Sometimes a few words are worth a thousand pictures – at least when it comes to Ukraine. Here’s one of them:
The Ukrainian leader said that his country hadn’t been willing to cede territory from the beginning. "Had we been willing to give up our territory, there would have been no war," Zelensky said.
So the question recurs. Why is it worth Washington’s sweeping Sanctions War on Russia, which is destroying the dollar-based global trading and payments system and triggering a worldwide inflationary calamity, to defend every inch of a sketchy map located on Russia’s doorstep? And that’s to say nothing of risking nuclear war!
Indeed, we repeat: The present Ukrainian territorial map exists only due to the handiwork of Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev. Here is how and when these brutal tyrants attached each piece of today’s Ukrainian map (in purple, light blue and red, respectively) to the territories acquired or seized by the Russian Czars over 1654-1917 (yellow).
Nor should any mystery linger as to where these pieces and parts came from. When the creators of the Soviet Empire carved out a convenient administrative entity known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic they were shuffling around blocks of territory and peoples that had all been ruled by Czarist Russia during its final centuries.
In fact, prior to the commie takeover of Russia, no country that even faintly resembled today’s Ukrainian borders had ever existed.
For instance, here is a map circa 1897. The territory of today’s battlefield in the Donbas and on the rim of the Azov Sea and Black Sea (light yellow) reads "New Russia" in English and was known as "Novorossiya" at the time.
Likewise, the peninsula in brown labeled Crimea was not a separate country nor an appendage of Ukraine. It was the home of Russia’s great naval base at Sevastopol, the cite of Russia valiant defense against the Brit, French and Turkish invaders during the Battle of the Light Brigade, and the prize that Catherine the Great had paid good money to the Ottoman’s in 1783 to own.
Of course, had the above mentioned 20th century communist trio been benefactors of mankind, perhaps their map-making handiwork might have been justified. Under this benign contrafactual, they would have presumably combined peoples of like ethnic, linguistic, religious and politico-cultural history into a cohesive natural polity and state. That is, a nation worth perpetuating, defending and even dying for.
Alas, the very opposite was true. From 1922 to 1991 modern Ukraine was held together by the monopoly on violence of its brutally totalitarian rulers. And when they temporarily lost control during the military battles of World War II, the administrative entity called Ukraine came apart at the seams.
That is, the Ukrainian nationalists joined Hitler’s Wehrmacht in its depredations against Jews, Poles, Roma and Russians when it first swept through the country from the west on its way to Stalingrad; and then, in turn, the Russian populations from the Donbas and south campaigned with the Red Army during its vengeance-wreaking return from the east after winning the bloody battle that turned the course of WWII.
Not surprisingly, therefore, virtually from the minute it came out from under the communist yoke when the Soviet Union was swept into the dustbin of history in 1991, Ukraine has been engulfed in political and actual civil war. The elections which did occur were essentially 50/50 at the national level but reflected votes of 80/20 in the West and East between Ukrainian nationalist and Russian-speaking/sympathizing candidates, respectively.
That is, when totalitarian rule ended in 1991, the deep and historically rooted conflict between Ukrainian nationalism, language and politics of the central and western regions of the country and the Russian language and historical religious and political affinities of the Donbas and south came rushing to the surface. So-called democracy barely survived these contests until February 2014 – at which time Washington fomented, financed and recognized a nationalist-led coupe d etat that ended the tenuous post-communist equilibrium.
As to the adverse shock effect of the Maidan coup on Ukrainian governance and external policy with respect to Russia, the map below tells you all you need to know.
The dark blue parts of the map to the far east (Donbas) indicate an 80% or better vote for Viktor Janukovych in the 2010 election. By contrast, the dark red areas in the west voted 80% or more for the Ukrainian nationalist, Yulie Tymoshenko. That is to say, the skew in the Ukrainian electorate was so extreme as to make America’s current red state/blue state divide seem hardly noteworthy by comparison.
As it happened, the sum of the pro-Janukovych skews from the east and south (Donbas and Crimea) added up to 12.48 million votes and 48.95% of the total, while the sum of the extreme red skews in the center and west (the lands of old eastern Galicia) amounted to 11.59 million votes and 45.47% of the total.
Stated differently, it is hard to imagine an electorate more sharply divided on a regional/ethnic/language basis. Yet it was one which still produced a decisive enough victory margin (3.6 percentage points) for Janukovych – so as to be reluctantly accepted by all parties. That became especially clear when Tymoshenko, who was the incumbent prime minister, withdrew her election challenge a few weeks after the run-off in February 2010.
At that point, of course, Russia had no beef with the Kiev government at all because essentially Janukovych’s "Regions Party" was based on the pro-Russian parts (blue areas) of the Ukrainian electorate.
During the next several years the economic basket case which was Ukraine attempted to improve its circumstances by running a bake-off of sorts between the European Union and Russia with respect to aid and trade deals.
