Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is running for reelection to a third term later this year, and he is running so scared that he continues to say ridiculous things - things like President Obama is weak and indecisive on the Ukraine crisis and Putin invaded the Crimea because of Benghazi. Senator, give the President a break, as this international crisis, not even a week old, is unfolding, and shut up for once. And put a cork in the mouth of your loudmouthed friend, Senator John McCain, who has never seen a war he does not like.
The Ukraine and the Crimea
Many Americans have never heard of the Ukraine, or the Crimea, and until this week did not have a clue where they are. They are located to the west of Russia, and to the east of Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, and to the south of Belarus. Many oil and gas pipelines shipping product west from Russia run through the Ukraine to Europe (30% of Germany's gas comes from Russia). This could become a big problem if the crisis ripens into war.
The Crimea is a peninsula at the south end of the Ukraine, and in World War II, an important Allied conference was held in one of its cities on the Black Sea, Yalta. Nearby in Russia is Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics were just held, and where the 2014 Winter Paralympics are about to begin. The Crimean port of Sevastopol is a very important Russian naval base, its only warm water port, which it has held since the late 1700s and now leases from the Ukraine until 2047. Crimea is an autonomous republic within Ukraine, and was ceded 60 years ago from the Soviet Union to Ukraine, then a Soviet satellite state. Its population is 58.2% Russian, 24.32% Ukrainian, and 12.1% Tatar, an often persecuted Muslim minority that were forcibly evicted from the Crimea by Stalin in World War II.
The Ukraine has a bloody history, and many World War II battles were fought on its lands. It is rumored that Nazi sympathizers still remain in the northwest part of the Ukraine. Many people in the southeast part of Ukraine sympathize with Russia, and it is conceivable that the country could ultimately split in two, with the northwest part joining the European Union, and the southeast section, which has much of its industry, including the Crimea, aligning with Russia.
The Countries Surrounding the Ukraine
Ukraine is surrounded by a polyglot assortment of countries:
- Russia on the east, a long, flat border from the Sea of Asov to Belarus;
- Belarus on the north, still a Soviet-style dictatorship, an Eastern European outcast ruled by the same man since 1994, and closely aligned with Russia;
- Poland to the northwest, with 38 million people, a member of the European Union and NATO, and definitely not a friend of Russia and Ukraine;
- Slovakia and Hungary to the west, invaded by the Soviet Union in 1956 (Hungary) and 1968 (Czechoslovakia), also members of the European Union and NATO;
- Moldova on the southwest, a poor agrarian country with hopes of associating with the European Union;
- Romania on the southwest, a member of the European Union and NATO, and friendly with Moldova.
Thus many of the countries to the west of Ukraine are not friendly with Russia and are aligned militarily with the U.S. in NATO and to Western Europe in the European Union. Only Belarus can be counted on as a friend of Putin. Also, just south of Russia is the former Soviet satellite state of Georgia and its breakaway province of South Ossetia, which Russia invaded in 1998 in support of South Ossetia, resulting in a five-day war. South Ossetia's western border is about 10 miles from the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
A Land War With Russia
As Napoleon and Hitler found out all too well, a land war with Russia is not a winner, and the current conflict must be resolved diplomatically, with economic screws relating to commerce and banking tightened against Putin until he comes to his senses (or at least gets better advice from his underlings), or is removed from office by the Russian oligarchs whose bank accounts in the west have been frozen.
So, Senator Graham, stop shooting your mouth off, and get out of the way and let our two term elected President and his Secretary of State work to resolve this problem diplomatically, along with the United Nations, the European Union and NATO. Either that or use your Air Force Reserve Officer Commission to lead a Republican armed invasion of Russia...
Ted Vaill is a three term elected delegate to the State Democratic Convention, and a frequent contributor to LA Progressive.
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