UKRAINE: -A Tectonic Shift in Heartland Power

In geopolitics, a deep understanding of geography and power allows you to do two things. First, it helps you comprehend the forces that will shape international politics and how they will do so. Second, it helps you distinguish what is important from what isn’t. In geopolitics, Ukraine is classified as a geopolitical pivot.This makes maps a vital part of our work.

In December 1991, Ukraine, the ‘bread basket of the Soviet Union’ voted in favor of independence from a broken up Soviet Union. The Soviet Union did not exist, and the oil and gas reserves of Russia would now be available to the US oil giants.

 A look at the geo-strategic background will make 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 NATO bases from Poland to Bulgaria to Kosovo, all of which have been carefully been built up since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most important, Ukraine is the transit land for most of the Russian gas pipelines to Germany and the rest of Europe.

Our old friend Zbigniew Brzezinski is directly involved in Ukraine events. Zbig’s entire career has been geared to dismantle Russian power in Eurasia since he was Carter’s National Security Council chief. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Zbig has been trying to get his hand-picked man in power in Kiev. Were that to happen, it would be a major step in the direction of US domination of all Eurasia.

 It is useful to quote Brzezinski directly from his now infamous 1997 book, “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives”:

“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 – – – “.

 “ – – – If Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black sea, Russia automatically regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”

 “The states deserving America’s strongest geopolitical support are Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine, all three being geopolitically pivotal.”

 American policy is to balkanize Eurasia, and ensure that no possible stable economic or political region between Russia, the EU and China emerges in the future, that might challenge American global domination. This is the core idea of Washington’s doctrine of “pre-emptive wars”.

 In taking control of Ukraine, Washington would take a giant step to encircle Russia for the future. Russian moves to use its vast energy reserves to play for room in rebuilding its strength and political role would be over. Chinese efforts to link Russia to secure some independence from US energy control would also be over. Iran’s attempts to secure support from Russia against American pressure would also end. Iran’s ability to enter into energy agreements with China would also likely end. Cuba and Venezuela would also likely fall prey to a pro-Washington regime change soon thereafter.

American policy is to directly control the oil and gas flows from the Caspian including Turkmenistan – with its super-huge gas reserves, and to counter Russian influence from Georgia to Ukraine to Azerbaijan and Iran.

 Oil pipelines are also directly involved in the fight for control of Ukraine. In July 2004, Ukraine voted to open an unused oil pipeline to transport oil from Russian Urals fields to the port of Odessa, on the Black Sea. Washington made a huge protest over this issue, saying this would make Ukraine even more dependent on Moscow. The 674-km long pipeline, completed in 2001, between Odessa and Brody in Western Ukraine, has a capacity to carry 240,000 bpd of oil. In April 2004, Ukraine agreed to extend Brody to the Polish port of Gdansk, a move supported by the US. It would carry Caspian oil to the EU, independent of Russia.

 The stakes were big. In July 2004, Ukraine suddenly reversed itself and voted to reverse the oil flows in Brody-Odessa in order to allow it to transport Russian oil to the Black Sea. This decision to reverse the pipeline flow greatly weakened the westward shift of Ukraine.

 Ukraine is a strategic battleground in this geopolitical tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow. Ukraine pipeline routes account for 75 % of EU oil imports from Russia and Central Asia, and 34% of its natural gas imports. Ukraine is a key piece on the Eurasian chessboard. Competition to dominate Eurasian energy corridors are behind this struggle, and Ukraine is caught in the middle of this struggle.

Russia ‘Warm Waters’ Strategy

Russia as a geographical entity had one glaring weakness. It had three ports, and in winter-time these ports would be frozen. The result was a hampering of its trade. Since the 19th century, Russia has tried very hard to go south and gain access to warm water ports, so it could all- year round.

 One such port it had was at Sevastopol, located in the Crimea, on the Black Sea. Russia also built up a naval base there. This enabled Russia to guard its flanks from any potential threat to cut off its access to the Mediterranean Sea. The loss of this port would diminish Russia’s capacity to defend its western wing. It would lose Ukraine, and be reduced from a Eurasian power to an Asian power. That is the aim of the US.

 One such port it had was at Sevastopol, located in the Crimea, on the Black Sea. Russia also built up a naval base there. This enabled Russia to guard its flanks from any potential threat to cut off its access to the Mediterranean Sea. The loss of this port would diminish Russia’s capacity to defend its western wing. It would lose Ukraine, and be reduced from a Eurasian power to an Asian power. That is the aim of the US.

