With the amount of Countries affected by the Ukraine-Russia conflict reaching around the globe and back, and Russia resorting to Cold war level posturing this weekend by ordering a Russian fighter jet to fly around a U.S. warship in the Black Sea, the world watches and holds its breath . Militia troops in fatigues and assault rifles executed very precise takeovers of police stations and other government buildings. Setting up roadblocks in key Eastern Ukraine cities. This with no push backs from any citizens or the Ukraine Military. All of Europe, being beholden to Russia for oil, and the United States because they are reluctant to interfere with what amounts to a big family fight, have seemed to embolden Russia, paralyze the Ukraine and create international tension on the level of World War I.
The similarities between the two conflicts would be comical if it didn’t involve so many lives.
It’s debatable whether the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the cause of so many world powers mobilizing their military against one another. It for sure did not keep them from fighting though. He was in Sarajevo when he was killed by a Serbian. However there was a ton of context.
Austria-Hungary had an empire of legend at the time. Serbia was in that Empire until Serbia decided they wanted to expand and at the very least not be beholden to Austria-Hungary for its economic well-being. Sound familiar? To the dismay of many Ukrainians , President Viktor Yanukovych and his cabinet refuse to go through on a deal that would allow for closer economic ties with Europe, expanding Ukrainian economic possibilities. Instead they took a sweetheart deal or payout some people would say, of $15 billion from Vladimir Putin and Russia. It looked like it all ended up in the former President’s Ukrainian megalomaniac version of Xanadu.
After Months of protest, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to remove Yanukovych. On that same day the people stormed presidential buildings in a mob version of “Don’t Let The Door Hit You on the way out!!” and Yanukovych disappears. The people did not loot his Xanadu. The took videos with their iPhones and mocked the ridiculous garishness of this, now, crook. He lived like a rich CEO while his people suffer through hard economic hardships.
In October of 1908 Austria announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sound familiar? Unlike the Russian Annexation of Crimea, Russia saw this as an aggressive and threatening act! this even after Baron Aloys von Aerenthal, foreign minister of Austria-Hungary, assured them they weren’t looking to take Macedonia. Does that sound familiar? Putin has repeatedly said Crimea was the last stop on his Mother Russia Reunion Tour of Annexation.
But we saw a coördinated takeover of police buildings and other government buildings while setting up roadblocks and checkpoints in Eastern Ukrainian cities. Emergency meetings at the United Nations saw Russia and America throwing barbs while the rest of the world, including the Ukraine, is paralyzed. Russia being a master at propaganda has the Ukraine between a rock and a hard place. If the Ukrainian military kills or hurts a Russian, Putin has all the wherewithal to use that as a reason to go save all his Russian comrades. Europe, led by Germany not wanting an energy crisis, is reluctant to do anything that would affect Russia’s oil getting to them The conflict between the Ukraine and Russia involves international tension on par with, and with the addition of nuclear weapons,may be greater than World War I .
Russia was not exactly feeling like Mother Russia at the time in 1908 when they were told Austria-Hungary they did not plan on anymore annexations. The had just lost the Russo-Japanese war and they were going through a revolution of their own. Serbia also saw this as threatening since they were trying to bring all Slavs together in a wave of nationalism that also precedes most wars where expansion or annexation is the main issue.
From 1912-13 Serbia went through two Balkan wars that involved Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria fighting against the Turks. The second war was started between old friends over the division of the land from the first war. When the dust had cleared Serbia was larger and Austria-Hungary was nonplussed over this.
By the time Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, the international tension was already at a fever pitch. A map of the Balkans today shows how intertwined these countries are and how easily disputes could arise. However, this tension did not happen in a vacuüm.
In january of 1909 Austria asked germany what they would do if Austria invaded Serbia forcing Russia to enter into the fray on the side of the Serbs. Germany agreed to back Austria-Hungary and goto war with France , Russia’s ally.
Austria-Hungary declared war a month after the assassination. By August 4 Belgium,France,Australia, Britain , Canada, and New Zealand were fighting. World War I had begun in earnest.
In 1994 The Ukraine agreed to give up all its nuclear weapons as long as the United States and Russia agreed to not use force against it or threaten military action. The annexation of Crimea violated that agreement. Putin does not care. He knows the incredibly twisted knot he’s got the Ukraine in. He knows no one wants to go to war. He has an incredible amount of plausible annexation deniability.
It is undeniable that , even with the huge incentive to not start a war for everyone involved, the international tension created by the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, because it reaches so far internationally and has such deep historical context surrounding it, is World War I in style and tone. Everyone is just watching. Hoping no one fires that first shot that can be used as a straw that breaks the camels or Russia or Ukraine’s back.
Opinion by Daryl McElveen