“Those are properly called lords and masters who provide for the good and profit of others.” Augustine of Hippo




FRONTINE UKRAINE: crisis in the borderlands by Richard Sakwa

For those with little previous knowledge of Ukraine and its politics, this meticulously researched book provides an excellent and detailed outline of events up to the Maidan protests and killings and beyond; also what transpired in Crimea and the continuing conflict in Donbas. Sakwa explains how US and EU meddling has exacerbated the longstanding political problems within the country and led to an armed struggle causing thousands to die which has left  Eastern Europe dangerously destabilised. He describes the different factions in the country as the Orange, monists who demand full Ukrainian identity within its existing borders; the Blue, who recognise the country's historic links with Russia; the Gold, those super-rich oligarchs who have milked the country for all it is worth and who are now at the helm. In trying to draw the Ukraine into its sphere of influence, western politicians had no qualms about supporting the notorious and violent extreme nationalists and at the same time stoking the fires of anti-Russian hostility, particularly in the western provinces of the country. Russia understands very clearly that the West uses the cloak of 'democratism' as 'a cover to advance its strategic objectives including regime change' and that not just in Ukraine.

With a flood of immigrants to accommodate and the weight of the poorer Southern European EU member countries hanging heavily about its neck, the EU is hardly in a position to welcome the Ukraine into membership with its population of just over 40 million. The current continuing influx of thousands of immigrants into the EU has only served to complicate matters. Despite all this, an Association Agreement with the EU was to be signed on the 21st November 2013. Facing what would be a close run election, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych backed down, postponing the signing. He was denounced all round by EU governments and the United States as a Russian lackey. The truth is that Vladimir Putin, who does not appear to have had a great deal of personal regard for Yanukovych, nevertheless came up with a much better offer to Ukraine than the EU: $15 billion immediate support as well as much needed preferential gas tariffs.

Previous to Maidan, the EU and the US had provided support for numerous right-wing front groups. When the killings began, when snipers appeared, the European representative, Baroness Ashton, replied to accusations of complicity: ‘I think we do not want to investigate’.

When visiting the country a short time before the Maidan riots, we were told by our hosts, they thought Yanukovych belonged in jail. He was certainly a controversial figure sporting a criminal record. Apart from having had two jail sentences for robbery and assault, he was still able to rise to become governor of the Donetsk region at the behest of the local oligarch. Very much like all other oligarchs running the country to this day, sad to say, Yanukovych worked for his own personal enrichment and that of his family. Be this as it may, the overthrow of his crooked regime still amounted to a coup, supported unashamedly by the EU and the United States, all against a democratically elected president.

Richard Sakwa draws our attention to an often overlooked fact about the Lisbon Treaty. The stipulation is that all new members of the EU ‘are now required to align their defence and security policies with those of NATO’. After the break with their Soviet past and despite promises made to Russia at the time of German reunification ― now vehemently denied by the West ― not to expand NATO eastward, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined in 1999; the Baltic States, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004; Croatia and Albania joined in 2009. The prospect of the Ukraine joining the EU would justifiably make Russia nervous and feel threatened.

The EU and NATO have a necessity to continually create an new enemy in order to justify their own existence. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has presented no threat whatever to the West. Nevertheless, at the instigation of the United States and joined by the EU, the Cold War has been revived, post-Soviet Russia has been turned into an enemy quite unnecessarily. The encirclement of Russia is malicious, her isolation by sanctions illegal, the continual carping by Western politicians uncalled for, violently abusive, and frequently infantile in character. Russia ought to have become a valued friend.

From the Preface:

"In 2004, history returned to Europe with a vengeance. The crisis over Ukraine brought back not only the spectre but the reality of war, on the one hundredth anniversary of a conflict that had been spoken of as the war to end all war. The great powers lined up, amid a barrage of propaganda and informational warfare, while many of the smaller powers made their contribution to the festival of irresponsibility. This was also the seventy-fifth anniversary of the beginning of World War II, which wreaked so much harm on Central and Eastern Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years earlier and the subsequent end of the Cold War had been attended by expectations of a ‘Europe whole and free’. These hopes were crushed in 2014, and Europe is now set for a new era of division and confrontation. The Ukrainian crisis was the immediate cause, but this only reflected deeper contradictions in the pattern of post-Communist development since 1989. In other words, the European and Ukrainian crises came together to devastating effect."

Comments on the book:

Frontline Ukraine is a formidably powerful, well-argued and thoroughly sourced attempt to correct world opinion on the Ukrainian conflict. Even those who cannot accept Professor Sakwa's underlying case ― that the Ukrainian disaster has been brought about more by Western post-Cold War triumphalism than by President Putin’s supposed ‘imperialism’ ― will find invaluable data and perceptions in this brilliant and hard-hitting book”

 ― Neal Ascherson

“The great merit of Richard Sakwa's book is its willingness to challenge the prevailing wisdoms about the Ukraine crisis and to explain how its origins lie in the West's failure to create an equitable political and security order in Europe after the collapse of communism ... Essential reading to understand the causes and complexities of the Ukrainian crisis.Angus Roxburgh

 The Author:

Richard Sakwa is Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House, and a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. His main research interests are Russian domestic and international politics, European international relations and comparative democratisation.”







"It is essential that public opinion be enlightened."

George Washington












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