It is said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. In 1938 Adolph Hitler annexed a part of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. His claim was that it was mostly inhabited by ethnic Germans which was true. The Czech government lacked the military authority to resist the takeover. England and France railed at this action, which Hitler called Anschluss, but did nothing of consequence. Of course that was only the first step in Hitler’s desire to control all of Eastern Europe which history tells us he eventually did by late 1939. In 1940 he turned on his “ally,” Stalin, and invaded the Soviet Union. Prior to Hitler’s invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland he amassed his troops along the borders of those countries. He invaded Poland on the premise that the Poles had actually attacked first, a total fabrication of course.
It is scary to watch the events taking place along the Russian and Ukraine border and not find the parallels with 1938 and 1939. Putin has send at least 40,000 troops to that border region. What are his intentions? The Ukrainians have shown absolutely not hostile intent towards Russia. To wit, thus far, they have acquiesced to Russia’s takeover of the Crimea. To be sure, Crimea is mostly ethnic Russians but the land itself belongs to the Ukraine. Russia has with malice taken territory sovereign to the Ukrainian republic.
Respect of a countries borders though a time-honored tradition is replete with skirmishes and wars over those borders. Russia’s history tells us they have been particularly pugnacious is that respect. The Czars of Russia felt it their right to occupy Poland and other lands they claimed some ancient, albeit specious, right to. The old Soviet Union occupied much of Eastern Europe after 1945 by simply refusing to remove its troops following the defeat of Germany. While countries like Poland, Hungary, and Lithuania continued to exist as entities, the did so only as puppets of the Soviet regime. And even when Soviet troops were removed, those troops of any particular country were always subservient to the Russian army and the desires of the Kremlin. The Hungarian uprising of 1956 showed the desire of the general population to remove itself from Soviet control only to be put down.
It is my fear the Putin and his Russian government is seeking a return to the days of the old Soviet. We must remember that Putin is a product of that old regime. He rose to prominence within the KGB. The despotism and authoritarianism of the old Soviet seems to still exist within the likes of Putin. It would not be surprising to find that Putin’s true desire is to return Russia to the old Soviet style government. Wise men caution us that the best way to judge what a person is going to do is by what he has done in the past.
As much as I despise the idea of war, I think the United States and its allies need to ask the Ukrainian government if it would like a NATO presence in its country to protect against any Russian ideas of invasion. If there is one thing NATO learn well, hopefully, during the cold-war years, is that a strong military presence facing its foes is an excellent deterrent. The United States, in particular, needs to state that it is willing to at least offer, and follow through, such support.
The people of the Ukraine have the right to self-determination and the Russian government has absolutely no right to any land sovereign to the Ukrainian people.