And well its leaders might have: Ukraine had become a cesspool of financial corruption in which a handful of oligarchs had robbed the country blind. Its 2014 real GDP consequently fell to $568 billion (2017$). That amounted to a 37% shrinkage from even the threadbare communist economics of 1990.
Accordingly, the supposedly pro-Russian Janukovych administration initiated in March 2012 an Association Agreement with the European Union that was to provide trade advantages and an IMF aid package.
However, the EU leaders insisted that no agreement could be ratified unless Ukraine addressed concerns over a "stark deterioration of democracy and the rule of law", including the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011. In order to address these concerns, in fact, President Janukovych urged the parliament to adopt laws so that Ukraine would meet the EU’s criteria.
Ukraine Real GDP, 1990-2014
But it was the parallel $4 billion IMF loan that turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to then Prime Minister Mykola Azarov "the extremely harsh conditions" of the IMF loan (presented by the IMF in November 2013) included big budget cuts and a 40% increase in natural gas bills. Those proved to be hills too high to climb for most of the factions within the fractionated Ukraine polity.
Accordingly, the IMF demands became the clinching argument behind the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend preparations for signing the Association Agreement with the EU. Instead, Kiev quickly pivoted to a deal with Russia in the fall of 2013, which was willing to offer $15 billion in loans without the harsh IMF pre-conditions. Also, Moscow offered Ukraine a discount on Ukraine’s large gas purchases from Russia.
Moreover, by that point Ukraine was over a financial barrel, facing an external funding gap of $17 billion during the upcoming year – almost the level of the central bank’s depleted currency reserves.
The rest is history, as they say. The Washington neocons were not about to accept Kiev’s pivot to Russia come hell or high water.
So they swung into action bringing all the instruments of the Empire – the CIA, the State Department, NED, the NGOs and favored Ukrainian oligarchs – to bear on scuttling the Russian deal and removing Janukovych from office.
In a later interview with a US journalist, in fact, Ukrainian billionaire oligarch and opposition leader, Petro Porochenko (who later became president), said quite clearly that the plan was to subvert the nation’s constitution and install an unelected, anti-Russian government that would deep-six the deal with Moscow:
"From the beginning, I was one of the organizers of the Maidan. My television channel – Channel 5 – played a tremendously important role. … On the 11th of December, when we had U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and E.U. diplomat Catherine Ashton in Kyiv, during the night they started to storm the Maidan."
It should never be forgotten, therefore, that the coup which overthrew the constitutionally elected government in Kiev was a $5 billion all-hands Washington undertaking. It would never have come to fruition as a successful regime change putsch without the heavy hands of the US State Department along with the other above mentioned arms of the empire.
Needless to say, nullification of a country’s election – backed by the stick of NATO’s military might and the carrot of billions from a Washington/EU/IMF consortium – is big league meddling. Well, except by the clueless hypocrisy of the Washington foreign policy blob.
Indeed, as former president Obama told CNN at the time, Washington was just going about its "indispensable nation" business. It had helpfully encouraged another "flowering of democracy" and to that end had,
"……brokered a deal to transition power in Ukraine."
Brokered a deal my eye!
This was a blatant and inexcusable breach of so-called "international law" because it served the will-to-power objectives of the Washington neocons and kept the now largely obsolete US foreign policy apparatus in the hegemony game – to say nothing of recruiting a new customer for arms sales.
Never mind that Washington’s massive political and financial support for the Maidan uprising on the streets of Kiev, and then nearly instantaneous recognition of the resulting putsch as the official government of the Ukraine, was a frontal assault on the nation’s sovereignty.
The late and despicable Senator John McCain even went to Kiev to show solidarity with the Euromaidan activists. McCain dined with opposition leaders, including members of the ultra right‐wing Svoboda Party and later appeared on stage in Maidan Square during a mass rally
There he stood shoulder to shoulder with Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok, who made no secret of his pro-Nazi convictions.
But McCain’s actions were a model of diplomatic restraint compared to the conduct of Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, who, by your way, is back in the same position in the Biden Administration, conducting the same pro-war neocon policies.
As Ukraine’s political crisis deepened, Nuland and her subordinates became more brazen in favoring the anti‐Yanukovych demonstrators. Nuland noted in a speech to the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in December 2013, that she had traveled to Ukraine three times in the weeks following the start of the demonstrations. Visiting the Maidan on December 5, she famously handed out cookies to demonstrators and expressed support for their cause.
Washington’s conduct not only constituted meddling, it bordered on pupeteering. At one point, US Ambassador Pyatt mentioned the complex dynamic among the three principal ultra-nationalist opposition leaders, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Oleh Tyahnybok, and Vitali Klitschko.
