The Third Cold War: A New Beginning or a Continuation?

So, when did the Third Cold War begin?  The question really should be:  Did the Second Cold War ever really end?  If we take into account the Russian attack on Georgia, it never ended.  By most accounts, the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., which even Russia recognized, constituted the end of the Second Cold War.  Civil wars across the Soviet Union, and its failure in Afghanistan are largely believed to have signaled the end of the Second Cold War.

Russia did not suffer the lost of its satellite states gladly, however.  Russia fought back.  Those states that were lost to Muslim extremists, such as Chechnya, remained lost.  Russia could not afford to lose another Afghan war right in its own backyard.  But neither could it afford to lose the states of Georgia and Ukrainia.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was occupied by Soviet Russia in 1921, becoming the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and, therefore, part of the Soviet Union.  After independence in 1991, post-Communist Georgia suffered from civil unrest and economic crisis for most of the 1990s. This lasted until the Rose Revolution of 2003, after which the new government introduced democratic and economic reforms.

Since it was a matter of civil war, historians can argue whether Georgia’s, followed by Ukraine’s, declaration of independence as part of the Cold War.  Since both battles were wars between freedom and totalitarianism, between capitalism and communism, one could argue that these Civil Wars constituted the beginning of a Third Cold War, or at the very least, a continuation of the Second.

As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate at the end of the 1980s, ethnic tensions grew between the Abkhaz and Georgians over Georgia’s moves towards independence. Many Abkhaz opposed this, fearing that an independent Georgia would lead to the elimination of their autonomy, and argued instead for the establishment of Abkhazia as a separate Soviet republic in its own right. The dispute turned violent on July 16, 1989 in Sukhumi when 16 Georgians are said to have been killed and another 137 injured when they tried to enroll in a Georgian University instead of an Abkhaz one. After several days of violence, Soviet troops restored order in the city and blamed rival nationalist paramilitaries for provoking confrontations. In June 1988, the so-called Abkhaz Letter was sent to Gorbachev.

In March 1990, Georgia declared sovereignty, unilaterally nullifying treaties concluded by the Soviet government since 1921 and thereby moving closer to independence. The Republic of Georgia boycotted the March 17, 1991 all-Union referendum on the renewal of the Soviet Union called by Mikhail Gorbachev.  However, 52.3 percent off Abkhazia’s population (almost all of the ethnic non-Georgian population) took part in the referendum and voted by an overwhelming majority (98.6 percent) to preserve the Union.  Most ethnic non-Georgians in Abkhazia later boycotted a March 31 referendum on Georgia’s independence, which was supported by a huge majority of Georgia’s population. Within weeks, Georgia declared independence on April 9, 1991, under former Soviet dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Under Gamsakhurdia, the situation was relatively calm in Abkhazia and a power-sharing agreement was soon reached between the Abkhaz and Georgian factions, granting to the Abkhaz a certain over-representation in the local legislature.

Gamsakhurdia’s rule was soon challenged by armed opposition groups, under the command of Tengiz Kitovania, that forced him to flee the country in a military coup in January 1992. Former Soviet foreign minister and architect of the disintegration of the USSR Eduard Shevardnadze became the country’s head of state, inheriting a government dominated by hard-line Georgian nationalists. He was not an ethnic nationalist but did little to avoid being seen as supporting his administration’s dominant figures and the leaders of the coup that swept him to power.

On Feb. 21, 1992, Georgia’s ruling Military Council announced that it was abolishing the Soviet-era constitution and restoring the 1921 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Many Abkhaz interpreted this as an abolition of their autonomous status, although the 1921 constitution contained a provision for the region’s autonomy. On July 23, 1992, the Abkhaz faction in the republic’s Supreme Council declared effective independence from Georgia, although the session was boycotted by ethnic Georgian deputies and the gesture went unrecognised by any other country. The Abkhaz leadership launched a campaign of ousting Georgian officials from their offices, a process which was accompanied by violence. In the meantime, the Abkhaz leader, Vladislave Ardzinba, intensified his ties with hardline Russian politicians and military elite and declared he was ready for a war with Georgia.

