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Victor Rud: Letter to Condoleezza Rice, U.S. National Security Advisor

Added: 29-12-2004 10:03

December 15, 2004

Dr. Condoleezza Rice
National Security Council
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Dr. Rice:

In anticipation of your upcoming confirmation hearings as Secretary of State, I am writing concerning the ongoing developments in Ukraine.

Even though Ukraine is the largest European country, the size of Germany, England and Hungary, combined, it has been forever a terra incognita for Americans, citizens and policymakers alike. That, together with Ukraine's sudden and stunning appearance on the international scene, requires a studied reassessment of America's mindset about "Russia" that has dominated for now almost a century. This is especially so because, regardless of the result of the upcoming December 26 elections in Ukraine, the U.S. will be confronted by ever increasing and sophisticated attempts by Russia to suborn that country.

Putin's soul is of an unrepentant CHEKIST who matriculated from the same school as Pavel Sudoplatov. Pavel was a key player in the Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project, and convinced the likes of Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi to relay secrets of the project to Moscow. Sudoplatov's talents, however, was as a killer, among other "wet tasks" organizing Trotsky's assassination. Infinitely more consequential for the United States, though your predecessors were oblivious to its implications, was Sudoplatov's organization of the assassination of Ukrainian political and military leaders in what he described as a 75 year war between Ukraine and Russia: "I found myself a fighter in that war, which formally ended only in January 1992, when the Ukrainian government-in-exile and the rest of the world acknowledged President Leonid Kravchuk as the head of the legitimate government of Ukraine, a sovereign nation."

That war continues, with the democratic challenger's, Victor Yushchenko's, face also representing, as he said, the face of a nation. Confirmation, by Janes Intelligence Digest, of Putin's deployment of Russian "Spetsnaz" forces in Ukraine speaks volumes about the sovereignty of an independent, internationally recognized state. It also betrays how far Moscow has advanced, and is prepared to further proceed, in reconstituting an empire.

The position taken, and yet also not taken, by the Administration concerning Ukraine implicates several issues: Does this Administration's action, or inaction, vis a vis Ukraine: (1) increase or reduce likelihood that the U.S. will be simultaneously confronted by both a resurgent, reconstituted "Russia" and Islamic terrorism? (2) enhance or compromise America's credibility in implementing its stated bedrock of national security—the active promotion of democracy worldwide? (3) facilitate or prejudice the Administration's approach (and, critically, world perception of that approach) to global nuclear proliferation, most immediately North Korea and Iran? The last question is particularly acute since, even though upon its declaration of independence in 1991 Ukraine became the world's third largest nuclear power, it shortly thereafter voluntarily stepped out of the nuclear club.

To answer any one of these questions is to answer the remaining two. There is, however, a fourth question that informs the preceding three: How does American action or inaction redeem an infamy that heretofore has not be considered or discussed?

The November 21st presidential elections in Ukraine fell midway between the last Saturday in November, the day of mourning for victims of Moscow's 1932-33 man-made famine in Ukraine, and November 16, 1933. In nine months, some 7-10 million Ukrainians, a quarter of the population, simply – vaporized. It would take eighty eight 9/11's per day, every day for nine months, for the United States to suffer a corresponding loss of innocents. Robert Conquest called it the Terror Famine. Arthur Koestler, who was in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv at the time, described the millions of children "like embryos in alcohol bottles." Cannibalism prevailed. Mothers ate their children. Kidnapping became a food source.

A May 31, 1933, diplomatic report of the Italian consul in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv quoted with specificity the terminology of a top official of the GPU secret police who explained that the purpose of the engineered starvation was to change the "ethnographic materials" of Ukraine. Not human beings. Just "ethnographic materials." Hitler's conception of untermenschen (sub-humans) was of the same genre.

The Italian diplomat continued: since Ukrainians could not be re-engineered into "an integral communist prototype," Moscow's goal was "to dispose of the Ukrainian problem within a few months at a cost of 10-15 millions souls. . . However monstrous and incredible such a plan might appear, it should nevertheless be regarded as authentic and well underway. . . . The current disaster will bring about a predominantly Russian colonization of Ukraine. It will transform its ethnographic character. In a future time, perhaps very soon, one will no longer be able to speak of a Ukraine, or a Ukrainian people, and thus not even of a Ukrainian problem, because Ukraine will become a de facto Russian region."

