Jack Kelly writes in RealClearPolitics about Russia’s apparent invasion of neighboring Georgia, comparing the current situation to the lead-up to World War II. In the late 1930s, Neville Chamberlain—Prime Minister of the United Kingdom—had joined with French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier and German Chancellor Adolph Hitler to discuss Hitler’s territorial ambitions. Germany had already annexed Austria with virtually no opposition, and the three leaders now agreed to Hitler’s desire to annex the Sudetenland—part of Czechoslovakia—with Hitler’s fervent assurances that he would then be done.
Chamberlain and Daladier each went home to their respective countries declaring that they had achieved a peaceful resolution to the German crises. Chamberlain famously stated, “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”
Hitler, of course, was not a man of honor, and the agreements England and France made with him did not bring peace. We now know that appeasement doesn’t work, and once a regime gets a taste for invasion and annexation it tends to continue doing it. There is legitimate concern that Vladamir Putin’s Russia, which continues its invasion of Georgia despite having agreed to a cessation of hostilities, is beginning a walk down the same path in an effort reconstitute the bygone Soviet Union (the collapse of which Putin has called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century”). Chillingly, as Kelly states, “Putin is using the same excuse for invading Georgia (protecting Russian ethnic minorities) that Hitler used for invading Czechoslovakia and Poland (protecting German minorities).”
We need to be very careful not to repeat the mistakes of Chamberlain and Daladier, and to treat the Georgian crisis with appropriate seriousness as a potential harbinger of things to come from Putin’s Russia.