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Ukraine has Never been America's War

Although supporters of the Russian invasion, occupation, and annexation of Ukraine blame “U.S. imperialism” for the Ukraine War, the U.S. role has been relatively minor. The major actors have been Ukrainians, striving for independence, and Russians, striving to end it.

For centuries, a great many Ukrainians, chafing under Czarist and, later, Soviet rule, longed for national independence. This rejection of Russian domination―based in part on Stalin’s extermination of four million Ukrainians through starvation―was confirmed in 1991 when the leaders of the disintegrating Soviet Union authorized a plebiscite.  In the voting, more than 90 percent of Ukrainian participants opted for independence rather than membership in the new Russian Federation. Accordingly, Ukraine was recognized by Russia and the rest of the world as an independent, sovereign nation.

This agreement on Ukraine’s sovereignty was firmed up by the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, under which the Russian, U.S., and British governments pledged to respect its independence and borders. For its part, Ukraine agreed to, and did, turn over its very substantial nuclear arsenal to Russia.

But elements of the Russian government regretted this arrangement, believing, as President Vladimir Putin lamented in 2005, that the break-up of the Soviet Union had been “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Kremlin officials looked nervously on “color revolutions” in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, rebuilt their nation’s armed forces, and intervened militarily in Georgia and Syria. Meanwhile, they kept a watchful eye on Ukraine where, for a time, the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, kept their hopes alive for a return to Russian hegemony.

As things turned out, developments did not go well for them in Ukraine, where Yanukovych’s extensive corruption, authoritarian behavior, and reversal of his promise to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union led to three months of massive anti-government demonstrations and deadly shootings of protesters by police. Finally, in February 2014, abandoning a last-minute agreement he had signed with the political opposition for a broader cabinet, Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Although the Russian government and its sympathizers claim that this popular upheaval was a “coup,” the reality is quite different.  The “Revolution of Dignity,” as most Ukrainians called it, had widespread popular support. After Yanukovych abandoned his post, the Ukrainian parliament removed him from office by a vote of 328 to 0. Elections for a new president were quickly organized and held democratically.

Read entire article at Foreign Policy in Focus