On November 16, 1933, six months after the Italian report, Washington welcomed Foreign Affairs Commissar Maxim Litvinov (of "food is a weapon" fame) into the diplomatic club, canapes and all. Half a century later, a Congressional Commission concluded that "both the State Department and the White House had access to plentiful and timely intelligence concerning the Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine and made a conscious decision not only to do nothing about it, but never to acknowledge it publicly. For political purposes largely related to FDR's determination to establish and maintain good relations with the USSR the U.S. Government participated, albeit indirectly, in what is perhaps the single most successful denial of genocide in history."

The State Department knew even more. A June 4, 1931, memorandum from A. W. Klieforth in our Embassy in Berlin reveals that visiting New York Times Moscow correspondent and soon to be Pulitzer Prize winner, Walter Duranty, "pointed out that РІР‚in agreement with the NEW YORK TIMES and the Soviet authorities', his official dispatches always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet government and not his own." News in the U.S. of the Ukrainian genocide was spiked as "malignant propaganda." George Orwell thus need not have limited his observation to his countrymen when he remarked that "huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933 . . . involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English Russophiles." While the American public was deceived, official Washington knew the "monstrous hoax," as UPI's Eugene Lyons called it, and rewarded the perpetrator. (On April 11, 2003, The New York Times ran an op-ed piece, "The News We Kept to Ourselves," by Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, acknowledging that for years CNN had actively suppressed negative news about the Saddam regime in Iraq. Two days after the CNN mea culpa, The Times published a full page listing of its Pulitzer Prize winning correspondents. Among them was Walter Duranty, "for coverage of the news from Russia [sic].")

How will the United States redeem the infamy? The U.S. has been steadfast for more than half a century in ensuring that Israel has the right to exist as an independent state. The U.S. affirms the same for Afghanistan and Iraq. Will the U.S. be unequivocal and affirmative in its support of independence, democracy and territorial integrity in Ukraine? History's first engineered famine catalogs lessons for this Administration's understanding of its own interests in Ukraine's flight to freedom. Foremost among them is the need to finally dispose of a hopelessly antiquated russo-centric approach toward one-sixth of the earth's landmass.

American orientation about "Russia," both in academe and government, has in no small measure been shaped by Р в„–migrР в„– Russian scholars such as George Vernadsky at Yale, Michael Florinsky at Columbia and Michael Karpovich at Harvard. Regardless of their view of the Soviet regime, they were unanimous in propagating the notion of a "yedinnaya, nedilimaya Rossiya." They transplanted to the U.S. the catechism of Russian Minister of Education, Lev Tolstoy in 1870: "The ultimate goal in the education of the non-Russians must be their russification and assimilation within the Russian nation." Dostoyevsky concurred: "All people should become Russian and Russian above all else, because the Russian national idea is universal." The largest subject nation in the Tsarist, and then Soviet, empires was Ukraine. It was described by P.I. Sumarokov, a Russian traveler in Ukraine, in his book Dosugi Krymskago Sudyi (St. Petersburg, 1803) when he first crossed the border into Ukraine: "Here are different faces, different customs, different dress, and a different system; and I hear a different language. Is the frontier of the [tsarist] empire here? Are we entering another state?"

Stalin thought so. "The chief thing now is Ukraine. Things in Ukraine are terrible. . . If we don't make an effort now to improve the situation in Ukraine, we may lose Ukraine. . ." This was not Putin's email to his assets in Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma or Viktor Yanukovich. This was Stalin's August 11, 1932, letter to his viceroy in Ukraine, Lazar Kaganovich. After attacking "nationalist" elements in Ukraine, Stalin concluded: "Give yourself the task of transforming Ukraine into truly a fortress of the USSR, a truly model republic. . . Without these and similar measures . . . I repeat – we can lose Ukraine."