The next step would be to gain control of the energy corridors from Russia to the west. And break this link. Thereafter the US would then cut off China’s access to its oil supplies from the Middle East. By placing China in such a position, it would automatically force China to look north to Russia – with its huge oil reserves in close proximity to China. China would then be forced to invade Russia to secure these fields. And war would break out between these two Eurasian giants. That would be the perfect outcome of the US game-plan.

A destroyed Eurasia would once again be under the complete control of the US, ushering a long period of American global dominance. This is the end-game.

 It is similar to the earlier battles for Eurasia. The first was what we know as World War 1. The second battle for Eurasia came to be known as World War 2. Now, we are already at the beginning stages of the third battle for Eurasia- what is becoming known as World War 3.

The Geopolitical Significance of Ukraine today

On February 14, 2010 Ukraine’s Election Commission declared Viktor Yanukovych the winner in that embattled country’s Presidential vote, defeating former Prime Minister and Orange Revolution instigator Yulia Tymoshenko.  They mark the definitive death of Ukraine’s much-touted “Orange Revolution. “

The relevant question at this juncture is what the defeat of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution signifies for the future of the Eurasian Heartland, as British geopolitician Halford Mackinder termed the region? Even more significantly, what does it imply for a two-decade long Pentagon attempt to weaken and ultimately cripple Russia as a military power in Washington’s awesome and overly-ambitious agenda of Full Spectrum Dominance?

To understand the long-term significance of the Ukraine vote for the future global geopolitical balance of power we should go back to the original Orange Revolution of 2004. Viktor Yushchenko was the hand-picked candidate of Washington, and especially the neo-conservatives around the Bush Administration, in their attempt to split Ukraine from its historic and economic ties to Russia and bring the country, along with neighbor Georgia, into NATO.

To understand the long-term significance of the Ukraine vote for the future global geopolitical balance of power we should go back to the original Orange Revolution of 2004. Viktor Yushchenko was the hand-picked candidate of Washington, and especially the neo-conservatives around the Bush Administration, in their attempt to split Ukraine from its historic and economic ties to Russia and bring the country, along with neighbor Georgia, into NATO.

Ukrainian Economic and Political Geography

A look at the map will indicate just how strategic Ukraine is for both NATO and for Russia. Not only does the country directly border Russia to its east, but it also provides the transit route for most Russian natural gas pipelines to western Europe — some 80% of all Russian gas exports from which the country earns dollars, a vital economic lifeline for Russia.

Perhaps equally vital for Russia, in terms of her ability to maintain a credible defense against ever-growing NATO encirclement of its land area, is the Russian leasing rights to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Stevastapol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Naval Fleet. The Fleet leases an additional home port in Odessa, in an agreement between Russia and Ukraine. This politically sensitive bilateral treaty for the Black Sea Fleet basing is not due to expire until 2017, if not renewed. Following the Russia-Georgia conflict in August 2008, Ukraine’s President Yushchenko began making noises about prematurely terminating that treaty, thereby depriving Moscow of its strategically most important naval base. Russian navy ships have used Stevastopol since Russia annexed the region in 1783.

The eastern part of Ukraine bordering Russia is home to more than 15 million ethnic Russians and remains literally the bread basket of Eastern Europe, with some of the richest soil on earth. In 2009 Ukraine was the world’s third largest grain exporter after the USA and EU, and ahead of Russia and Canada.

Ukraine’s famous black soil, chornozem, is considered the most fertile in the world, and covers two-thirds of Ukraine.

The area around the rivers Dnieper and Dniester is the only place in the world where the width of the so-called ‘sweet’ black soil reaches 500 km. This soil is exceptional in providing very high quality harvests and belongs to the national wealth. Western agribusiness companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, ADM and Kraft Foods are reportedly salivating over the prospect of an end to the internal Ukrainian political stalemate in hopes of exploiting these resources. 

The Ukrainian Donetsk region in the eastern Donets Basin or Donbas is the political base of newly elected President Yanukovych. It is the most populous region of Ukraine and the center of its coal, steel and metallurgy industries, science centers and universities. Ukraine’s Donbas contains an estimated 109 billion tons of coal as well as oil and gas. Overall, Ukraine is one of the richest regions in all Europe for natural resources including granite, graphite, and salts. It provides a rich source for metallurgical, porcelain, chemical industries, for production of ceramics and building materials.

