A look at the geo-strategic background makes things clearer. Ukraine is historically tied to Russia, geographically and culturally. It is Slavic, and home of the first Russian state, Kiev Rus. Its 52 million people are the second largest population in Eastern Europe, and it is regarded as the strategic buffer between Russia and a string of new US NATO bases from Poland to Bulgaria to Kosovo, all of which have carefully been built up since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most important, Ukraine is the transit land for most major Russian Siberian gas pipelines to Germany and the rest of Europe.
During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kieven Rus’ forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but its territory was eventually split between Poland and the Russian Empire, and later merged fully into Russia.
During the 20th century three periods of independence occurred. The first of these periods occurred briefly during and immediately after the German occupation near the end of World War I and the second occurred, also briefly, and also during German occupation, during World War II. However, both of these first two earlier periods would eventually see Ukraine’s territories consolidated back into a Soviet republic within the USSR. The third period of independence began in 1991, when Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the aftermath of its dissolution at the end of the Cold War. Ukraine has maintained its independence as a sovereign state ever since until the coup in 2014brought Ukraine under American control.
Following its independence, Ukraine declared itself a neutral state Nonetheless it formed a limited military partnership with the Russian Federation and other CIS countries and a partnership with NATO in 1994. In the 2000s, the government began leaning towards NATO, and a deeper cooperation with the alliance was set by the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002.
Ukraine has long been a global breadbasket because of its extensive, fertile farmlands and is one of the world’s largest grain exporters. The diversified economy of Ukraine includes a large heavy industry sector, particularly in aerospace and industrial equipment.
German armies invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, initiating nearly four years of total war. The Axis initially advanced against desperate but unsuccessful efforts of the Red Army. In the encirclement battle of Kiev, the city was acclaimed as a “Hero City”, because of its fierce resistance. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers (or one-quarter of the Soviet Western Front) were killed or taken captive there, with many suffering severe mistreatment.
Kiev suffered significant damage during World War II, and was occupied by Nazi Germany from 19 September 1941 until 6 November 1943.
The vast majority of the fighting in World War II took place on the Eastern Front. By some estimates, 93% of all German casualties took place there. The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated at between 5 and 8 million, of the estimated 8.7 million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, 1.4 million were ethnic Ukrainians.
Post-World War II
The republic was heavily damaged by the war, and it required significant efforts to recover. More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were destroyed. The situation was worsened by a famine in 1946–47, which was caused by a drought and the wartime destruction of infrastructure.
Following the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the new leader of the USSR. Having served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukrainian SSR in 1938–49, Khrushchev was intimately familiar with the republic; after taking power union-wide, he began to emphasize “the friendship” between the Ukrainian and Russian nations. In 1954, Crimea was transferred from the Russian to the Ukraine.
On 26 April 1986, a reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history. This was the only accident to receive the highest possible rating of 7 by the International Nuclear Event Scale, indicating a “major accident”, until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011. At the time of the accident, 7 million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 2.2 million in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin signed the Belavezha Accords, dissolving the Soviet Union, on 8 December 1991.
The first presidential elections took place on 1 December 1991, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk as the first President of Ukraine. At the meeting in Brest, Belarus on 8 December, followed by the Alma Ata meeting on 21 December, the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Ukraine was initially viewed as having favourable economic conditions in comparison to the other regions of the Soviet Union. However, the country experienced deeper economic slowdown than some of the other former Soviet Republics. During the recession, Ukraine lost 60% of its GDP from 1991 to 1999, and suffered five-digit inflation rates. Dissatisfied with the economic conditions, as well as the amounts of crime and corruption in Ukraine, Ukrainians protested and organized strikes. The Ukrainian economy stabilized by the end of the 1990s. Ukraine also pursued full nuclear disarmament, giving up the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world.
During Soviet times, the economy of Ukraine was the second largest in the Soviet Union, being an important industrial and agricultural component of the country’s planned economy. With the dissolution of the Soviet system, the country moved from a planned economy to a market economy. The transition was difficult for the majority of the population which plunged into poverty. Ukraine’s economy contracted severely following the years after the Soviet dissolution. Day-to-day life for the average person living in Ukraine was a struggle. A significant number of citizens in rural Ukraine survived by growing their own food, often working two or more jobs and buying the basic necessities through the barter economy. In the meantime, by 1999, the GDP had fallen to less than 40% of the 1991 level.
UKRAINE’S ENERGY GEOPOLITICS:
Ironically, oil, in the context of Washington’s bungled Iraq war and soaring world oil prices after 2003, has enabled Russia to begin the arduous job of rebuilding its collapsed economy and its military capacities. Putin’s Russia is no longer a beggar-thy-neighbor former Superpower. It’s using its oil weapon and rebuilding its nuclear ones. America is a hollowed-out debt-ridden economy engaged on using its last card, its vast military power to prop up the dollar and its role as world sole Superpower.
