RISK

Human history is all about lines. Lines which are continuously drawn and cancelled according to ever changing systems of power. The making of empires and their dissolution has required  a constant endeavor of redefinition of  lines in time. A pencil a rubber, that is all, apparently. But those peoples who find themselves entrapped  in those mutable  lines often end up paying the consequences of that political artistry, which is always the result private interest and greed  rather than real taste for art. Being within a new line means losing certainties, identity, the world as you knew it. A line is a wound.

The recent Russian Ukrainian conflict is nothing but the result of yet another wound, which is particularly painful if we understand how these two countries are bound one to the other. It is important to know that Russian identity and the very name of Russia were born in the centuries around the 10th century in Kiev and the surrounding region. The first population that took the name of Rus’ (“rowing men” a term introduced during the High Middle Ages to refer to the Scandinavian populations living in the regions that are currently part of Ukraine, Belarus and Western Russia) lived in the present-day Eastern Ukraine. So, we may say that Russian identity, Russian people and Russian culture were born in what they call the Rus’ of Kiev.

It was the great prince of Kiev Vladimir who converted to Christianity giving rise to the long history of Russian Orthodox Christianity. Then, over the centuries, Russian and Orthodox civilization extended to North to the Slavic population living in what is now Russia, while Ukraine gradually became a more peripheral region. In fact, Ukraine means “borderland” and this is what Ukraine was reduced to around the 15th century, as the centre of  Russia was further North in Moscow.

When Ivan the Terrible, the great prince of Moscow, imposed his hegemony on the Russian world taking for the first time the title of Tsar in the 16th century, at  that point Ukraine was only one of the many territories of the vast Russian area where different dialects and forms of Russian were spoken. Ukraine became also the target of many invasions and it was conquered and subdued by non-Russian peoples: the Lithuanians first and then the Poles. For centuries Ukraine remained part of Poland and when Poland was divided in the 17th century, the current Eastern Ukraine re-entered into the Russian Empire, while Western Ukraine became part of the Austrian Empire. From this moment on these populations had different destinies.

Western Ukrainians lived in a Catholic empire, while in the Eastern part of the country the Tsars conducted a policy of” Russification”, hence, Ukrainian language at some point disappeared, as it was no longer taught or used  in the written form. The great writers born in Ukraine wrote in Russian and felt Russian like Gogol, for example. To cut a long story short, Ukrainian identity under the Tsars remained mostly provincial, just a small part of a great Russia.

The story reversed with the Soviet Union. The problem of nationalities and languages ​​was very much felt, therefore, an intense policy of development of national identities and languages was pursued, no need to say, under the Russian supremacy. Multiple Russian republics bloomed and multiple different identities with them. After  the collapse of the Soviet Union those republics for the first time matured a marked sense of independence which resulted eventually in an explicit refusal to be Russian.

The case of Ukraine is even more serious, as in the Eastern part of the country, where now  separatism is developing, the population is predominantly Russian.  The Ukrainian republic as it was designed at the time of the Soviet Union includes both Ukrainian and Russian areas, but for those who handled the pencil to draw the lines the matter of identity was only a small detail, it was the line that mattered. The consequences are before us.

Now, why  has that “borderland” become so vital in the international arena? Well, because it is a border land, actually, and in this last hand at the game of Risk Ukraine is perceived as a sort Trojan horse, the last frontier to penetrate Russia. The strategies of the game board players are quite clear: the USA want to detach Ukraine from Moscow and incorporate it into NATO, while Russia wants to recover the Russian-speaking Ukrainian territory and avoid Ukraine from entering NATO , while I have to confess that I find the European tactic somewhat obscure, as EU countries keep fanning on flames rather acting as mediators. Trying to corner Russia has only had the result of attracting  China to Moscow so far, is that wise? Negotiation is the answer to any war and not only because it is everybody’s best option, but also because “the greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”(Sun Tzu, The Art of War).

36 thoughts on “RISK

  1. It’s so, so ironic that Putin’s Holy Mother Russia (as he possibly sees it) could end up destroying Kiev, the cradle of Russian civilisation, just like the Mongols did.