Both Pyatt and Nuland wanted to keep Tyahnybok and Klitschko out of an interim government. In the former case, they worried about his extremist ties; in the latter, they appeared to want him to wait and make a bid for office on a longer‐term basis (This former boxing champion became the present pugnacious mayor of Kiev).
Nuland thus famously stated that "I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary." She added that what Yatseniuk needed "is Klitsch and Tyanhybok on the outside."
The two diplomats also were prepared to escalate the already extensive U.S. involvement in Ukraine’s political turbulence by bringing in the Big Guy.
Pyatt stated bluntly that,
"we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing [the political transition]."
Nuland clearly had Vice President Joe Biden in mind for that role. Noting that the vice president’s national security adviser was in direct contact with her, Nuland related that she told him,
"probably tomorrow for an atta‐boy and to get the details to stick. So Biden’s willing."
That is to say, Victoria Nuland didn’t merely tell some undercover operatives to buy ads on Ukrainian social media, as Russia was accused of doing during the 2016 US election. To the contrary, she actually picked Yanokovych’s successor and the entire cabinet!
And we know this from a hacked phone call between Nuland and the US ambassador in Kiev. In discussing who should lead the Washington-installed government, Nuland made clear who the next prime minister would be and who he should be talking to for advice.
Nuland: I think Yats (Arseniy Yatseniuk) is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. … what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know.
As it turned our, the putsch leaders followed Nuland’s advice to the letter, installing "Yats" as the new prime minister. But it also filled four cabinet posts out of eleven with rabid anti-Russian Neo-Nazis.
Indeed, at the heart of the putsch were Ukrainian organizations called Svoboda (national socialist party of Ukraine) and Right Sector. Their national hero was one Stepan Bandera – a collaborator with Hitler who led the liquidation of thousands of Poles, Jews and other minorities as the Nazi Wehrmacht, as previously mentioned, made it way through Ukraine toward Stalingrad in the early 1940s.
In fact, another founder and leader of Svoboda, Andriy Parubiy, was given a portfolio which included the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, National Security and Intelligence. That the Kremlin was alarmed by these developments and that the Russian-speaking populations of Crimea and the Donbas (the blue areas on the electoral map above) feared an ethnic cleansing led by the new Ukrainian nationalist government in Kiev is hardly surprising.
Indeed, the first legislative act of the new government was the abolition, on February 23, 2014, of the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law of 2012 which made Russian an official language. As one commentator noted, it was a bit as if putschists decided that French and Italian would no longer be official languages in Switzerland.
The Russian language ban caused a storm in the Russian-speaking population. This resulted in fierce repression against the Russian-speaking regions (Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Lugansk, and Donetsk) which began in February 2014 and led to a militarization of the situation and a few massacres (in Odessa and Mariupol, for the most important).
By the end of summer 2014, Crimea had return to Mother Russia and the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk became the object of a vicious civil war conducted by Kiev as we will amplify in my next piece.
As we have amplified elsewhere, Sevastopol in Crimea has been the home-port of the Russian Naval Fleet under czars and commissars alike. After 171 years as an integral part of the Russian Motherland, it only technically became part of Ukraine during a Khrushchev inspired shuffle in 1954.
The fact is, only 10% of the Crimean population is Ukrainian speaking, and it was the coup on the streets of Kiev by extremist anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists and proto-fascists that caused the Russian speakers in Crimea to panic and Moscow to become alarmed about the status of its historic naval base, for which it still had a lease running to the 2040s.
Thus, during a referendum in March 2014 83% of eligible Crimeans turned out to vote and 97% of those approved canceling the 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium that gifted Crimea to the Ukraine. There is absolutely no evidence that the 80% of Crimeans who thus voted to sever their historically short-lived affiliation with Ukraine were threatened or coerced by Moscow.
Indeed, what they actually feared were the edicts against Russian language and culture coming out of Kiev. And exactly the same thing was true of the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking populations of the Donbas.
So in the context of a relentless and pointless NATO expansion to the very borders of the shrunken Russian state, Washington not only sponsored and funded the overthrow of Ukraine’s constitutionally elected government in February 2014. But once it had unleashed a devastating civil war, it relentlessly blocked for eight years running the obvious alternative to the bloodshed that had claimed 14,000 civilian and military casualties, even before the current hot war commenced.
To wit, Ukraine could have been partitioned with autonomy for the Russian-speaking Donbas provinces – or even accession to the Russian state from which these communities had essentially originated.
So the appalling truth of the matter is this: Adding insult to injury after its blatantly foolish and reckless coup in February 2014, Washington now insists that the grandsons and granddaughters of Stalin’s industrial army in the Donbas are to be ruled by the grandsons and granddaughters of Hitler’s collaborators in Kiev, whether they like it or not.
Yet that historic chasm is exactly where the present civil war originated.
And its also why partition of an artificial polity forced together by 20th century commie dictators is the only way out.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.