Gamsakhurdia’ election as the first president of independent Georgia stoked Georgian nationalism.  He vowed to assert Tbilisi’s authority over regions such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia that had been classified as autonomous oblasts (regional congresses) under the Soviet Union.

He was soon deposed in a bloody coup d’état, from Dec. 22, 1991, to Jan. 6, 1992. The coup was instigated by part of the National Guards and a paramilitary organization called “Mkhedrioni” or “horsemen” (!). The country became embroiled in a bitter civil war which lasted almost until 1995.  Eduard Shevardnadze returned to Georgia in 1992 and joined the leaders of the coup — Kitovani and Ioseliani — to head a triumvirate called “The State Council.”

Simmering disputes within two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, between local separatists and the majority Georgian populations, erupted into widespread inter-ethnic violence and wars.  Supported by Russia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia achieved de facto independence from Georgia, with Georgia retaining control only in small areas of the disputed territories. In 1995, Shevardnadze was officially elected as president of Georgia.

Roughly 230,000 to 250,000 Georgians were massacred or expelled from Abkhazia by the Abkhaz (Muslim – the Georgians were conquered and converted by the Ottoman Empire c. 1570) separatists and North Caucasian volunteers (including Chechens) in 1992–1993. Around 23,000 Georgians fled South Ossetia as well, and many Ossetian families were forced to abandon their homes in the Borjomi region and moved to Russia.

Prior to the 1992 war, Georgians made up nearly half of Abkhazia’s population, while less than one-fifth of the population was Abkhaz.  As the war progressed, the Abkhaz separatists carried out the policy of violent displacement of ethnic Georgians from their homes which has left 250,000 people being forcefully evicted from their homes. Confronted with hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians who were unwilling to leave their homes, the Abkhaz side implemented the process of  ethnic cleansing in order to expel and eliminate the Georgian ethnic population in Abkhazia. The exact number of those killed during the ethnic cleansing is disputed, however, it ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 people, not including the civilians who were killed in 1998 during the separatist onslaught on the Gali region.

In 2003, Shevardnadze (who won reelection in 2000) was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the Nov. 2 parliamentary elections were marred by fraud.  The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakhasvili and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shevardnadze’s ruling party.  Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia in 2004.

Following the Rose Revolution, a series of reforms were launched to strengthen the country’s military and economic capabilities. The new government’s efforts to reassert Georgian authority in the southwestern autonomous republic of Ajaria led to a major crisis early in 2004. Success in Ajaria encouraged Saakashvili to intensify his efforts, but without success, in breakaway South Ossetia.

These events, along with accusations of Georgian involvement in the Second Chechen War, resulted in a severe deterioration of  relations with Russia, fueled also by Russia’s open assistance and support to the two secessionist areas. Despite these increasingly difficult relations, in May 2005 Georgia and Russia reached a bilateral agreement by which Russian military bases (dating back to the Soviet era) in Batumi and Akhalkalaki and were withdrawn.  Russia withdrew all personnel and equipment from these sites by December 2007 while failing to withdraw from the Gudauta base in Abkhazia, which it was required to vacate after the adoption of the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty during the 1999 Istanbul Summit.

On Aug. 7, 2008, as America was preparing for the 2008 presidential election, Georgian forces began shelling the South Ossetian capital,Tskhinvali; this was followed, the next day, by an advance of Georgian Army infantry, tanks, and police commandos into South Ossetia.  The action was supported by artillery and air support, leading to the capture of a number of key South Ossetian towns and retreat of Russian peacekeepers and South Ossetian forces.  However, after a Russian peacekeeping base was shelled and personnel killed, units of the Russian 58th Army, supported by irregular forces, entered South Ossetia through the Roki Tunnel, thus leading to a three-day battle which left the city of Tskhinvali in ruins.

