On October 3, 1938, Adolf Hitler's armies marched into Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia. Germany said it was responding to separatist demands from the large German population that lived there and that she was merely honoring their desire for reunion with Germany. Hitler's tanks took over a vital part of an independent country that had largely rejected his overtures and allied itself with the West. Neither Britain nor France nor the United States did a thing to stop him.
On August 7, 2008, Vladimir Putin's armies marched into South Ossetia, a part of Georgia. Russia said it was responding to separatist demands from the large Russian population that lived there and that she was merely honoring their desire for reunion with Russia. Putin's tanks took over a vital part of an independent country that had largely rejected his overtures and allied itself with the West. Neither Britain nor France nor the United States did a thing to stop him.
Encouraged by his occupation of Sudetenland, Hitler continued his designs on Czechoslovakia itself and invaded the rest of the nation a few months later.
Will history continue to repeat itself?
Georgia is one of the two countries that have split off from the old Soviet Union and most firmly reached out to the West. Now Putin is testing whether the west will respond to an overt Russian military attack on a part of Georgia, doubtless paving the way for a full scale invasion, perhaps in the coming days. One immediate Russian move would be to use its new found military leverage to force Georgia to give up Abkhazia, another province with a large Russian population.
Russia has encouraged migration by ethnic Russians into its satellite empire ever since Stalin's days and now is using the provinces with large Russian populations to foment discord in nations that lean to the West.
The United States and the European Union must not turn away at this crucial moment in history. The U.S. should take visible steps to bolster Georgia, including the dispatch of supplies, materials, and other manifestations of our determination not to let this nation be invaded.
Russia's goal in this imperialism is to intimidate any nation on its borders into rejecting overtures from the west and to try to prove that the west will offer no real protection against Russian military designs.
NATO should speed consideration of Georgia's application for admission and should extend its security umbrella to include the struggling democracy.
If the United States appeases Russia now, it will pay the same price British Prime Minister Nevelle Chamberlain paid in the 1930s. This invasion must not be allowed to stand or, at the very least, it must be contained to South Ossetia and not allowed to lap over into the rest of Georgia.