Syria and the Ukraine

Lord Soley

On Thursday there was a debate on the Middle East. Ukraine is not in the Middle East! BUT there is a link and a dangerous one. In my speech below I drew attention to the Role of Russia. It has been arming the Syrian regime and sees the opposition groups as creating the threat of an Islamic state or a failed state. that is not necessarily wrong but that does not mean we should back the Assad regime which can only continue as an unstable dictatorial regime.
A number of commentators have drawn attention to the similarities with Spain in 1936. The differences are greater than the similarities but the two similarities that are very relevant are firstly, that the democracies are unwilling to get involved not least because of the divided opposition. Secondly, and most worryingly, the changed international balance of power. In the 1930’s as now the dominant world power is no longer the absolute arbiter of international disputes. Then, as now the authoritarian powers are challenging the US – that is particularly true of President Putin. Beware of these situations – they can spiral out of control.

24 comments for “Syria and the Ukraine

  1. maude elwes
    03/03/2014 at 8:11 am

    @Lord Soley:

    From my point of view, this is not ‘new’ Russian assertiveness. This is a Russian affair, not ours, and it’s looking after its own back yard. Just as we ‘hopefully’ would if it was Scotland, after it decided it wanted independence. And why would we do that? To protect our interests just as Russia is doing today.

    It appears quite clear to most of us, the Ukraine legitimate elected government was overthrown in a coup. Similar to the one in Egypt. Ukraine was to go to the polls in a very short time and true democracy waits. The big issue here is, who was at the back of this unrest leading to a takeover? This following by the West in this matter is to usurp the Ukraine and it has been known of for a few years. It is not a new idea. Is it?

    Prior to this uprising it was obvious the old cold war tactics were at play against Putin and his administration. The ridiculous put down of Sochi, which, whilst I’m not a sporting fan, looked quite marvelous to me when I took a glimpse at the skating. That constant belittling and schnide remarks regarding the homosexual issue, along with accusations of cheating, it was so utterly naive and predictable. Does government really believe we remain in the mindset of the 1930’s/1940’s when people were so gullible?

    If the US/UK/EU want a war with Russia, rather than accept the gas and oil there belongs to the Russian people, I suggest they all get themselves and their families, to line up, don tin hats and uniforms and get to it. If you feel the people of this land are ready to fight and die whilst the top drawer, like Blair and his progeny, can sit back and replay the scenes of battle on their i-phones, think again. Putin is greatly respected in the UK, as is the traditional thinking of the people of that country and we are, in the main, fully cognisant of what is going on.

    Stay out of the Ukraine.

  2. Gareth Howell
    03/03/2014 at 11:56 am

    I enjoy lord soley’s contribution to this blog. He shares my interests in the historical perspective of new political problems.
    however I fear that his understanding of history does not go back far enough on this occasion, and to compare it with Spain in 1936, is as irrelevant as asking questions about the Baltic states in the context of the Crimea.

    The word is: CRIMEA
    The thought is that the surrounding states of Ukraine are entirely unaffected by conflict in Ukraine itself. The former east European soviet satellites are secure with Nato. that is not the issue that may arise.

    The BLACK SEA is the question; that is the most important boundary of the Ukraine.

    If you look up Crimean War, dating all that way back to 1856,
    you will see some similarities; quite a few. The Russian Black sea fleet at Savastopol; another name that strikes a very strong chord of conflict in the historian’s soul.

    It is crucial to Russia’s world wide security, a sea way to the Med.

    The question of Syria, that Lord Soley puts is a very interesting one sinc ethe main cause of the numerous nations going to war in the Crimea at that time 150 years or more ago, was the Ottoman refusal to allow free access to the Holy Land.

    Times are changing supra-nationally and we are observing the
    love-hate relationship between Turkey and Iran turn in to something larger on the world stage, and Syria is most certainly a pawn in that particular game.

    I look forward to a peaceful evolution of the world’s nations states in to something larger and more effective on the world’s stage, not to compete with global power but at least to put concerted questions on the table with regard to human rights, economics and so forth! USA much prefers to deal with Supra-nationality, such as it enjoys for itself.

  3. Honoris Causa
    03/03/2014 at 12:51 pm

    The time line dating back to Prince Potempkin in 1797 is a long one. The wiki entry is instructive.

    I was interested in Ms Elwes remarks about Sochi, Scotland, you tube and Egypt.

  4. Gareth Howell
    03/03/2014 at 8:25 pm

    Any and all online maps of the area are useful. Strategy stays the same but the circumstances change. Turkey and Iran are backed by the huge wealth of the Saudis.

