Crimea 2014: Czechoslovakia 1938 Redux


crimThe recent standoff in the Crimea between Russia and the Ukraine is reminiscent of the tactics employed by Germany to bring pre-World War II Europe under the Nazi heel. Hitler amassed troops around the German-Czechoslovak border, the Czechs sought to effectuate their treaties with western allies, Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain rushed to Germany to appeal to Hitler to avoid aggression and, in an effort to prevent a war, sacrificed Czechoslovakia on the altar of appeasement. The weakness of the west was on display and only served to whet Hitler’s appetite for further aggression.

In the current drama, the Ukraine is like the former Czechoslovakia, Crimea is the Sudetenland, Russia’s President Putin reminds us of Nazi Germany’s Hitler, and Chamberlain’s role is being played by Obama. True, circumstances in this conflict are somewhat different, and Putin has not slaughtered millions the way Hitler did, but the ostensible roles played by Putin and Obama are not that different from that of Hitler and Chamberlain.

The Long Beach Press Telegram reported on March 4, 2014 that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared Vladimir Putin’s actions in the Ukraine to those of Adolf Hitler’s in Nazi Germany. She said that “Putin’s desire to protect minority Russians in Ukraine is reminiscent of Hitler’s actions to protect ethnic Germans outside Germany.”

In order to restore the Soviet Empire that existed before the USSR crumbled in 1991, Vladimir Putin set out to intimidate former Soviet republics to submit to Russia’s control, or at the very least, come under its sphere of influence. He waged war against Georgia in 2008, and according to former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, “Russia is looking for a hot war” against the Ukraine. Putin has sought to prevent the states of the former Soviet Union from joining the West. In the case of the Ukraine, he is seeking to take action to insure against the possibility of their joining the European Union, and eventually integrating into Europe.

WikiLeaks cables reveal that Saakashvili stressed repeatedly that he expected Russia to follow its 2008 invasion of Georgia with intervention in Crimea. He predicted that Russia would incite tension in the Crimean peninsula, then make a generous offer to Yanukovych (presumed as the next president and now deposed and presumably in Russia) to help solve the problem. Saakashvili said that Putin wants to put pressure on the Ukraine and Georgia, thereby sending a warning to others in the former Soviet Union to behave. Putin’s incitement of the Crimean Russians is akin to the tactics Hitler employed when he incited the Sudeten Germans against the democratic state of Czechoslovakia.

In 1954, then Secretary General of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, and the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, handed Crimea over to the Ukraine. Khrushchev, who was born in the Ukraine and had worked in the mines of Donetsk and whose wife Nina was from western Ukraine, had a deep connection to the Ukrainian soil. He awarded Crimea to the Ukraine because he believed that area had unjustly suffered from Stalin’s Holodomor, the brutal artificial famine imposed by Stalin’s regime on the Soviet Ukraine and areas made up of ethnic Ukrainians from 1932-33, during which millions of Ukrainians died. This political move was an example of Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization plan.

In the current crisis between Russia and the Ukraine, Russian President Putin has used the “protection” of ethnic Russians as a pretext to retake the Crimea and perhaps the eastern part of the Ukraine and annex it to Russia. In the meantime, Moscow is trying to destabilize the new Ukrainian government in Kiev. Putin, like Hitler, is counting on western weakness, especially American. He knows that Obama, like Chamberlain, is desperately trying to avoid conflict, and seeks instead the appeasement of rogue and terror-sponsoring nations like Iran, and bullies like Russia and China.

The American reaction to Putin’s military moves in Crimea has been pathetically weak. Secretary of State John Kerry uttered a few obligatory words and was dispatched to Kiev. No meaningful action however, has taken place. Obama has not yet called for a special session of the U.N. Security Council to condemn Russian aggression, and neither has NATO.  Boycotting the G-8 in Sochi will not impress Putin nor change his course of action while economic threats by the U.S. might restrain Putin. An 11% decline in the Russian market and the potential imposition of an asset freeze might have an impact on Putin’s moves. At a press conference earlier this week, Putin appeared to be less strident, and at the very least, seemed to walk away from the brink.

