On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler invaded Poland causing France and Great Britain to declare war on Germany. This sparked off the Second World War which would cost millions of lives, and leave a permanent scar on the face of history. However before this event, Germany had already moved troops to take part of Austria and conquered Czechoslovakia without a fight. It was only when Germany was knocking on the doorstep of the West that the Allies decided something needed to be done. It seems that Vladimir Putin may be seeking to repeat history. He has already annexed Crimea, and now he is looking to gobble up the rest of Ukraine. Is Europe simply drifting into the current of history or will things be different this time?
Putin has made no secret of his plans for Russia. He is a strong believer in the Stalinist state and a Russian nationalist. Throughout his political career, he has taken steps to reinvent the Russian past, reinstating the old Stalinist anthem and the national symbols of the sickle and star. He is not so different in beliefs from a German who rose to power in 1939 and sought to unite all Germany into one state, nation and culture.
Speaking in a televised question and answer session this week, Putin referred to the area of Southeastern Ukraine as “Novorossiya” or “New Russia.” This shows how clear he is making his designs on the neighbouring country. In the same session he stated that he had the authority to invade the rest of Ukraine and that he hoped force would not be necessary.
If war was to break out with Russia, then Putin is holding a lot of cards. He has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons and massive amounts of energy sources in the form of natural gas and oil. Former states of the U.S.S.R rely on Russia to provide energy and do not have the military backing to defend themselves. On a more insidious level, all the surrounding countries have enough Russian nationals for Putin to cry “protection” like he did in the case of the Crimea. This gives him all the ammunition and apparent reason to invade. However, the Baltic states are members of both NATO and the European Union, so a move on those nations would necessitate a strong Western response.
The situation seems to be a repeat of the history that happened in the final space of the 1930s. Like former Ukrainian Crimea, Germany annexed the German-speaking part of Austria. This did not earn any kind of action from the West. Like Germany, Putin is seeking to rebuild his nation as it was when he was younger. Like the past, the Allies have yet to respond in any great measure.
However, is anything been done to stop the rising tide of Russia? A meeting was held recently in Geneva to try to settle the issue of Ukraine. The talks were negotiated with the foreign ministers representing the European Union, the US, Russia and Ukraine. The West was proposing some “economic sanctions” on Russia if conflict continues. However, Putin has displayed contempt for Western decisions in the past and made it clear that he favours a view of Russia that is separate, but equal.
In 1939, there was one voice amongst the multitude that called out for stronger sanctions against Germany. That was the voice of Winston Churchill, who insisted that Germany needed to be halted in the beginning, before they were able to gain power and territories. If Putin is seeking to repeat history through annexing Ukraine, the already vast nation will have become significantly larger. Currently, there is no equivalent to Churchill in the modern-day counterpart scenario. However, the West could take action to halt the Russian tide. Countries like France are still selling warships to the nation. Also Russia could be cut off financially from all euros, dollars and sterling. This could be enough to weaken the country and stop movements into the surrounding nations. These moves would be costly to the nations involved, but to do nothing invites greater problems and could perhaps cost us the planet.
Opinion by Sara Watson