RUSSIA – UKRAINE
Didier BERTIN – February 26, 2022
From Munich to Moscow
s. o. s
During the dislocation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, four German-speaking entities of Czechoslovakia collectively called Sudetenland felt isolated in a new Slavic territory and asked to be attached to Germany. With 3.2 million inhabitants, German speakers constituted 22.8% of the total population. Eventually Hitler solved the Sudetenland problem by taking control of all of Czechoslovakia. The problem of the Sudetenland can be compared to that of the Donbass after the break-up of the USSR. As a matter of fact, on the basis of a strategy similar to that of the Germans, Russia wants to solve the problem of Donbass by invading all of Ukraine. This similarity is in both cases was made possible by the cowardly character of Western democracies.
The Donbass comprises two Oblasts: Donetsk and Luhansk, which respectively include 4.6 million and 2.2 million inhabitants, i.e. a total of 6.8 million inhabitants out of a Ukrainian population of 42.5 million excluding the Crimea (already occupied by Russia). The Donbass represents only 16% of the Ukrainian population and includes Russian speakers and Ethnic Russian speakers and more exactly 75% in Donetsk and 69% in Luhansk. However, not all Russian speakers are ethnic Russians and in 2011 a survey showed that 40% of Russian speakers considered themselves Russians, i.e. 1.8 million inhabitants, i.e. 0.4 of the Ukrainian population. Moreover, Ukrainian is a language similar to Russian and the fate of the inhabitants of Donbass is in no way comparable to that of the inhabitants of the Sudetenland isolated in Slavic land.
It emerges from this that the identity and linguistic problem is only a pretext to achieve other targets because in the worst case the return to Russia of 1.8 million ethnic Russians should not pose a problem for a country as vast as Russia.
Basically, the Donbass is the richest region in mineral resources of Ukraine, but its ports are a much greater attraction for Russia that has always wanted to be a great maritime power. Indeed Russia is paradoxically the largest country in the world and also the most landlocked in terms of its access to the sea and in particular to the southern seas. On the Pacific where Russia has open access the country is there very underdeveloped.
The problem was only partially solved by the invasion of Crimea, which is only a peninsula in the Black Sea. As a result many Russian ships have to anchor on foreign soil. This situation was not sustainable for a country that aims to be a great military and maritime power even if it means setting aside its economic development.
With Crimea Russia had recovered Sevastopol and with Ukraine it will take possession of Odessa on the Black Sea and even of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. To the north, the Baltic Sea is also landlocked and we can speak of fully open access only for the Pacific coast.
Despite a vast territory, the key to opening up landlocked seas for Russia is the nuclear threat if necessary. Russia must indeed bark strongly because this vast country is poor.
The nominal GDP of Russia is lower than that of Italy, i.e. 1,630 billion dollars in 2018 of which a large part is invested in armaments, compared to 2,072 billion for Italy, 2,775 billion for France and 20,500 billion for the USA. Thus the nominal GDP per capita of Russia is only $11,240; $34,533 for Italy, $42,045 for France and $61,900 for the USA.
Although the Western world is indebted to Russia for its victory over Germany in 1945, we must remember that this country that it is now only a second-rate power and that its nuclear threat to bring down the hurdles is similar to terrorism. Moreover the size of Russia does not protect it from nuclear fire since 80% of the population is concentrated on 25% of its territory.
The stakes are high because by bringing territories under Russian rule, their population is deprived of freedom and fundamental human rights. “The power of Russia is based on the cowardice of the representatives of Western democracies and not on facts.”