The Obama administration clearly wants to avoid a confrontation with Russia. It would be useful for the Obama administration to recall the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John F. Kennedy imposed a naval blockade and put the U.S. armed forces on alert. The Soviet Union backed down, and the crisis ended. U.S. determination saved the day. America under Obama is seen increasingly as disengaged and weak, positions that may result in further aggression and ultimately war. Ironically, during the same week Putin moved against the Ukraine in Crimea, the Obama administration unveiled its plans to reduce the U.S. military to its smallest size since WWII.

Andrew Palashewsky, a Ukrainian-American political activist had this to say, “Russian imperial ambitions transcended politics. The Tsarist Empire was expansionist and craved control of the Ukraine. Soviet policy was nominally anti-nationalist, attempting to subsume all other nationalities under the internationalist banner of Communism. But, this was actually just a cover for Russian imperialism and chauvinism. National cultures and languages were repressed in favor of Russification, that stressed the adoption of the Russian language and culture. Today, former KGB Colonel, post-Communist Vladimir Putin, ever conscious of Russia’s status, acts like a neo-fascist, coveting Ukraine’s natural riches, and bolstering his mission to recreate the Russian Empire.”

America and the West have a moral obligation to protect the Ukraine. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, Ukraine agreed to return the nuclear weapons stationed in its territory to Russia in order to prevent any nuclear proliferation. In exchange, Ukrainian leaders at the time sought solid security guarantees from the U.S. and the U.K. Although the “Budapest Memorandum,” as the agreement is called, does not require the U.S. to go to war over the Ukraine, if Obama abandons the Ukraine the way Chamberlain sacrificed Czechoslovakia, and the Ukraine ends up losing Crimea and its eastern Ukraine to Russia, logic dictates that such moves would bring an end to any non-proliferation of weapons. Realistically, if the Ukraine still possessed its nuclear weapons, it would probably have been able to hold on to the Crimea. Instead, they have a worthless piece of paper.

As the Crimea crisis unfolds, it brings back images of the 1938 Czechoslovak crisis. It is becoming more evident that Russia’s Putin has adopted some of Hitler’s tactics, and like Nazi Germany, he is counting on the West’s weakness, and its unwillingness to respond in a forceful way against his aggression. Obama’s statement that a “Crimea referendum violates international law” is unhelpful. A referendum conducted fairly would settle the issue in Crimea, albeit, without the presence of Russian troops.

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  • UCSPanther

    Russia is probably aiming to resurrect its old policy of imperialism, back in the days of both the Tsars and the Soviet Union.

    Crimea is probably a test run to both reclaim what is considered old territory, and to gauge how the rest of the world will react.

    • RMthoughts

      AS we sit on 900 military bases overseas you speak of Russian Imperialism? Russia has been a major power player in world events and Europe since the 19th century. To put Russia of the Tzars and the Soviet Union in the same category amazes me. I hate the Soviet Union, I have nothing but good wishes for Russia in the family of nations..

      • macktoid

        Those numbers don’t pass the Ron Paul laugh test.

      • UCSPanther

        I am just saying what I see.

        And there are a lot of Russians who pine for the glory days of the USSR when it is was at its peak.

  • Helbon

    Go Russia Go Putin!
    Down with the useless USA and it’s destruction migger-in-chief

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Typical socialist.

  • rbla

    Yes we must stop the Russians. We never know what this precedent might lead to. The next thing you know someone might bomb Serbia to forcibly extract a region with a non-Serb minority. We can’t put up with this sort of thing.

    • RMthoughts

      We already did that under Clinton.

  • remmy

    You are comparing obama to Chamberlin. He is more closely compared to Mussolini.

    • victoryman

      Yes. Many of his poses mimic Il Duce. Shall we make Kerry into Chamberlain? Give him a nice umbrella? What is happening in the world today shows the results of weakness and lack of a coherent foreign policy. Shall we name the failures? Egypt? Algeria? Libya? The Middle East as a geographic entity? Our “Allies” know the golfer-in-chief is a poseur and treat him accordingly. He has surrounded himself with weak, unqualified people – Kerry, Hagel, Brennan, and unfortunately we have a toady as head of the Joint Chiefs who remains silent while our military is destroyed through cuts and social experimentation. I am reminded of the story abut Stalin when he was warned not to denigrate the Pope as the Pope was a powerful person. Stalin responded by asking, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” I’m sure Mr. Putin is asking, “How many divisions (Remaining) does Obama have that he will not use?” Putin understands Realpolitik and knows how to exploit weakness. An important event (Unreported by our state run media) took place during the Olympics. Top Egyptian officials met with Putin. To sum up, Egypt is now in Russia’s sphere of influence. Putin is now the major player in the Middle East. Putin has also (Again, non-reporting by our “Journalists”) signed agreements with South American countries for naval bases in our hemisphere. Both china and Russia have upped their military budgets. Need I go on…….?

