Posted by: Dr Churchill | March 26, 2014

Two Questions about the New Crimean War

As Russian troops amass near Ukraine’s eastern border, and additional forces enter Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea, and the results of the referendum coupled with Russia’s green men and vast military and navy has allowed Crimea to become part of the scheduled post-Soviet Russian expansion .. now we are witnessing the same game being played over the rest of Eastern Ukraine.

This Sunday demonstrations of pro-Russian forces throughout Eastern Ukraine herald the day that could bring the whole of Eastern Ukraine under Russian control and that has the potential to set off an armed confrontation with the other Guarantor powers of Ukraine’s integrity and independence

A Second Crimean War, if it actually broke out, would pit post-Soviet Russia against a Western alliance backing Ukraine’s national sovereignty and the rule of law in that traditionally unstable region.

 The last time the specific peninsula of Crimea started a conflict and was the critical spark at the centre of a conflagration and a vicious conflict was in the 1850s, when the first Crimean War broke out.

At that time back in 1853, the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea was controlled by the expanding Russian Empire, and found itself in the middle of a tug-of-war between an expanding Russia, which styled itself as the protector of Christians in the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and the declining Ottomans. The latter were backed by European powers wary of the Czar’s southward expansionism.

The 1853-1856 conflict, which killed more than 500,000 soldiers, and thrice as many civilians, was in many ways the first modern war, employing then-new technologies such as railways, long distance cannon, and the telegraph. And it was one of the first wars fully reported upon and also recorded by photographers for posterity and historical accuracy.

The war lasted almost two and a half years and Hostilities ended with a victory by the coalition of France, Britain and the Kingdom of Sardinia, with the Ottomans. Sardinia being the strongest of the pre-Unification Italian states was pivotal in securing the peace.

The Crimean War was also the vicarious “baptism of fire” that captured the imagination of impressionable young Winston Churchill who studied the Crimean war as a child and learned the ways of the War amid the heralds of Victory of this particular contest. It is no accident that his namesake William Churchill covered the Crimean War in detail for his English newspaper based in Istanbul. Young Winston much later claimed that it was the Crimean War that ignited his imagination and passion for military achievements. He hastened his imagination through the likes of the poem of Alfred Tennyson about the heroism of the Light Brigade in the poem “The Charge of The light Brigade” and all other such tales of bravery and heroism. This poem and the Crimean reports along with the assorted photographs of this well reported war, gave him the lights to be a Fighting Leader. Much later the Gallipoli stalemate and resulting rout brought him back to the sobering reality that war is not all gallantry, fun, and games, but deadly carnage, weeping tears, and loss…

Still keeping in mind that the Crimean War was the first war in which the British and French nations were allies and not enemies — this conflict presages the European Union and gave birth to our European Integration and Convergence of today.

Now, some 160 years later, Russian troops again threaten military action in eastern Ukraine having already taken over and annexed the Crimean peninsula. The pretext for beginning hostilities could be defending the rights of the ethnic Russian majority in Eastern Ukraine as this technique worked successfully in the case of the Crimean invasion and immediate takeover. Of course, since Moscow decided that the Ukrainian central government in Kiev is no threat to them, and since the “World” remained quiet about this violation; and they were able to take over Crimea without any opposition — then the questions that beg to be answered are the ones bellow:

1) What is stopping Putin’s Russia from taking over the rest of Eastern Ukraine?

2) And what is going to stop Russia from going after all the other small and weak nations and breakaway republics?

Clearly Russia’s perverted sense of security dictates that in this expansionary flex, all small states neighbouring Russia can expect to be annexed when the Russians are keen on reviving the old Soviet state… in light of the fact that there is no credible opposition and no Leadership in Europe to stop them from doing this…

To even attempt to answer these two questions we best remember the original Crimean War which erupted suddenly and lasted a full two and a half blood soaked years.  (October 1853 – February 1856)

The Crimean War is considered to be the very first modern War that employed all the horrible machinery of war to effect maximum carnage and terror.

The Crimean War was an armed conflict that spread far and wide and during which Russia fought against and lost to an alliance of France, & Britain. Minor players in the conflict were also the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia on the part of the alliance and Austro-Hungarian empire on the part of Russia but essentially neutral…and even shifting alliances to undermine the Czar…

The Crimean War is notorious for logistical, medical and tactical failures on both sides. The naval side saw both a successful Allied campaign which eliminated most of the ships of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, and a successful blockade by the Royal Navy in the Baltic. It was the first “modern” war because it saw the first use of major technologies, such as the blitzkrieg, the cannon fodder formations, the naval blockade through long distance guns, the modern siege method, the use of supply lines via constant railway links, the widespread use of modern signals and telegraph technologies, etc.

This war is also famous for field medical innovations such as the “Triage” and the work of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, who pioneered contrasting modern battlefield medical practices while treating the wounded.

The war was one of the first to be documented extensively in written reports and photographs.

The war transformed the region. Because of the widespread battles of the Crimean War, the resultant population exchanges, and budding nationalist movements, and other actions and conflicts incited by the war — the present-day map of Europe and especially the Balkans changed drastically. New countries appeared and states disappeared. The states of Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and regions such as Crimea and the Caucasus all changed in large ways due to this bloody serious conflict.

The immediate issue involved the rights of Christians in the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Orthodox. The longer-term causes involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the unwillingness of Britain and France to allow Russia to gain territory and power at Ottoman expense. Russia lost and the Ottomans gained a twenty-year respite from Russian pressure. The Christians were granted a degree of official equality and the Orthodox gained control of the Christian churches in dispute. Russia survived, gained a new appreciation for its religious diversity, and launched a reform program with far-reaching consequences.

Russia and the Ottoman Empire went to war in October 1853 over Russia’s rights to protect Orthodox Christians. Russia gained the upper hand after destroying the Ottoman fleet at the Black Sea port of Sinope; to stop Russia’s conquest, France and Britain entered in March 1854. Most of the fighting took place for control of the Black Sea, with land battles on the Crimean peninsula in southern Russia. The Russians held their great fortress at Sevastopol for over a year. After it fell, a peace was arranged at Paris in March 1856. The religion issue had already been resolved. The main results were that the Black Sea was neutralised – Russia would not have any warships there – and the two vassal states of Wallachia and Moldavia became largely independent under nominal Ottoman rule.

The Crimean War was not geographically contained anywhere in the Ukraine because there were smaller military campaigns spilling over in Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia, in the Caucasus region, in the Baltic Sea, all over the Pacific Ocean and also in the White Sea. In short this was the first World War albeit it was  never called that although it served as a preparation for the really big World Wars to come..

They surely arrived none too late — early in the following century.



PS: The siege of Sevastopol

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