When this conflict in Ukraine began, it all seemed so black and white, so clear cut. Russia, in a wanton act of aggression and with no provocation, had invaded Ukraine. And, as has often been the case throughout our history, America rode to the rescue of Ukraine.
But as time passes, that initial confirmation has all but faded away. New facts have come forth, and the American public has discovered that things were not as they appeared in February 2022.
The Fall Of The USSR
The area we know today as Ukraine has, for centuries, been marked by conflict and revolt. However, modern Ukraine can trace its roots back directly to the early twentieth Century, when several factions in the region sought independence while Russia was undergoing the Bolshevik Revolution.
The Ukrainians failed to achieve complete independence but were allowed to remain as a semi-autonomous state under the former Soviet Union. It served Ukraine well during the Second World War, and when the War ended, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic enjoyed peace and prosperity.
In 1954, Pravda, the official newspaper of the Soviet Union, published a short announcement that drew little attention at the time but would have profound implications for the 21st Century. Pravda announced that on February 19, the Oblast of Crimea would be transferred from the Soviets to Ukraine. It was an incredibly odd move by Khrushchev and the Kremlin, given that Crimea was approximately 80% ethnic Russian at the time. But given that the entire region remained under Soviet control, it seemed that there would be little real change for Crimea.
However, 37 years later, everything did change. The year was 1991, and it was the year that the Soviet Union fell. Suddenly, all of those Eastern European Baltic States were cut free. Free from the iron fist of the Soviets and free to form their own independent countries.
The first of three historic referendums would be held for Ukraine. In 1991, the citizens of Ukraine voted to become an independent state. By a nearly 90% margin, the modern country of Ukraine was born.
And from its birth, Ukraine has been the gemstone of Global Geopolitics. A country rich in natural resources, in terms of geography, it is also the second largest nation in Europe, second only to Russia. In the past two years, we’ve seen how crucial Ukrainian wheat and fertilizer are to the world’s agricultural production.
So, it should be no surprise that Ukraine has been foremost in Russian and American efforts to extend their political reach.
Russia vs. The West
2004 began a 15-year period when the tussle between these two great powers, Russia and the United States, threatened to surface. In that year, an election was held in Ukraine, and America’s favorite candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, lost. Immediately, the two groups that were monitoring the election protested. Washington-based National Democratic Institute and Freedom House claimed the elections were rigged and cited polls indicating that Yushchenko had an 11% lead.
At the same time, the American-based NGOs called foul, and demonstrations broke out in Kyiv. Protesters filled the streets of Ukraine’s capital, calling for a reelection. Organized by a group named Pora! (“It’s Time!”). They adopted as their symbol the orange, and hence Ukraine became part of that unique event: the “Color Revolution. These were “popular” uprisings that all occurred in the first five years of the new Century. And all took place in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union’s Empire. There were four of these Color Revolutions in all: Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, Kyrgyzstan in 2005, and this Revolution in Ukraine in 2004.
Watching all this from his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was the future US President Joe Biden. Like his close compatriot John McCain, Biden made up the loudest voices for the Color Revolutions within the US Congress. He called his policies toward Eastern Europe while in the Senate “His proudest moment in public life (2007).”
The Color Revolutions
Isn’t it remarkable that all four Color Revolutions supported American candidates and opposed Russian? But rest assured that the US State Department, most of the “fact checkers,” and nearly all of the US Press tell us that the “Color Revolutions” were all simply popular uprisings of the local citizenry.
In 2014 came the second of the three critical Ukraine Referendums. That year, the citizens of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation. Crimean officials reported that the vote was 95% in favor of becoming part of the Russian Federation.
At the same time that Crimea was breaking free from Ukraine, the twin Oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk were also seeking their independence from Kyiv. For more than a decade, hostilities existed between the local militias of the Donbas and the Ukrainian Army, at the time the largest Army in Europe, with much of the fighting between the citizen army of Donbas and such elite fighting forces for Ukraine as the brutal Azov Brigade.
The Minsk Accords
By 2014, the turmoil in Ukraine had reached the point that something had to be done. To bring a halt to what had now become known as the Donbas War, in stepped the European Union. Under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), talks took place in Minsk, Belarus. The first Agreement (2014) was a complete failure, with battles renewing between the Ukrainian Army and the Donbas Separatists almost immediately.
A second conference was convened, and on February 12, 2015, Minsk II was agreed to and endorsed. This Agreement halted the fighting and granted self-government to the Donbas, principally the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. To this day, the United States has refused to recognize the two independent Republics despite each Republic holding a referendum with over 90% approving of independence.
Washington Takes Notice
However, as significant as the actions of the Minsk Agreement were, important things were happening away from the diplomatic conference. Back in Washington DC, President Obama had appointed his Vice President, Joe Biden, as the “point man” on Ukraine. So, while VP Biden did not attend Minsk, he was the chief voice in reacting to the Agreement. Biden pushed hard to implement a series of “Sanctions” against the Russian Federation. In 2014, the European Union and the United States began a broad program of “sanctions” against Russia for its “invasion” of Crimea. By framing Russia’s actions in Crimea as an “invasion,” Biden completely ignored the Crimean Referendum, where the citizens of Crimea voted by more than 95% to join the Russian Federation. Nonetheless, the now-American President has continued to characterize the actions of Russia this way.
On December 7, 2022, came the second major “bomb” for anyone trying to understand the background of this Ukraine Conflict. In an interview with the German Publication “Die Zeit” and subsequently confirmed by subsequent public statements, the former German Chancellor and Chairperson of the Minsk Conference, Angela Merkel, made it clear that her objective was to give Ukraine sufficient time to strengthen its military.
“The 2014 Minsk Agreement was an attempt to buy time for Ukraine. Ukraine used this time to become stronger, as you can see today. Ukraine in 2014-2015 and Ukraine today are not the same.” It was clear that the Agreements settled little, she said, “but it was exactly what gave Ukraine the priceless time.”
Here is the Chairperson of the Minsk Protocol telling the world that the objective of the Agreements was not to bring peace but to give Ukraine more time to prepare for an ever-widening war. And that’s precisely how the Russians understood her statements.
In the words of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova,
“The things that Merkel said in her interview – this is a testimony of a person who stated directly that everything that was done in 2014 and 2015 had only one goal: to divert the global community’s attention from the real problems, to buy some time, to pump the Kyiv regime with weapons and to lead the situation to a large-scale conflict.”
And, of course, that’s just what’s happened. Ukraine today is embroiled in Europe’s most significant military conflict since the Second World War.
The American Perspective
For most Americans, myself included, the February 24, 2022, events hit like a bolt from the blue. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Russian troops steamed into Ukraine. It seems unfathomable. Why would Russia do such a thing? What would happen next? For many of us, the last year and a half have been a time of high anxiety. The threat of this regional conflict morphing into a worldwide terminal nuclear Holocaust seems all too real.
But as I read the history of these past quarter century, I realized that many of our leaders have been either preparing for this battle or fighting it for most of that time. For Vladimir Putin, it’s a conflict in his backyard for most of that time. For the leaders of Europe, Angela Merkel and the rest, their neighbors have been fighting for just as long. And for now, President Biden, the Ukraine conflict has been the cornerstone of his career during his entire tenure as Senator, Vice President, and now President. The War in Ukraine is no spur-of-the-moment event but a long-time exercise in force and influence. Our leaders have been at War for years.
It’s only you and I who have recently found that out.