  • RMthoughts

    Maybe a more realistic comparison would be 1846, president Polk, invades Mexico to secure the passage to the Pacific Ocean. Or, the Treaty of Paris that prepared the ground for WWII might be apropos considering how borders are drawn after a war (this case a cold war) greatly influence the stability of the peace.

  • Phil McMorrow

    You don’t seriously believe Barry knows who Chamberlain was, do you?

    • Notalibfool

      Barry probably thinks Chamberlain is some up-and-coming movie star.

      • SCREW SOCIALISM

        Without a teleprompter, the only Chamberlain Barry would know is “Wilt the Stilt”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 aemoreira81

    Is it really? Crimea has been historically Russian territory with its residents speaking Russian and, since the Crimean War in the 1850s, has only not been governed by Moscow for 22 years. Now, if this were western Ukraine, I’d be inclined to agree, but this area has always leaned Russian.

    • Wolfthatknowsall

      That’s not the point, is it?

      For the last 22 years, Crimea has been an autonomous republic within the nation of Ukraine. Putin’s denials to the contrary, Russian troops are all over the Republic. This is an invasion, followed closely on by the “vote”.

      Would you also be in favor of Mexican troops invading Texas, then rigging a vote to “return” to Mexico?

      Just trying to see where you stand …

      • Fran800

        Crimea was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 by the bureaucratic fiat of Kruschev, en ethnic Ukrainian, when both countries were part of the the Soviet Union. There was zero grassroots input. The Soviet Union was a ruthless Communist totalitarian dictatorship.Probably not many people even realized it or cared. The Soviet Union was Communist, and all nationalisms were suppressed. To Soviet Apparatchiks, the people were pawns, and their only identity was as Soviet citizens.
        Really, when the Soviet Union dissolved, Crimea should have gone back to Russia. All its roots are Russian; none are Ukrainian. That it went the way it did is probably a function of the total societal implosion. In any case, Russia leased the Black Sea ports that it had always had since Tsarist times. They were content to let it remain this this as long as Russia and Ukraine were close. Now that Ukraine wants to cut ties and join the EU — which means being part of a centrally controlled state run out of Brussels hostile to Russia — this is a different story. is there any fairness or reason to the EU getting its hands on Russia’s historic territory and its Black Sea facilities just because of an undemocratic putsch in Kiev?
        There is no reasonable with Mexico and Texas. For one thing, Russia will not have to rig the vote.

        • Wolfthatknowsall

          Of course, Russia will not have to rig the vote. The vote is rigged, no matter how the people vote, with friendly Russian troops guarding the process.

          Do you hear what you’re saying? Kruschev ordered the Crimea “transferred” to Ukraine, back in the good old days when the people had nothing to say about the matter, and when Russia and Ukraine had “friendly” relations. Friendly relations imposed at the point of a sword, just like the “vote” in Crimea.

          Crimea should have actually been a Tatar-majority republic. However, the Soviet Union ended that possibility.

          • Fran800

            Wolf, Kruschev was Ukrainian. He transferred a Russian province to Ukraine, not the other way around. He did it more at the point of a pen than the point of a sword. Russia and Ukraine were one country at the time, not just friendly relations. It was s totalitarian dictatorship. There was zero popular input. Most people probably didn’t even know what happened. But it was a Russian territory (historically and demographically) that was forced into Ukrainian hands when the Soviet Union was dissolved — not the other way around.
            In short, Ukrainian ownership of Crimea is an artifact of the Soviet Union. Why are we defending it?

          • Wolfthatknowsall

            The point of a pen? He also must have had a phone. Sounds like our fearless leader …

            Why do we defend Ukrainian ownership of Crimea? Because it fits a pattern with Putin which, if unopposed, will result in war. Stop him, now, or stop him never. That’s the choice …

    • historian

      Stalin the genocidal dictator and his ethnic cleansing of the Tartars. That’s the reason people who speak Russian live in Crimea.

