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Ukraine & history

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

It is difficult not to think of Yogi Berra's “déjà vu all over again” remark when reading the news these days.

Vladimir Putin tells the world he has the right to invade Ukraine “to protect” its Russian-speaking population. The same argument was used by Hitler to annex Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and to attack Poland on Sept. 1 of the same year. Under the same pretense, Stalin joined Hitler to invade Poland on Sept. 19, 1939, and the Baltic republics soon afterward.

The situation in Ukraine (and in Georgia six years earlier) tells us history likes to repeat itself more frequently than we would like it to. Only 20 years ago (Budapest Memorandum, Dec. 5, 1994), Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States convinced Ukraine to give up its nukes in return for guarantees of its territorial integrity. Putin's aggression tells the leaders of North Korea, Iran and everyone else that the United Nations, international laws and agreements no longer have any serious meaning in this rapidly changing world.

Ukraine does have a significant number of Russian-speaking citizens (both ethnic Ukrainians and Russians), but I doubt many of them like being used to advance Putin's geopolitical goals. I have similar doubts about Russian-speakers in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other neighbors of the Russian Federation. Georgia, invaded by Putin in 2008, had a comparable number of ethnically Russian citizens to Canada and a smaller number than the U.S.

Pawel Kalinski


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