Stalin’s collectivisation of Ukrainian agriculture took place 90 years ago. Some 10m Ukrainians died. It is bitterly remembered as the Holodomor (death by starvation) and debate still rages today whether the Holodomor should be described as genocide. No wonder the Ukraine cowers in front of President Putin, as he masses Russian troops along its 1,400-mile border. 

Prima facie, Putin’s massing of Russia’s army on Ukraine’s border is a story of a former KGB thug seeking to expand Russia’s domains or at least its sphere of influence. However, this standard trope deserves greater nuance. Culturally and linguistically the Ukraine is evenly split. In elections in 2004 and 2010 the Russian speaking East and South voted overwhelming for the pro-Russia presidential candidates while the Ukrainian speaking West and Centre (including Kiev) voted overwhelming for the pro-EU candidates. 

Over the last 20 years deeply divided Ukraine has been fought over in a tug of war between Russia and West. The EU and NATO, encouraged by the US, has sought to bring the Ukraine within their orbits. Meanwhile Russia has sought Ukrainian membership of its Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which currently compromises five former Soviet satellites.

But for Russia this is more than a crude land grab. The Ukraine is no ordinary neighbour. The West tends to think of Russia as the state that emerged around Moscow at the beginning of the 16th Century after the overthrow of the Moguls by Ivan the Terrible. However, for Russians the idea of Russia as an identifiable entity starts in Kiev at the end 10th Century. Kievan Rus, as Russia’s first iteration is called, reached its zenith in the following century under the rule of Yarislav the Wise when its domains stretched 1,300 miles from modern day Archangel on the White Sea to Odessa on the Black Sea. Putin’s assertion that, ‘the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are practically one single people’ is not without historical validity.

There are other more prosaic reasons for the Ukraine’s importance to Russia. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, eleven Eastern European countries and 103m people, albeit willingly, were gobbled up by the EU; its gain was Russia’s loss. The intense humiliation of Russia’s defeat is a constant thread that runs through Putin’s relations with the West. The potential loss of the Ukraine, Russia’s sister country, to what Putin sees as the EU empire is therefore a dagger to the heart of Russian pride. 

It is against this background that the West’s geopolitical conduct in the Ukraine must be judged. In 1994 the US, Great Britain, France and China signed the Budapest Memorandums with the Russian Federation, which agreed that the co-signatories Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan would give up the nuclear weapons stationed on their territories. In return for giving up nuclear weapons the West would ‘respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine’; it did not. In 2014 the EU actively supported the Maidan Revolution which toppled the elected pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovych.

Aiming to bring the Ukraine into the European Union and NATO, was clearly in breach of the Budapest Memorandums signed by three of their members. The West, having disrobed Russian satellites of their nuclear weapons, disingenuously claims that the Budapest Memorandums have no basis in law. While it was never enacted in US legislation, by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties [1969] the Budapest Memorandums are agreements governed by international law. 

The tug of war over the Ukraine reflects poorly on all parties. President Putin’s ruthless KGB style modus operandi hardly needs comment. Arguably however, it has been the EU, with its bureaucracy on expansionary autopilot, that was the initial aggressor. 

It has be asked why it was worth making an enemy of Russia for the sake of hauling a semi-failed state, the Ukraine, into the EU’s trading and security system? Who decided that the embrace of Ukraine would be an asset, when any objective analysis would put it on the liability side of the ledger? Where was the democratic legitimacy for such as strategy? Arguably it would have been better to leave the Ukraine in Russia’s orbit; then it would be Russia’s problem, not the West’s. 

Unbelievably, at the same time as making itself Russia’s enemy, the EU, by spurning nuclear power and fracking while collaborating with Germany on the Russo-German Nord Stream II gas project, was putting its energy security in their hands. 

The role the EU’s ‘ally’, the United States, is hardly more uplifting. The EU allowed President Obama to push it forward on the path to Ukrainian annexation. Was this the result of Obama’s personal animus toward Putin – a sentiment revealed in almost every photograph of the two together? His then Vice-President Joe Biden then became so deeply embedded with the Ukraine that his alcoholic, druggy, ‘ne’er do well’ son, Hunter, was soon being lavishly rewarded with dodgy sinecures. 

The cost of Europe’s geopolitical miscalculations over Ukraine has been huge. First and foremost, Russia has been pushed into geopolitical alliance with China. Logically Russia, historically China’s mortal enemy, should have been an ally of the West. The EU’s autopilot expansionism and Obama and Biden’s geopolitical cack-handedness put paid to that.

Finally, putting aside the illogic of trying to draw the Ukraine into Europe, the EU, in its pursuit of an expansionist policy without the military wherewithal to support its territorial ambitions, has acted with gross irresponsibility. The EU’s historic failure to create a well-funded and unified army has left it dependent on the foibles of US foreign policy. A European Army could defend the Ukraine; but can we really imagine even a capable German Army driving its tanks through Poland to the Ukraine, a country in which 3.8m of its citizens were murdered by the Nazis?

The Ukrainian crisis has shown up the EU’s lack of a democratic or even functional constitutional structure. Its failure to provide for its own military capability is the most egregious demonstration of this fact. As Frederick the Great noted, ‘Diplomacy without an army is like music without an orchestra.’ Since its inception the EU has had neither an orchestra, music or indeed a conductor.