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A Ukrainian primer

Protesters in Kiev make their stand at Independence Square
Protesters in Kiev make their stand at Independence Square Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

With the turmoil centered around Kiev and the news reports limited to sound bites it would be an opportune time to look at the nation of Ukraine more closely. The country of Ukraine in what is called Eastern Europe is situated on the Black Sea with a total land mass of 233,062 square miles about the size of Texas. Because of its close geographic proximity to Russia it has always had a close relationship. Russia valued its warm water port and Ukraine the energy and markets they could provide. The marriage has swung at times from protector to oppressor.

After the Russian revolution food was needed for the masses and Ukraine was where it was produced in large quantities. Stalin organized collective farms to capitalize on this and production dropped. Russia forcibly removed grain from the collective farms unless unrealistic goals were met and ten million starved. The leaders saw this not as a humanitarian crisis but as means of a class struggle against the greedy farmers. Since that time Ukraine has become an important center of arms and tech for the Soviet Union. Russia even built a nuclear power plant in Ukraine to fuel this growth. The now infamous, Chernobyl nuclear plant. (Chernobyl)

When the USSR fell many former satellites of Russia began to fight for their freedom from the former Soviet Union. Ukraine adopted the Act of Independence which declared the country to be an independent state. After a tough first ten years filled with inflation, loss of 60 percent of GDP and corruption, the election of 2004 was a turning point. Pro Soviet Yanukovych took two elections to defeat pro independence Yushchenko who was not allowed to be covered on the state run news media. The election was overturned and a third election declared Yushchenko the winner. Weakened by Dioxin poisoning allegedly from Russian agents he only lasted one term. Pro soviet Yanukovych the current president returned to power in 2010.

It is with this background the current troubles are spilling into the streets of capital Kiev. Ukraine is far from united in its opposition. The East who benefits the most from Russian dollars and the political class that profits from it support Russian rule. It is those from the West Ukraine that want the freedom and the prosperity it brings. Yanukovych (who travels with food tasters) has rejected the austerity measures the European Union has insisted as a condition of closer relations. (WSJ ) Russia thru Putin has offered 15 billion in aid and unrestricted access to energy from Russia’s natural gas and as a warning restricted trade with Russia. The president announced against the will of the people to go for door number two with the cash and not sign the EU agreement.

Now that the deal is done our President Obama decides to take notice and first appoints his foreign policy “expert” Joe Biden to spearhead his reaction to every international crisis, sanctions. Sanctions, because they worked so well crumbling Cuba’s economy, crippling nuclear ambitions in Korea and Iran, brining peace and tranquility to Syria and Al-Qaida’s demise since the UN sanctions.

While you can admire their bravery in taking to the streets in Kiev it is hard to fathom how the outcome could be positive when fighting the might of a Russian backed government while the world looks away. As Ronald Regan said in his 1985 SOTU speech “We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that’s not innocent”.