  2. Ukraine suffered a great deal under the former Soviet Union, and particularly so under Stalin with the forced collectivisation of agriculture and the famine in which millions of Ukrainians (and other peoples, including Russians) died. So horrific was their suffering that some Ukrainians welcomed the Nazis as liberators and fought alongside the Third Reich.
    There is an excellent book by the late historian Alan Bullock entitled “Hitler and Stalin Paralel Lives which I would recommend.
    Its important to recognise the crimes committed under Communism.
    Ukraine has a right to self determination and we all should condemn Putin’s invasion of that country.
    Best wishes. Kevin

  3. Negotiation is an interesting word . . . it assumes a willingness for compromise. That willingness to compromise is itself based on the idea the two sides are roughly at par; meaning, they face roughly the same risk should negotiations fail.

    In personal experience, in business experience, and from what I can see in the international arena, this is rarely the case. First, it requires a level of respect for the “adversary” that is seldom seen. Second, it requires a commitment to honor and honesty. Third, it requires a reasonable starting point for the negotiations which perforce means relinquishing a portion of one’s self-interest.

    In the case of Ukraine and Russia, I don’t see any of those conditions being met. Putin, as far back as the early 2000s, has been clear about his intentions of recreating the Russian Empire.

    We might speculate on motives, but in the end, I can only put faith in what the man said, especially when his actions have all been geared to that end . . . as such, what’s to negotiate about if he keeps doubling down on his stated purpose?

    He’s also been correct that the West has no stomach for all-out war. Really, no one does, but if one side knows this, they can keep on pushing the boundary and establish a new threshold while in the meantime getting closer to their goal. We saw this at the start of WW II, and we might be seeing it now.

    Side note: Putin has indicated his willingness to go nuclear . . . if that’s not an indication that he’s acting in bad faith, I don’t know what is.

    But, at the basis of all this is the fact that Ukraine is — no matter the history — an independent country with people who have no wish to be under Russian rule (otherwise, they would be ‘escaping’ into Russia instead of heading to neighboring states). Yes, there are politics involved, but it’s a bit naive to say the West is threatening Russia militarily. It’s also naive to say that it feels threatened at its border . . . if Ukraine comes under Russian rule, it’s just another border of Russia. One that once again is threatened by its neighbors. It’s a familiar tactic.

    Looking back, it’s Putin’s goals that pushed Ukraine to try to secure its independence through association with the West (as other former Soviet territories have done), and that response ‘triggered’ Russia . . . sounds like a catch-22, but at the heart of it, I go back to Putin’s stated intentions.

    No matter how I look at this, I see Putin as taking it upon itself to recapture an imagined former Russian glory (i.e. land), and there are no negotiations that will dissuade him from that goal.

    None of this looks to have a peaceful solution.

    Side note 2: we see the same thing in Xi . . . he wants Taiwan and has already defaulted in his promise about Hong Kong, and is moving to claim international areas as China’s. That’s another thing we might face in the not-too-distant future. He’s pretty much assured the world that it will be so, and no negotiations to date have dissuaded Xi from it.

    The irony in all this is that the West’s negotiating in good faith has enabled both Russia and China to become emboldened in their ambition. Some might call it ‘greed’ but whatever the reason, the approach has been ‘peace through economic agreements and trade’ . . . but, again, I don’t see the same commitment to peace and stability from those two countries. The US is often accused of Nationalism, but, as an outside observer, in that regard, it doesn’t hold a candle to Russia and China.

    Sorry for the long response . . . I should probably do my own post; maybe I’ll use this stream-of-consciousness effort as a starting point.

    • So what options may be pursued? If the goal is to save lives, diplomacy is the answer. If we carry on this war, the people of Kiev will be massacred. So, in my opinion the European Union and NATO should work on Putin’s request to demilitarize Ukraine and the question of Ukraine ‘s joining NATO. Is there any other way?

      • To be clear, I don’t have an answer that would satisfy you.

        But, how would you deal with a bully in your class? What sort of negotiation tactics would you employ? Has any tactic ever worked to the satisfaction of the bullied and the bullies?

