Ukraine and Russia have a Troubled History

War_in_Ukraine_(2022)_en CC0 1.0 Universal
War in Ukraine (27 Feb 2022) – Source: Creative Commons Licence CC0 1.0 Universal

In 1932-33 there was a catastrophic famine in Ukraine, which was entirely man-made, resulting from a deliberate policy directed by Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator. Stalin is idolised by Vladimir Putin. Known in Ukraine as the ‘Holodomor’ or ‘Murder by Starvation’.  At least 3.9 million Ukrainians died in that famine. The U.N. estimated 7 to 10 million, other sources over 5 million.

There have been claims by the Putin controlled Russian Parliament that this was not genocide, but it clearly was. Any starving Ukrainians, fleeing to Russia, had all their belongings confiscated. Alongside this was the destruction of Ukrainian books and the suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools. So Ukrainians have a history of being persecuted by the Russian Soviet authorities.

These actions badly misfired, generating so much hatred and resentment that it solidified into Ukrainian nationalism.

The Nazi invasion of 1941 reduced the pressure from Soviet Russia. Ukrainian resistance which fought both the Nazis and Soviets emerged. From 1942 there was an ongoing struggle by Ukrainian nationalists against the Soviets, which was to carry on well into the 1950s despite the best efforts of the Soviet Russian Red Army and State. This struggle would cost the Soviets 35,000 lives, making it twice as costly as the later Afghanistan War. This despite the Soviet Russians arresting and deporting half a million Ukrainians to Siberia between 1944 and 1946.

The Ukrainians have long memories. 80 year old grandmothers, remembering Stalin’s famine tactics and repression are joining Ukrainian resistance groups, learning how to use weapons.

Invading a country is one thing, occupying and controlling it is another. Ukrainian nationalists resisted the Soviet Russian Red Army and State for over ten years, this with little or no support from abroad. This resistance is in the DNA of Ukrainians. Usually with an invading army, there is no common language, which makes it possible for the invaders to dehumanise the invaded. Instead now the Ukrainians are talking to the Russians. That makes it much harder for the Russian troops.

There is virtually universal condemnation of the current Russian invasion, with powerful opposition from both NATO and the EU, and from other countries around the world.

Russia is dependent on long, snaking pipelines to sell its gas resources which are very vulnerable to disruption, even destruction.

Ukraine was only in the Soviet Union because of repression and force. Invading Ukraine, a free, sovereign nation, when there is substantial opposition within Russia itself and massive opposition from the international community, is a very risky gamble.

Ukrainian Flag – Source: CC BY-SA 3.0

By concentrating on Ukraine, Russia may have neglected its Far-Eastern flank. The sheer size of Russia and its limited internal communications – the Trans-Siberian railway takes six days to get from Moscow to Vladivostok – brings its own problems. Vladivostok, formerly Chinese Haishenwai, is at risk. Every other ‘Treaty Port’, other than Vladivostok has been reclaimed by a resurgent China. China may have abstained in condemning the Russian invasion, but it still has its eyes on Vladivostok.

Vladimir Putin has made a huge misjudgement. Swiftly targeting his off-shore assets and those of his cronies may save both Ukraine and Russia from the deaths and destruction this misjudgement could cause.

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