Europe today is experiencing déjà vu: a frightful reliving of the accommodation to evil of the 1930’s, when France, England, and Italy permitted Hitler’s seizing of the outer rim of Czechoslovakia which bordered on Germany, called the Sudetenland, and home to Czechoslovakia’s approximately three million ethnic Germans. The Sudetenland was an important industrial and banking area; it also formed Czechoslovakia’s formidable defense perimeter—a perimeter so heavily fortified that Hitler himself acknowledged that had he been forced to attack it, his troops would have suffered very heavy losses. But he didn’t have to worry: for Europe handed it to him, gratis.
Hitler’s pretext for wanting to absorb the Sudetenland was the skillfully managed propaganda campaign of public discontent among Czechoslovakia’s three million Germans. Putin has surely read his history, for he accomplished the same feat in Crimea. This manufacturing of discontent today among Russian-speaking peoples, in the Ukraine and in other nations, is Putin’s rationale for seizing the former territories of the Soviet Union. This is the same pretext for intervention that Putin used earlier when he invaded Georgia. And just as Hitler counted on a muted response from the West to his annexation of the Sudetenland—and was not disappointed—so Putin harbors similar expectations: If he invades eastern Ukraine, as now seems a real possibility with the buildup of tens of thousands of heavily armed Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, buttressed by tanks, artillery, missiles, and other heavy weaponry—Putin is counting on NATO being too timid to engage Russia’s upgraded, well-trained modern military. In this he is undoubtedly prescient. Europeans have so far evidenced no stomach for war, least of all on European soil. To the world’s shame, it appears that Ukraine must stand or fall by her own efforts. The European powers in the 30’s sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Hitler’s ever-growing geo-political ambitions, through its policy of appeasement, hoping that his libido dominandi would soon be sated…but it wasn’t. Churchill said at the time to the appeasers, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.” Is it déjà-vu in Europe?
It is always surprising to see, in every age, how many people either turn a blind eye towards evil, or rationalize it, or else sanction it by adverting to the Bible, in their bid to clothe their complicity in the garb of righteousness. France is adamant about honoring her military contract with Russia for the sale of two Mistral-class amphibious assault warships, which will undoubtedly be used in the future against other former Soviet Block countries as Putin proceeds step-by-step with his plan of Russian Empire-reconstruction. France is selling these powerful ships in spite of Russia’s dishonorable direct support, and now open leadership, of the Ukrainian Separatists, the downing of the Malaysian airliner with a Russian missile causing 300 deaths (which the UN says may well be a war crime), evidence tampering at the crash site so that no direct evidence can link Russia to the passenger jet, the looting of personal possessions from the bodies of the dead, the Separatists’ refusal to collect all of the bodies strewn helter-skelter around the crash site, and an unending stream of bald-faced lies and childish, pathetic responses from Moscow.
The British, too, until now, have refused to allow any broad economic sanctions against Russia, fearing that they might hurt London’s commercial banking/investment business; and in Germany, arms manufacturers are anxious to finalize their quarter of a billion arms sales to Russia, which includes an important battle simulator, since not to do so would result in lower earnings for the arms sector. For the modern corporation, to its shame, it is always profit before honor: Profit ueber Alles!
We are on earth, at our longest measure, for 6 or 7 fully productive decades, then comes The Final Wait, when our life-journey’s trajectory shall, upon death, be scrutinized in the harsh light of eternal principles. Yet there are many who nevertheless prize these few decades above all law and morality. Putin is one of them. U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden brazenly told Putin that when he looked into his eyes, he could find no evidence of a soul. “Then we understand each other precisely,” replied Putin, agreeing completely with Biden’s psychical diagnosis.
Long association with evil, as has been true with Putin, does indeed destroy one’s soul. But so too does accommodation to evil. The West has yet to stand up fully to Putin, fearful of suffering either economic or military consequences. But by not doing so they stand with Putin, not against him. There is now talk of real economic sanctions being levied against Russia after the downing of the aircraft. If true, they come none too soon. Like it or not, righteousness is a strict Either/Or. We either oppose Putin in unity, sure of our just cause, come-what-may, or else we join hands with him in aiding and abetting his unjust cause. But we can’t do both.
Len Sive Jr.