The Inconsequential G-7 Snub of Russia: Some History of the Ukrainians
by JBS President John F. McManus
Over many centuries, the country now known as Ukraine has for a time been considered part of Lithuania, Poland, Russia, or even Austria. Modern Ukraine became independent during a war that lasted from 1917 to 1921. No sooner had independence been won than communist Russia took control and Ukraine became the first of the many totally dominated nations in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet-induced famine of 1932-33 then killed somewhere between six and eight million persons and certainly resulted in hatred of Russian dominance among many.During World War II, Nazi forces were greeted as liberators by Ukranians, especially in the country’s west. But there was always a desire on the part of many to reject both German and Russian dominance. Nevertheless, by the end of WWII, the Soviet Union acquired total dominance and Ukraine, along with nearby Belarus, was awarded a seat in the United Nations where both unfailingly followed USSR dictates.
When the USSR dissolved in 1991, Ukraine once again began to function as an independent nation. More than 90 percent of the people voted for complete autonomy in a 1991 referendum, but, in Crimea, the desire to separate from Russia won support from only 56 percent. That number in Crimea has eroded because a large proportion of those living in the peninsula are ethnically Russia and speak the Russian language. From then until now, Ukranians have been split over whether to look westward toward the European Union, or look to the east to Russia for their commerce and friendship. Only recently, as is well-known, Vladimir Putin’s Russia decided to retake the Crimean peninsula and Russian military forces backed up the move with a show of force. Many Crimeans seem happy about the development while those in other parts of Ukraine are not. A recent plebiscite in Crimea resulted in the residents choosing to be part of Russia, but the plebiscite’s result has been deemed rigged and a violation of the nation’s constitution.
To register their disapproval of Russia’s move into Ukraine, leaders of the economically powerful G-7 nations (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States) disinvited Russia to their latest gathering, which, in reality, had become the G-8 group that has more recently included Russia. Meeting in The Hague on March 24th, the G-7 leaders canceled their scheduled plan to meet with Russia for a June G-8 session in Sochi, Russia. This step, along with sanctions imposed by several nations to protest Russia’s Crimean takeover, was supposed to influence Putin. But expecting Russia to withdraw from Crimea seems improbable even though UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon condemned Russia’s action.
Now, the G-20 group consisting of the G-8 plus a dozen more emerging economic powers has entered the fray. Representatives of these 20 nations are scheduled to meet in Australia next November. When the possibility of excluding Russia from the G-20 summit was announced by an Australian official, G-20 members Brazil, China, India and South Africa immediately denounced the idea. They claimed that “hostile language, sanctions, and counter-sanctions” won’t lead to a peaceful resolution to the incident. Peace, it seems, will exist if the Putin takeover isn’t reversed. That is unlikely.
Incidents like what has occurred in Ukraine have the potential for starting world conflagrations. But chances that this will be an outcome are remote. Other nations might not like Putin’s retaking of Crimea, but it’s possible that the people who live there like what he has just done. If so, the rest of the world, especially the already overstretched United States, should mind its own business. We should hearken to the wise words of President George Washington given during his farewell address in 1796:
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible …. It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.
Ukraine-related articles at The New American: