Ronald Reagan stated 30 years ago that if Europe agrees to have pipelines for Russian gas then it will become dependent. A big mistake was that the West thought that there were some international rules and conventions that Russia would respect. After the chaotic years under Yeltsin, the KGB, through Putin, re-established total control of Russia. Some people have stated that Putin is unpredictable but he is actually very predictable. He often stated that he thought the collapse of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe and when he came to power his mission was to expand and rebuild it but not as the Soviet Union but as a new Russian empire.
Putin did not tolerate movements towards independence or autonomy in Chechnya and found little resistance to it from the West. The weak reaction from the West emboldened him to strike at Georgia, which was rapidly moving towards the West under the very progressive Mikheil Saakashvili. This resulted in more reaction especially from Poland, and Polish President Lech Kaczynski rallied the Baltic States and, interestingly, Ukraine, to send political leaders to Tbilisi to show their support for Georgia. This resulted in a ‘frozen conflict’ in Georgia and subsequently Russia sponsored the already very wealthy Giorgi Margvelashvili to ensure that he won the presidential election.
During 2013 Ukraine was negotiating a free-trade agreement with the EU. The Russians had also invited Ukraine to join the Eurasian Custom’s Union (Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus). The naivety of the EU was extraordinary in that the EU stated several times that Ukraine had to make a choice between the EU and Russia. Furthermore the EU then modified the agreement into an ‘Association Agreement with the EU’ which probably made up Putin’s mind that this was his last chance to take action to ensure that Ukraine did not move closer to the EU. Putin and his cronies, as any dictators, can only hold onto power by spreading out more favours to ever more people and clamping down on the media and public protest.
As we now all know Yanukovych failed to sign the EU agreement in Vilnius in November 2013, which sparked the huge protests in Kiev on the ‘Maidan’. This grew to hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters and eventually led to the fall of Yanukovych who (it seems under direct orders from Putin) gave the orders for snipers to fire and kill the protestors. Around 100 innocent Ukrainians were killed and Yanukovych fled to Russia. His cronies who also fled left behind them amazing opulence (generally of very bad taste) including a solid gold loaf of bread, 56 kilos of gold bars in the residence of the Minister of Trade and a huge amount of documentation about the extreme (and unfortunately successful) corruption that had taken place. Initial estimates were that his regime had embezzled between $70 - $200 billion (not million but billion). To put it into context the IMF has agreed a bailout package for Ukraine of $20 billion. The revolution was called ‘Euro-Maidan’ (maidan means a large square suitable for meetings) but it was actually more about a fight against corruption and the complete disregard the Yanukovych had for the people, and secondly as pro-Europe which mainly meant Ukrainians wanted to be democratic and free and escape from Russian domination).
Yanukovych stole everything whereas Putin’s regime is highly corrupt but allowed the Russian economy to develop and, of course, this has been possible to the fairly fast development of oil and gas exports. Like all dictators Putin fears being overthrown so does not allow any opposition and is very fearful of a free and developing Ukraine next door so his first goal is to destabilise Ukraine. His second goal is to ensure a good measure of control and, of course, would not allow Ukraine to join the EU or, even worse, consider joining NATO.
Ukraine Crisis for Dummies with a Short Attention-Span:
- Ukraine is an independent country.
- It gave up nuclear weapons in return for a guarantee of
its territorial sovereignty.
- It was completely peaceful and had no movements to join
- The Yanukovych regime was hugely corrupt and so the country's GDP was very
- Putin has always considered Ukraine to be ‘Russia’s property’.
- Poland & the Baltics were extremely lucky to have joined
the EU and NATO.
- Putin considers the West in decline and corrupt, and that most
politicians can be bought.
- The West accepted Russian money without reservations.
- Putin is a dictator that needs enemies.
- Putin has always wanted to rebuild the USSR but as a new
- The USA and EU deplore Russia’s actions but are afraid to
take tough action.
- Ultra right parties polled less than 2% in October
elections in Ukraine.
- Putin’s record – Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine and next a country near you...
 Despite ‘elections’ in Russia Putin’s victories were achieved in the absence of any meaningful opposition and clearly this is now a brutal dictatorship.