April 2, 2014

Letter: History repeats itself

— Ponder this question: “Is history repeating itself?” The events in the world today are eerily similar to pre-World War II Europe and the Cold War (capitalism vs. communism) that followed.

Recently the Moscow Times used the word “Anschluss” (union) to describe Russia’s takeover and annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Hitler used that word to justify marching his army into Austria, arranging a vote to unify with Germany (1938), and occupying the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. War-weary Europe accepted this land grab because Hitler said it was to protect Germans.

Stalin used that bogus claim of protecting Russia when he was allowed to occupy almost all of Eastern Europe (1945), precipitating the Cold War. President Putin seems to be taking notes from Hitler and Stalin.

In early March Putin said Russia was not planning to annex Crimea, but soldiers flooded Crimea, a hastily arranged vote was held, and Russian-leaning Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine. Quickly, Russia annexed Crimea and re-drew the Russian map.

Putin also said there were no plans to annex any more of Ukraine, but that’s surely untrue. Russia needs land access to the newly-Russian Crimean peninsula, and Russian troops are gathering on the shared border. There are rumors that Estonian Russians might also need “protection.” That is worrisome because Estonia is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The U.S. and 27 other countries are joined together in NATO to promote democratic values. It guarantees that in the event of attacks on a NATO member, the others will join in military action against the aggressor.

Russia and China have a similar agreement called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Vice President Biden recently visited the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) assuring their leaders that the U.S. would uphold the NATO commitment for armed intervention if Russia violates their territory. Also, some in Congress are pressing to add Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to NATO so they could be protected militarily from further Russian aggression.

Here’s another question: “Taking into account President Obama’s ‘pretty please’ diplomacy, will President Putin decide the time is right to install missiles in Cuba and use Cuban ports for Russian warships?” Because Americans are weary of seeing our soldiers coming home in body bags or adding to the number of wounded warriors, only time will give us that answer.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

Ina Fay Manly


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