It's hard not to draw parallels between the current crisis in Ukraine and the 1938 crisis in Czechoslovakia, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated the Munich Agreement with Hitler that surrendered the Czech Sudetenland to Nazi Germany and agreed to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.
What is most striking to me is the mediocrity of the leaders of the West in their response to Russian aggression in the Crimea. This is from a press conference President Obama, Leader of the Free World, gave today :
I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations but I don't think that's fooling anybody. I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state.Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up with this statement, telling the Russians that if they didn't back off
... then our partners will have absolutely no choice (but) to join us to continue to expand on steps we have taken in recent days to isolate Russia diplomatically, politically and economically.Well, that's telling them. I bet they're quaking in their valenki over at the Kremlin.
When Neville Chamberlain sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938, Leader of the Opposition Winston Churchill gave this blistering speech in the House of Commons on October 5 1938. Here are some excerpts:
I will, therefore, begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing. I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and that France has suffered even more than we have.
The utmost my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been able to secure by all his immense exertions, by all the great efforts and mobilisation which took place in this country, and by all the anguish and strain through which we have passed in this country, the utmost he has been able to gain for Czechoslovakia in the matters which were in dispute has been that the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer [Sir John Simon] said it was the first time Herr Hitler had been made to retract - I think that was the word - in any degree. We really must not waste time after all this long Debate upon the difference between the positions reached at Berchtesgaden, at Godesberg and at Munich. They can be very simply epitomised, if the House will permit me to vary the metaphor. £1 was demanded at the pistol's point. When it was given, £2 were demanded at the pistol's point. Finally, the dictator consented to take £1 17s. 6d. and the rest in promises of goodwill for the future.
All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her association with the Western democracies and with the League of Nations, of which she has always been an obedient servant. She has suffered in particular from her association with France, under whose guidance and policy she has been actuated for so long.
We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi power. The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted. The road down the Danube Valley to the Black Sea, the road which leads as far as Turkey, has been opened.
I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week - I do not grudge them the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies:
"Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."
And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.The Russian aggression in Ukraine cannot stand, but the West is being led by pygmies. Come back Churchill - we need you.