The Ukrainian-Russian border was sealed, special permission being required to travel to Russia. The British ambassador to Moscow wrote to the British foreign secretary "that traffic between the Ukraine and the consuming regions lying to the north of it РІР‚Russia' is closely controlled, . . . and all grain in the possession of private persons entering the Ukraine being confiscated." No food in, no people out. Ukrainian villages starved. Villages across the border in Russia did not. A well delineated exception was the historically Ukrainian ethnographic territories of the Kuban basin and North Caucasus, then a part of Russia.

Moscow's plans for the colonization by Russians of "sparsely inhabited areas" of Ukraine were coordinated with plans to ensure that those areas in fact would become "sparsely inhabited." Pavel Postyshev, one of Stalin's key deputies in Ukraine, was in charge of both food expropriation and colonization. (As with many other facts known to Western governments, this was reported by the British embassy in Moscow.) Postyshev could therefore say in 1934 from personal experience: "We have annihilated the nationalist counter-revolution during the past year, we have exposed and destroyed nationalist deviationism." Chervonyj Shliakh [The Red Path], in Kharkiv, wrote: "1933 was the year of the overthrow of the Ukrainian nationalist counterrevolution" and that in that year the Party had conducted the "Herculean labor of liquidating nationalist elements in Ukraine."

Why the delineation of Russian vs. Ukrainian territory, what "nationalist" deviationism, "nationalist" counter-revolution, and "nationalist" elements concerned Stalin if Ukraine is "part of" Russia? Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Andrei Sakharov spoke of the "Ukrainophobia characteristic of Stalin." How can that be if Ukrainians are but "Little Russians?"

The facile equivalence that the U.S. has historically ascribed to Ukraine and Russia has distorted American policy for almost a century. In lockstep with Tolstoy, American textbooks invariably present the largest political entity at the time, the medieval Kyivan Rus' empire, as an integral part of the history of "Russia." "Kyivan Rus'" is regularly morphed into "Kyivan Russia," with no awareness whatsoever of the difference between "Rus'" and "Rossiya." Yet it was already in 1169 that Andrei Bogoliubsky, the ruler of Vladimir/Suzdal (part of future Moscovy, which preceded "Russia") had rejected Kyiv, destroying it to an extent barely duplicated by the Golden Horde a hundred years later. From the 13th through the 17th centuries, Moscovy and Ukraine (known also as Rus' or "Ruthenia") existed in separate political and cultural worlds. Simplistic nomenclature and a sophomoric thought process catalyzes ancient history as today's ultimate dezinformatsia.

What has been the track record?

After WWI, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points were to have no application to Ukraine, Point six (dealing with "Russia") having been prepared in consultation with the former Russian Ambassador Bakhmetieff. On May 9, 1919, Secretary of State Lansing announced: "The recognition of de facto governments on the territories which have belonged to Russia, would be to some measure a partition of Russia, and the United States has carefully avoided this, with the exception of Poland and Finland"

On August 10, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby repeated that "the United States feels that friendship and honor require that Russia's interest must be generously protected, and that, as far as possible, all decisions of vital importance to it, and especially those concerning its sovereignty over the territory of the former Russian Empire, be held in abeyance."

During the interwar period, Washington had no tolerance for the thinking of English researcher Lancelot Lawton who in February 1939 wrote: "On the solution of the Ukrainian problem will depend the fate of Europe. . . .So great an event [as the independence of Ukraine] would most likely be accompanied by, or cause remarkable changes elsewhere. It would influence, if not determine, the fate of Bolshevism and the Soviet Union."

Less than ten years after Ukraine lost a quarter (at least one Soviet source recites as much as half), of its population in the Terror Famine, WWII processed more Ukrainian corpses than the combined military losses of the United States, the British Commonwealth, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy. More than half of Ukraine's losses, 5.5 million, were civilians. Seven million Ukrainians served in the Red Army, twice the number in the US Army in Europe, and proportionately more than any other nation in the Soviet Union. Three and a half million were killed. Another 2.2 million were deported as slave labor to Germany. British historian Norman Davies wrote that no nation suffered greater losses in WWII than Ukraine. Yet years after the West was celebrating victory over the "Soviet Union" and therefore had time to comprehend how that victory came about, PBS television aired "Russia's War: Blood Upon the Snow." Henry Kissinger introduced the piece. And former CIA director (!) R. James Woolsey, as does a retinue of self-declared experts, praises "Russian" generals and "Russian" losses during WWII.

