A Vision So Noble



Welcome to the website!

Most of the papers here are from my studies at King's College London in an online "programme" for mid-career British Army officers called War in the Modern World. About half were indeed British Army, including a captain who deployed to Afghanistan midway through the four years. (Alas, upon his return he dropped out of the course, left the army, and began to study law instead.) The rest of us were from militaries and civilian life, from a Danish pilot to an assistant to the prime minister of Singapore. I learned a great deal, and this website is to share it more broadly.

How the war was inevitable

Serhii Plokhy was born in Russia, grew up in Ukraine, and divided his university years between the two countries. With nice timing, he earned the equivalent of a PhD in 1990, just as the Soviet Union imploded. He made his way first to Canada and then to the US, where he now enjoys the mouth-filling title of Harvard's Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History. As you might expect, the first third of The Russo-Ukrainian War is therefore a bit of a slog. Like a good professor, Plokhy takes us back to Moscow in December 1991, with Mihail Gorbachev about to step down as president of the Soviet Union. When he's finished with his speech. the USSR no longer exists, and the reason is -- Ukraine! "The Ukrainians were the only [Soviet citizens] who put the question of their independence to a vote," Plokhy explains. "Neither Gorbachev nor [Russian president Boris] Yeltsin imagined the Soviet Union without its second-largest republic."

Just a few weeks earlier, 92 percent of Ukrainians voted for independence. Even the port city of Sevastopol, founded by Catherine the Great in 1783 and home of the Russian and Soviet Black Sea Fleet, wanted to be free of Moscow's rule. This had the weird effect of making independent Ukraine the world's third-largest nuclear power. The US helped defang this situation: the nukes were returned to Russia to be dismantled, and the US and Russia pledged "to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine." Brtain signed the guarantee as well, as did France and China with a bit of weaseling. (Isn't it wonderful how that turned out?)

We are halfway through the book before we reach February 2022 and Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" to murder the Ukrainian president and forcibly add his country to the Russian Federation, the latest version of the Russian Empire, lost in 1917 by Nicolas II and in 1990 by Mihail Gorbachev. Though it's hard going at time, Plokhy's Long March through the past quarter-century is very much worthwhile, and I heartily recommend his book. (I read the Kindle ebook, which is priced at a modest $9.66.)

Blue skies! -- Daniel Ford. You can send humanitarian aid through Razom for Ukraine (a tax-exempt US-based charity). Or donate to the military directly through the National Bank of Ukraine.

The essays (in more or less chronological order)

Other good stuff to read

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Looking Back From Ninety

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Posted September 2023. Websites © 1997-2023 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved. This site sets no cookies, but Mailchimp and Amazon do, if you click through to their services. I never see those cookies.