The first act of post-war occupation by Washington was to declare null and void any contracts between the Iraqi government and Russia, China and France. Iraqi oil was to be an American affair, handled by American companies or their close cronies in Britain, the first victory in the high-stakes quest, ‘where the prize ultimately lies.’
This was precisely what Cheney had alluded to in his 1999 London speech. Get the Middle East oil resources out of independent national hands and into US-controlled hands. The military occupation of Iraq was the first major step in this US strategy. Control of Russian energy reserves, however, was Washington’s ultimate ‘prize.’
De-construction of Russia: The ‘ultimate prize’
For obvious military and political reasons, Washington could not admit openly that its strategic focus, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, had been the dismemberment or de-construction of Russia, and gaining effective control of its huge oil and gas resources, the ‘ultimate prize.’ The Russian Bear still had formidable military means, however dilapidated, and she still had nuclear teeth.
In the mid-1990’s Washington began a deliberate process of bringing one after the other former satellite Soviet state into not just the European Union, but into the Washington-dominated NATO. By 2004 Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia had joined NATO.
In brief, NATO encirclement of Russia, Color Revolutions across Eurasia, and the war in Iraq, were all one and the same American geopolitical strategy, part of a grand strategy to ultimately de-construct Russia once and for all as a potential rival to a sole US Superpower hegemony. Russia– not Iraq and not Iran– was the primary target of that strategy.
The end of the Yeltsin era put a slight crimp in the US plans. Putin began slowly and cautiously to emerge as a dynamic national force, committed to rebuilding Russia, following the IMF-guided looting of the country by a combination of Western banks and corrupt Russian oligarchs.
These events were soon followed by the Washington-financed series of covert destabilizations of a number of governments in Russia’s periphery which had been close to Moscow. It included the November 2003 ‘Rose Revolution’ in Georgia which ousted Edouard Shevardnadze in favour of a young, US-educated and pro-NATO President, Mikheil Saakashvili. The 37-year-old Saakashvili had conveniently agreed to back the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that would avoid Moscow pipeline control of Azerbaijan’s Caspian oil. The United States has maintained close ties with Georgia since President Mikheil Saakashvili has come to power. American military trainers instruct Georgian troops and Washington has poured millions of dollars into preparing Georgia to become part of NATO.
Following its Rose Revolution in Georgia, Washington organized the brazenly provocative November 2004 Ukraine ‘Orange Revolution.’ The aim of the Orange Revolution was to install a pro-NATO regime there under the contested Presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, in a land strategically able to cut the major pipeline flows from Russian oil and gas to Western Europe. Washington-backed ‘democratic opposition’ movements in neighboring Belarus also began receiving millions of dollars of Washington largesse, along with Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and more remote former Soviet states which also happen to form a barrier between potential energy pipelines linking China with Russia and the former Soviet states like Kazkhstan.
Again, energy and oil and gas pipeline control lay at the heart of the US moves.
By the end of 2004 it was clear in Moscow that a new Cold War, this one over strategic energy control and unilateral nuclear primacy, was fully underway. It was also clear from the unmistakeable pattern of Washington actions since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, that End Game for USA policy vis-à-vis Eurasia was not China, not Iraq, and not Iran. The geopolitical ‘End Game’ for Washington was the complete de-construction of Russia, the one state in Eurasia capable of organizing an effective combination of alliances using its vast oil and gas resources. That, of course, could never be openly declared.
After 2003 Putin and Russian foreign policy, especially energy policy, reverted to their basic response to the ‘Heartland’ geopolitics of Sir Halford Mackinder, politics which had been the basis of Soviet Cold War strategy since 1946.
Putin began to make a series of defensive moves to restore some tenable form of equilibrium in face of the increasingly obvious Washington policy of encircling and weakening Russia. Subsequent US strategic blunders have made the job a bit easier for Russia. Now, with the stakes rising on both sides—NATO and Russia—Putin’s Russia has moved beyond simple defense to a new dynamic offensive, to secure a more viable
In 2001, as it became clear in Moscow that Washington would find a way to bring the Baltic republics into NATO, Putin backed the development of a major new oil port on the Russian coast of the Baltic Sea in Primorsk at a cost of $2.2 billion. This project, known as the Baltic Pipeline System (BPS), greatly lessens export dependency on Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Baltic is Russia’s main oil export route, carrying crude oil from Russia’s West Siberian and Timan-Pechora oil provinces westward to the port of Primorsk in the Russian Gulf of Finland. The BPS was completed in March 2006 with capacity to carry more than1.3 million barrels/day of Russian oil to western markets in Europe and beyond.