    The mention of the Crimea compels one to look at those maps from a very different direction, not from an Israel centred point of view but from a pure Russian one.

    A number of commentators are now saying that Turkey’s role is reverting to what it was at the beginning of the 20thC, although without any renewed domination of the HolyLand/Israel. The population of Iran/Turkey/SaudiA =200m.

    The Black Sea is a commercial seaway of the utmost importance to Russia’s trade, all the way in to the Mediteranean, through the straits.

    Putin knows what to do and does it.

    I have always been surprised that Rumania and Bulgaria became part of the EU having such an extensive sea border
    on the Black sea, but apparently the Russians did not mind, or even have much choice in the matter, but to circumscribe the use of Russian possessions,on the Black sea,even further, to the EU, would be quite impossible.

    Actions speak far more loudly than words on such occasions,
    and he has been waiting patiently to do it.

    [I met him in 1984 when he was improving his English and staying with friends in Sussex, even during the Cold war, when
    only our Archbishop’s stamp permitted such cultural exchanges.]

  5. 04/03/2014 at 12:35 pm

    Lord Soley,

    I certainly thin you make some good points about the Syria crisis an by analogy about other places in the world where Russia can play a role different than almost any other country because of its view of itself as an alternative to Europe and the USA which nonetheless has a history of Christianity, a large white population, huge shred literary and artistic conventions and the recent memory of leading world Communism with only China coming anywhere close to being a competitor. Britain joined the Turks in fighting the Crimean War against Russia as I recall. That surely shapes one’s point of view. The Germans followed a man committed to building a new order on a destroyed Russian state more recently still. Hitler mapped that out in Mein Kampf.

    If the US enter armed conflict with Russia I will mostly try to support my country and remember Russia’s many iniquities while behind the scenes perhaps expressing some other points of view. However, I do not think seizing the Crimea seems all that assertive to everyone. Most people feel the need to defend UKrainian self determination — I do as well. Most people feel the need to try to support the cultural rights and decent aspirations of Western Ukrainians in the next generation– I do too. But if Russia really and truly has no right to hold the Crimea in a friendly position then the world is unrecognizably bizarre.

    I am aware that much of human history and current geopolitics sees different from different points of view. But to say Russia must commit suicide is to declare the end of this era in a very real way. In my personal life I have not hidden in the shadows but I do believe there is so much that needs resolving and doing besides war. Losing Crimea mean Russia must fight a major war sooner than later. We may squeeze them out peacefully and humiliate thema and in the end it may lead to a post Russian civilization but somewhere before they check out they will fight a big war. A Russian dominated Crimea is essential to peace. I do not believe in peace at any cost. I do not think Russia and the US are pals. I do not believe I am a coward. But Russia has to control or be the largest and accepted foreign influence in Crimea for their to be peace, of that there is no doubt in my mind.

    Of course I live in intolerable situations and perhaps Russia can as well. But it would be intolerable for them to lose Crimea.

  6. Gareth Howell
    04/03/2014 at 2:19 pm

    Russia Area: Total: 17,075,200 km²; Land: 16,995,800 km²; Water: 79,400 km². Land boundaries: Total: 19,917 km.

    USA Land area: 3,539,225 sq mi (9,166,601 sq km); total area: 3,718,691 sq mi …

    Even including Canada it would be smaller than Russia or China

    With a total area of 3,849,670 square miles (9,970,610 km2), Canada is the second largest nation in the world. It is slightly more than half the size of Russia and is somewhat larger than China and the United States.

    Puts the Crimea in to a little perspective.

    • 04/03/2014 at 5:46 pm

      Gareth Howell,
      Littered with typos as my comment was I hope that yours was an error of phrasing but the US and Canada while smaller than Russia are larger than China. Perhaps you meant that any two of these countries are smaller than Russia. That is I, think true. China and the USA are strikingly close to the same size. On the Mercator projection Northernmost countries look bigger and the larges of the United States looks larger still as does giant Russia. China and the US both have a more varied set of lands than Russia and both have other advantages as well.

      However, all the cold ports only increase the significance of Crimea. Hitler and Napoleon both found out the hard way that Russia is very large, cold and engenders a capacity to endure hardship.

  7. Lord Soley
    Lord Soley
    04/03/2014 at 2:24 pm

    I said in my post that “some” commentators had referred to the similarity with Spain in 1936 but I also said there were more differences than similarities. The similarities that are important are the fractured nature of the opposition, the uncertainty of the democracies and the changed balance of power.