After WWII, our policy of "containment" remained hopelessly misinformed, further interring the non-Russian nations of the USSR. How could it have been otherwise, given that the policy's own architect, George Kennan, saw Ukraine as "just as much a part of Russia as Pennsylvania is of the United States"? Indeed, the Soviet Union was seen as nothing more than a "United States of Russia," where "Russia" equated the "USSR," just as "America" meant "USA." Why, both countries even shared a "Georgia."

A declassified August 18, 1948, State Department memo to the National Security Council recites the litany: although "the Ukrainians are the most advanced of the peoples who have been under Russian rule in modern times," the United States should not support its independence efforts. Ukrainian is a "dialect." Ukrainians "are too close to the Russians to be able to set themselves up successfully." They are an "inextricable part" of the "traditional Russian empire." This, at a time that Moscow, in concert with its proxies in Poland and Czechoslovakia, were battling a Ukrainian insurgency that lasted from WWII into the 1950's. In 1945-46, alone, 585,000 Soviet troops battled the Ukrainian insurgency in 1500 engagements, complete with tanks and aircraft, and bacteriological warfare agents. How many troops do we have in Iraq? Review the Ukrainian insurgency and apply the lessons in Iraq.

In 1961, Secretary of State Dean Rusk intoned: "The United States Government's position is weakened by any action which confuses the rights of formerly independent peoples or nations with the status of areas, such as the [sic] Ukraine, Armenia or Georgia, which are traditional parts of the Soviet Union. Reference to these latter areas places the United States Government in the undesirable position of seeming to advocate the dismemberment of an historical state."

The tragedy of Chornobyl – one hundred times the radiation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined -- has poisoned even the genetic makeup of its victims. Forever. Yet TIME magazine featured a NASA photograph of the Chornobyl reactor, titled "Chernobyl, Russia."

Barely six months after President Reagan's March 1983 denunciation of the USSR as an evil empire, Vice President Bush declared, "Let me state that the United States does not seek to destabilize or undermine any government." Eight years later, he urged Ukrainians to remain vassals in an empire, having advised his aides that the US would not support independence movements of the nations of the "Soviet Union." In his August 1, 1991, speech in Kyiv, this former head of the CIA stunningly analogized the colonial structure of the Soviet Union to the federal structure of the United States, and repeatedly, unbelievably, referred to the Soviet Union as a "nation." (I hope that, rather to your credit, you were not the author of that piece.) But Ukraine declared independence nevertheless, on August 24, 1991, a few weeks after President Bush's speech -- "If Being Part of an Empire is so Great, Why Did America Get Out of One?" was one of the placards in the crowd that greeted Bush in Kyiv. With Ukraine's subsequent overwhelming popular referendum in favor of independence on December 1, 1991, the Soviet Union lost its keystone republic. Three weeks later the USSR unraveled.

Washington was dazed, disoriented. Didn't National Geographic publish "Journey Across Russia—the Soviet Union Today"? Again, Russia = USSR as America = USA. Though Poland, Hungary and other countries of "Eastern Europe" were recognized as part of the Soviet Empire, the non-Russian nations of the Soviet Union itself were viewed simply as obstreperous minorities. Minorities, ethnics, doesn't every country have them? Little wonder that, with the exception of the Baltic countries, the U.S. today views the erstwhile republics of the USSR as happenstance, an anomaly, and not as a focus of concerted U.S. diplomacy and strategic planning.

The Kremlin's mantra of a linear continuum from ancient Kyiv a millennium ago to today is the subliminal, and therefore doubly pernicious, siren song. The springboard in almost every American commentary about Ukraine today dutifully introduces Kyiv as the "birthplace of the Russian state," sees Ukraine as "Russia's historical and cultural partner," (The New York Times), and emphasizes "strong historic political, cultural and strategic ties to Russia." (International Herald Tribune) Never mind that the nine months between Fall 1932 and Spring 1933 instructs the genocidal consequence of those "ties." Reporting and discussion then graduates to Russia's "trauma" in "losing" Ukraine, of Ukraine being in Russia's "backyard," and within its "natural" (no less) "sphere of influence," ad infinitum. This both reflects and requires a visceral qualifier on the legitimacy of freedom and independence for Ukraine. Ukraine becomes a "special case." "Russian" affairs, that is, events on the territories of the former republics of the former Soviet Union, become a hybrid, not quite the subject of full-fledged international politics or diplomacy—the Western analog to Moscow's view of "the near abroad."