Georgian forces were subsequently forced to retreat and the Russian Air Force began launching airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia, and multiple targets inside Georgia proper. The Georgian Air Force resisted and later continued to carry out air strikes against Russian troops. A second front was opened when the separatist Republic of Abkhazia, with Russian support, launched an offensive against Georgian troops in the Kodori Valley. Georgian troops offered minimal resistance and soon withdrew.  Russian paratroopers launched raids against military bases in Senaki, Georgia, from Abkhazia, whilst the Russian Navy stationed a task force off the coast of Abkhazia, and sank a Georgian Coast Guard cutter..

Russian forces, upon crossing into Georgia proper, soon entered Gori, where Georgian forces had earlier regrouped before retreating to Tbilisi. Irregulars such as Ossetians, Chechens and Cossacks followed; looting, killing, and arson was reported.  Russian troops removed military equipment abandoned by retreating Georgian troops in Gori and the port of Poti, where several naval and coast guard vessels moored in the harbour were scuttled.

On Aug. 12, 2008, President Medvedev announced a halt to further Russian military operations in Georgia and ordered a gradual withdrawal from Gori, Poti and other established checkpoints. Despite this, Russian forces remained in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the independence of which it soon recognized.

Because of the intensive fighting in South Ossetia, there were many disputed reports about the number of casualties on both sides, which targets had fallen under aerial attacks, the status of troop movements, and the most current location of the front line between the Georgian and Russian-Ossetian units. Since the war, South Ossetian and Russian officials have made a number of unsubstantiated claims that the Georgian Army was responsible for killing 1,400–2,000 South Ossetian civilians. Human Rights Watch and European Union investigators in South Ossetia have subsequently accused Russia of exaggerating the scale of such casualties. All sides sustained casualties, with Georgia accounting for the greatest number of military casualties with 170 confirmed dead or missing.

Since the war, Georgia has maintained that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are under Russian occupation and remain, legally, part of Georgia. Georgia has gained much international support for this position although attempts at limiting international access to and enforcing an economic embargo of the two break-away regions have produced mixed results.

Ukrainians have regarded themselves as Ukrainians since ancient times and never really recognized themselves as being Russians, or worse, members of the Soviet Union.  As soon as they were permitted to do so, many Ukrainians fled the Soviet Union.

The territory of Ukraine was first inhabited at least 44,000 years ago, with the country being a candidate site for both the domestication of the horse and for the origins of the Indo-European language family..

In the Middle Ages, the area became a key center of East Slavic culture, as epitomized by the powerful state of Kievan Rus.  Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, Ukraine was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers. A Cossack republic emerged (a group of predominantly East Slavic people whose communities were democratic and semi-military located in Ukrainia and southern Russia; they were thought to be of Khazar origin) and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but Ukraine remained otherwise divided until its consolidation into a Soviet republic in the 20th century, becoming an independent nation-state only in 1991.

Ukraine has long been a global breadbasket due to its extensive, fertile farmlands. As of 2011, it was the world’s third-largest grain exporter with that year’s harvest being much larger than average. Ukraine is one of ten most attractive agricultural land acquisition regions. Additionally, the country has a well-developed manufacturing sector, particularly in the area of aerospace and industrial equipment.

The Ukrainian city of Sevastopol houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement with Russia. Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukrainia continues to maintain the second-largest military in Europe, after that of Russia, when reserves and paramilitary personnel are taken into account.

The name Ukraine means means “borderland.”  “The Ukraine” was once the usual form in English but since the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, the English-speaking world has largely stopped using the definite article.  Which means it should be using the noun form of the name…

Kievan Rus’ was founded by the Rus’ people, Varangians, who are thought to have come from Scandinavia.  They first settled around Ladoga and Novgorod, then gradually moved southward eventually reaching Kiev about 880. Kievan Rus’ included the western part of modern Ukraine, Belarus, with the larger part of it situated on the territory of modern Russia.

