Sunday, March 2, 2014

Crimea: Here we Go Again

It is said that history does not repeat itself, but that is does rhyme.  We have been hearing a lot of rhyming this week from Russia attempting to justify its invasion of Ukraine.  In this article from Fox News we read:

"Putin has defied calls from the West to pull back his troops, insisting that Russia has a right to protect its interests and Russian-speakers in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. However, there has been no sign of ethnic Russians facing attacks in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine."
This paragraph, especially the part about protecting "Russian-speakers" reminded me of another territorial dispute in Europe, from 76 years ago: the Sudetenland Crisis of 1938. During this episode, Adolf Hitler proclaimed himself the protector of German-speakers inside certain border regions of Czechoslovakia. Here is Hitlers demand

"I am asking neither that Germany be allowed to oppress three and a half million Frenchmen, nor am I asking that three and a half million Englishmen be placed at our mercy. Rather I am simply demanding that the oppression of three and a half million Germans in Czechoslovakia cease and that the inalienable right to self-determination take its place." - Adolf Hitler's speech at the NSDAP Congress 1938
 Of course, Hitler orchestrated the entire crisis in order to occupy the Sudetenland in order to gain territory at Czechoslovakia's expense. This indeed happened when the Western powers signed the Munich Agreement in which Great Britain and France pressured Czechoslovakia into accepting the loss of territory in order to avoid war. Make no mistake, Great Britain and France threw Czechoslovakia under the bus.

The similarities between Russia and Ukraine in 2014, and Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1938 are striking. I believe the goals are similar: grab territory from a weak neighbor supported by indecisive and irresolute partners, especially the United States. We should all keep out eyes open over the next few weeks for the bus trundling down the road, probably driven by President Obama, with Secretary Kerry acting as the conductor.

Consider also, that the main base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet was surrounded by the territory of a different sovereign nation, and we see a ready motive for Putins' aggression: he want to control the Crimea to protect and secure Sevastopol.  Russia intended to keep the Crimea. Further, Russia will attempt to grab and hold any other parts of Ukraine it can get. Barring enormous diplomatic pressure, I believe that these territorial changes will be permanent.

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