Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 03.07.2018
Crimea is Ukraine. Crimea is not Putin’s to take. Crimea is not Trump’s to give. Crimea is Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Foreign invaders from Muscovy occupy Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea and part of Ukraine’s eastern region of Donbas. Putin’s army is waging war against Ukraine on an active, 426-kilometre-long battlefront that stretches across Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and on a ‘frozen conflict’ contact line that stretches between Crimea and Kherson oblast. Unprovoked invasion and illegal foreign occupation is the nature of Putin’s War. Europe has not seen the like since the Second World War.
Russia is at war with Ukraine to destroy the independence and freedom of the Ukrainian people. Russian propaganda presents two falsehoods about Putin’s War: that Crimea has ‘returned’ to Russia and that Donbas is in a state of rebellion of ‘pro-Russian separatists’ against the central government in Kyiv. Western democratic countries were not deceived by these shallow lies, and they imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for waging war against Ukraine and shattering the peace of Europe. These sanctions will remain until Crimea and Donbas are returned to the sovereign control of Ukraine, and Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders is restored.
Putin’s folly in invading Ukraine made Russia an international pariah. All of Russia’s efforts since 2014 have been devoted to ending sanctions, getting recognition for the so-called ‘annexation’ of Crimea, and somehow completing the annihilation of the Ukrainian nation.
Enter Donald Trump. Trump is a compromised asset of Russia’s intelligence services who Putin advanced as the Kremlin’s candidate for US president in 2016. Putin used a trusted Russian agent, Paul Manafort, as his “grey cardinal” over Trump. Putin had used Manafort from late 2004 to early 2014 to handle one of Russia’s Ukrainian assets, Viktor Yanukovych. Russia improved on the techniques it used against Ukrainian democratic institutions to devastate American democratic institutions in 2016. Russia succeeded in falsifying the election in favour of its asset Trump.
With Yanukovych, Putin used one-on-one meetings to force his Ukrainian puppet to give ‘something for nothing.’ Yanukovych gave up on Ukraine regaining its rightful sovereignty over the city and port of Sevastopol in 2010, and he tried to give up on Ukraine signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in 2013. With Trump, to date Putin has not had the opportunity of face-to-face meetings to coerce his American puppet. Putin has been handling Trump at arms-length, through intermediaries like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Stephen Miller, George Papadopoulos, Felix Sater and others. Putin used these men to manage Trump just as he uses Vladislav Surkov to manage his Gauleiters in Russian-invaded and occupied Crimea and Donbas.
Over four years of fruitless war against Ukraine and Putin is getting desperate. His hybrid army in Donbas has not had a single victory since early in 2015, and it has suffered many small defeats. The Armed Forces of Ukraine have organized the defence of Europe under a Joint Forces Operation – the Ukrainian army is now a formidable obstacle to Putin’s war of imperial conquest. To Putin’s surprise, the sanctions regime is solid. No civilized country recognizes Russia’s so-called ‘annexation’ of Crimea. The Kremlin asset Putin put in the White House, Trump, speaks his support for aggressor Russia at every opportunity, but Trump is too stupid and incompetent to act effectively in Russia’s interest. Putin needs a one-on-one meeting with Trump, especially since so many Russian agents who were formerly directing Trump were exposed.
The Helsinki summit upcoming on July 16 is the opportunity for Putin to bring Trump to heel. Trump has already said that the ‘something for nothing’ bargain will be the United States recognizing Russia’s so-called ‘annexation’ of Crimea. The world is rightly shocked at Trump proposing to betray Ukraine. It is hard to think of anything that would give more encouragement to Russian aggression and Putin’s War against the West. It is hard to think of anything that would diminish more the power and prestige of the US. The US would leave the peer group of countries that uphold a rules-based international order, and join the tiny group of countries ‘beyond the Pale’ who approve of Russia’s invasion and partial occupation of Ukraine: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and of course the Russian Federation.
But don’t ignore Ukraine. Ignoring Ukraine and the spirit of the Ukrainian nation is the fatal mistake that Putin makes, and it is the catastrophic mistake that Trump makes, the so-called Russia experts make, and which most of the Western press makes. Because whatever Trump says will have no effect on Ukraine’s rights under international law to its sovereign territory. Whatever he says will have no effect on the determination of the Ukrainian people to liberate their land and their people in Crimea and Donbas.
The strength of feeling of the Ukrainian people for their land and their nation has endured for over a millennium. Ukraine pre-dates Muscovy by centuries. Dictators like Putin and demagogues like Trump come and go, but the indomitable democratic “Viche” spirit of the Ukrainian nation outlasts them all. The Ukrainian national anthem begins (translated literally) “Ukraine's glory has not yet died, nor its freedom” and the first verse ends “And we shall be masters in our own home.” Ukrainians will never stop fighting the foreign invaders from Muscovy. Ukrainians will never give up on their brothers and sisters in Crimea and Donbas. Even if Trump declares outright that Crimea belongs to Russia it won’t make a slight bit of difference. Crimea is not Trump’s to give. Crimea is Ukraine.