THE UKRAINE DEBACLE

Hillary Clinton was right-0n target when she described Vladimir Putin and his Russian forces take-over of the Crimean sector of the Ukraine as being virtually identical to Hitler’s takeover of Chechoslovakia. In 1938, Hitler marched his Nazi troops into northern Chechoslovakia on the pretext that he was merely protecting the rights of the large German population that inhabited that region. This led to the infamous Munich conference between Hitler and England’s Neville Chamberlain as well as the Prime Minister of France. Hitler promised no further military incursions if his act of aggression was allowed to stand. Chamberlain agreed, and returned home to wildly cheering crowds when he proclaimed that that he had “achieved peace in our time.” At Chechoslovakia’s expense, of course. The French PM knew this was all a charade but was powerless to reverse the course that was unfolding. It was only a few months later that Hitler tore up the Munich accord by taking over the rest of Chechoslovakia, and then invading Poland, as World War II was on for real. The British finally came to their senses and replaced Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, with the toughness and realism of a Winston Churchill.

So it is with Putin’s military takeover of Crimea. After all, he only did it to protect the rights of the large Russian populace currently living in Crimea. The first thing to know is that Putin is an old KGB mid-level thug who rose to power with the fall of the old Soviet empire. The KGB was Moscow’s equivalent of the Nazi Gestapo, and had used virtually identical Gestapo methods as standard operating procedure. Since knocking off his opponents and achieving ultimate power, Putin runs the Russian government Mafia-style. If anyone of significance crosses him, they’re either deposited in Siberian prison camps for the duration, or just simply eliminated. Putin’s economic system relies heavily on crony capitalism-his cronies receive all the capital, and the rest of the peasants are left with their vodka to blot out their unhappy lives. As I’ve said, it’s a Mafia-style government with Putin being the godfather, or the boss of bosses. It’s a primary reason that Russia is chief among all nations in the world, in actually losing population, due to a significantly declining  birth rate, that doesn’t keep pace with its death rate.

The thing is, however, that Putin is also a highly ambitious man, and is not satisfied with just ruling Russia. He has big dreams of re-assembling the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, and bringing it all under his command. In 2008, his troops invaded and took over half the state of adjoining Georgia, while President George W. Bush, and the rest of the world stood by and did nothing. He maintains an iron-grip on Chechnya, which is a Moslem country fighting for years for its independence from Russia. The Chechnians have resorted to unleashing horrific terrorist acts against the Russian people; but this has not dissuaded Putin from granting Chechnya its freedom.  The Ukraine, however, is the biggest prize in Putin’s ambitions, and the takeover of Crimea is just the beginning.

Just as Hitler got to preside over the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, shortly before the out break of WWII, Putin took center-stage over the 2014  just-ended winter Olympics in Russia, shortly before invading Crimea. Amazing how consistently history keeps repeating itself. Both men presented themselves as models of rationality who enjoyed world class sporting events as much as the next guy. Their sinister goals remained well-hidden during the Olympic festivities. But the wolf in sheep’s clothing eventually bares its fangs. And when it does people die.

The mess in the Ukraine began when its democratically elected leader decided to switch sides. Preparations had been made for the Ukraine to join the European Union, which would enable it to reap all the trade, economic, and other financial benefits that membership in the EU had to offer. The whole world expected that to occur, including the leadership in this country. But Putin could never allow that to happen. At the last minute, Putin persuaded the Ukrainian leader to renounce EU membership and, instead, come in under Russia’s umbrella. The Ukrainian people were up in arms and massive demonstrations started taking place. The government’s answer was to slaughter protesters by the hundreds as the streets literally ran with blood. Even more massive protests took place, and the Ukrainian government was finally overthrown, with its leader fleeing for his life to Russia. An interim government has been established, with a pro-western agenda. It was at this point that Putin decided on a military take-over of the Crimean portion of the Ukraine, which is now solidly inside the Russian orbit.

While President Obama and other western allies have generally denounced Russia’s military aggression, there’s not a lot options available to us. There was a time in recent history when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had the military muscle to counter such Russian operations, but it no longer does. Today NATO is just a shadow of its former self. England, France and Germany have cut their military resources to the bone; leaving the U.S. to pretty much do all the heavy lifting. It’s one of the reasons why we sustain $700 billion dollars a year in Defense expenditures. But there is virtually no appetite in this country for further military adventurism for any reason. After being sapped by a decade’s-long war in Iraq, and a still on-going 13 year-old war in Afghanistan, the one thing almost all Americans agree on is, no more military involvements.

There has been talk of imposing economic or financial sanctions against Russia, but major problems exist with those courses of action too. Russia supplies western Europe and the Ukraine with almost all of its energy resources. Gas and oil flow through Russian pipelines to virtually every European country. If we imposed economic sanctions against Russia, Putin could just as easily shut down all Russian energy deliveries to the rest of Europe. It’s known as being caught between a rock and a hard place. So consider that Crimea is now permanently within Moscow’s sphere of influence. The real question is, however, whether or not Putin will be satisfied with just ownership of Crimea, or does he have all of the Ukraine within his sight. Stay tuned for further developments.

 

 

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