During the 10th and 11th centuries, it became the largest and most powerful state in Europe.  In the following centuries, it laid the foundation for the national identity of Ukrainians and Russians.  The Varangians later assimilated into the local Slavic population and became part of the Rus’ first dynasty, the Rurik Dynasty.  Kievan Rus’ was composed of several principalities ruled by the interrelated Rurikid Princes. The seat of Kiev, the most prestigious and influential of all principalities, became the subject of many rivalries among Rurikids as the most valuable prize in their quest for power.

The Golden Age of Kievan Rus’ began with the reign of Vladimir the Great (980–1015), who turned Rus’ towards Byzantine Christianity. During the reign of his son, Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054), Kievan Rus’ reached the zenith of its cultural development and military power. This was followed by the state’s increasing fragmentation as the relative importance of regional powers rose again.  After a final resurgence under the rule of Vladimir Monomakh (1113–1125) and his son, Mstislav (1125–1132), Kievan Rus’ finally disintegrated into separate principalities following Mstislav’s death.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Pechenegs and the Kipchaks caused a massive migration of  Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north. The 13th century Mongol invasion devastated Kievan Rus’. Kiev was totally destroyed in 1240.  On today’s Ukrainian territory, the state of Kievan Rus’ was succeeded by the principalities of Halych and Volodymyr-Volynskyi, , which were merged into the state of Galicia-Volhynia.

Danylo Romanovych (Daniel I of Galicia or Danylo Halytskyi) re-united all of south-western Rus’, including Volhynia, Galicia and Rus’ ancient capital of Kiev. Danylo was crowned by the papal archbishop in Dorohychyn om 1253 as the first King of all Rus’. Under Danylo’s reign, the kingdom of  Galicia-Volhynia was one of the most powerful states in east central Europe.

In the mid-14th century, upon the death of Boleslaw Jerzy II of Mazovia, King Casimir III of Poland initiated campaigns (1340–1366) to take Galicia-Volhynia. Meanwhile the heartland of Rus’, including Kiev, became the territory of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania. Following the 1386 Union of Krewo, a dynastic union between Poland and Lithuania, much of what became northern Ukraine, was ruled by the increasingly Slavicized local Lithuanian nobles as part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and by 1392 the so-called Galicia-Volynia Wars ended.  Polish colonizers of depopulated lands in northern and central Ukraine founded or refounded many towns. In 1430, Podolia was incorporated under the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland . In 1441, in the southern Ukraine, especially Crimea and surrounding steppes, Genghisid prince Haci I Griav founded the Crimean Khanate.

In 1569, the Union of Lublin established the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and a considerable part of Ukrainian territory was transferred from the Duchy of Lithuania to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, becoming Polish territory de jure. Under the demographic, cultural and political pressure of  Polonization begun already in late 14th century, many landed gentry of Polish Ruthenia (another name for the land of Rus) converted to Catholicism and became indistinguishable from the Polish nobility.  Deprived of native protectors among Rus nobility, the commoners (peasants and townspeople) began turning for protection to the emerging Zaporozhian Cossacks, who by the 17th century became devoutly Orthodoz.  The Cossacks did not shy from taking up arms against those they perceived as enemies, including the Polish state and its local representatives.

The Crimean Khanate was one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe until the 18th century; at one point it even succeeded, under the Crimean khan Devlet I Girav, in capturing and devastating Moscow. The population of the borderlands suffered annual Tatar (nomadic tribes from the Bulgar region folded into Genghis Khan’s army) invasions and tens of thousands of soldiers were required to protect the southern boundaries. From the beginning of the 16th century until the end of 17th century, the Crimean Tatar raiding bands made almost annual forays into agricultural Slavic lands in search of captives for sale as slaves.

