Three decades ago the Soviet Union had some 380,000 troops in what was then the German Democratic Republic. Those forces were there as part of the treaty ending World War II, and the Soviets were concerned that removing them could end up threatening the USSR’s borders. The Russians had been invaded – at terrible cost – three times in a little more than a century.
In 1989 West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev cut a deal. The Soviets agreed to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe as long as NATO didn’t fill the vacuum, or recruit members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact. Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch east.”
President Bill Clinton blew that all up in 1999, when the US and NATO intervened in the civil war between Serbs and Albanians over the Serbian province of Kosovo. Behind the new American doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” NATO opened a massive 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia.
From Moscow’s point of view, the war was unnecessary. The Serbs were willing to withdraw their troops and restore Kosovo’s autonomous status. But NATO demanded that a large occupation force that would be immune from Serbian law, be based in Serbia; something the Serbs would never agree to. It was virtually the same provocative language the Austrian-Hungarian Empire had presented to the Serbs in 1914 that set off World War I.
In the end, NATO lopped off part of Serbia to create Kosovo and redrew the post World War II map of Europe, NATO doing precisely what they are now claiming that Russia has done in Crimea.
But NATO didn’t stop there. In 1999, the Alliance recruited former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, adding Bulgaria and Romania four years later. By the end of 2004, Moscow was confronted with NATO in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to the north, Poland to the west, and Bulgaria and Turkey to the south. Since then, the Alliance has added Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. It has invited Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to apply as well.
As author and foreign policy analyst Anatol Lieven points out, “Even a child” can look at a 1988 map of Europe and see “which side has advanced in which direction.”
Today the Russians are modernizing their nuclear forces, but the Obama administration was first out of that gate in 2009 with its $1.5 trillion program to upgrade the US’s nuclear weapons systems.
The modern history of the Crimea begins with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by Catherine the Great in 1783 and the handing over of the Crimea by the Ottoman Empire to Russia as part of the Treaty provision. The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca forced the Ottoman’s to recognize the Tatars of the Crimea as politically independent. Catherine the Great incorporated the Crimea into the Russian Empire in 1783 from the defeated Ottoman Empire.
Crimea was part of Russia from 1783 until 1954, when the Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR) in a purely administrative reorganization of the USSR.
From 1991 the territory was governed by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea within the newly independent Ukraine. However, during the 2014 Crimean crisis, the Russian speaking population voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum under international law. Shortly after the result in favor of joining Russia was announced, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation as two federal subjects: the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.
The EU, NATO and Ukraine
Ukraine has always been in the Russian sphere, as today Canada is in the US sphere of influence. Ukraine is considered to be an essential buffer zone of defense for Russia. Can you imagine Russia taking over Canada and placing nuclear missiles on the American border?
That is the issue for Russia. Can they allow an American sponsored coup to take over Ukraine and then have NATO deploy its forces on the Russian border? Could Russia allow its multibillion dollar Crimea bases to be threatened, jeopardizing Russia’s only water access to the Black Sea, the Balkans, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East? Can Russia allow economic dominance over Ukraine and Russia by the US, the European Union, the IMF, the World Bank and international financiers? These are the issues at stake in Ukraine.
US Ukraine Coup timeline
In November 2013 the democratically elected president of Ukraine President Yanuyovch embarrassed the European Union by rejecting its offer to associate with the EU and NATO; in favor of remaining in Russia’s Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) formed when the former Soviet Union (now called Russia) totally dissolved in 1991. At its conception it consisted of ten former Soviet Republics: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
By November 29, 2013 protests [organized by Western NGO’s] began in Kiev, as European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso announced that the EU would “not accept Ukraine’s “veto” of the EU invitation.
On December 13, 2013 Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Victoria Nuland, under State Secretary Hillary Clinton, admitted to a meeting of the International Business Conference sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation NGO; that the US had ‘invested’ more than $5 billion and ‘five years worth of work and preparation” in achieving what she called Ukraine’s ‘European aspirations.”
That expenditure was really to achieve American aspirations for subverting the Ukraine away from Russia and into NATO.
What Nuland did not reveal on December 13 was that her meetings with ‘key Ukrainian stakeholders’ included neo-Nazi Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok and prime minister wannabe Arsenly Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party.
At about the same time Nuland was wooing fascist extremists, Sen. John McCain (R-Az) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D- Conn) shared the stage in Kiev with Tyahnybok offering their support to the facists to stage a coup in Ukraine.
The Svoboda party which has roots with extreme vigilante and anti-semitic groups then received at least three high level cabinet posts in the interim coup government including deputy prime minister. There is no doubt that the progenies of west Ukraine’s historic neo-fascist thugs that fought with Hitler are now aligned with the US as represented by Victoria Nuland.
After extensive western sponsored demonstrations, foreign ministers from Poland, Germany and France visited Kiev on February 20, 2014 and secured President Yanukovych’s agreement that he would accept an interim administration, constitutional reform and new parliamentary and presidential elections.
With no clear sign that EU or US pressure had achieved the desired effect of coercing Ukraine into the US, EU, NATO orbit; opposition leaders rejected Yanukovych’s compromise of new elections, which would have ended the three month stand-off.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the German, French and Polish nations to take responsibility for upholding the deal they helped forge and not let “armed extremists” directly threaten Ukrainian sovereignty. Nevertheless on February 21, 2014 at a special summit in Brussels, European foreign ministers agreed to adopt sanctions on Ukraine including visa bans and asset freezes.
The EU decision followed immense pressure from the US for the European powers to take punitive action against the Ukrainian regime. Washington had already imposed travel bans on 20 leading Ukrainians.
Not content to wait for new elections which they could not win; on February 22, 2014 the foreign backed opposition then staged a coup and demanded the president resign.
After the parliament had recessed and government MPs had gone home; the opposition members of the Ukrainian Parliament held an illegal vote, in an unconstitutional action to oust President Yanukovych and the American backed pro-EU-NATO forces staged a ‘coup’. Yanukovych then fled Kiev in fear for his life.
On March 1, 2014, US VP Biden phoned the illegal coup leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, congratulating him on his success and reaffirming US support for Ukraine’s ‘territorial integrity.”
What followed was an uprising of Russians in the Crimea which was used by Russia to save the vital Russian bases away from the western takeover of Ukraine. That in turn inspired uprisings by Russian residents of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
During the summer the US supported the Ukraine with supplies, while the US Military recruited many Military Contractors, i.e. mercenaries, to support the Ukraine coup government in the fighting.
Russia is accused of [and probably is] supporting the Russian speaker’s demands against Ukraine.
To the horror of many Europeans the United States then began to provide weaponry to Ukraine openly.
The Eurozone has suffered under the sanctions against Russia and is beginning to chafe under American intimidation.
In the circumstances, especially if the US arms Ukraine, and Russian allies Syria and Iran are also threatened; will Russia react against Ukraine and possibly Georgia [another country desired by NATO]?
NATO leaders admit that Russia could walk across Ukraine in a matter of days, and NATO has no stomach to resist that. NATO is only willing to prevent spill over towards NATO members in Europe and will not try to defend Ukraine.
If Russia does lose patience with the West’s Ukraine meddling, while enduring a massive economic assault from the West, and an attack on its allies in the Middle East: Russia may find it impossible to hold back from taking serious action.
NATO would be forced to back down and cede the Ukraine coup government, which would deal a nearly decisive blow to NATO credibility.
See also The Mess that Victoria Nuland made.