Richard Lutz warns us not to take our eye off the ball.
At least ten people have been killed in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Reports say four people died when artillery shells landed near a school. Another six lost their lives when a shell struck near a bus stop…BBC News 1st October
And here we go again. Ebola crawls like a poisoned spider across Africa. The West will spend millions on fighter planes taking out pick-up trucks weaving through the desert. Major UK political parties will perform backflips to win the May election.
But the Ukraine crisis fails to go away. And there are troubling whispers from the recent past about what Vladimir Putin has in mind.
In a prescient 2010 book called Mafia State, author Luke Harding must have had a crystal ball next to his keyboard when he described Russia’s attacks on neighbouring Georgia. In 2006, Russia wanted to ‘protect’ two separatist sub-regions of Georgia called South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It moved, first with supplies and then with troops.
Describing the beleaguered Georgia leader Mikheil Saakashvili, he writes: “Since sweeping to power in 2003 on the back of pro-democracy street protests, Saakashvili has made no secret of his ambition to join NATO and the wider Euro-Atlantic community. The Kremlin resented (his) attempts to escape Russia’s geopolitical grip.”
Familiar? Sound like copy emitting from the Ukraine earlier this year before Russian-backed rebels began a war?
Back to the 2006 Georgian war and here Harding writes about the capture of a small town called Akhalgori: “It appears part of a wider Kremlin plan to re-draw Georgia -reducing it to a smaller leftover rump and boosting the size of its separatis territories….A resurgent Kremlin is suddenly embroiled in a proxy conflict with NATO and the West.”
So, for Georgia, unfortunately, read Ukraine. Putin wants neutered independent states around him or newly minted satellite statelets willing to do what Moscow bids.
Putin simply cannot leave former states of the former USSR alone: Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and, some say eventually, parts of the Baltic region too. He yearns to re-create the cold war USSR, an Eastern bloc that will help the mythical Russia re emerge like a heavily armed phoenix. He dislikes the west, NATO, the EU and probably the UN. And by bloodily dismantling Ukraine, by re-creating the USSR borders with weakened new nations encrusted around his empire, he wants to take his country, so riddled with corruption, thuggery and neo-fascism, back 100 years.
Intriguingly, Harding, who was eventually chucked out of Russia for his reporting, travelled to the Crimea in the same year as the 2006 Georgian incursion: “My trip to Ukraine…coincides with wild speculation that Crimea- after South Ossetia and Abkhazia- could become the next target for Russian ambitions…with Crimea seceding from Ukraine after a referendum.”
Well, bulls-eye on that one. Six years before it happened.
So, definitely, let’s keep our eyes on the Ebola crisis. Let’s keep up on how to disentangle the Iraqi/Syrian mess or the Palestine conundrum. But don’t forget Ukraine and its cracked border. Don’t forget the people who must die in this neo-Soviet incursion. And never forget the man on the throne – Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB spy who now rules a powerful country with no scruples and an old-time expansionist vision.