    Russia has legitimate interests in the Ukraine and especially Crimea but this is no way to assert them. There are other Russian minorities in various countries in the region.
    A negotiated outcome is possible but simply moving troops into the Crimea and pretending (at first) that they were local militias is a seriously bad idea. Russia has manipulated a crisis that could be resolved with the EU and in a manner that would have strengthened relations – not weakened them.
    I suspect Chancellor Merkel is aware of this and probably working hard to get things back on track.

    • maude elwes
      05/03/2014 at 7:34 am

      Well, Lord Soley, it appears from the newspapers the citizens have a somewhat different view of events taking place in Ukraine. We, unlike you and co, hope the next PM of our country is the one who’s party wins the most seats at the general election. And when that happens, the oppositions supporters do not riot in the streets and force him out of power.

      As PM I wonder how Mr Cameron must feel at the prospect of such a move from the people who would like UKIP to take over, should a group of their supporters decide to oust him by rioting in the streets? Will our police and army stand by and let them go ahead the way they did in Kiev? If he is comfortable with that, does it mean he has a hidden back door escape rout with a US helicopter on stand by to fly him and his family off shore, where Airforce One will be standing by to escort him on the rest of his journey?

      And as a little PS: Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Grenada, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and if they had their way, Syria. Great record.

      If any other country in the world overthrew their legitimately elected President
      there would have been outrage. This is a an obvious example of a two faced stance from a democratic Parliament who has only a marginal right to govern as it does, without a mandate. How is that?

  8. Honoris Causa
    05/03/2014 at 8:27 am

    The following are the population figures :

    Ukrainians in Russia =1.9m
    Russians in Ukraine = 8m(20%)
    Crimea = 60% Russian 24% Ukrainian

    I venture to suggest that What Russia does in Crimea is a private matter!
    There are so many other and fascinating ethnic minorities in Russia that differencing Ukrainians and Russians is splitting hairs. The killing in Kiev square
    was just organized anarchy, by a man with an exaggerated sense of the importance of physical stature, and a diminished sense of intellectual responsibility, if he ever had one.

  9. Gareth Howell
    07/03/2014 at 9:57 am

    Some of the nameless press are now describing the interim govt in Ukraine as
    “Fascist”. Any government is better than none. Perhaps totalitarian would be a better word until they have had general elections. There is not a shadow of doubt that the Yanukovych(6’9″)=Kichko(World Boxing Champ) competition is a thoroughly unhealthy one, even in a state renowned for its boxing/wrestling/weightlifting prowess. They are both seriously challenged; for what,I will not risk an opinion.

    Putin/Medvedev, amusing as it may be,by contrast in Russia, are small,and smaller! Stature should not be an issue, for a single moment, in battles of the intellect, although there are times, in Westminster, when I think a jolly good shout would settle the argument.
    @hywel_dda @Gar_dda

    • maude elwes
      10/03/2014 at 11:57 am


      ‘ Any government is better than none.’

      I have read some idiotic pieces of thinking but this defies all logic. How can any government be better than none?. Are you suggesting Hitler’s crowd would be better than none? If yes, then for how long? And how many days would that entail the gas chambers to keep working at their peak, especially if the ruling body knew they were simply interim? My goodness. Watching this unfolding in the Ukraine has really put citizens minds together on realising what we have in leaders beggars belief.

      To make my point, I’m copying from another post here, which seems to have been missed, either deliberately or because the penny hasn’t dropped.

      And please take note feminists calling for all women lists to force the boards of British business to take on those who are inept, as well as the state. The mess continues under those ‘appointed and not elected’ for their worth rather than for their physical attributes.


      And what proves that analysis is what we presently see taking place in the Ukraine. The obvious interference, no doubt by instigation in that states politics by the EU (listen to ‘unelected’ Catherine Ashton’s phone call) along with the US, tells us that without informing or getting the consent of the European people or offering any vote on such matters, we are aligned to the brutal policy of the United States. Think not? Well, we heard absolutely the woman stooge of the US tell her counterpart, F–k the EU.

      Yet, it appears that line from a minion belonging to an aggressive power, who is controlled totally by those above her, has gone over our heads completely. It is an example of their belief they can indeed f–k us all and use Europe as the war theatre they set us up for by placing numerous bases within our domain. Then, all they need do, is sit back comfortably in their ‘barcaloungers’ as they watch us fry in battle, with a beer in one hand, hollering in glee, Yeeeeha, whilst in safety, watching on sophisticated flat screens…. As they do with their drones.

      The future of the EU now appears nebulous to me.


      And the US voicing their opinion on what we in the EU are about.

