Since I left France for a return to the US almost twenty years ago, I’ve noticed that both the French and the Italian so-called progressive press repeat the same lies as the US, in stark contrast to the period of the Vietnam War when there was still a real anti-war sentiment in Europe. The dumbing down of the ‘free’ press goes hand in hand with that of their respective government overseers. When President Trump chided his colleagues at the G7 for continuing to blackball Russia, they responded in conformity with previous US policy: ’Putin annexed Crimea or Ukraine!’ The apparent ease with which these words tripped off the tongues of men and women whose education should have produced a reverence for history, is appalling.
The first world war left a defeated Germany an economic basket case, where wheelbarrows of worthless currency were needed to buy a loaf of bread. Soon Hitler came along and German politics changed. He took up the claims of Germans living in southern Bohemia, known as the Sudetenland, for equality with Czechs. In March 1938 the area allied with Germany. A year later, Czechoslovakia joined too.
Fast forward to 2014: the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine are inhabited mainly by Russians. A US-backed coup replaced the pro-Russian government in Kiev with one backed by US-backed militias, which, among other undemocratic moves, demanded that the largely Russian-speaking populations in the country’s eastern provinces stop speaking Russian and begin to speak and learn only Ukrainian. Visceral opposition to this and other laws soon led to a separatist movement in the Donbas (east and south Ukraine), paired with a free referendum in the southern peninsula of Crimea to reject Ukraine’s recent coup and to rejoin Russia. Although the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk (east and south Ukraine) would have liked to become part of Russia, President Putin, who has a degree in international law, refused: the Donbas had historically been part of Ukraine. His sup port has been limited to turning a blind eye to Russians who individually opted to cross into the Donbas, Lugansk and Donetsk area to help the defend themselves from Kiev forces.
Boundaries between Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States, Russia and Turkey had constantly changed over a thousand year history. Most durably, during her thirty-four year reign in the second half of the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great wrested Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, from the neighboring Ottoman Empire, securing Russia’s vital access to southern waters. She built a major port at Sebastopol, which the Ottomans, allied with the French and British tried to take back in a famous battle in 1854.
After the 2014 US-led coup against the legally elected Ukraine government, the largely Russian inhabitants of Crimea held a referendum under the watchful eyes of 25,000 Russians stationed at the Sebastopol Naval Base under a 40 year treaty signed in 1997 between Russia and Ukraine.
These and other easy to verify facts have been discarded by Western governments seeking the ultimate overthrow of Vladimir Putin. Obediently echoed by its ‘free’ press, they declared either that Russia had ‘invaded Crimea’ or its variant, that it ‘invaded Ukraine,’ never mentioning the fact that Russian-speaking inhabitants of eastern Ukraine and Crimea were being treated as second class citizens by the US-installed coup government in Kiev — or that Russia had every righ to protect its only warm water naval base from an illegal takeover by the new hostile government in Kiev.
Although hardly worth mentioning in a Cold War context, the demand that Russians living in Ukraine speak and learn only in Ukrainian is a reflection of a centuries-old inferiority complex: Across the shifting marshy boundaries of Northeastern Europe, Ukrainian remained largely a locally spoken language in competition with Polish and Bela Russian. Meanwhile, Russian produced a world-renowned literature and is spoken from the Urals to the Pacific. No more in need of Ukraine or the tiny Baltic States, Russia covers nine time zones and possesses some of the world’s largest reserves of precious metals and minerals. To refer to its solidarity with its people as ‘invasions’ is to disregard history of that whole region over the past century.