The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) ceased to exist exactly 23 years ago on December 26, 1991 by declaration no. 142-H of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, acknowledging the independence of the 12 remaining republics of the Soviet Union, and creating the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
On the previous day, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last undisputed leader of the Soviet Union, had resigned, declared his office extinct, and handed over its attributes—including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes—to Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
That evening at 7:32, the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the Russian tricolor. From August to December, 13 of the 15 republics seceded from the union. The week before the union’s formal dissolution, 11 republics—all except the Baltic states and Georgia—signed the Alma-Ata Protocol formally establishing the CIS and declaring that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. The dissolution of the Soviet Union also meant the end of the Cold War.
The Revolutions of 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union led to the end of decades of hostility between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact, which had been the defining feature of the Cold War.
The modern Russia now shares its western border with, from the north, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine then Georgia with Azerbaijan and Armenia are to the south west and separate the Russian Federation from Turkey.
These six countries are all that separate Russia from mainland Europe.
Although many of these countries suffered internal conflict in the aftermath of the breakup it had, on the whole, settled down. The buffer countries between Europe and Russia have become conduits to the massive trade between these two super powers. There is now an installed infrastructure connecting the Russian Federation to Europe by road, rail, pipeline, and wire and with it a lot of vested interest in keeping it all flowing smoothly.
Even with all that vested interest in harmony the compromise usually reached between the financial and political aspirations of the few has recently been out of balance. Most recently we have seen the Russian leader, Putin, shake his political fists at the world in what looks worryingly familiar to anyone who recalls Hitlers rise to power and desire to conquer the world.
When back in February the Ukrainian government fell apart under the pressure of their people who wanted the country to align with Europe while their leaders prepared to sign deals with Russia. Russia invaded Crimea.
The world, not wanting to upset the many vested interests, did nothing and Russia completed the annexation of Crimea with little or no opposition. The Ukrainian forces backed away in the face of overwhelming arrogance and formed a new front line in mainland Ukraine.
The UN, western leaders and the US swore a lot and banned the import of AK47s while still shipping everything from missile guidance systems to battleships to Russia. When Russia backed the “Ukrainian Nationalists” and invaded the south east of mainland Ukraine western powers distracted the world with other news stories in the hope that we would forget the on-going war in eastern Europe.
It was a moderate success and Putin continued to orchestrate the invasion of Ukraine while the world searched for MH370.
In truth the entire region, all those buffer countries and Poland were working with NATO to organize an escape from the threat of Russia.
On this auspicious day, the 23rd anniversary of the demise of the USSR and with it the end of the First Cold War we are on the brink of the second.
It is too late to suggest the UN should have honored the Budapest Memorandum and driven Russia out of Crimea. It is too late for the nearly 5,000 people who have died in Ukraine in the last 10 months. It may be to late too stop the Second Cold War.
And lets face it, those with the power to stop this from happening have a vested interest in a Second Cold War, most of those who could intervene are share holders in the security and weapons companies that will thrive in the Second Cold War. For them the wealth of a few is more important than the lives of so many.