      • 10/03/2014 at 5:07 pm

        Maude Elwes,

        The USA is a bit of a complex place. We have one of the lowest popularity indices over time of any electoral government and despite all our weaknesses still do much of the world’s business. Here is something the American I know best wrote before reading your most recent comment:

        In addition, given the indifference and objectivity established as norms of our three oldest broadcast television networks there are few anchors who are eager enough to point out the risks inherent in taking a hard line in Crimea. By the way I think some of the missiles in play here are called “intercontinental” ones.

        • maude elwes
          12/03/2014 at 8:57 am


          The world human race is complex on every level, Frank. And, the awful part in this strange and duplicitous mind set of our Western politicians, is how we are being ruled by incompetence and stupidity that would have been unthinkable a short time ago. The difference now of course is, they have their finger on the button of utter destruction and are flaky enough to contemplate using it.

          It’s not easy following the writing on the wall and feeling akin to that donkey in ‘Animal Farm’ whilst sheep look cute and bleat. I sympathise with you.

          Your comments and blog are thoughtful and interesting, although it is sad to read of your family tragedy. I hope all is looking up now for you.

          • 12/03/2014 at 2:25 pm

            Maude Elwes,
            Thanks for the kind words. Sev died a few years ago and his sacrifice is remembered often by me and others but others in my kinship nets have died less dramatically since and so life goes on.

  10. P.Selvaratnam
    07/03/2014 at 2:32 pm

    Lords and Ladies

    Though we need to sort out the individual cases as they arise, we also need to increase our knowledge and skills to deal with the increasing frequency and intensity of conflicts which are mostly intrastate as opposed to inter-state conflicts dominating the scene decades ago.
    There is great help:

    ”The increasing short-termism of modern politics needs to be overcome with serious and urgent reform to address key challenges facing humanity” – NOW FOR THE LONG TERM – The report of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, October 2013,

    Albert Einstein said fundamental problems we face today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we were at when we created it.

    • P.Selvaratnam
      18/03/2014 at 1:28 pm

      Lords and Ladies

      How can we keep increasing our level of thinking? One helpful way is to arm ourselves with lessons from the past:

      Paradise Poisoned: Learning about Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka ‘s Civil wars, John Richardson(2005), Professor of International Development in American University: ‘’Paradise Poisoned is the principal product of a seventeen year project, devoted to understanding linkages between deadly conflict, terrorism and development, by viewing them through the lens of Sri Lanka’s post-independence history, from 1948 through 1988. ….. My vision is of a day when no citizens in today’s developing nations will have to ask ‘how did we come to this?’ Paradise Poisoned will have achieved its purpose when that day comes”

  11. Gareth Howell
    11/03/2014 at 9:12 am

    The answer to Ms Elwes first two paragraphs is


    That a totalitarian regime of left or right would be better than anarchy, and civil war, although that may in itself be a form of totalitarianism.

    In Ukraine, an arch-capitalist woman would be better than empty headed males, empty either through having them beaten out by boxing gloves, or through never having had any in the first place, or both.

    Leadership is an interesting thing, which has been one of my main interests in life, how bad it can be and sometimes how good. Thatcher/Blair rise and rise, were themselves interesting, at close quarters, as we were.

    There seems to be a choice of three presidential candidates in Ukraine at the moment and, whatever her party is, the woman with the long blonde hair, would be infinitely better than either of the other two.

    The question of Prime Ministers in that country does not seem to be in question; is it Azarov still at the moment? It is an executive presidency so
    he has a good deal less power. There may be a temporary Prime minister as well.

    May Klitshcko return to USA as soon as possible, permanently, and Yanukovych to Vladivostok or a Gulag monastery as soon as possible.

    • maude elwes
      14/03/2014 at 10:14 am


      What utter rubbish, the blonde plaited one is a thief of millions of tax payers money. Living as high, if not higher, on the hog than the one they ousted and who is now in Russia.

      And the only people running the Ukraine right now is the USA/EU. To pretend otherwise is absurd. The Crimea don’t want to be controlled by them and will vote against it shortly. They are fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to get our from under that. An opportunity never given to us in this democratic sham we have become.

      What the people of this country need is a safe haven, akin to Israel, where we can flee and start again, away from politicians here who have handed control, without consent or notification, of our country to a foreign power. We will need a country willing to annex a slice of their land for our habitation, with our own laws, passport and status Beginning with us as refugees from an alien culture determined to eradicate the indigenous of this land.

      UKIP are in tight with the US and therefore there is no salvation there. They already sold out before one vote is cast.