The same month, March 2006, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was named chairman of a Russian-German consortium building a natural gas pipeline going some 1,200 km under the Baltic Sea. Majority shareholder in this North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) project, with 51%, is the Russian state-controlled Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas company. The German companies BASF and E.On each hold 24.5%. The project, called Nordstream, estimated to cost €4.7 billion, was started late 2005 and will connect the gas terminal at the Russian port city of Vyborg on the Baltic near St. Petersburg with the Baltic city of Greifswald in eastern Germany. The Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in West Siberia was developed in a joint venture between Gazprom and BASF to feed the pipeline. It was Gerhard Schroeder’s last major act as Chancellor, and provoked howls of protest from the pro-Washington Polish government, as well as Ukraine, who both stood to lose control over pipeline flows from Russia. Despite her close ties to the Bush Administration, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to swallow hard and accept the project. Germany’s industry is simply dependent on the Russian energy import. Russia is by far the largest supplier of natural gas to Germany.
High-stakes Eurasian chess game
In a sense, the Eurasian land area today resembles a geopolitical game of three-dimensional chess between Russia, the European Union member countries, and Washington. The stakes of the game are a matter of life and death for Russia as a functioning nation.
US attempts at the military encirclement of Russia included not only the Rose and Orange Revolutions in 2003 and 2004, but also the highly provocative Pentagon missile ‘defense’ policy of placing US-controlled (not NATO-controlled) missiles in key former Warsaw Pact countries on Russia’s direct perimeter. As a result, Moscow has developed a remarkable and complex energy pipeline strategy to undercut a clearly hostile US military strategy that has used NATO encirclement, missile deployments, and ‘color revolutions,’ including the attempted destabilization of Iran during summer 2009 with a ‘Green Revolution’ or what Hillary Clinton flippantly dubbed the ‘Twitter Revolution.’ All of these US moves have attempted to isolate Russia and weaken her potential strategic allies across Eurasia.
For Russia, which recently surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, sales of its natural gas abroad has a significant advantage in that Moscow is better able to control the price and market of gas. Unlike oil, whose price is tightly controlled by a cartel of Big Oil (and their Wall Street co-conspirators such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP MorganChase), natural gas is far more difficult for Wall Street to manipulate on a short-term speculative basis as with oil.
Russia’s North-South-East-West energy strategy
The defusing of major Washington military threats is far from the only gain for Moscow in having a neutral but stable Ukrainian neighbor. Russia now vastly improves its ability to expand the one great power lever it has, outside of its remaining and still formidable nuclear strike force. That lever is to counter Washington’s relentless mililtary pressure by cleverly using export of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, a fuel much in demand in Western Europe and even in UK where North Sea fields are in decline.
When Yushchenko and Georgia’s Saakashvili took the reins of power in their respective countries and began taking steps with Washington to join NATO, one of the few means available for Putin’s Russia to re-establish some semblance of economic security was its energy card. Russia has by far the world’s largest known reserves of natural gas. Interestingly, the second largest gas reserves are in Iran, a country also high on Washington’s target list.
Today, Russia is clearly pursuing a fascinating, highly complex multi-pronged energy strategy. In effect it is using its energy as a diplomatic and political lever to ‘win friends and influence (EU) people.’
That’s about to change dramatically however, with the implementation of Russia’s long-term pipeline strategy, a strategy designed to make Russia less vulnerable to future political shifts such as the 2004 Ukraine Orange Revolution.
After the 2004 Ukraine Orange Revolution, Moscow’s western pipeline strategy until now has been to bypass both Ukraine and Poland through construction of an underwater gas pipeline, Nord Stream, running from Russia directly to Germany.Nord Stream was especially vital for Russia when it looked possible that Washington might succeed in pulling Ukraine into NATO after the Orange Revolution. Today the alternative Baltic Sea pipeline assumes a different importance for Russia.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia’s port of Vyborg near St. Petersburg to Greifswald in northern Germany, goes beneath the Baltic Sea in international waters, completely bypassing both Ukraine and Poland.
In late 2009 Sweden and Finland joined Denmark in finally granting passage rights through their portion of the Baltic Sea for the pipeline. Construction of the multi-billion dollar project began this April 2009 and gas deliveries began in 2011. When a second parallel pipeline, due to start construction in 2018, is completed, Nord Stream anticipates a full capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year, enough to fuel 25 million households in Europe, according to the Nord Stream website.
With Nord Stream’s primary gas route directly from Russia to its major clients in Germany, along with a stable transit agreement through Ukraine, the likelihood of a disrupted supply of Gazprom deliveries to northern Europe becomes remote. Nord Stream will allow Moscow’s Gazprom to use a more flexible gas diplomacy and to greatly lessen future vulnerability to transit country supply disruptions such as it has had in recent years from a hostile Ukraine.
The combination of neutralizing the threat of Ukraine in NATO, starting construction of the strategically important Nord Stream Russian pipeline to Germany and westwards, has effectively rendered Washington’s counter-strategy impotent. These developments ensure that Russia’s role as Europe’s largest energy supplier is secure. In recent years Russia has grown to become the source for almost 30% of EU oil imports and by far the largest share of its natural gas. That has enormous strategic geopolitical significance, a point not missed in Washington.
