So first, a little context; some table setting as it were.
In January 1933, President Hindenburg of Germany reluctantly appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor – sort of a prime minister. A little less than two years later, Hindenburg died and Hitler grabbed the reins, declaring himself Germany’s leader (der Führer). In short order, he bloomed as the popular leader by helping his people overcome the disastrous effects of the American economic depression (it hit them, too) and mollifying Germany’s sense of humiliation over the Versailles Treaty at the end of World War I.
In March 1938, Hitler declared the Austrian Anschluss, effectively bringing control of the German speaking nation under control of the Third Reich. A short time later, they annexed the Sudetenland which included areas of German speaking people of the Czech Republic. Britain, of course, made fists and stamped their feet condemning Hitler for this act. Privately, British Prime Minister Chamberlain urged the Czechs to allow the concessions because England was in no position to lend military assistance. Chamberlain goes to visit Hitler attempting to secure a peace. Hitler gives his assurances, but by March 1939, he invades Czechoslovakia anyway, and seizes the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia – they were populated by an overwhelming populace of German speaking people. Britain is still posturing with condemnations, but assures Poland that if German were to invade, they would come to their aid. Of course on September 1, 1939, Germany launches Blitzkrieg and rolls through Poland. Two days later, WWII is on.
Keep the foregoing in mind…
Today, there are many dire geopolitical events, each of which may not seem like the end of the world, but you will notice some significant cause for alarm looking through a magnifying glass and focusing on the patterns.
First, the biggest threat: Russia, and more specifically Vladimir Putin. He recently regained his position as President of Russia in May 2012. He had previously held that post for eight years, but this time it appears there will be no attempt to hide his imperialistic agenda. In March 2014, the Russian Federation annexes the Ukrainian territory of Crimea – it was populated by an overwhelming populace of Russian speaking people – then holds an election which suggests their willingness to be taken under Russia’s wing. NATO makes fists and stamps their feet in condemnation. Sound familiar?
In 2014 there was a revolution in Ukraine. Many wanted to sign up with NATO, but of course that wouldn’t sit well with Putin, so as we continue to see, there is great military tension between Russia and Ukraine. You can see where that’s heading – Russian manifest destiny anyone?
Now let’s peel back a layer of the onion dome atop St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Since 1996, Russia and China have had certain accords which were amended from time to time, the last being in 2001 when the five member countries of the alliance admitted Uzbekistan to their midst. In 2002 they all met in Russia and renamed themselves the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Essentially, they will work together on security, especially on fighting extremist Islamic fundamentalist organizations, economic issues, cultural exchanges, and last but not least military activities. I will come back to this in a moment.
Next we see that Russia is engaging with Iran to barter oil and weapons (such as the S-300 missile rocket system) for grain, equipment, and construction materials, just as the west is dealing with Iran on its nuclear program. Now, the United States is dangling a $50 Billion dollar bonus in front of Iran if and when they sign the deal. (In essence, we would be subsidizing both Iran and Russia). Plus there is the fact that more billions of dollars will be freed up for Iran once the economic sanctions are lifted. This will create a new threat against U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, while Russia pockets yet another new one – and a better armed one.
It gets better.
Vladimir Putin has invited Kim Jong Un of North Korea to Moscow for the May 9th celebration of the USSR victory over the Nazis. Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall when they cozy up for a little coffee and conversation inside the Kremlin?
Now, just for kicks let’s take a quick look at why I mentioned the military cooperation between Russia and China. If you add Russia, China, and North Korea together, you have a combined military strength of 13,000,000. If we add the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan (who technically doesn’t have a military), and Germany to our own forces, we have 7,600,000. Yes, we currently outnumber the rest of the world in aircraft carriers, destroyers, fighter jets, and armored fighting vehicles, but it’s been recently reported that China is undergoing a major naval build-up. Russia has also put ships in the “once-secret naval base” in Olavsvern, Norway. Establishing a presence on the Scandinavian coastline puts them one step closer to the North Atlantic corridor and in closer striking distance to Canada and North American. It doesn’t involve a great deal of imagination to picture a coordinated pincer attack from the northeast, west, and northwest, especially while we’re struggling with Islamic terrorists in several different countries and have only one eye on the rest of the world.
