Perhaps it’s appropriate that President Barack Obama shipped out of the Oval Office the bust of Winston Churchill, especially since his dealings with Russia have resembled the foreign policy of Churchill’s predecessor Neville Chamberlain.
We’ve seen the first fruits of the flexibility President Obama has afforded Moscow, declared by word prior to his re-election in a hot mic moment and exhibited by action throughout his first term.
In a childish moment during one of the debates against the GOP presidential nominee, the president mocked Mitt Romney with the zinger that the 1980’s were calling to ask for the foreign policy back.
Words to eat by.
The call isn’t coming in on a brick cell phone but via a candlestick phone.
Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t so much digging up Soviet Cold War era justifications for his territory snatching but is instead operating from Adolf Hitler’s playbook.
Long before the first Stuka struck Warsaw in 1939, Adolf Hitler had already seized parts of several countries under the pretext of uniting German people with Germany. Anschluss marked the absorption of the Austrian country into the Third Reich. After Austria, Hitler turned his attention to the Sudetenland, pockets of German-speaking areas within the western periphery of Czechoslovakia.
Hitler argued that atrocities were being committed against the German minority by the Czech majority. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain bought what the fuhrer was selling and pressured Prague to negotiate with a recalcitrant dictator. Britain and France forced the Czechoslovakian government to accept the Munich Agreement/Dictate, surrendering the Sudetenland, both the German communities and the heart of the country’s defensive network, to Berlin.
But the Germans didn’t stop goosestepping at Sudetenland, eventually taking the rest of the Czech territory as well.
The Nazis’ last land extortion prior to World War II was the Baltic city of Memel. German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop demanded the return of the Lithuanian port city (called Klaipeda) with a substantial German population. Their plight ignored by the world, the Lithuanians surrendered one of their largest cities to the Nazis.
Amazingly, at least for the Chamberlains of the world, Hitler was not sated after retrocession of ethnic German communities to the Reich. Looking to go far beyond uniting German people with the Fatherland, Hitler’s new goal was throwing non-Aryans off their land to make room for German colonization, Lebensraum.
At least Putin had the good taste not to arrange for a false-flag shooting at a Russian-language radio station, as the Germans had arranged as an excuse for their air-land-sea blitzkrieg “counterattack” on Poland in 1939, though the Russian leader shares with Hitler a public determination to protect his people living in other countries.
How could there have been any surprised by Russian military aggression?
Prior to the invasion of Crimea, Russian soldiers already occupied parts of two sovereign countries.
In 2008, the Russian military moved into sections of the Caucasus country of Georgia after the former Soviet republic attempted to assert their control over disputed territory in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A fifth of the sovereign country’s area remains under Russian military control.
In Transnistria (eastern Moldova along the Ukrainian border), Russian soldiers stand guard over a de facto state within the former Soviet republic of Moldavia. There the sickle and hammer still flutters in the breeze over the breakaway ethnic-Russian/Ukrainian enclave. Moldovan authorities have expressed fear that their country might be the next stop for the Russian military.
And while there has been some global criticism and limited recognition of the “independence” of the two Russian occupied “republics” within Georgia’s territory, the march of the Russian military has been largely tolerated and accepted, with the noted dissent of the latter-day Pragues of Moldova and Georgia.
Thus far the Obama White House’s response to the Crimea crisis makes Jimmy Carter’s reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan look “severe.”
Putin’s “Munich” mentality is dangerous for world peace and if Russia is not held accountable for their egregious act in Crimea, the Baltics (Estonia in particular) could be the next region whose Russian minority will be reunited via T-90 tank with the Motherland.
Caterwauling over the plight of ethnic Russians is stale Nazi rhetoric that belongs to a different era. It’s apparent that the annexation of Crimea has more to do with grabbing a strategic territory in the face of a Ukrainian government that wants to get out from under Moscow’s influence.
If the White House receptionist gets a call from KRemlin 19-38, the operator might want to patch it into the Oval Office. It’s the 1930’s calling for the president.