Orange Revolution 2004 :
Just one year after the Washington-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yushencko came into office in Kiev, promising to bring Ukraine into NATO and into the EU, Putin and the Russian state-controlled Gazprom natural gas monopoly of Russia, cut gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1. The ostensible reason was that Ukraine refused to pay a 450% price increase for Russian gas demanded by Gazprom for its delivered gas.
By January 4 both countries announced that they had reached a compromise settlement. There are two aspects to this peculiar situation which bear further examination. The first is commercial; the second is geopolitical.
Fallacy of ‘world market price’:
For more than a quarter century the major Western oil companies led by ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, BP and Shell, have tried to establish the artificial construct of a ‘world market price’ for natural gas, similar to the Brent or Dubai or WTI daily price benchmarks. A global market in gas is far more awkward than for oil simply because of the transport problems. Gas needs pipelines or costly LNG terminals and tankers and is thus less mobile. Oil by contrast is controlled by four giant Anglo-American oil majors—ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, British Petroleum (BP) and Shell. Those four determine world oil prices. Because it has not been possible to create a controlled global market for natural gas, the gas tends to be pre-sold in contracts typically of 20-25 year term. Because gas, unlike oil, is dependent on construction of costly pipelines or LNG tankers and LNG port terminals, it tends to have a price fixed by bilateral long-term agreements between buyer and seller. That gives Moscow a degree of protection against events such as the brazen Wall Street manipulation of oil prices in 2008-2009 from a record high of $147 a barrel down to below $30 only months later, manipulations which devastated Moscow’s oil earnings at just the time the global financial crisis cut off credit to Russian banks and companies.
The Gazprom Ukraine dispute opened the Pandora’s box of confidential gas pricing to the world as Russia revealed Western customers paid some $450 tcm compared with the then $50 tcm Ukraine enjoyed.
Gazprom argued that raising that to $230 or about half the western price, was a fair price
What changed in the ‘not changeable’ Gazprom-Ukraine contract between August 2004 and January 2006, of course, was not Gazprom but rather the political complexion of Ukraine. The victory of the Washington-financed Yushchenko candidacy for President in December 2004, and his inauguration in early 2005 on a pledge to bring Ukraine into NATO, did not go down well in Moscow, which considers Ukraine historically and strategically a part of ancient Russia—Kiev Rus. Ukraine is a strategic battleground in this geopolitical tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow. Ukrainian pipeline routes account for 75% of EU oil imports from Russia and Central Asia, and 34% of its natural gas import. In the near future, EU energy imports via Ukraine are set to expand significantly with the opening of huge oil and gas fields in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Middle East. Ukraine is a key piece on Brzezinski’s Eurasian chessboard, to put it mildly, as well as Putin’s.
The Gazprom Ukraine ‘compromise’
By ending the dispute so swiftly, with a doctored compromise, Putin made his point, and he immediately reassured edgy West European gas importers that Gazprom never intended to cut their gas, only the uppity Ukraine’s.
The West was caught in a dilemma in opposing the Gazprom price demand of $230. First, as it was only half the ‘market’ price, showing some restraint on Gazprom’s account. Second, because Western organizations from the WTO to the IMF to the Washington Bush Administration have been demanding Gazprom begin selling its gas in Eastern Europe at ‘market’ prices and not at a ‘subsidized’ price. Ukraine is far the largest Eastern Europe gas customer of Gazprom.
It’s clear the cut-off was intended to send a sharp signal to Kiev: don’t get any cute ideas of joining NATO and becoming a part of a hostile alignment to Russia. Here the US build-up of potential war threat against Iran also figures into the Kremlin calculus.
There are three notable new elements of the Putin energy strategy now being undertaken: the start of construction of the Eastern Siberia oil pipeline going to Vladivostock on the Russian Far East coast, the signing with Germany for construction of a new Baltic underwater gas pipeline from Russian territory to Germany, bypassing Ukraine or Poland. Finally, in January 2010 Moscow announced Gazprom had concluded an agreement with the Moscow-aligned government of Alexander Lukashenko to explore ways of expanding Russian gas delivery to the European Union via Belarus, again bypassing Ukraine.
These three projects combined with the clear Russian signals that she is not about to abandon its support of the Iran nuclear plant construction, and Russia’s unveiling of new missile technologies, indicate Russia is emerging as a serious counterweight to what had been a one-sided move by the United States to divide and control the giant Eurasian landmass. Moscow is now well aware of Washington’s strategy of pre-empting any rival nation or group of nations in Eurasia from challenging American hegemony and global ‘total spectrum dominance’ as the Pentagon likes to call it.
Washington’s interest in Ukraine: Democracy or Energy Geopolitics?
The current battle over Ukraine is more complex than the general Western media accounts suggest. Both Putin and Washington are engaged in highest stakes geopolitical power plays. Yet the deeper issue is Eurasian geopolitical control, an issue little understood in the West.
The Ukraine elections are It’s mainly about who influences the largest neighbor of Russia, Washington or Moscow. A dangerous power play by Washington is involved, to put it mildly.