    • Anondragon

      Germany had exact same rights to Sudetenland too though

    • SDN

      I’m quite satisfied that on some conservative websites some people don’t take a completely one-sided view of the Crimea crisis. Many people compare Putin’s behavior to Hitler’s during 1938 but that’s a too easy comparison and besides it’s nothing more than a “reductio ad hitlerum” fallacy.

      Did Khrushchev ceded Crimea because of Holodomor ? Because at that time this was not a authorized topic of discussion in soviet circles, besides Russia doesn’t see the famine as a specifically anti-ukrainian famine because it claims it reached also russian regions like the Volga. I’ve read on a french-language article that it was to celebrate the tricentenary of the merging of Ukraine with Russian Empire.

      It should be reminded that it was Crimea itself which asked to be reintegrated in Russia. After Yanukovich’s downfall the Crimean Parliament voted to oust the local governor and appointed the pro-russian Aksyonov. He decreed a referendum trough which the majority of the population (most of the people are russians) voted to integrate Russia, Crimea had an autonomous status and seceded after the new ukrainian government repelled the decree which made russian the second official language of Ukraine.

      The author thinks that not much has been done but on the contrary too much has been done ! After inflammatory rhetoric western governments have now pushed for sanctions what next ? Had we send a military response we probably would have an american battleship sunk in the black sea because we wanted to play heroes !

  • CapitalistPig

    Reporter….Mr. President, many Americans are comparing you to Neville Chamberlain.
    President Obama…..I understand that, but I just don’t have the bulk the Lakers are looking for in a center.

  • rlqretired

    With 5 successful years of fulfilling his promise to totally transform our Republic into something more Marxist/Islamic to his liking, and 3 more years to complete the job, and Boehner continues to refuse to begin an impeachment investigation, we are destined to loose any negotiation or confrontation with our enemies as long as this community organizing usurper serves as our Commander in Chief.

    • Erudite Mavin

      No impeachment until the Senate is no longer Democrat.
      Too bad the sit at home and third party voters enabled Obama’s
      presidency.
      Then there is Ron Paul writing commentaries backing Putin,
      sucking in the ignorant to his propaganda

      • SCREW SOCIALISM

        That’s MORON Paul.

        • Erudite Mavin

          You got that right

  • vladimirval

    I have been pressing this similarity for some time now. It is gratifying to see it presented by others. Putin is on a march to dominate Europe. Our Chamberlain like administration is quaking in their boots. The lasttime the world reacted this way to a maniac’s lust for power, the world was swallowed up in a horrific world conflict. If the west does not stand up against Putin now, later it may just be too late and Russia will move to take over all of Europe and other parts of the world. Strong opposition to Putin has a chance of. if not stopping completely, stifling his march across Europe. If the world learned anything it should know that acquiescence only emboldens a bully to more aggression. That is something that every school kid knows. You give your lunch money to a bully he will be taking it until you stand up to him. Our administration is aiding and abbeding our enemies. Only the will of the people to return America to its previous position of world leadership will put our Republic back on the right path.

    • O’Chamberlain LordO’PinkLines

      America is screwed and has no moral ground with which to lecture others after invading multiple weaker states the last few years.

      This is what Putin knows. He will now teach the West a harsh lesson.

      • vladimirval

        Yes America is in a bad situation but where have you been living to say that America has no moral ground to stand on? Have you read any world history books? America has come to the aid of many people. America is the largest contributor of relief services and goods. America has stood up for the oppressed throughout history. After defeating Imperial Japan, America rebuilt that country instead of taking it over. I am very suspicious of your ideology. America has been weakened by our current administration but we will be back to the standing of many years. Where we were the ideal of people all over the world. All we have to do is get back to the ideals of our founders. That time will come.

  • TheDoc

    Americans commenting on this article need to ask themselves the ultimate question:

    Who would they rather see in control of Crimea?

    1. Russians who are European and Christian and had a history of saving Europe from its enemies.

    or

    2. Crimean Tatars who are Muslim, Non-European, Turko-Mongol invaders with a history of massacring European Christians.

    Make your pick, choose your side.

    If Russia lose Crimea, it will gain independence in the future, not as a Russian-speaking christian country by as a Turko-Mongol revival of the Jihadist Crimean Khanate.

