group through the Dardanelles and into the Black Sea. It would have
been. .. satisfying to strike back, to smash this insult to Russian
sovereignty, to Russian honor, but Dmitriev lacked the military strength
to oppose them. The Red Banner Black Sea Fleet had been too hard-hit by
defections and neglect to defend the coasts of the Rodina herself.
Dmitriev’s first duty was to preserve the fleet for the coming struggle
As much as Dmitriev would have liked to bloody the Americans for their
invasion of the Kola, he was a realist. The American presence in the
Black Sea was almost certainly an artifact of the constantly churning
politics between the United States and the United Nations, an unpleasant
fact that might be wiped away by the stroke of a diplomat’s pen
tomorrow. The Ukraine was a more constant problem, one that was not so
likely to simply go away.
Ukraine had never been wholly comfortable with its role as one of the
largest and most productive republics of the Union. Ethnic Ukrainians
were not Russians, whatever most outsiders might think. They had their
own language, their own culture, and a history of independence extending
back for centuries. Great Russians still remembered, with the same
loving attention to historical detail that recalled the foreign
intervention in the Kola in 1919, that millions of Ukrainians had
actually welcomed the Hitlerite legions as liberators in the Great
Now those same Ukrainians were taking advantage of the Russian Civil War
to strengthen their own position–especially in the Crimea.
Geographically, the Crimean Peninsula had always been considered a part
of the Ukraine, which extended across the mainland to the north; the
Russian Federation bordered the peninsula only to the east, across the
narrow Straits of Kerch and on the far side of the Sea of Azov.
Politically and militarily, however–which was to say practically–it
had always belonged to Russia, who’d seen the peninsula’s strategic
naval value as far back as the early 1800s when the czars were still
fighting the Turks.
And then, in the 1950s, Nikita Kruschev had formally and officially
returned Crimea to Ukraine in a gesture of international goodwill and
fellowship. At the time, the gesture had been just that, a gesture, a
public relations gimmick, as an American capitalist might say. .. and
meaningless in the realities of internal Soviet politics.
Now, though, with Russia unable to defend herself on a hundred crumbling
fronts, Kruschev’s goodwill had become a major problem, an invitation to
the Ukrainians to settle old scores and to enrich themselves at Mother
Not that they needed the encouragement, Dmitriev thought wryly. They
would soon be turning their attentions southward. The Ukrainian army was
strong and well-equipped, and they controlled more than half of the old
Black Sea Fleet. They were the real threat, not the Americans.
But how could he explain all of that to Kulagin? The young aide had been
raised and educated during the seventies and eighties, when the West had
been the enemy that threatened the Soviet Union, and the breakaway
republics and states were tools or dupes of Western adventurism, a clear
case of black and white, of good and evil. Though Dmitriev had grown up
with all the indoctrination of the Cold War era teaching him those same
lessons, he knew from long experience that a broader interpretation was
necessary. The forces of political and economic freedom unleashed by
Gorbachev didn’t need Western villains to make them dangerous. The genie
could never be put back in the bottle.
“No, Anton Ivanovich,” he said again after a long and thoughtful
“We cannot stop the Americans. And I wonder if we really want to, after
all. The West may find that intervention here is far more difficult and
costly than they ever imagined possible.” He paused, his eyes still
lingering on the nuclear carrier out in the harbor that might never
venture out of port again. “I do not envy these Americans. They may find
that the Rodina in ruins is a far more dangerous enemy than she ever was
when she stood proudly in strength and union.”
Dmitriev turned away from the window and gave a gesture of dismissal. He
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