As viewed from the eyes of a Kremlin President, Russia was being encircled by pro-NATO former satellite states. Not only that, but with pro-western, and anti-Russian assets in the Presidency of Ukraine and the Defense Ministry of Poland, the encirclement was becoming potentially quite threatening to vital Russian national security interests as seen from the Kremlin. Poland is now in NATO, and Ukraine appears to be well on the way.
The NATO encirclement of the Russian Federation, as we have earlier detailed, involved a series of so-called ‘Color Revolutions.’ In Georgia the US-educated and backed lawyer Mikhail Saakashvili replaced the old KGB survivor, Edouard Shevardnadze. Georgia was a key strategic piece for the route of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline from the Caspian, a project backed by Washington to get Caspian oil out to the West, independent of Russia. That pipeline was completed in September 2005, and is slowly being loaded.
The next major strategic blow to Moscow came with the mentioned Ukrainian ‘Orange Revolution’ inauguration of Yushchenko in January 2005.
Then in July 2005, came another US-backed ‘color revolution,’ the ‘Tulip’ Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, bringing another former Russian territory. Kyrgyzstan had been part of Russia since 1864. It is now being drawn into the US orbit of influence under newly-elected ‘Tulip’ President, Kurmanbek Bakiev.
Putin is many things but he can’t be accused of being passive in the face of strategic threats to Russian national interests. Moscow moved swiftly in July 2005 to exploit a growing rift between Uzbekistan and Washington (when the CIA tried to overthrow Uzbekistan’s leader, Islam Karimov), and the result was a ban by Uzbekistan of US military overflights and use of its airbase, a right that had been granted by President Karimov after September 2001 to get Uzbekistan into the ‘good’ side of the US War on Terror. Relations between Uzbekistan and Moscow today are very close, including in military mutual defense agreements. That rapprochement dealt a major blow to the Washington encirclement on the Eurasian space of both Russia and China.
It is useful to recall that it was the ever-bolder sequence of US-led moves to surround Russia with an iron cordon of US and NATO military bases, which has prompted this Russian reaction.
Moscow is not naïve or inexperienced when it comes to analyzing power relations and geopolitical advantage. In March 2005, Leonid Shebarshin, ex-head of the Soviet Foreign Intelligence Service, who now heads a Russian economic and security consulting company, told the Russian paper, Vremya Novostei, ‘On the pretext of fighting international terrorism, the US is trying to establish control over the world’s richest oil reserves.’ He added, ‘The US has usurped the right to attack any part of the globe on the pretext of fighting the international terrorist threat. The fight against that all-mighty ubiquitous myth [Al-Qaeda], deliberately linked to Islam, is of great advantage for the Americans as it targets the oil-rich Muslim regions.’
On December 9, 2009, Gazprom began construction of a 744 mile pipeline–the Northern Pipeline or more properly the North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP). It will deliver Russian gas to Germany. The undersea Baltic route will bring Russian gas from Vyborg between Finland and St Petersburg, through international waters, to the northeast German port of Greifswald. That allows Gazprom to bypass an existing pipeline from Russia through Poland. Future spurs from the main line could deliver gas to Sweden, Finland and the UK. British gas output peaked in 2000 and is rapidly declining, such that the UK in 2005 became a net gas importer the first time since the 1970’s.
It seems likely, despite words by Chancellor Merkel to the contrary, that Berlin will continue to back the project. The Latvian press stated on December 12, 2009, ‘Merkel understands perfectly the importance of the pipeline for her country: for some time Germany will become an exclusive supplier of Russian gas to Europe in a situation where the amount of gas extracted by European companies is steadily decreasing. Under the circumstances, Germany has nothing to gain from involving Poland in the project, because the laying of the pipeline may make Berlin dependent on Warsaw to some extent.’
The second new Russian gas export project is the Belarus enlargement. Belarus is today a de facto, and soon to be de jure, part of a regrouped Russia. The US-led efforts to affect regime change there with a ‘color revolution’ a la Ukraine, to date have fallen flat. Hours after Russia and Ukraine settled their gas dispute, Gazprom announced it was in talks to build new underground gas storage facilities in Belarus. The two countries already have a common economic zone. The gas would come from Russia’s huge Yamal peninsula gas field.
Euromaidan and 2014 revolution
Pro-EU demonstration in Kiev, 27 November 2013, during Euromaidan
The Euromaidan protests started in November 2013 after the president, Viktor Yanukovych, began moving away from an association agreement that had been in the works with the European Union and instead chose to establish closer ties with the Russian Federation. Some Ukrainians took to the streets to show their support for closer ties with Europe. Meanwhile, in the predominantly Russian-speaking east, a large portion of the population opposed the Euromaidan protests, instead supporting the Yanukovych government .Over time; Euromaidan came to describe a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine the scope of which evolved to include calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government.
Violence escalated after 16 January 2014 when anti-government demonstrators occupied buildings in the centre of Kiev, including the Justice Ministry building, and riots left 98 dead with approximately fifteen thousand injured and 100 considered missing from 18 to 20 February.
