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franklin county times

Are we getting into World War III?

Dan Mueller is a regular guest columnist from Russellville who writes A Worldview from Franklin County.

Anyone who has played the board game Risk knows the strategic value of Ukraine. In reality, it is even more important than in the game.

Ukraine is the breadbasket of eastern Europe. It also holds about 5 percent of the natural resources of Europe. Russian President Putin is well aware of the uranium deposits there.

Ukraine is one of the most fought-over parcels of land in history.

The Charge of the Light Brigade occurred in Crimea. It has been part of the USSR and the Ottoman Empire; rarely has it had self-rule.

After the breakup of the USSR, it quickly became independent. During this time, the U.S. guaranteed to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression if Ukraine would give up its nuclear arms.

They did.

I’m not going to give you many answers, but I will ask a lot of questions – questions to make you think and questions to make you take stock of who we are and what our obligations to the world are.

During the time of Soviet domination, Ukrainians felt the destructive results of Soviet policy more than other places. Famines caused by Stalin’s five-year plans disproportionately affected the population of Ukraine.

The USSR moved ethnic Russians into eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula.

In 2014 this is how Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula into Russia.

This is a tried-and-true method of gaining area for a country. The U.S. used it to gain Texas and California.

How far do Putin’s desires go? What is he willing to risk to take Ukraine? Maybe he’ll be happy with Finlandization.

Those are important questions.

Well, what makes this a prelude to World War II?

A little history: After WWI, Germany was regulated to a small army and no air force, and it had to demilitarize the Rhineland, among other things.

One of the first acts of aggression Hitler carried out was to reoccupy the Rhineland. This was written off by a war-weary world as, well, it’s their land.

Then came the annexation of Austria. Hitler claimed the Austrians were really Germans, and Austria was really Germany. Sound familiar? The same claims were used to annex the Sudetenland.

Is this what we are seeing with Putin?

WWII was called “Mr. Roosevelt’s war” by many. The economy was slipping into depression again after a brief resurgence in the late 1930s, and many saw the war as a way out of the economic crisis.

Very concerning to the U.S. was Japan’s war in China and its expansionist goals in the South Pacific. In China, the human atrocities, such as the Rape of Nanking, were very troubling, and sanctions were placed against Japan. The U.S. deprived Japan of oil and scrap metal that were essential to Japan’s economy.

At the same time, Europe was in upheaval from Hitler.

The U.S. could have removed its sanctions against Japan and not enacted Lend-Lease to Europe and sat out the war. We chose not to ignore the fate of the innocents across the globe and intervened.

Japan would probably not have bombed Pearl Harbor if we had not cut off their economic lifeline.

Germany really did not have the capability for a cross-channel invasion, so England would probably survive. Germany and the Soviet Union would have fought each other to a draw, and life would have gone on for the U.S.

Is that a world you would want?

How many more Jews would have been slaughtered? How many more Chinese and other Pacific Islanders?

Is the U.S. destined to be the world’s policeman?

Ukrainian President Zelensky’s government asks that the U.S. reduce its sabre rattling and just give material goods – arms – so Ukraine can defend itself. I’d say that’s reminiscent of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s request: “Give us the tools, and we’ll do the job.”

Germany saw Lend-Lease as an act of war, and right after, Pearl Harbor declared war on the U.S. Will Putin see the same thing?

So far we are not seeing the human atrocities in Ukraine we saw before and during WWII. Is that enough to stay out of the war?

What other interests do we have in this conflict? What of our obligation to help defend Ukraine since the country gave up its nukes?

Zelensky is only asking for material help; is that because he is afraid that U.S. troops will represent an irrevocable path to war?

Do we owe it to ourselves to deploy to allies near Ukraine to be ready to repulse a Russian attack?

Is French President Emmanuel Macron playing British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin? Marcon is actively playing the part of peacemaker in this crisis. Hopefully he can successfully mediate this mess.

The U.S. responded to Russians’ demands the other day, and there was a nugget of hopefulness. Russian foreign minister Lavrov said there was “a kernel of rationality” in the U.S. response. In diplomatic speak, this is a huge revelation.

Putin claims he is only trying to safeguard Russian security. He is demanding Ukraine not be admitted into NATO and that NATO back away from eastern Europe.

Can Marcon be successful? Is this all Putin wants? What is the U.S. interest in this?

When President George W. Bush – the second  President Bush – went to war in Iraq, did he prevent Hussain from becoming a Hitler in the Middle East? Was it worth the cost?

As I said, I do not have any answers – just a lot of questions. These are the questions we must ask ourselves.

Hopefully Marcon can broker a true peace. Hopefully Ukraine can live independently from outside control. Hopefully we can have peace in our time.

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