Ukraine Renews Its Independence

From The Wall Street Journal:

The average age of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s 450-seat parliament, is 41. Only three of the elected representatives are older than 60, while 17 were under 30 at the time of their election. This means that when Ukraine declared its independence, many of us were essentially children, and some weren’t yet born. What do we remember from Aug. 24, 1991?

I was 6. My memories of that day are of something profoundly significant. People didn’t go to work; they gathered in the city center, on what is now Hrushevsky Street, greeting each other in an atmosphere of incredible joy and uplift.

Now, in the 10th year of Russia’s war against Ukraine and 18 months into its full-scale phase, my thoughts drift back to the Verkhovna Rada elected in 1990, before independence. Its composition was diverse and varied. There weren’t many professional politicians. There were only Ukrainian patriots and Communists.

Everyone had an agenda. Some aspired for greater autonomy within the Soviet Union. Some defended the Ukrainian language. Some were building their careers with an eye toward Moscow. All etched their names in Ukraine’s history when they accomplished what our ancestors had dreamt of for centuries and what society demanded at that moment—independence.

On Dec. 1, 1991, the Ukrainian people overwhelmingly affirmed their desire for independence in a referendum with 84% turnout. In the Crimean peninsula, more than 54% voted in favor of independence. In the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Odesa regions, support was over 80%. Today’s Russian propaganda conveniently forgets these numbers, insisting in its narrative that Ukraine and Ukrainians don’t exist.

Historians often joke that people living through major historical events don’t realize how significant those times are. There’s some truth to that. When the current Verkhovna Rada was elected in 2019, the primary demand of the Ukrainian people was a renewal of political authority. No one could have imagined the challenges we would face in less than three years: working during a full-scale war, making pivotal decisions, defending the nation’s sovereignty, and upholding the rights of Ukrainians to exist.

Like all Ukrainians, I will never forget Feb. 24, 2022, the day Russian troops invaded. By 7 a.m., a full-scale war had been raging for two hours. Russian forces were advancing in the Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and from the direction of Crimea. From Belarus, they were moving toward the Kyiv region and the capital city itself. Cities like Odesa, Kherson, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Kyiv, along with their surrounding areas, were under missile attack.

In Kyiv, lines formed at petrol stations, railways and ATMs—but even longer queues formed outside military recruitment offices. Tens of thousands of men and women were eager to take up arms to defend their homes, their loved ones, and their country against the invader. Ukrainians enlisted en masse in territorial defense units. Those ready to fight were given weapons. In Kyiv alone authorities distributed 20,000 rifles on Feb. 24.

. . . .

Ukraine surprised the world, the enemy and even itself. We have managed to unite, support each other, and rally around what’s crucial: our nation, our freedom, and the future of our children.

History is made by ordinary people. They become heroes, and the future depends on them. This isn’t the first time Ukraine has had to fight for its right to exist. We must win. Each and every one of us knows what we are fighting for.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Not exactly about books, but Ukraine is a terrific story. PG fervently hopes for a happy ending.

13 thoughts on “Ukraine Renews Its Independence”

  1. The books will come.
    There are a half dozen areas just begging for analysis, on true nation building, strategy, modern warfare, geopolitics, plus memoirs and at least one biography.

    There will also post-mortems on economics and nation-destruction.
    Only question is which one(s) gets destroyed and which, if either, survives.
    It is, at heart, a demographic war, not merely genocidal.

    Not pretty, totally unnecessary. The war will be studied for generations as comparable to the Franco-Prussian War and further evidence that “short victorious war” is an illusion, most are neither short nor victorious nor cheap.

    Yup. There will be books.
    Good fodder for spy novels and technothrillers, too.
    Just not too soon, the fiction, one hopes.

  2. Happy endings are in notoriously short supply in such ethnically heterogeneous lands as Ukraine. We would have done well to keep that in mind before getting enmeshed in this perilous situation, but it is far too late for prudence now.

    • On the contrary; we are exercising prudence by supporting a country that is at worst neutral towards us against a country that has spent the past century being at best neutral and at worst actively hostile towards us.

      • One wants to join the peaceful international order and the other wants to destroy it by force of arms.
        Not much else to look at.

        You could roll over and play dead, like in 2014, or help russia destroy their nation.

      • Risking thermonuclear war on behalf of a country that not only has never been an ally of the United States but also whose government and military have been heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis who smoke meth and worship the Devil can be described as many things, but prudent is not among them.

          • Ba-da-ba dump!!

            (Who knew Putin visited TPV?)

            Sounds like it’s ime to invoke the First Law of USENET: don’t feed the critter living under the bridge.

