OPINION: Ukraine Crisis, parallels and war

BY MATTHEW COLLINS - FEBRUARY 20, 2015

With the annexation of Crimea having taken place early last year, parallels were drawn between Putin and Hitler with regard to the precursor-stages to WWII.

Now, in light of the events which have followed it, further parallels can arguably be drawn. Let us briefly take a look...

Nazi Germany, 1938-1939

After the conflict-free annexation of Austria in March 1938, Germany wished to annex a large portion of Czechoslovakia, referred to as “Sudetenland”, as it apparently contained a large portion of ethnic Germans.

Interestingly enough, France and Britain who were wishing to maintain peace at all costs – particularly in memory of the Great War – turned a blind eye by allowing the area to be annexed for the sake of peace in Europe. This move was evidenced in the Munich Pact; an agreement which ultimately sacrificed part of Czechoslovakia to the Germans.

This sacrifice was somewhat celebrated by the west, particularly Britain, with the iconic example of Prime Minister Chamberlain addressing a crowd, after having returned from signing the Munich Pact, and waving a paper announcing:”Peace in our time”. How ironic that statement would turn out to be...

Despite this permitted annexation, Hitler soon had his eyes on the rest of Czechoslovakia.

The plan would be to destabilise the remaining three regions of Czechoslovakia by encouraging the Slovakia region to demand independence. After much pressure from Germany, alongside Slovak separatists, Slovakia would gain its independence under Germany’s wing. By doing so, the remaining two Czech-states, namely Moravia and Bohemia, were even more at the “mercy” of Nazi Germany.  

After threatening to bomb Prague, what was left of the Czech lands was eventually handed over to the Germans and by March 1939, the Nazi flag overshadowed it. In the wake of such news, Hitler would proclaim: “Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist!”

The west once again did not look too much into the matter until after Germany had turned its eyes on Poland. Only then would the West state its concerns by vowing to protect the Eastern-European nation’s independence.

The rest is history with Germany and the Soviet Union signing an agreement (which would itself later be broken) agreeing to non-aggression in exchange for sharing land throughout Eastern Europe, and Britain and France subsequently entering into war with Germany; a war which would manifest into the most destructive war in history.

Analysis

Hitler claimed that the Sudetenland’s ethnic German population was yearning to become a part of the “Vaterland”, a claim that echoes of similarities in the claims that Crimea wishes to be a part of Russia.

In analysing the events in Ukraine in relation to Czechoslovakia in 1938, it could be argued that the annexation of Crimea has merely marked what is to still to come from Russia – an argument which possibly bears weight in light of Ukrainian separatists having moved into Ukraine and having declared the Donetsk People’s Republic – moves which ultimately destabilise a nation.

With the accusations of Russia supporting the rebels, could it be that Russia is attempting to destabilise more of Ukraine before bringing it to the “mercy” of the Russian Federation?

The alleged support of Ukrainian rebels by Russia is not far-fetched as, in the past, it has been generally accepted that the Soviet Union showed much support to many opposition regimes (particularly communist ones) in various nations including Korea, Vietnam and Angola. Even in South Africa’s history, the Soviet Union supported the ANC in its struggle against the apartheid regime.

Conclusion

The West has thus far been reluctant to implement a swift sternness towards a situation which is, according to it, a perceived threat. It almost seems to be caught in a sense of denial. This fact possibly echoes of yet another parallel to 1938, with a reluctance to risk more intense conflict. As the West, particularly the US, contemplates its decision to arm Ukraine, this possibility will continuously be on the minds of many.

In light of what has been said, do we find ourselves presently trapped in a general-historical cycle? Could we be witnessing the “interwar”-sparks to yet another world war?

 

Main Image courtesy of: www.express.co.uk

In-Text images caption (left): September 2014 map of controlled terrritories in the Ukraine Crisis. (Right): 1938 map of territories in Czechoslovakia.    Images courtesy of: www.virtualsk.com  &  en.wikipedia.org