From 1450 to 1586, eighty-six Tatar raids were recorded, and from 1600 to 1647, seventy.  In 1688, Tatars captured a record number of 60,000 Ukrainians. The Tatar raids took a heavy toll, discouraging settlement in more southerly regions where the soil was better and the growing season was longer. Muscovy, Poland-Lithuania, Moldavia and Wallachia were all subjected to extensive slave raiding. The last remnant of the Crimean Khanate was finally conquered by the Russian Empire in 1783. The Taurida Governorate was formed to govern this territory.

In the mid-17th century, a Cossack military quasi-state, the Zaporozhian Host, was formed by Dnieper Cossacks and by Ruthenian peasants who had fled Polish serfdom.  Poland exercised little real control over this population, but found the Cossacks to be a useful opposing force to the Turks and Tatars,and at times the two were allies in military campaigns.  However the continued harsh enserfment of peasantry by Polish nobility and especially the suppression of the Orthodox Church alienated the Cossacks.

The Cossacks sought representation in the Polish Sejm (the lower house of the Polish Parliament), recognition of Orthodox traditions, and the gradual expansion of the Cossack Registry.  These were rejected by the Polish nobility, who dominated the Sejm.

In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Petro Dorshenko led the largest of the Cossack uprisings against the Polish Commonwealth and the Polish king John II Casimir.

In 1657–1686 came “The Ruin,” a devastating 30-year war amongst Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks for control of Ukraine, which occurred at about the same time as the Deluge of Poland. For three years, Khmelnytsky’s armies controlled present-day western and central Ukraine, but, deserted by his Tatar allies, he suffered a crushing defeat and turned to the Russian tsar for help.

In 1654, Khmelnytsky signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav, forming a military and political alliance with Russia that acknowledged loyalty to the czar (“caesar”).  The wars escalated in intensity with hundreds of thousands of deaths.  Defeat came in 1686 as the “Eternal Peace” between Russia and Poland gave Kiev and the Cossack lands east of the Dnieper over to Russian rule and the Ukrainian lands west of the Dnieper to Poland.

In 1709, Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1639–1709) sided with Sweden against Russia in the Great Northern War (1700–1721). Mazepa, a member of the Cossack nobility, received an excellent education abroad and proved to be a brilliant political and military leader enjoying good relations with the Romanov dynasty. After Peter the Great became czar Mazepa, as hetman (second-highest military commander after the czar), gave him more than 20 years of loyal military and diplomatic service and was well rewarded.

Kirill Razumovksky, the last Hetman of left- and right-bank Ukraine 1750–1764, was, in May 1763, the first person to ever declare Ukraine to be a sovereign state.

Eventually Peter the Great recognized that to consolidate and modernize Russia’s political and economic power it was necessary to do away with the hetmanate and Ukrainian and Cossack aspirations to autonomy. Mazepa accepted Polish invitations to join the Poles and Swedes against Russia. The move was disastrous for the hetmanate, Ukrainian autonomy, and Mazepa. He died in exile after fleeing from the Battle of Poltava (1709), where the Swedes and their Cossack allies suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Peter’s Russian forces.

The hetmanate was abolished in 1764; the Zaporiszhkska Sich (fortification?) abolished in 1775, as Russia centralized control over its lands. As part of the partitioning of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the Ukrainian lands west of the Dnieper were divided between Russia and Austria. From 1737 to 1834, expansion into the northern Black Sea littoral and the eastern Danube valley was a cornerstone of Russian foreign policy.

Lithuanians and Poles controlled vast estates in Ukraine, and were a law unto themselves. Judicial rulings from Cracow were routinely flouted, while peasants were heavily taxed and practically tied to the land as serfs. Occasionally, the landowners battled each other using armies of Ukrainian peasants. The Poles and Lithuanians were Roman Catholics and tried with some success to convert the Orthodox lesser nobility. In 1596, they set up the “Greek-Catholic” or Uniate Church (which is why the Russian cyrillic alphabet is so closely tied to the Greek language), under the authority of the Pope but using Eastern rituals; it dominates western Ukraine to this day. Tensions between the Uniates and the Orthodox were never resolved, and the religious differentiation left the Ukrainian Orthodox peasants leaderless, as they were reluctant to follow the Ukrainian nobles.

