Cupid Is As Cupid Does
Posted on April 29, 2014
Students of World War II are finding dangerous parallels between the events leading up to that war and what is now happening in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is using precisely the same tactics used by Adolf Hitler in the run up to World War II, and like Hitler he is betting on and benefiting from a weak response from the west. As I observe the idle threats being made by President Obama and John Kerry painful memories of a sniveling Neville Chamberlain come to mind. While the West impotently talks about sanctions and even imposes a few, Putin continues to mass troops on the Ukrainian border for what he calls “military maneuvers.”
I fear there is much more at stake here than the Crimea. To understand what is happening in Ukraine it is necessary to first understand Vladimir Putin’s real intentions: He wants to re-establish the “evil empire.” Putin has stated publicly that the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s a tragedy President Putin would like to erase from Russian history in the same manner that Adolph Hitler sought to eradicate what he saw as the shame of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I. Just as Hitler wanted to reincorporate land lost to Germany in the aftermath of the Great War—thus the bloodless takeover of Austria followed close on by the forced annexation of the Sudetenland—Putin wants to take back what was lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. His Crimean adventure was just the first step along these lines. It won’t be the last.
You can be sure that Putin has studied Hitler’s actions in the years leading up to World War II as well as the weak-kneed, impotent response of the west. Putin seems to know history better than today’s Western leaders who allowed World War II to happen when Hitler could have been easily stopped in his tracks. Neville Chamberlain and other Western leaders thought they could negotiate with Hitler. They were fools. But even a fool knows you cannot negotiate with a hungry bear, and the Russian bear with prodding from Putin is obviously hungry. Unfortunately, President Obama and John Kerry seem to be cut from the same cloth as Neville Chamberlain. They want to negotiate and threaten and talk, talk, talk. If anyone in the Obama administration had an ounce of foreign policy sense they would understand that all a hungry bear ever wants is more.
In the years leading up to World War II, Hitler first brought Austria under the Nazi jackboot with the Anschluss. Anschluss is German for political annexation. It worked like this. First Hitler stirred up pro-German sentiment in Austria. Then he massed troops and tanks along the Austrian border. Finally, he “allowed” Austria to annex itself to Germany in lieu of being invaded by Nazi Storm Troopers and Panzers. If you have been paying attention, the Crimean Region of Ukraine just had its own Anschluss, but this time it was Putin and the Russians who demanded a vote while pointing guns at the voters. Unfortunately, as they did prior to World War II, western leaders—most auspiciously President Obama—are responding with words and weakness. Putin on the other hand is taking action.
Hitler’s next annexation was the Sudetenland, a small sliver of land that was part of Czechoslovakia. Like the Crimea, the Sudetenland had a large contingent of citizens loyal to the invading country. The German speaking, pro-Nazi citizens of the Sudetenland—led by Konrad Henlein—agitated for annexation and, of course, Hitler was only too happy to oblige. Surrounded by Nazi tanks and troops, the Sudetenland acquiesced to Hitler’s demands and became part of Germany. The people of the West adopted a who-cares attitude toward Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland. France and Britain were not willing to go to war over a sliver of land in which many of the people spoke German and were loyal to Hitler. The West basically said to Hitler, “You can have the Sudetenland.” This would have been a small enough tragedy had Hitler been content to stop there, but of course he wasn’t. Nor will President Putin be content to stop his expansion efforts with the Crimea. As it did with the Sudetenland, the West has adopted a who-cares attitude toward the Russian annexation of the Crimea. Just as it was with the Sudetenland, this would be only a minor tragedy if Putin’s aggression stopped there. But it won’t, and Western leaders are fools if they think it will.
Mitt Romney said on Sunday that President Barack Obama is naive when it comes to Russia, has shown ‘faulty judgment’ about Moscow’s intentions and could have done more to try to deter its annexation of Crimea.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee said Obama didn’t have the foresight to anticipate Russia’s moves and should have been working earlier with allies to make clear the penalties that Russia would face if it moved into Ukraine.
Romney did acknowledge that such steps may not have been enough though to hold back Russia President Vladimir Putin.
‘Had we communicated those things, there’s always the potential that we could have kept them from invading a country and annexing it into their own,’ Romney said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
During the 2012 campaign, Romney took criticism from Obama for saying Russia was America’s ‘number one geopolitical foe,’ rather than al-Qaida. Now Romney seems to be claiming the right to say, essentially, ‘I told you so.’
