Sunday, May 11, 2014

Prayers for Ukraine


      I have stayed fairly quiet on this matter basically because I have dear friends in Russia from our time in Russia,  and dear friends in Ukraine.  It is difficult to comment in a public forum without offending and there are great passions ignited among both groups.

              First, I understand that Putin's Russia has an important naval base which has been rented from Ukraine which in located in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula. (This is where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is housed.)   This has been an important strategic advantage to Russia and something they would be very concerned about losing.  Secondly, Crimea is the seat of many fine houses that wealthy Russians own. It has become, in a sense, the "South of France" in Russian circles.  Eastern Ukraine has enjoyed a positive trading relationship with Russia.  In addition, the television stations in Eastern Ukraine come from Russia, and so a strong identification with Russian ideas is to be expected.   When a regime change took place in Kiev, I can understand that Putin and his group were dismayed to say the least.  At worst, the Russian naval use of Sevastopol could be in jeopardy. (And it's one hell of a distance to Vladivostok !)   There could be new restrictions on the Russian ownership of lands in Ukraine.  Wealthy Russians with grand homes in Crimea could find they can't access them as readily or that their investment values there fall.  Make no mistake,  Mr. Putin, for all his nationalistic ideas for Russia, takes care of Russia.  He was not about to let Russia lose access to a strategic naval base, or to let successful, wealthy Russians lose homes or home values, or access to a regional vacation paradise. There is also the matter of gaslines which travel through Ukraine on behalf of Russia where gas is sold to Europe.  Political instability in Ukraine is therefore very bad for Russian business.  In addition, a lot of ethnic Russians live in Ukraine.   The regime change in Ukraine and the potential political instability there, painted Mr. Putin into a corner where he felt he was forced to act. It also did not help that some of the political stars in Ukraine were saying some belligerent things about Russia and Russians, and they should have been more careful in such volatile times.

              However, it is one thing to defend the naval base you rent.  It is one thing to station Russian troops about your gas lines to ensure their continued safety.  It is one thing to send some troops to Crimea where you can, with permission of the current evolving regime, ensure the safety of Russian citizens.   It is quite another to act as an invasion force, and to invade, occupy and progressively take over one military base at a time in first Crimea, and then Eastern Ukraine. It is also quite another thing to leave Ukraine now land locked. This was also performed dishonestly in that Russia claimed simply to be performing "border exercises".

             Mr. Putin has made a grave error in ignoring the sovereign nation status of Ukraine.  He has invaded a neighbor and this shall have far reaching consequences in the world that he has not yet begun to tally.  (This is without even considering sanctions.) Although the United States presently has a wishy washy leader, Canada wasted no time in expelling Russian military officers who were present for military educational and language exchange courses.  Canada considers the occupation of Ukraine by Russians to be an invasion.  When the Obama administration completed its surveys of everyone's opinions, it too summarized Russia's actions as an occupation.  The United Nations and NATO did the same.  Russia had made great strides in coming into its own as a strong and positive country as a maturing sibling of the nations of the world.  Many people have either not lived in the Cold War era or have relegated the old memories of the Soviet Union to being as dead as the old Bolsheviks who killed the last Czar's children.  However, this has been a wake up call to the intelligence community.  Russia's propaganda ministries have been working overtime claiming that Europe, the US, and other nations toppled the former ineffectual and self serving leader of Ukraine who was deposed.   Russia is working hard to justify its takeover of Crimea.  Russian laws were passed almost immediately making Crimea a permanent part of Russia.  The Russians will never need to pay rent for their beloved naval base in Crimea again !     With this success under their belts and no one to counter them, is Finland safe ?  What about Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia ?  What if Russia wants Sweden, Denmark or Norway ?  What about the Yukon territory of Canada which the Russians persist in planting Russian flags on prior to doing more oil drilling "research" there ?

            In the past few years there has been a great surge of Russian nationality and prosperity there. Russian debt has been paid down, military stores have been built up, and military equipment has been replaced.  Gold stores are being gathered.  Most of the world understands now that Russia has been a sleeping giant.  Very little stops them from taking back border cities with China, or anything else they want.  In speeches domestically, Mr.Putin has said that the greatest tragedy in the last hundred years was the Fall of the USSR.  (Apparently, he doesn't consider the Holocaust a tragedy.)   Is this step one of reassembling "the old neighborhood ?"

           Mr. Putin, the US may be down, but we are not yet out.  We can and likely will turn all of the surveillance ability we have which is focused on US and European citizens worldwide and turn it on you. The rest of the world will be watching you now as you carelessly tipped your hand.  The disregard of the sovereign nation status of Ukraine will not be forgotten. It certainly will impact whether other citizens of the world choose to invest in Russia.  The Cold War II can return in just an instant, and any amount of propaganda on RT America won't be able to change that.

        I pray that people in Ukraine remain safe and self sufficient during this Russian invasion.  I pray that Russia does indeed pull out and begin to act in the role of a supportive neighbor, rather than an oppressor.  I pray that Vladimir Putin realizes that his legacy had the potential to be much more than simply a conqueror. It had the ability bring Russia to a cultural pinnacle and to bring positivity to the world beside Ukraine, not on top of it.  Russia has a great deal of positive aspects of its culture to share.  It doesn't need to be armed while doing it.