In short, capture of the Ukraine in 2004 was a prize of strategic geopolitical importance for Washington in its bid for what the Pentagon terms ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’—control of the entire planet: land, air, oceans, space and outerspace. As the British father of geopolitics, Sir Halford Mackinder wrote in his seminal 1919 book, Democratic Ideals and Reality,

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland

Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island

Who rules the World-Island commands the World.

For Mackinder, the Heartland integrally included Ukraine and Russia. By chopping off Ukraine from Russia in a de facto US-led coup called the Orange Revolution, Washington came a giant step nearer to a complete domination not only of Russia and the Heartland, but also of all Eurasia, including what would then become an encircled China. No wonder that the Rockefellers invested so much energy to install their man, Yushchenko, as President and de facto dictator. His task was to bring Ukraine into NATO. What he did for his countrymen was clearly of no concern to the Bush planners.

Yushchenko almost succeeded but for the ill-conceived adventure of Georgias hand-picked Rose Revolution President, Mikhail Saakashvili in August 2008, sending troops to reclaim the seccessionist region of South Ossetia and Abkhazia for Georgia just weeks before NATO ministers would vote on Ukrainian and Georgian NATO membership. The swift Russian military response in stopping the Georgian attack and routing Saakashvilis rag-tag forces also stopped dead any chance that Germany or other NATO countries would OK NATO membership, and with it the pledge to come to the defense of either Georgia or Ukraine in a war against Russia. 

Significance of the Orange Revolution

The “revolution” that swept Viktor Yushchenko into power on a wave of US dollars and support from US-backed NGOs, was initially conceived at the Rockefeller -financed RAND Corporation. RAND had studied the swarming pattern of bees and similar phenomena, and applied these to modern mobile communication, text messaging and civil protest as tactics for regime change and covert warfare. 

The man Washington decided to back in its orchestrated regime change in Ukraine was Viktor Yushchenko, a fifty-year old former Governor of Ukraine’s Central Bank who had been the point man in Ukraine for the savage IMF “shock therapy” deindustrialization of the country during the 1990s. Yushchenkos IMF program had devastating consequences for his countrymen. Under his 1994 IMF program, Ukraine was forced to abandon exchange controls and let the currency fall. He oversaw the currency demands as head of the central bank, which within days saw the price of bread increase by 300%, electricity prices by 600%, public transportation by 900%. By 1998 Ukrainian real wages had fallen by 75% compared with 1991 when the country declared independence. He was clearly Washington’s man for what they wanted to do in Ukraine. 

The central focus of Yushchenko’s slick campaign for President was to advocate membership for Ukraine in NATO and the European Union. His campaign used huge quantities of orange colored banners, flags, posters, balloons and other props, leading the media inevitably to dub it the ‘Orange Revolution.’

A Washington-based PR firm called Rock Creek Creative also played a significant role in branding the Orange Revolution by developing a pro-Yushchenko website around the orange logo and its carefully-staged color theme.

The same US Government-backed NGOs that had been in Georgia produced the results in Ukraine.

President Viktor Yushchenko, Washington’s man in Kiev, moved immediately to disrupt economic links to Russia, including shutting off Russian natural gas into Western Europe via Ukrainian transit pipelines. This move was used by Washington to try to convince EU countries, especially Germany, that Russia was an “unreliable partner.” Some 80% of Russia’s gas was exported via Ukrainian pipelines that had been built during the Soviet Union era when the two countries were one economic and political entity.

Yushchenko also worked closely with US-backed President Mikhail Saakashvili, Washington’s man in neighboring Georgia.

The final result of the 2010 Ukrainian elections was an overwhelming rejection by voters of Yushchenko, the “hero” of the Orange Revolution, who received barely 5% of the vote. After five years of economic and political chaos, Ukrainians clearly want some kind of stability. Opinion polls in Ukraine show a majority opposed to joining NATO.

Western media depictions of incoming Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as some kind of Moscow puppet, however, appear wide of the mark; his major industrial backers want harmonious economic relations with the European Union as well as with Russia.

Most significantly, however, and contrary to his predecessor’s €relentless attempts to pull Ukraine into NATO on Washington’s urgings, Yanukovych announced he would not meet with NATO officials in Brussels. In interviews with Ukrainian media, Yanukovych has clearly stated that he will not try to bring Ukraine into either the EU or, most importantly for Moscow, into NATO.

