History Repeating Itself in Europe
Watching history repeat itself in Europe is truly unsettling. Just as occurred not once but twice with Germany, Europe is now allowing Russia to go wilding across the continent scant years after having done the same with the USSR. Will these people ever learn?
Within the past few days, two events neatly capture the bloodthirsty Russian bear in action.
First, Europe found Russia repeatedly violating the airspace of Finland – not just flying attack aircraft near the border, as Russia has repeatedly done, for example, with Norway, but actually crossing it in a naked act of intimidation and war.
Then, Ukraine captured a whole platoon of Russian soldiers who had crossed into Ukraine’s territory in another blatant act of war. Caught red-handed, the Kremlin pathetically tried to claim they were there by mistake. FOX News showed a photograph of highly sophisticated Russian military hardware parading shamelessly through the streets of Krasnodon, in the Luhansk region at the heart of rebel separatist activity. There were soon other reports of heavy Russian forces crossing the border farther south and use of artillery located in Russia against Ukraine government targets. Heavy weapons that could have come only from Russia were documented parading through parts of Ukraine.
Even as Vladimir Putin was planning a summit with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, Putin’s Goebbels, Alexander Dugin, was publicly stating, sounding just like Iran on Israel, that Ukraine had no right of existence independent from Russia. And in a shameless violation of the Geneva Conventions, the pro-Russian rebels were engaging in barbaric acts of humiliation against captured Ukrainian forces, including even civilian women accused of being spies. The emptiness of Russia’s commitment to a purported peace process could not have been made more plain.
And how did Europe respond? The only symbolic gesture it could muster was a visit to Kiev by Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose comments on the ground were so ambiguous as to permit state-sponsored Russian propaganda outlets to claim she had come to lobby for decentralizing Ukraine’s government and leaving the rebel areas of the country to their own devices.
But Merkel looked like Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate compared to the other leaders of the NATO countries. Barack Obama, for instance, simply ignored the entire matter and chose to lie in the sun on Martha’s Vineyard. Selling out American values and interests around the world is so exhausting, you see. The most Canada could mention was a blunt and confrontational tweet. For its part, France continued to make it appear that it would actually deliver dangerous offensive weapons systems to Russia. When the Swiss look like the tough guy on the block, you know you’re in serious trouble.
What is it, exactly, that the leaders of NATO think will happen if they just ignore Russian aggression? Do they actually believe it will simply go away sooner or later?
It certainly can’t be that they think Russia is too strong to attack. Signs of Russian weakness are everywhere.
Even high-ranking Kremlin officials openly admit that the economy will languish in recession for years. Putin’s grandiose plan for a “Eurasian Economic Union” has collapsed in utterly humiliating failure. Young Russians overwhelmingly want to leave the country and work abroad. Russian rockets have an astoundingly consistent habit of exploding on the launch pad rather than making it into space. And on and on and on.
Nor can Russian military power justifiably be intimidating Europe. Any comparison of the budget, military hardware, manpower, or power-projection capabilities between NATO and Russia leaves Russia looking like a backwards, third-world quagmire. Even if the conflict were limited to economic warfare alone, NATO would win in a rout.
And Putin left no doubt that the West isn’t going to be left unscathed in his neo-Soviet campaign against freedom and democracy. In a shocking development, the FBI was investigating whether a massive cyber-attack on one of America’s most critical financial institutions originated in Russia.
So the only things that can explain Europe’s failure to act are cowardice and stupidity, and above all a total inability to remember their own history. When Putin took pieces of Georgia, Europe was warned that if he was not stopped, he would soon look to pick up pieces of Ukraine. But Europe did nothing, and Ukraine was shattered. Now Europe is warned that if it does not stop Putin in Ukraine, next he will look to the Baltics.
These same sorts of events took place when Europe was faced with Hitler. France essentially decided to just surrender to him. England pursued a course of appeasement, while Germans of course actively supported the maniac for years. One would have thought that the holocaust that followed would have permanently educated Europeans about their folly, but recent events show that this is not the case.
The closest thing the West has right now to a new Ronald Reagan is Anders Fogh Rasmussen, head of NATO. Rasmussen bluntly told the media: “Russia is a nation that for the first time since the Second World War has grabbed land by force. Obviously we have to adapt to that.” He announced that for the first time since the collapse of the USSR, NATO would be moving significant numbers of troops and other forces to bases near the Russia border.
But there’s no indication at present that the leaders of Europe will in fact recognize the new Russian reality that Rasmussen is warning them about. They didn’t act promptly or decisively to respond to Hitler or Stalin, and it does not appear that they learned their lesson from those experiences.
Follow Kim Ziegfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.