Most Americans have little understanding of the critical importance of Ukraine in the balance of power in Europe.
[Darris McNeely] The news right now is transfixed with news out of the Ukraine because of the revolutions that has been going on there in recent weeks, and now the vote in Crimea to separate from Ukraine and to realign itself with the Russian republic. Many people are watching and trying to understand what's taking place, but I think that the biggest question that we should understand and focus on is why Ukraine matters within the context of a massive geopolitical fight between Russia, Europe, and America's posturing and roles that it's taking right now with the threat of sanctions. Why does this matter? What's taking place?
These three maps on the board here help us to at least begin to understand that. At least geographically, it's important to understand that Ukraine borders Russia, Poland, some of the Baltic states, and Western Europe. Ukraine has recently wanted to become a part of the European Union, but that was blocked last fall, and now with the overthrow of the government there, and the redistribution that's taking place, Russia has now moved in and a vote has taken place in Crimea to realign itself with Russia. What this means is that there is a major shake-up taking place within this very critical country. These other maps show, again, a little bit more of the agricultural and industrial importance of Ukraine to Europe, Russia especially. It's interesting to note that agriculturally, western Ukraine represents some of the richest, most productive soil in the world – probably within the top three agricultural areas in terms of the value of the land to agricultural production in all of the world. This is important to Russia as well as to Europe.
This other map shows the crossing of energy pipelines from Russia, across Ukraine, into Western Europe. Western Europe gains the majority of its natural gas and petroleum from Russia. And the lines, the pipelines that carry that petroleum and that natural gas go through Ukraine. Who controls Ukraine is going to control the heat in Germany, in Poland, and other parts of Western Europe. So you see the stranglehold that is there. And of course, with Russia involved in this right now, it's impacting its relationship with other European nations and the United States – financial ties, political ties, especially with the role that Russia is playing with the other great powers in the Middle East, Syria in particular – the relationships between all of these nations – the United States, Europe, and Russia – is very, very critical and very important. That's why it matters.
There's a couple of – there's a few other issues for us to consider as to why this matters, as well. What is taking place in front of us, really, is the biggest crisis since the end of the Cold War over twenty years ago. And for most of us in the United States especially, we've been having a holiday from history. We have not been all that interested. We're more interested, perhaps, in the sports events, the next NCAA tournament that's now just gearing up in the United States, other matters, and we're not really interested in what's taking place in other parts of the world. But this is big. This is the biggest in over twenty years. And should Russia – which it looks like it's going to do – annex Crimea (this was recorded before Russia annexed Crimea), possibly eastern Ukraine, because of the ethnic Russian majority in this part of Ukraine, it would also represent the biggest land grab since Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s, and what he began doing in Europe that triggered World War II. That's important. That's why what is taking place over there matters.
There's one other thing to consider. We're coming up this year on the 100th anniversary of World War I, the beginning of World War I, August 1914 – August 2014, 100 years later. And as we see these alliances between Russia, relationships with Europe, led by Germany, the United States, France, and other nations in the periphery of Ukraine, we're reminded that it's all about alliances, and it was the alliances that triggered World War I. And now we are seeing all of these alliances among these same powers – different personalities, different leadership – things have changed in one sense in 100 years, but in another sense, things haven't changed. And these relationships are very important. They get out of line, they can trigger unintended consequences and other events that can lead to bigger issues. That's why this is important – to understand and to watch, as well.
There's some other Biblical issues that we need to consider, as well. I'll save that for another Daily. But this, at this point, is important to at least help us to grasp why Ukraine is important.