Cossacks led an uprising, called Koliivschchyna, starting in the Ukrainian borderlands of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1768. Ethnicity as one root cause of this revolt, which included Ukrainian violence that killed tens of thousands of Poles and Jews.  Religious warfare also broke out between Ukrainian groups. Increasing conflict between Uniate and Orthodox parishes along the newly reinforced Polish-Russian border on the Dnepr River in the time of Catherine II set the stage for the uprising. As Uniate religious practices had become more Latinized, Orthodoxy in this region drew even closer into dependence on the Russian Orthodox Church. Confessional tensions also reflected opposing Polish and Russian political allegiances.

After the Russians annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783, the region called New Russia was settled by Ukrainian and Russian migrants.  Despite the promises of Ukrainian autonomy given by the Treaty of Pereyaslav, the Ukrainian elite and the Cossacks never received the freedoms and the autonomy they were expecting from Imperial Russia. However, within the Empire, Ukrainians rose to the highest Russian state and church offices.  At a later period, tsarists established a policy of the Russification of Ukrainian lands, suppressing the use of the Ukrainian language in print, and in public.

In the 19th century, Ukraine was a rural area largely ignored by Russia and Austria. With growing urbanization and modernization, and a cultural trend toward romantic nationalism, a Ukrainian intelligentsia committed to national rebirth and social justice emerged. The serf-turned-national-poet Taras Shevcheknko (1814–1861) and the political theorist Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841–1895) led the growing nationalist movement.

After Ukraine and Crimea became aligned with the Russian Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774), significant German immigration occurred after it was encouraged by Catherine the Great and her immediate successors. Immigration was encouraged into Ukraine and especially the Crimea by Catherine in her proclamation of open migration to the Russian Empire. Immigration was encouraged for Germans and other Europeans to thin the previously dominant Turk population and encourage more complete use of farmland.

Beginning in the 19th century, there was a continuous migration from Ukraine to settle the distant areas of the Russian Empire. According to the 1897 census, there were 223,000 ethnic Ukrainians in Siberia and 102,000 in Central Asia.  Between 1896 and 1906, after the construction of the trans-Siberian Railway, a total of 1.6 million Ukrainians migrated eastward.

Nationalist and socialist parties developed in the late 19th century. Austrian Galicia, which enjoyed substantial political freedom under the relatively lenient rule of the Habsburgs, became the center of the nationalist movement.

Ukrainians entered World War I on the side of both the Central Powers, under Austria, and the  Triple Entente, under Russia. Three and a half million Ukrainians fought with the Imperial Russian Army, while 250,000 fought for the Austro-Hungarian Army.  During the war, Austro-Hungarian authorities established the Ukrainian Legion to fight against the Russian Empire. This legion was the foundation of the Ukrainian Galician Army that fought against the Bolsheviks and Poles in the post-World War I period (1919–23). Those suspected of Russophile sentiments in Austria were treated harshly. Up to 5,000 supporters of the Russian Empire from Galicia were detained and placed in Austrian internment.

Symon Petliura led Ukrainia’s struggle for independence following the Russian Revolution; he is now recognized as having been the third President of independent Ukrainia.

When World War I ended, several empires collapsed; among them were the Russian and Austrian empires. The Russian Revolution of 1917 ensued and a Ukrainian national movement for self-determination reemerged, with heavy Communist/Socialist influence. During 1917–20, several separate Ukrainian states briefly emerged: Ukrainian People’s Republic; the Hetmanate;, the Directorate and the pro-Bolshevik Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (or Soviet Ukraine) successively established territories in the former Russian Empire.  The West Ukrainian’s People’s Republic and the Hutsul Republic emerged briefly in the former Austro-Hungarian territory. This led to civil war, and an anarchist movement called the Black Army led by Nestor Makhno, developed in Southern Ukraine during that war.

