Friday, March 18, 2022

Lend Lease Leads to War

Nobody with love in their heart wants war.  But it does seem inevitable - for us, and not just the Ukraine.

Putin's war is part of a very long cultural process of ambition on the part of the Russian Empire under the Czars, the Soviet Union under the Stalinists and now Russian hegemony under the Oligarch robber barons who have taken over the Russian republic under Putin.

The west has responded by drawing a line in the sand between Ukraine and its Nato neighbors: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.  That said, the entire purpose of NATO is to defend against Russian expansionism, so this move by Putin is a serious threat.  NATO exists to contain, and the current policy is designed to relegate the war to just outside the borders of NATO.  Ukraine ultimately is left to its own defense, as we have no treaty agreement with them.  

How similar is this scenario to Hitler's expansion into the Sudetenland in 1938 or Hitler and Stalin's agreement to divide Poland in halves in 1939?  How similar is America's reaction now to our reaction then?  Are we on the path to war?

There are similarities to look at, and we should walk forward with eyes wide open.

Hitler's excuse to enter the Sudetenland (modern Czech Republic region) was the large majority of people there who were "pro-German" or "culturally German:" they voted in local elections to be German.  Later in the war, Austria would join the Nazi regime the same way.  The analogy works to eastern Ukraine, whose population is majority Russian culture, with areas in the east and the Crimea that are overtly pro-Russian.  That is why Putin was able to so easily annex the Crimea in 2014 (and 1783 for that matter).  The excuse to come in and "Russify" the region gets explained as "supporting the democratic wishes of that region" which is ludicrous since in our day it was part of a sovereign nation.  El Paso, Texas can not vote to align with Mexico and hope that Mexico will send in their army to annex the territory.  It doesn't work. But here we are and Putin is doing just what Hitler did in the past.

Second, when Hitler and Russia divided Poland, nobody really reacted.  Poland was not allied with the major powers, and nobody wanted a second world war.  Americans, in the midst of a nationalist and protectionist era, where not eager to enter the war against Germany.  Again today, after Iraq and Afghanistan our country is not eager to find itself in an active war.  But "we don't want a war" is a weak starting point for diplomacy.

Third, once Hitler attacked Holland, France and England, the United States still did not enter the war.  Instead, FDR started a process of "lend/lease" of American civilian and military supplies and sent them across the Atlantic to support England or any other country vital to American security.  This is exactly what we are doing today in the Ukraine.  Germany responded by attacking the military supply columns with U Boats, swaying many American minds.  Our entry into the war became nearly inevitable.

So here we are, just like in 1941.  A major power has begun a senseless war of expansion, with claims of supporting self-determination for "Russian People" in a neighboring state.  It has already successfully annexed other portions of another country, and wants more.  The world wishes "not to start a world war," and has decided to give/lend/lease military and civilian supplies in huge amounts to prop up the defends and bog down the attackers - safely far away from our own people and military.  But how long will it be before Putin, like Germany, attacks the supply lines that we have created.  Our supplies are stopping him from advancing to conquer all of the Ukraine - or at least the more Russian cultural half of it that is east of the Dniper River.  What makes us think he will tolerate failure or defeat?

Putin shows no sign of stopping.  It is hard to see how this conflagration ends without either the entrance of NATO into war with Russia or the abandonment of the Ukraine.

The only hope would be that Russia grinds down and collapses internally as a result of this expensive and unwise war.  That is by no means a foregone conclusion, and would take a long time.  Do we, or they, have the patience for that to happen?

It does seem inevitable:  Russian will attack the supply lines.  American and NATO ally forces will be hit and killed.  What is the administration's plan in that scenario?