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West’s Response To Putin’s Invasion Of Ukraine Resembles Response To Hitler’s Invasion Of Poland – OpEd

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When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war as they were required to do by treaty but they did not begin fighting, ushering in a period that has come to be known as the phony war which lasted until the German leader launched his attacks on the low countries and France in 1940.

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The response of Britain and France then reflected the fears of their leaders that going to war would lead to a repeat of the slaughter of World War I; but by not fighting Hitler over Poland, the allies simply gave him more time to build up his strength and then turn his forces on the west.

Something disturbingly similar is happening now in the triangle between the West and Russia over Ukraine, Skobov says. Western leaders are caught between the conviction that the defeat and capitulation of Ukraine must not be allowed and their feelings that a wider nuclear war “with Nazified Russia” must be avoided (graniru.org/opinion/skobov/m.285283.html).

“As a result,” he continues, NATO countries are providing weapons to Ukraine with a constant eye on whether Nazi Russia considers this or that action a pretext for a direct attack on a NATO country.” This military assistance ensures that Ukraine will continue to offer “fierce resistance,” but it is “insufficient to stop” or turn back the Russian invasion.

Some in the West hope that Ukraine will inflict a defeat on Russia that will force Moscow to withdraw. Others hope that Russia will stop when it reaches the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and is able to sell this at home as a victory and that as a result, the war will end.

In the minds of such people, Skobov says, “that will suit everyone. The shelling will stop and people will stop dying. All political questions will be postponed into the indefinite future;” and if negotiations continue,  “it will be possible to return to business as usual with the new Hitler. That is what such people mean by ‘compromise.’”

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But such a compromise will be an immediate defeat for Ukraine and an ultimate defeat for the West because it will represent “a clear victory” for Putin, albeit not the complete and immediate one he hoped for but a victory nonetheless that he will build on in the future and use not only against Ukraine but against others, including the West.

There can be “no doubt,” Skobov continues, that “having untied his hands in the Donbass, Putin at the first opportunity will back up his demands with new military action somewhere else,” just as Hitler did in 1940. At such times, he will deploy conventional weapons but employ nuclear threats to try to force the West to repeat such a fiasco.

Any real compromise with Putin would require him to be humiliated, a step many in the West are fearful of taking. And the West must ultimately recognize this  or it will face more and more losses in the future. Putin may order the use of nuclear weapons, although his generals might not obey, but he will do so only in the extreme case of a potential loss of occupied land.

If the West really intends to seek the liberation of Russian-occupied territories,” Skobov concludes, “it makes no sense for it to worry about how to avoid escalation and avoid provoking Putin with this or that shipment of arms to Ukraine. Only a determination not to back down can stop Putin.”  And it is time for the West to recognize that reality.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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