It’s that time of year again when nearly everyone’s attention is focused on basketball courts throughout the country. Half the nation is riveted to their TV sets at home or in their favorite neighborhood watering hole. Usually I’m one of the interested spectators following the field of competition as it narrows to the Sweet Sixteen and onward till there are only two teams left standing in the quest for the NCAA National Basketball Championship. Unfortunately, I’m distracted this year by another form of March Madness that has far more serious national consequences.
In the Crimea, President Vladimir Putin continues to press the envelope to see how far he can push European Union countries dependent on Russian natural gas. His dream is to establish a 21st century Soviet Union and he doesn’t seem to be concerned with repercussions from the United States. President Obama’s foreign policy track record has been so bad he makes Jimmy Carter look like Winston Churchill. Instead of "walking softly and carrying a big stick" as President Teddy Roosevelt prescribed, President Obama has used a five year policy of, "bloviate and carry a small twig." That twig has only been used to draw meaningless red lines. His reputation has embolden the Red Bear
in an area all too familiar with global conflict. Let’s review the military history of the Crimea.
In 1853 Czar Nicholas I, sensing the decline of the Ottoman Empire, unleashed his Russian army south with the ambition of capturing Constantinople. The Czar reasoned, no Christian nation would come to the aid of a Muslim state. Wrong! The strategic value of the Crimea as a naval base was recognized by western nations who ruled the waves during that era.. As a result the Turks were aided by large expeditionary forces sent by the British and the French. Most of the Crimea War that followed was spent by the allies in the difficult mission of capturing the Russian naval base of Sevastopol. The war resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties for the British and the French, as much from disease as battlefield wounds. Today most Americans are aware of Florence Nightingale who pioneered modern military medical procedures during that war but the
only military engagement most remember is the Charge of the Light Brigade made
famous by a Tennyson poem. Now let’s fast forward ninety years.
Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941. Code named Operation
Barbarossa, the campaign became the largest military operation in history, in both manpower and causalities. The Crimea was once again in the military spotlight.
Although Crimea was of no strategic value to the Third Reich, left in Soviet hands it posed a threat to the Southern flank of the German invasion and an even graver threat for an allied counter strike into Romania where the Ploiesti oilfields produced a third of all Axis oil. For a modern army, oil is Black Gold.
The Crimea, especially the naval base at Sevastopol, had to be taken by the Germans at all costs. What followed during the next two years was some of the most tenacious fighting on the Eastern Front. During the siege of Sevastopol, part of the front line fighting went through the British Cemetery on the heights above the navy base. A grim reminder to the German soldier of the cost of a past Crimea War. The Germans finally drove the Soviet army out of Crimea in July of 1942 only to be driven out themselves in May of1944.The Soviets, in overwhelming numbers of manpower and material, steamrolled westward along the entire Eastern Front toward the borders of Germany.
The end of the Third Reich was only months away when in February of 1945, The Big Three(Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) met at Yalta on the Southern coast of Crimea to discuss the fate of post war Europe. By war’s end Stalin’s Soviet Union had gobbled up independent nations at an alarming rate. This aggression prompted Winston Churchill to deliver his famous Iron Curtain speech at Westminster College in Missouri in 1946. It took a Cold War of 46 years to undo Stalin’s aggression.
Today Vladimir Putin dreams of reestablishing the Soviet Empire and is at present testing the resolve of the West. The gas pipeline network crossing the Ukraine represents the lifeblood of the Russian economy and an energy dependency by the Western European nations. Kind of a Mexican Standoff with the Ukraine as the dueling ground.
A strong US military establishment backed by astute political leadership would have made Putin think twice, maintaining peace through strength. However, Draconian cuts have been made to our military in both men and material by an administration whose foreign policy has become the laughing stock of Europe. This only emboldens Putin who has become the reincarnation of Uncle Joe Stalin without the mustache. The next Cold War may be a tag team match with China the partner of a revitalized Soviet Union. That would be ugly!
Carefully developing our energy resources would have made us energy independent by now. The bonus could have been a lucrative energy export market to help disarm a National Debt Bomb that’s about to explode in our face. This scenario will also have helped to keep the Moscow Red Bear in it’s cage. Unfortunately, this wishful thinking will remain a dream so long as we keep sending career politicians, on both sides of the aisle, to state capitals and Washington where reelection rather than the national interest remains their top priority.
Retired Consulting Engineer and Farmer