I’ll get to nukes in a second.
Is anyone crazy enough to believe that war, even a world war, is beyond our so highly developed sense of humanity? No, I didn’t think so. If you split the NATO allies up on a multi-front war, how long will our few advantages last? The only way to begin balancing things in our favor is to make an alliance with India who has more than 3.5 million in their military and a rudimentarily decent navy – but, as of now, they are not a member of NATO. One also has to consider which way the wind will blow for Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel.
Lastly, there IS the question of nuclear weapons. We’ve got ‘em and Russia’s got ‘em – about 5,000 each (well a little less, but not by much – at that point, what difference does it make?). We’ve pretty much lived in a MAD (mutually assured destruction) world since the 1950s. But there are wild cards now. We’re trying to keep Iran out of the picture, but China has around 250 nukes, North Korea has 10, and Pakistan has 120. Combined, the UK, France, and India have another, say, 600. Israel, who was duplicitous in the 1960’s about their nuclear weapons program, has some number between 60 and several hundred. To my way of thinking, if things get really tied up for the United States and NATO, and Israel finds itself with enemies coming from all directions – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran (especially if they overrun Saudi Arabia and sweep up the Red Sea coast) what would prevent Israel from resorting to a last-ditch measure and retaliate with a nuke or two. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. (Yeah, I know, at the time we were the only ones to have them, but the reasoning was pretty much the same.) It’s pretty common knowledge that with a phone call Saudi Arabia can pick up a few nukes from Pakistan. I can see the heat of the Middle East getting hotter in a hurry.
Of course this all sounds a bit like a doom-sayer foaming at the mouth, but the people who sat by and said Germany’s not my problem during the 1930s, and those who simply issued verbal condemnations, woke up when it was already too late, at which point the world was on course for the deaths of 60 million people. By today’s standards, that would equate to 210 million. I have a feeling it would be a lot worse.
We’ve got to keep our eyes open. Consider the state of the world when it comes time for the election next year. If you combine our domestic problems with a world that is edging closer and closer to a multi-national conflict (a euphemism for WWIII), then this presidential election might very well be the most important one in our lifetimes.
Or maybe our last…
Could not agree more. Check out insect drones. We think about this all the time. (Jim and I). Its only a matter of time. Living in the mountains is great for running but also for long term safety IF something should happen…. (food supply, our own well, gated property, etc). Can NEVER be too safe.
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I have thought of that so often. I have a small piece of property up in the Adirondacks and would love to put a small cabin on it…it’s so discouraging watching the world run into a brick wall…
Thank you for writing a reply, Mikey. The central focus of the post was to illuminate the patterns of events over the past several years against patterns from history – it stems from the premise that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Secondly, I truly believe that this particular election is of significant importance especially with regard to how the incoming administration will navigate the increasingly complex geopolitical dynamic. Lastly, apples and oranges? Not so sure about that. Yes, I’m pretty sure Putin desires the restoration of the Soviet Union, but Hitler’s initial purpose was to create a thousand year Reich that would restore the grandeur of Imperial Germany (The Second Reich as it were) that expired in 1918 with the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Germany, from the unification in 1871 had been an empire of 27 territories, the largest being the Kingdom of Prussia. After 1918, Germany became a federal republic. The Treaty of Versailles stripped the empire of tens of thousands of square miles of territory and millions of population. In addition, Germany had to make large financial reparations and suffer an allied occupation – all of which served as fodder for Hitler to create a platform from which to launch his ambitions. In that regard, Hitler and Putin have and continue to walk along a similar path.
I’ll go with your first gut feeling – “doom-sayer foaming”. Surprising how often those initial impressions are correct.
Every election is important. But this one isn’t any more important than the last ten (or fifty) of them. You can act from fear, or from a fact-based perspective. There’s significantly less crime and less war globally now than there was a hundred years ago. Putin desires the restoration of the Soviet Bloc he grew up in, but Hitler’s ambitions were global as well as clinically psychotic. Apples vs oranges.