Moscow Turns back Calendar to 1938
It’s looking like 1938 again in Europe.
Then Adolf Hitlerand Nazi Germany were threatening the world with invasion, war, repression and captivity, Germany was quickly remilitarizing, and neighboring countries were targeted for invasion and occupation under the guise of protecting ethnic Germans.
The fainthearted free world, led by Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s prime minister, met with Herr Fuhrer and heard his proposal of turning over the Sudeten in Czechoslovakia to the Nazis in exchange for his turning off the German war machine and peace in Europe.
Believing Hitler and excited by his negotiating skills, Chamberlain returned home and declared: “My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”
Twelve months later Hitler launched his war, which claimed as its first casualty Poland.
Today Moscow is following in the Nazis goosesteps and threatening not only its neighbors but also distant countries. It is rattling its nuclear-tipped sabers. It has invaded Ukraine and occupied the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea and Donbas in the east. The fearful free world, led by the United States, is warning the Kremlin and threatening severe retributions if it escalates the war.
The latest intelligence estimates report that there are some 175,000 Russian troops as well as attendant artillery and armor on Ukraine’s border, poised to make a multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine. Fortunately, contemporary surveillance technology spotted them before it was too late compared with 1968 when no one saw a quarter of a million Warsaw Pact troops until they stormed into Czechoslovakia to destroy the national Prague Spring movement.
Who can blame Ukrainians for fearing and even expecting an escalation of Russia’s nearly eight-year war against them? Moscow did it before and is bound to do it again. Its aggression and belligerence have been predicted by the leaders of the captive nations’ independence movements since World War Two. No one listened.
A U.S. intelligence report and the Ukrainian defense minister warned of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as soon as next month. According to the German newspaper Bild, citing its sources among high-ranking military officials, Putin is preparing to seize two-thirds of Ukraine’s territory in early next year.
According to Bild’s sources, Russia’s “plan maximum” for the war against Ukraine “lies in Putin’s drawer, and he has not yet decided whether it will be carried out.” Nonetheless, according to Bild, the buildup of Russian troops, which started in April, indicates that the Kremlin seems to be inclined to go ahead with the attack on Ukraine.
One military official told Bild that in January-February, when Putin is expected to give an order, which matches the season when Russian invaded and occupied Crimea almost eight years ago, the Russian military will “simultaneously attack from northern Crimea, through the occupied territories in the east and from the north.” However, other NATO insiders are confident that the attack could happen in three independent stages and that could certainly signal the end of independent Ukraine for at least this generation.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week met face-to-face with his Russian counterpart to demand Russia pull back troops from the border with Ukraine. The United States and other western countries, as well as global organizations, fearing that Moscow could invade Ukraine, have threatened it with the toughest sanctions yet if it launches an attack. Indeed, they have added a range of superlative adjectives to the sanctions and other retributions that they’re proposing.
Worries that Russia would invade Ukraine or seek to undermine the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have dominated Blinken’s travels last week to meet with European allies.
Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had met on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm, Sweden. “The United States and our allies and partners are deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine, including efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within and large-scale military operations,” Blinken told reporters.
On Friday, Moscow finally revealed its demand. No NATO aspirations for Ukraine. That’s the red line. Kyiv can’t cross it or else. Putin will seek binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine during a planned but not yet announced call with President Biden.
Biden has said his Administration was “putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do” in positioning troops near Ukraine.
The NATO chief and numerous former U.S. diplomats and security officials say Russia’s demand that Biden rule out NATO membership for Ukraine, a former Soviet republic eager to ally with the West, is a nonstarter.
“There’s absolutely no way in the world that that Russian position will make any progress,” John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, optimistically said Friday. “It’s basically a rhetorical point for Moscow.” More likely, he said, were U.S. assurances that Western military assistance to Ukraine be for defensive purposes only.
Biden, Blinken and others have pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Moscow to take military action in Ukraine as U.S. intelligence officials determined that Russian planning is underway for a possible military offensive. Blinken warned of unspecified “serious consequences” if Moscow decided to pursue confrontation.
“We don’t know President Putin’s intent. We don’t know if he’s made a decision to take renewed, aggressive action against Ukraine, but what we do know is that he’s putting in place the capacity to do so and to do so on short, on short notice,” Blinken told Euronews after his meeting, adding that concern was widespread among European partners.
“What’s most important for Russia to understand is that actions have consequences. Those consequences are real. They’re not in Russia’s interests, and having a conflict is in no one’s interest,” he noted.
Word has it that in addition to ministerial meetings, President Biden may personally meet with Putin.
It’s not encouraging that Blinken had said the United States doesn’t know what’s on Putin’s mind but hopefully this diplomatic jousting will force Moscow to believe the threats and stand down.
The x-captive nations of Poland and Lithuania have come to Ukraine’s support by insisting on new sanctions against Russia in response to its aggressive ambitions, according to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Polish and Lithuanian leaders confirmed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in a common declaration, published on the 30th anniversary of their recognition of Ukraine’s independence. The three presidents referred to the decision as “an important milestone on the way to a full-fledged reunification of Europe.” Duda, Nausėda and Zelenskyy, who met at the virtual Lublin Triangle summit, assured each other of their mutual support and solidarity in the face of the migration crisis, orchestrated by Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko.
Duda and Nausėda also “called upon the international community to step up sanctions on the Russian Federation over its ongoing aggression against Ukraine” and “urged the Kremlin to deescalate the situation by withdrawing its troops from the Ukrainian borders and temporarily occupied territories.”
This expression of support among x-captive nations against Russian aggression and demonstration of multilateral solidarity is vital to force Moscow to recall its armed forces from its border with Ukraine and to show the world that if it doesn’t come to Ukraine’s defense – and Moscow’s other former colonies – they will do so themselves. The x-captive nations unquestionably know what it means to be in Moscow’s prison of nations. And the Lublin Triangle, which is a military and political alliance of the x-captive nations, is exactly such a distinct alternative.
Consequently, the world has returned back to the future. The battle lines have been drawn. Washington and the Biden Administration are honor bound not to agree to any of Moscow’s demands and thereby betray Ukraine and the other former subjugated nations. Surrendering to Moscow now would give Russia the free hand it wants to reorganize the world in its own image. The only way to save peace in our time is to subdue Russia and vanquish its aggressive intentions – even if that means boots on the ground.
No Munich Appeasement 2021!