The situation in Ukraine—vis–à–vis Russia—bears too close a liking for comfort to the one faced by the French and British when they signed the Munich Pact with Hitler’s Germany.
Signing that infamous agreement in 1938 pretty well sealed Czechoslovakia’s fate as it was virtually handed over to Germany. In return for this shameful appeasement, we were supposed to get what British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared was “peace in our time.”
We know, however, how short a peace that turned out to be, and how horrible a war it was that terminated it. Here’s how it is described by History.com:
Although the agreement was to give into Hitler’s hands only the Sudentenland, that part of Czechoslovakia where 3 million ethnic Germans lived, it also handed over to the Nazi war machine 66 percent of Czechoslovakia’s coal, 70 percent of its iron and steel, and 70 percent of its electrical power. It also left the Czech nation open to complete domination by Germany. In short, the Munich Pact sacrificed the autonomy of Czechoslovakia on the altar of short-term peace-very short term. … By the time of the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the nation called ‘Czechoslovakia’ no longer existed.”
At this time, Ukraine faces an existential threat from neighbouring Russia, much as the Czechs faced from Germany in the late 1930s. And, just as Czechoslovakia’s Sudentenland was home to a large population of ethnic Germans and a large store of strategic minerals, Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula contains more than 1.5-million ethnic Russians and is the base of the Black Sea Fleet, a major strategic unit of the Russian Navy.
So the stakes are high for Ukraine, and not at all unlike those on the table at Munich. Furthermore, those to whom Ukraine looks for its protection show no more resolve to go to war than did the British and French in 1938.
To this potent mix we can add support from the United States, the archrival of the Russians, and the European Union. And, a few years ago, this might have been enough to tip the odds in Ukraine’s favour. After recent “defeats” in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, these nations seem willing to offer only moral and financial support—no little thing I might add, but not the military guarantee of its continued existence in its current form Ukraine so desperately needs.
According to CBC News reports on Friday, Ukraine has accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation.” Ukraine says Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports in Crimea. The report adds that Russia has not denied the accusations, and has confirmed that armoured Russian vehicles were moving about in Crimea for “security” reasons.
In other words, the barbarians are not just at the gates, they’re inside the walls. I pity the poor Ukraine for it is unable to take on the Russians militarily on their own, and there is nowhere for it to turn for military help to save the Crimea and hold its country together.
There’s no point them looking to Europe for military help. Germany does not really take on combat roles, as we saw in Afghanistan where German troops mainly operated in the comparatively quiet north of the country.
Furthermore, Russia is the largest exporter of oil and natural gas to the European Union—would Chancellor Merkel want to see Germans “freezing in the dark?”
As for the French, they will fight, but only when they have skin in the game, and I doubt they’d shed blood in exchange for guaranteeing Ukraine’s independence.
I believe the British would fight, if only they still had the wherewithal to do so and if the Conservatives weren’t part of a parliament which has little stomach for boots on the ground in Ukraine or anywhere else, as demonstrated by a recent vote against military intervention in Syria, after the Syrian government had launched a chemical weapons attack which killed hundreds of people.
So that leaves Barak Obama to guarantee Ukraine’s security. Well, good luck to the Ukrainians. Think of the bloody nose Georgia received when it was left alone to fend of Russian aggression in 2008. As the Dallas Morning News’ Jim Mitchell wrote recently, “Obama’s ‘line’ in Ukraine seems a lot like his “red line” in Syria.
Moreover, I believe the Russians know Obama will not go to the aid of Ukraine in any meaningful way if American lives are put at risk. At this point in their history, Americans seem to be more talk than walk—at least, in military terms where American army or marine boots are concerned.
So, yes, poor Ukraine for I fear they’ll have to get along without Crimea starting very soon.