We must comprehend the tenacious viability of the inane before the issues outlined at the outset of this letter can be responsibly addressed. Firstly, where else in history is there such a blind transposition of cause and effect, a 180 degree reversal of chronological sequencing where the outpost of an empire (overlaying a mere 4% of today's Russia) asserts a proprietary claim to and seniority over the center of that empire (Kyiv), eight hundred years after it was extant? By the same synapse, should we not claim 18th century London as the beginning of American history because King George ruled over the Colonies? Are we the "elder brother" to the English, who are merely disoriented Americans? Would anyone accept Romania's claim to Italy as the beginning of Romanian history and of the Romanian state, because Romania was part of the Roman Empire, and whose cultural influence was such that even its name and language was adopted? There is a world of difference between acknowledging an overriding cultural indebtedness to Ukraine (which Russia, as the delinquent debtor, does not and can not), and unadorned usurpation of that history coupled with simultaneous denial of the creditor's very existence. Indeed, since Byzantium was the source of much of the religious tradition of Ukraine, why isn't the larcenous trajectory simply continued, with Moscow claiming Athens? It is all, as Marx would say, the supreme "historical contradiction."

Secondly, if the largest country in Europe is discussed from the standpoint of being Russia's "backyard," why then not countenance a German demand that Belgium, The Netherlands, or Poland also be within Germany's backyard and natural "sphere of influence," that Germany needs a "buffer," and that it can't suffer their "loss"? Does Russia, with a sixth of the Earth's landmass, need a buffer? Or does Ukraine need it, being 3.5% the size of Russia? Who encircles whom? Who for centuries has been the aggressor, the occupier? Until we understand that Germany has no claim to France simply because a millennium ago Charlemagne ruled an empire that encompassed both territories, we will never understand "Russia."
* * *
"The first duty of intelligent men," wrote George Orwell, "is to restate the obvious." It would be felonious if the United States, under our current president, lost the Cold War that his father is credited with winning. The Cold War was "won" because the USSR imploded, its constituent republics having asserted their right to the same self-evident freedom demanded by the American colonies. After all, what distinguished the day before and the day after the unraveling of the USSR? It was not the disappearance of weapons of mass destruction (other than in Ukraine). It was the severance of Moscow's control over the non-Russian nations that dissolved the Soviet Union. The keystone republic was Ukraine.

However, unlike the systematic, determined and strategic policy that the United States pursued after WWII to prevent the emergence of a militarized and militant Germany, nothing of the sort has been adopted by Washington to preserve the peace it professed to have won. If "winning" meant dissolution of the Soviet Union, cold logic dictates that all effort be applied to prevent Russia from now steamrollering the nascent democracies of the former USSR. More fantastic scenarios can be imagined than a reversion to an even more dangerous Russia. It had already occurred once, in 1917. Moscow engineered the original and quintessential terrorist state. Throughout its existence, mountains of "weapons of mass destruction" were never a question. Nor was Moscow's capability in their use ever an issue. Nor, for that matter, absent the risk of retaliation, was Moscow's intent. Russia is the self-declared successor of the USSR, acceding to its global embassies and assets, usurping its seat in the United Nations, but never acknowledging, much less assuming, any of its liabilities. Without admission, repentance and atonement, as there continues through today in Germany, Moscow remains unmoved, unchanged.

In your confirmation hearings, you may be asked what must be done to ensure that, like Nazi Germany, Russia in the future never again becomes a threat to world peace and America's security. You can respond with Lenin's lament: "If we lose Ukraine, we lose our head."

Ensuring that loss for Lenin's progeny will be the redemption.


Victor Rud, Esq.
Chairman, UNA Foreign Policy Advisory Council
Past Chairman, Board of Governors,
Ukrainian American Bar Association