However, Poland defeated Western Ukraine in the Polisy-Ukrainian War, but failed against the Bolsheviks in an offensive against Kiev.  The Peace of Riga concluded the battle between the Soviets and Poland, and western Ukrainia was officially incorporated into Poland, who in turn recognized the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in March 1919.  With establishment of the Soviet power in Ukraine, the country lost half of its territory: the eastern Galicia was given to Poland, the Pripyat marshes region to Belarus, half of Sloboda Ukraine and northern fringes of Severia were passed to Russia, while on the left bank of Dniester River a Moldavian autonomy was created. Eventually, Ukrainia became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union, in December 1922.

On July 16, 1990, the new Ukrainian parliament adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. The declaration established the principles of the self-determination of the Ukrainian nation, its democracy, political and economic independence, and the priority of Ukrainian law on the Ukrainian territory over Soviet law. A month earlier, a similar declaration was adopted by the parliament of the Russian SFSR. This started a period of confrontation between the central Soviet, and new republican authorities. In August 1991, a conservative faction among the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union attempted a coup to remove Mikhail Gorbachev and to restore the Communist party’s power. After the attempt failed, the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence on Aug. 24, 1991, in which the parliament declared Ukraine as an independent democratic state.

A referendum and the first presidential elections took place on Dec. 1, 1991. That day, more than 90 percent of the electorate expressed their support for the Act of Independence, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk to serve as the first president of the country. On Dec. 8, the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Although the idea of an independent Ukrainian nation had previously not existed in the 20th century in the minds of international policy makers, Ukraine was initially viewed as a republic with favorable 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 percent of its GDP from 1991 to 1999, and suffered five-digit inflation rates.  Dissatisfied with the economic conditions, as well as the amount of crime and corruption in Ukrainia, Ukrainians protested and organized strikes.

The Ukrainian economy stabilized by the end of the 1990s. A new currency, the hryvinia, was introduced in 1996. Since 2000, the country has enjoyed steady real economic growth, averaging about seven percent annually. A new Constitution of Ukraine was adopted under second President Leonid Kuchma in 1996, which turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic and established a stable political system. Kuchma was, however, criticized by opponents for corruption, electoral fraud, discouraging free speech and concentrating too much power in his office.  Allegedly, he also repeatedly transferred public property into the hands of loyal oligarchs.

In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections, which had been largely rigged, as the Supreme Court of Ukraine later ruled.  The results caused a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the outcome of the elections. This resulted in the peaceful Orange Revolution, , bringing Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power, while casting Viktor Yanukovych in opposition.

Yanukovych returned to a position of power in 2006, when he became Prime Minister in the Alliance of National Unity, until snap elections in September 2007 made Tymoshenko Prime Minister again.  Meanwhile, amid the 2008-09 Ukrainian financial crisis, the Ukrainian economy plunged by 15 percent

Disputes with Russia over debts for natural gas briefly stopped all gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and again in 2009, leading to gas shortages in several other European countries.  In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in 2010 with 48 percent of the vote.

The Euromaidan or “Eurosquare” protests started in November 2013, when Ukrainian citizens demanded stronger integration with the European Union.  The demonstrations were prompted by the refusal to sign an association agreement with the EU, which Yanukovych described as being disadvantageous to Ukraine. Over time, Euromaidan has come to describe a wave of ongoing demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukrainia in Ukraine, the scope of which resulted in the eventual resignation of Yanukovych and his government. Violence escalated after Jan. 16, 2014 when the government accepted Bondarenko-Oliynyk laws, also known as Anti-Protest Laws. Anti-government demonstrators occupied buildings in the center of Kiev, including the Justice Ministry building and riots left 98 dead and thousands injured on Feb. 18–20.  Due to violent protests on Feb. 22, 2014, members of Parliament found the president unable to fulfill his duties and exercised “constitutional powers” to set an election for 25 May to select his replacement.