Members of Parliament voted on 22 February to remove the president and set an election for 25 May to select his replacement.
Petro Poroshenko, running on a pro-European Union platform, won with over fifty percent of the vote, and was inaugurated as president on 7 June 2014.
The ousting of Yanukovych prompted Vladimir Putin to begin preparations to annex Crimea on 23 February 2014. Using the Russian naval base at Sevastopol as cover, Putin directed Russian troops and intelligence agents to disarm Ukrainian forces and take control of Crimea.
After the troops entered Crimea, a controversial referendum was held on 16 March 2014 and the official result was that 97 percent wished to join with Russia.
On 18 March 2014, Russia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea signed a treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation. The UN general assembly responded by passing resolution 68/262 that the referendum was invalid and supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The importance of Ukraine to Russia cannot be overstated. Here are some of the reasons why Putin intervened boldly, and took the Crimea back.
- Crimea hosts the only all-year-round warm water port, that was vital for Russia’s power-projection capabilities, as it hosts the Russian Black sea fleet. Furthermore, were Russia to lose the Crimea, it would have lost the Black Sea, and as well as its ability to protect its interests in the Mediterranean and Syria. The loss of Crimea would not have enabled Russia to come to Syria’s aid in September 2015;
- The loss of Crimea would have made the Black Sea into a “NATO-controlled” sea;
- The loss of Crimea would have brought NATO troops even closer to Russia’s borders, and closer to Moscow;
- Russia would cease to be a Eurasian power, and instead, be an Asian power, and finally;
- It would give Washington greater leverage over EU imports of Russian oil and gas, thus controlling Russian and the EU’s future economic destiny. For all these reasons and more, Putin acted to defend Russia by taking Crimea back into Russia.
Separately, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, armed men declaring themselves as local militia supported with pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings,
The recent protests in Ukraine have the stench of a foreign-orchestrated attempt to destabilize the government of Viktor Yanukovych.
Now Ukrainians have found evidence of direct involvement of the Belgrade US-financed training group, CANVAS behind the carefully-orchestrated Kiev protests.
A copy of the pamphlet that was given out to opposition protestors in Kiev has been obtained. It is a word-for-word and picture-for-picture translation of the pamphlet used by US-financed Canvas organizers in the 2011 Cairo Tahrir Square protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak and opened the door to the US-backed Muslim Brotherhood.
The photo left is from Tahrir Square; the right from Kiev and used by the Belgrade CANVAS NGO:
Canvas, formerly Otpor, received significant money from the US State Department in 2000 to stage the first successful Color Revolution against Slobodan Milosovic in then-Yugoslavia. Since then they have been transformed into a full-time “revolution consultancy” for the US, posing as a Serbian grass-root group backing “democracy.” Who would ever think a Serbian-based NGO would be a front for US-backed regime change?
More evidence that a darker agenda lies behind the “democracy” opposition is the fact that the demands of the protestors went from demanding accession to the EU to demanding the immediate resignation of the Yanukovich government. It got so bad for Ukranian leader Victor Yanukovych that he had to flee Kiev for his life. An urgent call to Putin resulted in Russian Special Forces rushing to the aid of the beleaguered Ukraine leader, and just in time. Had the Russian Special Forces arrived an hour later, Yanukovych would have been assassinated!
In February 2015, after a summit hosted in Belarus, Poroshenko negotiated a ceasefire with the separatist troops. This included conditions such as the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front line and decentralisation of rebel regions by the end of 2015. It also included conditions such as Ukrainian control of the border with Russia in 2015 and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Ukrainian territory. The ceasefire began at midnight on 15 February 2015. Participants in this ceasefire also agreed to attend regular meetings to ensure that the agreement is respected.
On 1 January 2016, Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with European Union, which aims to modernize and develop Ukraine’s economy, governance and rule of law to EU standards and gradually increase integration with the EU Internal market.
The 2014 Ukraine Coup Was as Much About China
It is widely known that the US and the EU were in favour of the EU Association Agreement proposed for Ukraine. Ukraine’s President at the time and the last legitimate leader of the country, Viktor Yanukovych decided against the association agreement with Europe, preferring to leave options open which would allow Kiev to continue to do commerce with its traditional partner, Russia.
But beyond Russia, Yanukovych’s Ukraine was also cultivating other partners even further away from the EU. Could this be part of the reason he was illegally overthrown?
The following timeline of events is crucial in understanding how anti-Chinese sentiments among the EU, US and Ukraine’s fascists could have played as much of a role in fomenting the 2014 Ukrainian coup as did those of anti-Russian actors.
The plans for China’s One Belt–One Road initiative, also called Belt & Road or The New Silk Road initiative were officially announced by Chinese officials in September and October of 2013. The announcements were made in part by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, including during his international visits.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych visits China where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the meetings which were uniquely successful for Ukraine, China agreed to invest $8 billion into the Ukrainian economy.