    Sometimes Americans are so fickle that it boggles the mind.

    • TheDoc

      Small correction: but* as a Turko-Mongol revival…

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      You are asking what kind of fatal disease one would want.

      BOTH are EVIL and need to be fought and defeated.

  • Albert Spits

    This is the worst article I have read in a long time. First of all the majority of the Crimea consist of Russians, who had never had any allegiance to the Ukraine and its corrupt regime from Kravchuk upto Yanukovich. We see the brownshirts have taken over in Kiev and wanted to impose their illegal government on the rest of the population. Remember, this was an illegal coup of a government which was democratically elected. Futhermore, both the US and the EU have supported this illegal government, so it is absolutely understandable the Crimea wants no part in this. A referendum on the subject will decide the outcome, much more democratic than what is happening in Kiev.

    Albert Spits is board member of the Frédéric Bastiat Foundation for economic research and is a classical liberal thinkthank

  • Erudite Mavin

    You really think the majority Democrat Senate will impeach their Obama along with the MSM carrying his water throughout.
    The weak ones are those who enabled Obama’s presidency by sitting home or voting third party and now they whine
    and bash Republicans to justify their childish all or nothing
    attitude because they are just as responsible for Obama as those who voted directly for him

    • rlqretired

      What don’t you understand about the last line above, “We don’t need the Senate. The truth alone will prevail?

      • Flowerknife_us

        The Communists have taken control of the Demoncratic Party machinery.
        While those same Communists who championed the “silent majority” turned nasty when it became clear they were really the Tea Party.

        Hillery went under the Bus because Obama could deliver the Goods faster.And change sides during a active war.

        Al Gore was going to surrender America after 9/11.

        Communism didn’t die with the fall of the Soviet Union They just escaped to the West and went back to work.

        Public office, Education, Media.The Three Monkeys to society.

  • American1969

    Rhetorical Question: Would our enemies feel this emboldened if we had real leadership and real foreign policy?

    • UCSPanther

      Very true. The world was merely simmering with GWB’s ill-advised/fated foray into Iraq, but it has blown up since Obama has taken office.

  • Matthew

    I said it before and I will say it again .All the Obama bashers in this forum were likely Obama supporters during his first term and his second . That mimics Pandora’s box to the tee. No, I am not an Obama fan . But saw the utter stupidity of those who were /a……”Hope and Change.” Yep,,,change right out of my pocket. Matt

  • Boston Poverty Law

    One night this old guy took me on the Metro to a place with soviet
    apartment blocks so far no westerner had ever been there they said. An
    officer took charge of me. When I didn’t say “Ronald Reagan” in response
    to his question of my favorite president he was disgusted. The rest of
    it is like that part of Notes from the Underground I always refuse to
    read. On his wall was a military map of Crimea and the Black Sea.

  • Boston Poverty Law

    Did I find this article through you guys here? I think I didn’t and this type of thing is why I always come here so I am a little proud: Before Crimea Was Russian, It Was a Potential Jewish Homeland – Tablet Magazine http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/164673/crimea-as-jewish-homeland?all=1

    I was telling my wife about part of this article like it was a joke
    because it really is so horrible. The guys were thinking they just
    closed a killer deal and Stalin was going to let them farm Crimea into
    being the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. A couple weeks later they
    were all executed in Lubyanka. They thought they were in Iowa I was
    laughing.

  • e.toohey

    barackhussein obama and the country who has elected him are not entitled to give any lesson to Puttin ! Oh and by the way, Crimea IS Russian !

  • Andy_Lewis

    Hogwash!

  • beestyng

    No, this is certainly not Suderland: it is the Monroe Doctrine the Russian way, applied without spilling blood. I may not like Putin, but I like even less the reneging on Germany’s promise to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand Eastwards
    after Germany was reunited. US military bases crept up, closer and closer, encircling Russia. Wasn’t this provocation? The neo-cons and friends still in power – some in plain view and many in the shadows – have never accepted the post-cold-war quieter world and have clamoured for war from the side-lines ever since. Will they manage to get what they want in spite of the American public rejecting war?

  • Anondragon

    “Putin has not slaughtered millions the way Hitler did”
    In 1938, Hitler didn’t slaughter a single person either up until then.
    On other hand Stalin certainly did (in Ukraine especially ironically)