Next came the takeover of part of Czechoslovakia on the pretext of protecting Germans living there — with the acquiescence of France and Britain. Next, Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia a year after taking Austria. Then he used a contrived Polish attack on a German radio station to capture Poland with the infamous blitzkrieg of Sept. 1, 1939, igniting World War II.
It’s striking how Russian president Vladimir Putin follows the pattern of pretexts used by Hitler to take territories coveted in the thirst for empire.
In 2008, Putin attacked and annexed part of Georgia at the invitation of “legitimate” local authorities seeking protection. Now he is on the same track with Ukraine, where already he has control of the Crimean region with his parliament’s approval to further the invasion of that country — in the name of protecting Russian interests and Russian-speaking citizens.
Putin has little regard for how other nations react. He ignored the urging of European leaders and President Obama by moving into Ukraine. Obama had said only a day before the occupation that there would be “costs” if Russia intervened in Ukraine’s civil unrest that toppled its president. This was followed by a White House warning of “greater political and economic isolation” and a statement the United States will suspend participation in meetings preparatory to a summit of G-8 countries in Sochi, Russia — the setting for Putin’s Olympics that glorified him, a la Hitler and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, another striking parallel noted by Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion.
Putin called Obama on Saturday, according to a Russian government statement, and asserted in the event of “further spread of violence in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia reserves the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population.” That signaled a broad expansion of the Russian occupation and de facto annexation.
The White House said Obama “expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” and said the U.S. “condemns Russia’s military intervention,” and “calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.”
Words. As a Forbes columnist said, Putin has the advantage: “The constellation of forces — a political vacuum in Ukraine, a weak and indecisive U.S. president and a European herd of cats — are aligned for him to get away with the annexation — formal or de facto — of a prized portion of Ukraine.”
Unfortunately, this looks like a replay of 76 years ago and the next step in Vladimir Putin’s plan to retake coveted parts of the old Soviet empire he still cherishes. This much is certain: words won’t stop him.