RT reported the following on 5 December 2013,
‘Ukrainian President Yanukovych left Kiev in search of foreign cash for his country’s near bankrupt economy, and now he says he’s secured $8 billion in investment from China.
The money has made a timely arrival in cash-strapped Ukraine’s hands, as the economy teeters on default and faces debts over $15 billion. Yanukovych is on a three-day planned working trip to China.
“The documents signed today expand our economic cooperation. We have not yet calculated how much this will make up in terms of money, but we made some calculations earlier and saw that the matter is about some $8 billion in investments coming to the Ukrainian economy,” Yanukovych said after signing a number of bilateral documents in Beijing on Thursday, quoted by Interfax.
More investment documents are in their final stages of preparation, and are expected to be signed soon’, he said “China has already given Ukraine $10 billion in loans. “
While Yanukovych signed papers in Beijing, a Ukrainian delegation met with Russian government officials in Moscow, including Prime Minister Medvedev to discuss trade issues such as customs clearance, Ukrainian chocolate, meat and dairy products, and railways.
Protests broke out in Kiev over Yanukovych’s last minute rejection of an EU trade deal in favor of restoring economic talks with Russia, Ukraine’s top trading partner and energy supplier.
Ukraine hasn’t made a decisive step East or West, and for now seems to be shopping around for the best economic deal to bring calm to markets, bond prices, and opposition movements, before committing to either the EU or Russia”.
During the meeting in Beijing, it was reported that Yanukovych and Chinese officials were in talks to construct a deep water port in Crimea, which at the time was under the sovereignty of Yanukovych’s government. The port project said to be worth $10 million, was reported shortly after the Ukrainian coup of February 2014.
If the debt crisis was resolved through Chinese investment, western creditors and the IMF would not have been able to wield power over Kiev.
The routes of China’s New Silk Road still plan on partly travelling through Ukraine, but the current regime in Ukraine will doubtlessly make such matters more difficult for China vis-a-vis the last legitimate government of Ukraine, that of Viktor Yanukovych.
Far from being discarded, Mackinder’s theories continue to prove to be a guiding force behind the west’s policies of war, occupation and provocation against the countries which occupy his ‘pivot area’. Indeed, Britain and France’s continued opposition to Russia in its wars with Turkey throughout the 19th century go a long ways in explaining that far from being original, Mackinder simply wrote a theory which largely conformed to late modern western military and geo-political practice.
Drawing Ukraine away from its historical fraternal Eurasian partners in Moscow and into a western bloc of nations, the EU, was clearly an attempt to draw a portion of Mackinder’s pivot area into the western sphere of political sovereignty.
When understood from this perspective, the proximate timing of Viktor Yanukovych’s visit to China in late 2013, China’s unveiling of the New Silk Road in autumn of 2013 and the pro-EU coup in Kiev in February of 2014, seems more than coincidental.
China is attempting to build a New Silk Road from east to west based on cooperation and a respect for the sovereignty of the nations along the road. Meanwhile, the west is using modern slogans to justify its old policies that never went away.
Under the post-coup regime, Ukraine has signed up to the deal with the EU in spite of fading enthusiasm from Europe. The western powers nevertheless successfully cut Ukraine off from its historic Russian homeland and its eastern partners.
Viktor Yanukovych and his country never got to see the fruits of his deals with China from December of 2014 because on 20 February of that year, Yanukovych was overthrown in a coup.
It was on the 20th of February 2014 that the Foreign Ministers of EU member states France, Germany and Poland convened in Kiev to broker a deal that was supposed to bring stability. Instead, it brought about a genocidal war on the people of Donbass who shortly after the coup declared their independence from the young fascist regime in Kiev. The deal also brought wide scale corruption in an already deeply corrupt place as well as total economic collapse that continues to get worse by the day.
Most ominously, the then Polish Foreign Minister who helped broker the deal which the insurgents had no intention of keeping, told representatives of the radicals that if they did not sign the agreement “you’ll all be dead”.
The truth is that the death came and continues to come not from those who opposed the coup but from those who came to power as a result of the coup.
The deal was supposed to insure orderly early elections and constitutional reforms which ironically reversed those made by Viktor Yanukovych. Instead, the agreement merely caused the total collapse of the state as the mob eventually forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia after a temporary and in hindsight, eerie pause in the violence.
The hours in the evening of the 20th of February 2014 in which violence temporarily abated have been made up for by three and a half years of violence, turmoil and a humanitarian disaster which has seen the lawless regime in Kiev drop chemical weapons on the people of Donbass, all while the west remains silent”.
Subsequent to the coup, the new regime broke off economic relations with Russia and scarpered the deals with China.
Following the armed conflict in the Donbass, Ukraine was cut off from half of coal and all of its anthracite extraction, dropping Ukrainian coal production by 22 percent in 2014. Russia was Ukraine’s largest coal supplier, and in 2014 Russia blocked its coal supplies, forcing 22 Ukrainian power plants to shut down temporarily.
