The virus of nationalism and military aggression: Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March, 1938; Vladimir Putin in Sevastopol, May 9, 2014

The virus of unbounded nationalism and military aggression ravaged Europe, Germany and the world in the 1930’s and 1940’s, leading to World War II and its aftermath.

The same virus has reemerged in Europe twice in recent decades, first in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, and now again in Russia with its invasion and annexation of the Crimea, and its ongoing invasion of the eastern Ukraine in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.

As in the 1930’s, leaders in the West have yielded to pacifism and appeasement, even when not armies but merely severe economic sanctions were involved.

Despite repeated threats of severe, third-stage, sectorial sanctions, Western leaders have again and again backed down in the face of continuing Russian aggression, which each day is shaping facts on the ground.

Repeatedly, they have laid out very specific conditions which must be met in order for Russia to avoid the imposition of such serious sanctions. Each time, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tangled them up in endless negotiations, telephone calls and meetings. Each time, they have backed down in the face of his double game of saying just enough to divert the pressure for serious sanctions, while continuing the relentless pursuit of his strategic objectives on the ground.

Russia intently pursues its military and strategic objectives, while the West is immobilized by the lobbying of big business in favor of their commercial interests–the Republic be damned!–and by the firm grip of pacifism and appeasement on its leaders.

The very groups (National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in particular) whose members are reponsible for the massive off-shoring of American jobs have the incredible chutzpah to argue sanctions should not be imposed on Russia in order to save American jobs.

Barack Obama and the United States are not even involved in the intense discussions between Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, and President Petro Petroshenko of the Ukraine. This has to mark the nadir of post-war leadership for the United States.

In France, President Francois Hollande not only invited Putin to Normandy and the Elysee in Paris, but also announced at the time of the D-Day celebrations that France would complete the sale and delivery of two Mistral-class warships, one of which is named “the Sevastopol”! Both will presumably be based in Sevastopol. Russian Navy sailors began training in France this week on how to operate the vessels.

In Germany, after the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea, former SPD Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder quite publicly joined Putin in St Petersburg for Schroeder’s 70th birthday celebration. Former SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has also expressed “understanding” of Putin’s actions in the Crimea and criticized the EU and the West for their reactions.

Now, the absolute conditions which President Barack Obama and European leaders laid down a month ago have undergone a metamorphosis into what has become an agenda to be worked on by Russia and the Ukraine, in “a peace process” (in Secretary of State John Kerry’s unfortunate choice of words).

In other words, the rapist and the victim are supposed to work together within a process aimed at ending the rape.

The West and its threats have lost all credibility.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Alliance is crumbling, as NATO fails to take the hard decision to permanently deploy large numbers of NATO troops in member countries bordering Russia, in response to urgent requests from the latter.


See the following videos, which may call forth memories of both distant and recent manifestations of unbounded nationalism and military aggression, and what they portended or portend.

Adolf Hitler’s Seizure of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938

(1) Adolf Hitler in Vienna after the take-over of Austria in March, 1938.

See footage of Adolf Hitler’s entry Into Vienna, here.

(2) Background to Munich Pact and Adolf Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland September in September, 1938.

See Walter Cronkite, excerpts from “The Seeds of War”:

Part One, here.
Part Two, here.

Vladimir Putin’s Seizure of the Crimea and Entry into Sevastopol, May 9, 2014

(1) Putin’s speech to a joint session of parliament (Duma) on March 18, 2014.

See “Putin’s Crimea Address Rewrites History,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, March 19, 2014. The article and video are found here.

(2) Vladimir Putin’s triumphant visit to the Crimea on May 9, 1914.

See “Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin pays visit to Crimea; President Vladimir Putin visits Crimea for the first time since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula, just days ahead of a separatist vote by pro-Moscow militants in eastern Ukraine,” The Telegraph, May 9, 2014 (2:37 BST).

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James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.