        Let’s break down what you’re suggesting. First, you’re suggesting that Russia has a right to determine the fate of another sovereign country, just because it borders with it, and we should acquiesce to their demands. Then, you’re saying Ukraine has no say in the matter, that it should be sidelined as the EU and NATO negotiate with Putin.

        But, negotiate what? There are literally thousands of articles arguing for one or the other side’s views of the “facts.” I can point to articles painting the West as provocateurs and evil agents and articles painting Russia as the instigators and with evil intentions.

        You and I can’t rightly claim to know of secret machinations and dark deeds other than what one or the other side claims. We can only formulate opinions on what we read.

        Is the West instigating these kinds of conflicts? Is Russia stirring dissent within foreign countries? I can readily accept both sides playing a Machiavellian game.

        But, I can say I know a few things.

        One, I can take Putin’s words as him being sincere and earnest in what he says, and what he says is that he wants former Soviet provinces to exit the NATO alliance. Just him saying that means he assumes he has the right of sovereignty over those countries and dictate their affairs.

        . . . think about that for a moment. How could this be justified? Why would he think he has that right?

        Let’s now step back and understand why those former provinces joined NATO in the first place … because they didn’t want to be under Soviet control. And why does Putin demand they exit NATO? Again, taking him at his word, he believes they rightly belong under Russian control. What’s to negotiate? A country either has the right to choose its fate or not.

        You mentioned the history of the countries involved. Why does that matter in the present? Heck, when do we stop going back? Should Rome lay claim to all the lands formerly controlled by the Roman Empire? It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

        Now, we can argue Putin’s other point, that NATO is poised to invade Russia . . . but that assumes that NATO and members of the EU are interested in a war with Russia. Do we see any indication of this? I don’t see it, and the only aggressor, in fact, has been Putin.

        And, there’s another thing to consider . . . if we were to judge a nation’s worth (and its people) by how much freedom they have, then Russia looks pretty bad. By definition, killing dissenters and rivals loses you any claim to the moral high ground.

        So, now, to what we should do . . . I think economic, social, and international sanctions are the way to go.

        You say negotiations would avoid war, but negotiations didn’t . . . war is at hand. It’s not your place or mine to tell Ukraine what they should do. If reports are true, citizens, regular people, not just the army, are willing to die in defense of their country. That goes a long way toward helping me formulate an opinion on the matter.

        While I hope not, it may yet be that they fall, and many people will die, and a Russian puppet government will be put in place. If that happens, the West will do nothing (we have precedents), and the will of millions of people will be subjugated to the tyranny of a despot.

        If it were me, even after this matter is resolved (for better or worse), I would leave those sanctions in place and even escalate them. Same with China, even if it causes hardship in the West.

        Understand, I’d prefer a world of economic cooperation for the greater good, but at no point — given the current leadership of those countries — can I consider them honest agents in any dealings, as they have proven themselves not to be. You can’t even argue that they are in it for the betterment of their people.

        It’s all about power and self-aggrandizement, and in that, they are perfectly honest about it.

        Having said all that, the main reason is that I’m skeptical of negotiations is that you cannot negotiate with bullies. The tale of the scorpion and the frog comes to mind.

        I once again apologize for the lengthy response. I promise: this is my last comment on the matter since these sorts of discussions are fruitless because we are many levels removed from the interested parties.

  4. All true! Excellent, my dréar teacher. Perfectly explained. Ukraine is a part of the Russian blood. I just wonder, what the hell the secret services of western countries were doing in Kyiv all the time? They ran away after Russian began its marching.

  5. risk reward. putin s gone mad. the worst they ever had. the reward is not worth the loss of innocent life and the immigrants having holes in the ground to return to. i mean good luck with that.

  6. Well said! Many people in the US don’t really understand that here are centuries of history at play here. We tend to even forget our own history, how we ourselves acquired California or Texas, or the huge divisions that lead to the Civil war.

    • Exactly. Furthermore In Ukraine there is not one cultural identity,as Eastern Ukraine is a Russian-speaking area .This makes everything extremely complicated and dangerous.