Crimean leaders asked Putin for help, and on March 1, Russia’s parliament approved a request from Pres. Vladimir Putin permitting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine in response to the Crimean Crisis.  Pro-Russian troops accordingly have mobilized throughout Crimea and the southeast of Ukraine. Much of the Western world and parts of Southeast Asia condemned these actions. As of March 2, pro-Russian troops are said to have complete control over the Crimea. A Crimean autonomy referendum is scheduled to be held on 30 March 30, 2014. Kherson, Nikolaev and Odessa declared their desire to join Crimea.

That’s the long version of Ukrainia’s long history.  The length of the account might seem onerous to the casual reader, but it’s important to understand Ukrainia’s history if one is to understand the current crisis and why freedom is so important to Ukrainians.  Years ago, my mother babysat for a Ukrainian couple who immigrated to America.  Their accents were still fresh and they told us that the Ukrainian people had never, ever wanted to be part of the Soviet Union.

To understand why Crimea wants to be independent of Ukrainia (which is news to this blog), know that there are an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Ukraine and about 300,000 of them are Crimean Tatars.  There are 487 registered Muslim communities, 368 of them on Crimea. In addition, some 50,000 Muslims live in Kiev, mostly foreign-born.

Finally, there’s the matter of Vladimir Putin when considering the period of the Third Cold War.

He has been the current president of Russia since May 7, 2012. He previously served as elected president from 2000 to 2008, and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2012. During that last term as Prime Minister, he was also the Chairman of the United Russia political party.

For 16 years Putin served as an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he retired to enter politics in his native Saint Petersburg in 1991.  Putin was the Russian James Bond since 1975.   He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined Pres. Bois Yeltsin’s  administration where he rose quickly, becoming Acting President on Dec. 31, 1999 when Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly. Putin won the subsequent 2000 presidential election and was re-elected in 2004.  Because of constitutionally-mandated term limits, he was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008.  Dmitry Medvedev won the 2008 presidential election and appointed Putin as Prime Minister, beginning a period of so-called “tandemocracy.”

In September 2011, following a change in the law extending the presidential term from four years to six, Putin announced that he would seek a third, non-consecutive term as President in the 2012 presidential election, an announcement which led to large-scale protests in many Russian cities.

In the current crisis, Putin has declared that he wants to reconstitute the former Soviet Union, minus the Communism, or at least the economic communism.  As the former head of the KGB, a man who probably killed many of our own CIA agents, we can’t expect anything less from him than a totalitarian state.

Now that we know that the matter is as much a Muslim extremist issue, creating yet another Islamic state, as it is economic, we understand Obama’s lack of action in the matter.  He will never defend Ukrainia in its fight for freedom and protecting its ports in Crimea from blockage and control by the Muslim Crimeans.  We will never send troops to Ukrainia (as if we had any to send).  Clearly, Putin has no problem with the Islamicists and neither does Obama.

The world must hold its breath to see whether the Soviets and the Muslims shake hands and, with the former Soviet republics now in the hands of the Muslims, whether they will use their newfound military advantage in this new union to realize their ultimate dream of a worldwide caliphate.

As for when the Third Cold War began, it could be said to have begun in 2012 when Putin began his third term or when Obama was elected in 2008.  Only Obama is on the Putin side of things.  For all his protestations, he would seem to be Putin’s Puppet.  Perhaps the real Third Cold War began in 2009, when America’s Tea Parties rallied.  For that is where America’s roots now lie.

With all due respect to our heroes, the field agents at the CIA, we are the Third Cold War soldiers.

Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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