Russia invaded Ukraine yesterday, February 24. I know by my title and my snarky comment in the image some might think I don’t take this seriously, but I do. My youth was spent honestly believing that the US and USSR would wipe our species off the map. Then I spent twenty five years thinking that at least nuclear war between the two Superpowers had been avoided. Now I feel like we are right back where we started. If I sound flippant, its because the dynamic has been changing since Putin came to power, and it seems as though we are playing a losing game of chess with nations as the pawns, and billionaires as the rooks.
I talked in a previous post about how Ukraine has had a civilization for thousands of years, by one estimation going back to 4800 BC. Here is that post for those who wish to read it: https://wordpress.com/post/tiredmidnightblogger.wordpress.com/825
This really is not a new conflict. Just this latest version of it actually started in 2014, when Putin forcefully annexed Crimea.
Russia has been fighting for Crimea for quite some time. The Crimean Khanate was annexed by the Russian Empire in April of 1783, just a few months before the official ending of the American Revolution. Fast forward to 1853, and you have the Crimean War, famous for being the first major conflict documented with photographs, and for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. Russia lost that conflict to the allied French and Turkish Ottoman Empire. Before the First World War, this was the conflict that most demonstrated the confusing stupidity of war. But it was a massive loss to the Russians as they lost their naval bases in the Black Sea, cutting their naval access, and thus slashing their prowess, power, and mercantile capacity. It would take Russia decades to recover. I will leave a link for those who wish to read more. While this conflict is roughly 170 years old, the long memory of the Russians likely has never gotten over this.
It is often forgotten that there was a Ukrainian-Soviet War from 1917 through 1921. In the West we mostly talk about the First World War, the Spanish Flu, and the beginning of the Red Scare. The turmoil of these times in the East (what we consider the East), mainly comes to us as images of an angry Lenin, an angry Santa looking Karl Marx, the struggles between Trotsky (about whom the average American knows nothing) and Stalin (if you are lucky you know him from his youtube duet with Hitler, Video Killed the Radio Star).
By 1922, Ukraine had signed on as one of the original constituent “Republics” of the USSR. It was likely the second most powerful of all the Soviet “Republics,” three different Soviet leaders were either born or raised in Ukraine: Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, and Konstantin Chernenko.
Ukrainian discontent with Soviet rule came to a head in the late eighties and early nineties, due to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Northern Ukraine, social and economic stagnation, and a belief by many that the Gorbachev reforms of the eighties were not being implemented swiftly enough, at least in the Ukraine, to satisfy a populace hungry for change. When a failed coup attempt in August of 1991 brought the Russians together in a populist revolution, the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine declared their independence. A referendum of the people voted 92.3% in favor of independence. And since then, Ukraine has been the second largest European nation.
Putin has been the plot complication to this fairy tale ending. The failed coup that led to so much liberty also led to a great deal of confusion. The man who defeated the coup with a megaphone, Boris Yeltsin, appointed Putin as the head of Russia after his own tenure ended. And Putin has effectively made his position a permanent dictatorship. He has been rattling sabers since he rose to power, becoming a hero at home for his hard line against Chechnya rebels, but also telegraphing to anyone watching what the rest of his rule would be like.
It’s taken me a couple of days to write this post, mostly because life has been busy. Ukraine is taking a beating, but is fighting back harder than expected. Guerilla fighting is keeping this from being the one sided battle expected. Only time will tell how this will come out. What do you think about the conflict? Are there any good guys in this, or is it just the typical ball of confusing crap? Please leave your comments.