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putintat[This Monday’s Archive was originally published on June 15, 2006.  Eighteen years later, it is more true than ever.] 

TTP, June 15, 2006

The most beautiful women in Europe are not in Paris.  They are in a country, as Joel Wade and I discovered to our delight, called Moldova.  On every street corner in the capital of Chisinau, Joel and I stood transfixed, watching one spectacularly gorgeous woman after another walk by.

Back then, in 1989, the place was stilled called the Soviet Republic of Moldavia.  The Principality of Moldova had emerged independent out of the Middle Ages, only to be colonized by the Russian Empire in 1812.  During the Russian Revolution in 1917, it broke free and joined Romania for safety.  Stalin had his troops seize it in 1944, incorporating it within the Soviet Union as Moldavia.

It was an exciting time to be there in 1989, as Moldovans saw the USSR disintegrating and their liberty finally around the corner.  By mid-1991, they had declared their independence and Moldova was once again free.

But there was a little problem.  Here’s the map:


You can see that Moldova is landlocked within Romania and Ukraine, and sandwiched between the Dneister and Prut Rivers – except for this thin sliver of territory east of the Dneister labeled “Transnistria.”  There’s the problem.

The 14th Soviet Army was based in the main town of this region, Tiraspol, and with the support of local ethnic Russians, declared that “Transnistria” would remain a part of the USSR.  When the USSR formally dissolved in December 1991, the Russian soldiers led by General Aleksandr Lebed, declared “Transnistria’s” independence in alliance with Russia.

And it’s been that way ever since.  No nation has formally recognized Transnistria’s sovereignty, but the Russian troops remain, with “ex”-Soviet Communists running the place as a little fascist tyranny.

If Moldova has the most beautiful women in Europe, then Georgia has the friendliest and most hospitable people.  Georgia is more ancient than history, emerging out of the Bronze Age as Colchis, famous in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts as the Land of the Golden Fleece.

That’s why I entitled the article I wrote about Georgia and President Bush’s speech in the capital of Tbilisi on May 10, 2005 The Golden Fleece of Freedom.  It will give you the history of Georgia from the truth behind the golden fleece legend to the present, plus some cool pictures and this map:


Note the regions called Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  In both regions, there are Russian soldiers the Georgians can’t get rid of, supporting a secessionist movement.

But now let’s take a look at Ukraine:


I want you to focus on the peninsula of Crimea, separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov.  You may recall Crimea as the setting for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade (led by Lord Cardigan, he of the sweater, at Balaclava on October 25, 1854 during the Crimean War) – or the Errol Flynn movie of the same name.

You learned the story of how Ukraine’s Orange Revolution finally succeeded in getting rid of the Russian Yoke in Global Freedom and Drunk Coal Miners (January 2005).  But lately, Putin has begun causing trouble among the Russian population of Crimea.

See Sevastopol there in Crimea?  That’s where the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet (the only navy it has during the winter as other ports are frozen) is based.  As a counter to Russian meddling in his country, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko has threatened to evict the Russkies from Sevastopol.  In retaliation, Putin is organizing a secessionist movement in Crimea.

What ties all of these together right now is Montenegro.


Remember Shrinking Serbia a couple of weeks ago?  The Serbian Empire that was Yugoslavia finally died last month with the independence of Montenegro – so Serbia is finally only Serbia, like Russia is only Russia without its adjunct colonies collectively called the Soviet Union.

Except that Putin has now decided to use the secession-independence of Montenegro as an excuse to demand the secession-independence of Transnistria from Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia, and Crimea from Ukraine.

Last week, Putin explained this to a group of journalists in Moscow:

“If such precedents are possible (in former Yugoslavia), they will also be precedents in the post-Soviet space.  Why can Albanians in Kosovo (see Shrinking Serbia) have independence, but South Ossetia and Abkhazia can’t? What’s the difference?”


Last week, Transnistra’s “president,” Igor Smirnov, announced he will hold a Montenegro-style referendum to affirm its independence from Moldova.

Last week, South Ossetia’s “president,” Eduard Kokoity, appealed to Moscow to annex the Georgian region to Russia.

We could call this Putin’s Anti-Reagan Doctrine.  Reagan supported liberation movements within the Soviet Empire struggling to free themselves from Moscow’s tyranny.  Putin is supporting secessionist movements for the vengeful purpose of breaking apart countries opposed to Moscow’s imperialism, and to reimpose that imperialism once again.

As noted in The Golden Fleece of Freedom, it almost seems that Russians have a defective gene that compels them to be imperialists.  And we thought the Cold War was over.  Reagan thought he had driven a silver stake through the Russian blood-sucking vampire.

Now the vampire, Putin as a Reagan in reverse, has risen again.