After that, Ukraine started to lower imports from Russia.
The decision by Nuland’s Washington gang to push Kiev to go to war over protests in eastern Ukraine’s energy-rich Donbass in March 2014 rather than creative diplomacy succeeded in severing the heart of Ukraine’s industrial economy from Kiev. The war cost untold billions the government doesn’t have.
Now IMF’s ice-cold Managing Director, former JP MorganChase banker Christine Lagarde, announced on February 12, 2005, Ukraine’s new, $17.5 billion bailout package, claiming it would be a “turning point for Ukraine.” She knew. Like the Sicilian Mafia, the IMF gives a kind of “protection.” Its loans have strings, called the Washington Consensus or IMF conditionalities. They never vary. That’s because the US Treasury in fact controls IMF policy. The conditions are invariably that a country getting “loans” must open its economy, privatize state assets, slash health and education and public jobs and balance the state budget, something the USA has failed to do for decades. Foreign multinationals are then free to rape what is left. It’s a modern version of “outsourced imperialism” made to look technocratic and politically neutral. It isn’t.
In terms of its economic geography, the western parts of Ukraine are traditionally agricultural with some of the finest top soils in the world thanks to a relative lack of chemical spraying during the austere Cold War times in the Soviet Union. In 2011 western Ukraine was the world’s third largest grain exporter. Here in the west is the power base–if any at this point–of the Kiev government of President Petro Poroschenko and his Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The population, which in past history was a part of the Polish Empire, is overwhelming Roman Catholic and sometimes anti-Russian. Western Ukraine is surrounded by NATO states while the historically ethnic Russian east with the energy resources borders Russia
The eastern parts of Ukraine—Donbas, Donetsk, Crimea (when it was still Ukraine), Luhansk—these parts are, historically, majority Russian-speaking Ukrainians, most of whom who are nominally Russian Orthodox. Eastern Ukraine, which was the main electoral base of ousted-President Viktor Yanukovich, is the heart of Ukraine’s coal and domestic gas and oil industry, as well of the Soviet-era nuclear power plants. Coal supplies some 40% of Ukraine’s power plants.
The critical chokepoint is the coal-rich Donbas region in the east were Kiev’s and Washington’s war “against terrorists” in the east has brought coal mine supplies to a halt. No coal for the power plants, no electricity to light homes or power industry or provide heat. Then, because of rationing of natural gas by Kiev because of their break with Russia, her main gas supplier, homes are using energy-intensive electric heaters to avoid freezing, making the electricity crisis worse. Many cities in western Ukraine have turned off their street lighting to save electricity.
Had the elected Yanukovich regime remained, Ukraine instead would have joined what on January 1, 2015 came to be officially be called the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), together with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and now Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and potentially Uzbekistan. Ukraine would have made a clear decision for the first time since the declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 to accept its destiny along with Russia and the east.
However that would threaten Washington’s role as Sole Superpower and some like David Rockefeller’s old pal, Zbigniew Brzezinski, would not be happy with that. In his 1997 geopolitical book, The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski wrote,
“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”
The Jesuit-trained Brzezinski, who today is a virulent proponent of arming the NATO-Ukraine war against Russia, went on in his book to define pivot states in the lexicon of geopolitics: “Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location…which in some cases gives them a special role in either defining access to important areas or in denying resources to a significant player.”
Ukraine is not at all about spreading peace and modern Washington democracy. It’s about pivots and geopolitical power calculus.
And now, as a result of those Brzezinski power chess games, Ukraine is in a living hell economically. Instead of imagined billions of Euros in Brussels aid that some of its citizens fantasized about when they protested against Yanukovich in February 2005 on Maidan Square and in favor of joining the EU, Ukraine gets literally raped with IMF austerity and conditionalities that open up its resources to plundering by western banks and multinationals like Monsanto.
Economically, most of the Ukraine economic infrastructure and trade flows existed since the days of the Soviet era when all were part of one USSR. Had that joining with Russia and turning east taken place in November 2013–which Washington’s warhawks around Brzezinski and Nuland were determined to prevent at all costs–Ukraine would have had no civil war. Ukraine would have been receiving Russian gas supplies at a 33% discounted price and billions of Euros of Ukraine state debt would be purchased by Russia, easing her economic plight.
Now, with a new parliament that is controlled by the Petro Poroshenko bloc as largest party and the boyish-looking former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who is also new Prime Minister as head of the second largest party, the way was clear to get on with the rape of Ukraine. What shocked some is the blatant foreign takeover that followed, like a Wall Street vulture fund raid on a distressed debtor country of the Third World.
Rape of an entire country, just as rape of a small child, is murder. It is a form of murder of the soul and ultimately of the child. Forty five million Ukrainians do not deserve such treatment any more than an innocent four-year-old child does. The Battle for Ukraine is still ongoing at the time of writing this article.
The next article deals with Russia’s ability to improve its defense posture and the upgrading of its military arsenal, especially its nuclear missile capabilities.