‘There’s no question but that the president’s naivety with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia’s intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face,’ Romney said.
‘And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.’
He said the U.S. should now welcome nations that seek entry into NATO, should forgo cuts to the U.S. military budget and reconsider putting a missile defense system into the Czech Republic and Poland, as once planned.
During the 2012 campaign, Romney had tried to portray the Democratic incumbent as soft on Russia. Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, he said that ‘for three years, the sum total of President Obama’s policy toward Russia has been: “We give, Russia gets.”’
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who just returned from Ukraine, said it was Romney who was naive.
Durbin, referring to Putin, a former officer in the Soviet KGB, said Putin is ‘a bully and we’ve got to call him for what he is. But this notion that some sanction is going to stop a former colonel in the KGB from his ambitions of a Russian empire is naive.
Romney also used the appearance to criticize Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s first secretary of state who now is considering a presidential run in 2016.
Romney said he couldn’t think of a major country that had greater respect and admiration for the U.S. than it did ‘after five years of the Obama administration and Secretary Clinton.’
‘You look over the past five years and say, “what’s happened?” Good things have not been bursting out all over,’ he said.
Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said on CBS that Romney suffered from ‘political amnesia.’
‘Osama bin Laden is gone. The war in Iraq is over. Afghanistan is coming to a close. And this president has worked with many of these nations successfully to put pressure on Iran, the sanctions, bringing them to the negotiating table,’ Durbin said.
He said Romney has ‘forgotten those facts.’
Russia’s defense minister says the country is planning bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and just last week, Putin’s national security team met to discuss increasing military ties in the region.
“They’re on the march,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said at a Senate hearing earlier this month. “They’re working the scenes where we can’t work. And they’re doing a pretty good job.”
Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command said there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel” in Latin America.
“It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence,” Kelly said at the March 13 hearing.
With the American presence waning, officials say rivals such as Russia, China and Iran are quickly filling the void.
Iran has opened up 11 additional embassies and 33 cultural centers in Latin America while supporting the “operational presence” of militant group Lebanese Hezbollah in the region.
“On the military side, I believe they’re establishing, if you will, lily pads for future use if they needed to use them,” Kelly said.
China is making a play for Latin America a well, and is now the fastest growing investor in the region, according to experts. Although their activity is mostly economic, they are also increasing military activity through educational exchanges.
The Chinese Navy conducted a goodwill visit in Brazil, Chile and Argentina last year and conducted its first-ever naval exercise with the Argentine Navy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. had to cancel the deployment of its hospital ship USNS Comfort last year.
“Our relationships, our leadership, and our influence in the Western Hemisphere are paying the price,” Kelly said.
Army War College adjunct professor Gabriel Marcella said Russia’s maneuvering is more about posturing than a real threat.
“Latin America is seen as an opportunity to challenge the United States in terms of global presence,” he said. “They want to show the flag to assert their presence and say they need to be counted on the world stage.”
Other experts said the encroachment of rivals has huge economic implications for the U.S., which has more trade partners in Latin America than in any other region in the world.
“[Russia’s presence] serves to destabilize what has become a more stabilized, middle class continent with an increasing respect for the rule of law. … Any type of unsettling of that environment will scare off investors,” said Jason Marczak, deputy director at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
“Market economies and democracies are fundamental for trade, for jobs, and for stable investment environments,” he said.
Marczak noted the instability in Venezuela, which is facing civil unrest from anti-government protestors.
“In Venezuela, a lot of the money that’s been able to prop up President Chavez and now Maduro has been Chinese money,” Kelly said.
So far, 31 protestors have been killed in clashes with government security forces.
“I see a real degradation in what used to pass as Venezuelan democracy. There’s less and less of that now,” Kelly said.
And while Chinese investment in Latin America could have positive aspects for the region, it could also make it more difficult for U.S. official to push labor and environmental safeguards that it argues are building blocks for democracy, Marczak said.
Angel Rabasa, a senior political scientist at RAND, said cuts to the defense budget are going to accelerate a long trend of U.S. neglect and disengagement with Latin America.
According to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), there are 10 countries in Latin America that currently have no U.S. ambassador because they either haven’t been nominated yet or confirmed, a sign that the region is seen as a low priority.
“We will be losing the ability to influence developments in a region that is very important to us because of proximity,” Rabasa said.