By Niles Wimber
Russia has begun deploying troops to the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine “for the safety of ethnic Russians in the region”. Considering they have a major naval base there and the region borders with Russia, that only further confirms my commentary below about Russia’s motivations there. Read on.
Since my original review of the Ukrainian Maidan Revolution on February 20th, things have changed quite a bit, namely, the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych and the installation of a new opposition led government. The new government has immediately turned towards the US and the European Union for help with Ukraine’s crippled economy, much to the dismay of Russia who had previously offered to buy out Ukraine’s debt to the tune of $15 billion dollars. For their part, the Russians have started running massive war drills for troops bordering Ukraine, just for the heck of it according to them. Ukraine isn’t really an influential country compared to, say, Germany or China; what’s provoking this sudden Cold War flashback?
It’s largely to do with the prime real estate that Ukraine is sitting on. Ukraine has the 8th largest amount of arable land in the world: almost 32.5 million hectares. More importantly, Ukraine has the longest border with Russia of any European country, and Moscow is only 300 miles away. As we’ve seen from World War II, 300 miles is not that far. Russia hasn’t forgotten how quickly Nazi Germany swept through the easily traversable Ukrainian steppes on their way in. Between Ukraine’s strategic position on the road to Moscow and the amount of food they produce, Russia has to have at least a neutral Ukraine, if not a pro-Russian Ukraine. In Russia’s eyes, this sudden shift towards Europe that we’ve seen in the past week is a direct and potentially fatal threat.
As for the United States, we have our own stake in the outcome. The US has been undeniably the most powerful country in the world for a long time now, overwhelmingly so. A lot of that comes from the fact that there really isn’t anywhere else in the world that has had the unity or resources to create a continent spanning superpower like North America. However, there is one place that could give birth to another superpower and we’ve already seen that once: Eurasia and the Soviet Union. A lot of it has to do with arable land: large concentrations of high-producing farms provide the economic base to unify and empower a nation.
From the above map, we can see four key agricultural regions. If you’ll notice, those regions contain every first world country besides Japan and Australia and the United States has 42% of that land all to itself. In the days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union controlled around 32% of the four top zones and, had they formed a strong alliance with China, their total share would top the US. Add in a domination of Europe and the resulting megastate of alliances and influence would tower over America. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see modern-day Russia stealthily looking to regain its predecessor’s former glory. If America wants to stay on top, its goal is to split up the rest of the world’s prime territory amongst as many hostile rivals as possible. Supporting a pro-EU Ukraine is a critical part of this.
To summarize, Russia must prevent a pro-West Ukraine to insure its next step on the road to global influence and the US must prevent a pro-East Ukraine to insure its position as the global superpower. It may not be the chilly days of the 60s, but the temperatures are falling fast.