Yanukovych has pledged to focus instead on Ukraine’s economic crisis and political corruption. Regarding Moscow, he has added that he will welcome Russia into a consortium that would jointly operate Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline network, restoring influence that Yushchenko and his highly ambitious Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko tried to cancel. Another important signal not welcomed in NATO circles was his announcement that he would extend Russia’s strategically vital lease on the naval base at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol due to expire in 2017.

Russia’s New Geopolitical Calculus

It’s clear that Yanukovych’s bitter election opponent, Orange Revolution veteran and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has bitterly opposed Yanukovych’s policy, at the very least because she is fighting for her political ambitions and is known to be a sore loser.

The Yanukovych victory was backed by some of the country’s most powerful business oligarchs including Ukraine’s richest man, steel and football billionaire, Rinat Akhmetov. Like Yanukovych, he comes from the east steel region of Ukraine. Also backing Yanukovych was Dmitry Firtash, a gas trading billionaire, who owns Rosukrenergo jointly with Gazprom of Russia, and whose trading business was cut last year by Prime Minister Tymoshenko.

The Ukrainian Parliament delivered a vote of no confidence on March 3 against the sitting government of Prime Minister Tymoshenko,. . This was the death knell for Tymoshenko’s faction of the 2004 Orange Revolution and it opens up the possibility of finally breaking a political stalemate among Ukraine’s political factions that has existed since shortly after the 2004 Orange Revolution.

In the late 1990’s before she co-led the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko was president of Ukraine’s United Energy Systems, a privately-owned importer of Russian natural gas into Ukraine. She was accused by Moscow of illegally reselling enormous quantities of stolen Russian gas and avoiding tax on the sales during the late 1990’s, whence she got the nickname in Ukraine as “gas princess.”

With Yanukovych now stabilizing the country along the neutral lines noted following the defeat of the Tymoshenko government, Moscow gains a major shift in the political tectonic plates that comprise the Eurasian Heartland, even with a strictly neutral Ukraine.

First, the strategic military encirclement of Russia — via NATO’s attempted recruitment of Ukraine and Georgia — is now clearly blocked and off the table. Russia’s access to the Black Sea via Ukraine’s Crimea appears assured as well.

In effect, the neutralization of Ukraine knocks a huge hole in Washington’s strategy of total encirclement of Russia. It breaks a geographic crescent of NATO or prospective NATO states stretching from Poland to Ukraine to Georgia on the periphery of Russia and her closely allied Belarus. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko successfully resisted a similar Ukraine-style Rose Revolution, warding off strong US State Department funding of anti-Lukashenko NGO’s in the country. Belarus remains a centrally planned economy to a large extent, to the irritation of the free market Western governments, especially Washington. Belarus is economically tied to Russia, which accounts for half of its trade and it has no plans to enter NATO or the EU.

This altered geopolitical configuration in central Eurasia after the defeat of the Orange Revolution gives a strong boost now to Russia’s long-term energy strategy—a strategy that we might call Russia’s North-South-East-West Strategy.

Russia’s New Geopolitical Energy Calculus

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 military 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.

According to west European industry estimates, demand within the European Union countries for natural gas, especially for use in electric power generation where it is seen as a clean and very efficient fuel, is estimated to rise some 40% from today’s levels over the next twenty years. That increase in gas demand will coincide with a decline in current gas output from fields in the UK, Netherlands and elsewhere in the EU.  With Ukraine’s shift from hostile opposition to Moscow to what Yanukovych terms ‘non-aligned’ neutrality — with an early emphasis on stabilizing Russian-Ukrainian gas geopolitics — Moscow suddenly holds a far stronger array of economic options with which to neutralize Washington’s game of military and economic encirclement.

When Yushchenko and Georgias 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, according to US Department of Energy estimates, 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.’ Putin’s No 2 man, Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, is well suited to the role of overseeing gas pipeline geopolitics. Before becoming Russian PM, he had been chairman of the state-owned Gazprom.

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, something clearly Medvedev and Putin well realize at this point.

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.

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.

 Fully half of Ukraine’s domestic energy comes from natural gas and the overwhelming bulk of that gas, some 75%, comes from Russia.

 As of January 2010 Ukraine has agreed to pay prices close to western European levels for its gas, and at the same time she will get significantly higher transit fees from Russia’s state-owned Gazprom for transporting Russian gas through to Western Europe. Some 80% of Russian gas exports went through Ukraine up until now. 

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. Poland tried very hard to block Nord Stream 1, with no success. And Poland is again trying very hard to block Nord Stream 2.

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. Nord Stream was announced as a joint venture between two major German gas companies, E.ON and BASF with Russia’s Gazprom, and with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as board member.

In late 2009 Sweden and Finland joined Denmark in finally granting passage rights through their portion of the Baltic Sea for the pipeline. And gas deliveries are to begin in 2011. When a second parallel pipeline, due to start gas deliveries in 2011, 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. In addition, in a notable geopolitical shift, the UK has signed a long-term contract with Gazprom to import gas via the Nord Stream as Britain shifts from being a gas exporter to a gas importer. Presently, in addition to the UK and Germany, Gazprom now has contracts to supply Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium and France, making it a major new factor on the EU energy supply market

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. In addition, in a notable geopolitical shift, the UK has signed a long-term contract with Gazprom to import gas via the Nord Stream as Britain shifts from being a gas exporter to a gas importer. Presently, in addition to the UK and Germany, Gazprom now has contracts to supply Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium and France, making it a major new factor on the EU energy supply market.

The 2014 Coup

Ukraine Timeline: A timeline of events in Ukraine that have brought us to the current confrontation.

November 2013: President Yanukovich refuses to sign the ‘EU association agreement’, which would drive a wedge between Ukraine and Russia and be an economic and strategic threat to Russia. This refusal starts the ‘Maidan occupation protests’, which are supported by the US and European governments and media.

February 2014:  Under pressure from the pro-European protestors, Yanukovich makes concessions, but these do not placate violent far-right elements who insist he must go. Snipers later identified as belonging to this faction, fire on both police and protestors. This provokes a violent response from police and security forces which in turn is seen to justify the storming of government buildings and an ultimatum. Yanukovich is soon forced to flee. A new emergency government previously selected by US and ignoring wishes of European leaders is installed in Kiev, and rapidly moves to exert its influence over the ethnic Russian populations of East Ukraine and Crimea. By this time, the US had spent well over $5 billion (from 1993 till 2014) in achieving the takeover of the Ukraine.

March 2014:  Crimea organises a referendum and overwhelmingly opts to secede to Russia following discriminatory policies declared and aggressive threats from Kiev. Crimeans rightly regard the Kiev ‘government’ as illegitimate, and are threatened by its neo-Nazi and far-right sector members.  The referendum is overseen by Russian monitors and soldiers who are already in Crimea as part of a long running agreement on the base in Sevastopol, and the referendum passes without violence. This is intolerable both to the Kiev regime and to its Western allies who accuse Russia of ‘annexing’ Crimea. This in turn leads to sanctions being imposed on Russia by the US and Europe.

April 2014: During this period following Crimea’s secession, Kiev works to replace leaders of local governments in Eastern cities Luhansk, Slaviansk and Donetsk, forcing residents to barricade buildings and then fight with Kiev’s thugs. Kiev refuses to acknowledge their legitimacy and refers to them as ‘terrorists’, with former PM Yulia Tymoshenko calling for the extermination of these ethnic Russian populations. In one such fight against the growing resistance, Right Sector thugs set fire to a union headquarters in Odessa and prevent people escaping; at least 40 people are burnt alive. The apparent intention of the ‘Odessa massacre’ is to terrorise residents who dare to resist Kiev’s power.

May 2014:  A Presidential election, which doesn’t include the dissenting East Ukraine provinces, elects Oligarch Petro Poroshenko. Despite the weak vote and dubious candidate, Moscow accepts his election and seeks to work with him to come to agreements on disputed areas. Ukraine’s debt and argument over Gas supply and transit to Europe is one of these, involving problems over new pipelines as well as US plans for its energy corporations to exploit Ukraine’s huge shale gas reserves, competing directly against Russia’s gas supply to Europe.

June to July 2014: The Ukrainian army, along with numerous neo-Nazi militias, pushes its campaign eastwards, but meets significant resistance from local defense forces. These are mostly untrained as soldiers but their commitment makes up for their poorer equipment. The Ukrainian army is poorly trained and badly commanded and chooses soft targets in residential areas. The neo-Nazi battalions have both ‘enthusiasm’ and ruthless brutality against the ethnic Russian population they see as ‘Untermenschen’ (sub-human). Local leaders of the resistance in Donbass plead for Russian assistance, but it comes only through unofficial channels. No credible reports of either Russian troops or military vehicles within Ukraine is provided by Ukraine or NATO, but their claims of Russian ‘interference’ continue. During this period many residents of the Donbass flee from Kiev’s forces to Russia. The city of Slaviansk succumbs to Kiev, leaving Donetsk and Lugansk under siege.