          • You surprise me. You must know something of the history of the West’s use of neo-Nazi groups in post-war Ukraine (of which this Administration’s foreign policy in that region is a mere continuation), not to mention the fascination that occult groups such as the Order of Nine Angles currently exert on Right Sector and the former Azov paramilitary groups that have been incorporated directly into the Ukrainian army. I gather that many of their number now serve in what are designated as PSTs, or Psychological Support Teams, the function of which is to shoot those seen running the wrong way on the battlefield. It is likely that during the abortive Ukraine-Russia peace negotiations held in March of last year, a member of one of these groups assassinated Ukrainian official Denys Kireyev due to his lack of enthusiasm for war with Russia. And there are persistent rumors that Zelensky himself faces the same fate should his Churchillian resolve ever falter.

            • Ah yes, I am sure that the survivors of a battalion of infantry will provide sufficient troops to keep the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian troops in line.

              Get a grip.

              • My grandfather told me that during the Battle of the Bulge he was far more afraid of his commanding officer turning his sidearm on him should his nerve break than he ever was of the attacking Germans.

                It does not take a background in practical psychology to realize that the mere knowledge that a relative handful of neo-Nazi snipers, stationed at select points to the rear and whose sole mission is to shoot any attempting to flee the fighting during battle, can stiffen spines, even the the middle-aged ones of civilians grabbed off the streets and given but a few days’ training before being sent on offensives against the Surovikin Line without any air support.

                Or as a good writer once put it, “Some of these old games go way back.”

          • Addendum: German anti-terrorism investigators are now openly identifying one Valeri K., a member of the far-right (likely a euphemism for neo-Nazi) paramilitary youth group VGO Sokil, as one of the perpetrators of the Nord Stream bombing. Der Spiegel has a long write-up about it, aptly titled “All roads lead to Kyiv.” One wonders what the reaction of the German people, who have been watching the rapid deindustrialization of their once-enviable economy ever since that country’s energy prices quadrupled, will be to this bit of news. Perhaps it will remind them of the Morgenthau Plan, although Hitler’s March 1945 Nero Decree seems a better fit.

    • Prudence?
      What choice?
      I’m no fan of the gerontocracy but this is a situation that, like it or not, demands intervention, ideology be darned.
      Simple fact: russia (not Putin) was never going to stop at Kiev or Lviv. Poland and the Baltics have always been on the agenda in their 19th century mindset. (Defensible borders!) Those are NATO countries. The US would have had to send troops.

      Did letting them take Crimea without lifting a finger satisfy them? No. Bad call right there by the Luddite-in-chief in 2014.

      The alternatives were to play Chamberlain or intervene.

      That Zelenkyy proved to have more mettle than the entire coterie of western politicians combined offered a third option that even the gerontocracy couldn’t pass over: give them aging hardware on the way to disposal that uncle sugar daddy would have had to pay to destroy and watch the Ukrainians bleed russia out. Maybe even push them back with the til between the legs.

      It is better than having NATO troops steamroll the russians in a month and either trigger a nuclear exchange or occupy Ukraine for a decade or two ala Iraq.

      The endgame of the war is still TBD but russia has lost a third of its usable army, the best third at that, it has spent most of its foreign reserves and it has permanently lost its primary income stream, selling oil and gas to europe. And between casualties and draft dodgers they have lost as much as 7 million young, educated men, most to exile. A country in demographic decline can’t afford to lose 20-25% of its future but Putin’s war did just that.

      In the 80’s, The USSR was derided as “Upper Volta with nukes”. Today’s Russia is worse off because the soviet nukes were newish hardware. Russia’s are 60 years old and might not even activate if launched, fail to launch, or explode in a silo. Just this week, putin’s $250M attempt to put a lander on the moon to “prove” the strength of russian tech crashed spectacularly over a stuck valve. India on the other hand succeeded for $70M. Given the corruption in the russian government and industrial base, odds are the apparatchiks actually spent $50M and stole $200M.(The usual ratio.)
      Their biggest project for the ISS, the NAUKA module, was supposed to launch in 2007 and took an extra 15 years to be finished and launched–and then almost destroyed the ISS because of (of course!) a stuck thruster valve. See this:

      Russia was always going to fade, demography guaranteed it, but it now Putin has accelerated the crisis by a decade and actually opened the door to a breakup of the federation. One under reported aspect of the war is that, in order to draw troops occupying the russian oblasts (think provinces) Putin *told* the local governors and oligarchs to raise private armies. How convenient for local rulers itching for autonomy/independence.

      War is never good.
      The kind of war (14th century style) the russians wage is particularly ugly (mass executions, mass rapes, child deportations, shooting your own troops) but what russia has been doing is so eggregious by modern standards even the western europeans have had to act themselves instead of “let the americans do it”.

      The consequences have only begun to manifest.
      And NATO may yet have to step in.

      But the alternative to doing nothing now, as the west did in 2014, is worse.

      The time to stop russia was 2014. But mr “peace prize” did nothing. At least Chamberlain tried.

      As I said, books will be written. Because history didn’t end in ’92.

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