  12. 14/03/2014 at 1:50 pm

    Lord Soley,

    It may be time for a new post. Things have evolved. Russian tanks and troops are at the border of Ukraine and Crimea is voting in a referendum on its status vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine on the 16th. The West and Russia have generally denounced each of the two claiming heads of government and regimes as not legitimate. The USA seems to insist on Russian withdrawal from Crimea and denounces the referendum. However, the US Congress has stalled even the billion dollars in aid to Ukraine.

    One useful mental exercise for any crisis is to imagine what one might do, urge and agitate for if one were a pure dictator over a country such as has never existed perhaps and could truly do what ever one wishes. In that case and acting for Britain what might you do? In that abstract sense, I believe I would have decided long ago that Russia must keep Crimea if Ukraine goes free and the Crimean majority supports it. I would have huge numbers of hunters flying into Ukraine from the west and leaving their weapons behind. I would urge Ukraine to offer Russia very generous pipeline concession, full pardon for regime members choosing to go into Russia and whom Russia accepts. I would urge Ukraine to set up a relocation authority for Ukrainians in Crimea to come North and Russians in Ukraine to go to Crimea if they choose. I would support Poland and Romania in creating treaties, trade assurances and cultural missions. I would seek to explain how the law is full of messy issues in this case. Privately I would have top level officials in the US assure top level Russian officials that invasion of the rest of Ukraine would provoke serious repercussions over time and I would increase military aid to countries West and South of Ukraine. Would that work out well? I cannot be sure.

    It may be that what is happening now is better. However, it does not feel good. Pushing Ukraine to harsh rhetoric, calling for Russia to quit breaking the law with no explanation of the complexities and not getting Ukraine aid are all depressingly undesirable to my view. Would you care to discuss some options? Do you believe war is possible — and can it spread — and when?

  13. Honoris Causa
    14/03/2014 at 8:10 pm

    Angela Merkel seems to agree that any further developments like Crimea could be “catastrophic”. She knows her history, so she knows what she is saying and why she is saying it, but I am not at all sure what or why! The effect would presumably be on the Germans?

    Perhaps she is only talking tongue in cheek; interntaional political diplomacy speak.

    • maude elwes
      17/03/2014 at 3:40 pm

      @Honoris Causa:

      My instinct keeps telling me one of the reasons this ‘lets play war with Russia’ is being floated is because the US and friends are not happy with Germany taking the lead in Europe. And the way to rid them of that position is by promoting another disturbance right in their midst. One that will possibly destabilise them financially and practically. (Gas tap turned off or sabotaged) Thereby killing two enemy ‘Goldsteins’ with one bird. Washington has never liked Germany in fact they detest it. The only Germans they like are those who go to the US to pretend it is they who can fly rockets or some other science they want to exploit and pretend they are the front runners. Take a close look at Kissinger and his ‘gifts.’

      So, poking the bear has more to it that just a lets pretend they are the evil empire. It’s a good way of ridding us of the European model and taking over its policies completely. EU mouth pieces were getting a little smarter in their thinking and rolling over them on the trade deal was not as easy as they thought it would be. Those little Europeans were getting snooty about GM and being sued for refusing to buy their cripe when it is defective as they don’t want to be poisoned or damaged just to keep the crew who sell it in fat mans’ land. After all, from the yanks point of view, they are all ‘communists’ who need to be wiped out. I mean, health care free at the point of use, pensions, welfare, you name it, benefits are only for the pigs at the top with their snouts pushed deeply into the tax payers trough. God forbid the plebs should be funding something for themselves to benefit from.

  14. Honoris Causa
    18/03/2014 at 4:09 pm

    You can see why the Chancellor of Germany mentions catastrophe regarding annexation of anywhere, when you examine the population stats of such places as the 4th most populous city of Khazakstan; 100,000 of them have migrated back to Germany since 1990. 70% of the population is/was German, Volga German descendants of labour camp people of the 1940s.

    Life there may not have been too bad then,or perhaps,until 1990,they had nowhere else to go.

    • maude elwes
      19/03/2014 at 12:33 pm

      This clip may be of interest. It establishes, in part, what I have felt in the gut since this fiasco began. This Ukraine coup is a Western set up devised some time ago. And it is us, in Europe, who will be the people to face the same horror dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans at the end of WWII. You see they made sure no bases were allowed 90 miles off their shores in Cuba. These creeps have a investment in letting us fry. And our dumb leaders are helping them to it.

      Think not? They love us Brits don’t they? Wouldn’t do that to their friends? Never underestimate the White House.

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