July 17th 2014: Malaysian flight MH17 is shot down over the conflict zone killing all 298 people on board. Despite a lack of convincing evidence for such a strike, Western governments immediately claim that a ‘BUK’ missile fired by the ‘separatists’ caused the crash, and hold Russia directly responsible for enabling it. When Russian military intelligence releases radar and other reports several days later, showing evidence MH17 was brought down by a Ukrainian SU25 fighter plane, it is dismissed by Western governments and ignored by Western media. A request for the US to release its satellite records and other intelligence from the area is, and continues to be ignored. Forensic analysis of wreckage and victims which could easily establish what brought down the plane is either not done or not made public. We may draw our own conclusions on this 

July-August 2014: The Ukrainian military campaign against ‘the rebels’ intensifies immediately following the MH17 disaster, making access to the site difficult. The attack on Donetsk is held back to the airport by the ‘separatist’ forces. Intensified sanctions are imposed on Russia, but Russia takes ‘retaliatory’ action by stopping the importation of many products from Europe. While this is difficult for Russians it is disastrous for some European countries, notably Poland and France, and causes some domestic strife. At the same time the ongoing argument over Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe intensifies because of Ukraine’s continuing failure to pay its bills while demanding more gas at discount rates. To ensure its own supplies of gas, which come through Ukraine, the EU finally agrees to pay Kiev’s bills, and Gazprom then ensures supply to Ukraine through the coming winter.

September 2014: Ministers from Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine meet in Minsk in Belarus (which shares borders with Russia, Ukraine and Poland) and agree on the terms of a ceasefire. Kiev refuses direct negotiation with leaders of the ‘resistance’ in Donbass, but their position is represented by Russia. The ceasefire is seen by Kiev as an opportunity to reinforce men and supplies, and soon the attacks on Donetsk continue. Boosted by armaments captured from retreating Ukrainian troops and by Russian volunteers, the ‘separatists’ hold their territory, and many refugees return.

November 2014: Against a background of plummeting Oil prices contrived by the US and Saudi Arabia as yet another weapon against Russia (but also Iran and Venezuela) Vladimir Putin remains steadfast; talks at the G20 meeting in Australia focus on Ukraine while the Australian press and leaders portray Putin as a liar and dictator, replacing orderly discussion with boxing ring threats. At a four hour late night meeting, German leader Angela Merkel fails to persuade Putin to abandon ‘Novorussia’ (the Eastern republics) and becomes firmly aligned with NATO objectives. Till this point Germany has been ambiguous about sanctions against Russia because of strong business ties and mutual cooperation.

January 2015: Following weeks of threats to continue his ‘anti-terrorist’ operation against Donbass, President Poroshenko launches a major assault on the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. While the Donetsk defence has significant successes, capturing battalions and their commanders, the Ukrainian army moves men and armour into an area between the two cities, from where it launches attacks on both and breaks their connection at the rail hub of Debaltsevo. This becomes a trap when the ‘separatists’ cut through the main route in from government held territory, leaving from 6-8000 men without access to relief supplies. The prospect of losing up to a third of its army in ‘the Debaltsevo cauldron’, or seeing them surrender to Donetsk, forces Ukraine and the West to the negotiating table.

Demonstrating the reality of the situation – the defeat of Kiev’s ambition to violently assert control over Donbass – talks held in Minsk draw up a ceasefire plan and political settlement recognising the rights of the new ‘republics’. While it may appear that the second Minsk ceasefire ‘is holding’, and is portrayed that way in the press, this can be no cause for relaxation; US and NATO plans remain the same, and the belligerent rhetoric continues against Russia.

The Crimea

With the citizens of this peninsula voting to go with Russia, rather than stay in Ukraine, Russia has provided power infrastructure to the region as well as building a bridge over the Kerch Strait in record time. This bridge now links Russia to the Crimea directly.

In conclusion, this then is the geopolitical fight between the US and Russia. And right now, this conflict is in a stalemate situation, as of writing, in April, 2016.

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