the military budget, who is there to prevent, or even threaten Putin’s expansionist plans?
That’s –30—for this week.