  7. Thanks for the short summary of the historical facts. I fully agree with your meaning, that this borderland is interesting for both ideologies. I use the term “ideologies”, because there seems not to be any democratic discussion. Despite visible deficits, both sides believe that they themselves respectively are the best of all solutions. The European Union did not and does not play a creditable role here either. Best wishes, Michael

  8. My two cents after reading much about Putin and discerning MSM headlines. Welcome or not, what I see on a global scale is a spiritual war between good and evil. Russia is a player, so is China and the USA. Charlie Kirk summed it up brilliantly last night on Happening Now – the Global Reset. Reveling in Revelation the people of God know His plans for them and His plans for the world. “Do not fear” is repeated in Scriptures 458 times in the NIV Bible and 39 times in book of Hebrews. We “Rejoice” because our redemption draws near, but we have a heart for the lost. Peace will never enter with peace talks. The UN or NATO cannot bring individual peace. Peace can only come from the Prince of Peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 Satan is the author of confusion and he is using the media to install fear and terror. Unfortunately, believers who aren’t grounded in the Word are his easiest prey. A lack of knowledge of the Word leads citizens of this world into confusion. “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each others faith.” Romans 1:12 Faith in Gods perfect plan.

  9. The lack of real engagement from the West related to Russia’s Ukraine invasion may actually be benefiting Iran. The invasion has destabilized the global energy market, and the concerns of the European Union and the United States about the resulting high gas prices may boost Iran’s confidence—especially as we continue negotiations related to Iran’s nuclear program.

    Human-rights lawyer Irina Tsukerman said that Ukraine was being sacrificed in exchange for “a lucrative energy deal and Iran’s cooperation” in ongoing talks in Vienna: “The Ukraine invasion directly benefits the Islamic Republic,” she said. “Biden has alluded to securing cheap Iranian oil as an answer to high gas prices in the United States, a policy which has now been picked up by the media. Biden hit on rising oil prices again in his Tuesday speech, as did [U.S. Vice President] Kamala Harris in the course of the Munich Security Conference.” Though stalled for weeks, the United States, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany now seem to be closing in on a deal with Iran. Israelis see what is happening in Ukraine—and the West’s refusal to stand up against Putin apart from a few sanctions—and believe these governments are “pursuing a policy of appeasement.” …

  10. Your historical account puts to shame many of the so-called professional commentators I’ve read in recent days. A proverbial Irishman, asked by a traveller how to get to X, allegedly scratched his head and said, “Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t be starting from here…” and that sums up my feeling about the whole situation, in particular regarding the ignorance and ineptitude of many Western politicians.

  11. Hello Mrs. Tink! This is Charly Priest but with another account. I felt in some bad times, actually living in the street but I found this church that allows you to shower, one hot meal a day, and use of the internet for a while. Nice to be reading you again, hope I had more time to read more carefully but there are too many people here waiting to use the two computers they have….imagine the fights. Anyways nice to read you again, and yes what a mess with the Russians, a lot of Ukranians are comming here, last I hear was 150.000 that are using alot of the sistem, meaning “comedores sociales” “centros de dia” which is where I can come to shower, library, wash the clothes every 2 times a week, eat one hot meal a day, and at 1.30 p.m back to the streets. Good new is that me and some others that were in a “albergue” of 150 thiefs and killers (no joke there) well some of us stuck together and we sort of make a little group that we sleep in Barajas airport, which is not easy to move from train to train point a to point b without having money for the tiket but you do become an expert in escaping the eyes of security so we sneak in and if they get us, we what is he going to do if I can´t pay the fine and what adress am I going to give the idiot, my adress? Barajas airport is where I go to sleep. It´s pretty cozy after sleeping outside for some months. Anywas what a story, going back to Ukraine, hope we can help them since all these Ukranians I see them constantly in all this places I go to eat and wash, their putting the sistem in a bind, and now I and the rest of the Spanish people do need this social sistem.
    Have a great day, nice to read you again.

    • Dear Charly, I am so relieved to hear from you. As you may have seen in your old page we, old fellow bloggers, were very concerned, as you suddenly disappered from the blogosphere. At the same time I am very sorry to hear that you are facing tough times. You are young Charly! Don’t give in.

  12. “Human history is all about lines. Lines which are continuously drawn and cancelled according to ever changing systems of power”. I really love this opening sentences, I may copy it one day 🙂
    Thank you

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