Fiona Hill: We first have to think about what Vladimir Putin has done and the nature of what we’re facing. People don’t want to talk about Adolf Hitler and World War II, but I’m going to talk about it. Obviously the major element when you talk about World War II, which is overwhelming, is the Holocaust and the absolute decimation of the Jewish population of Europe, as well as the Roma-Sinti people.
But let’s focus here on the territorial expansionism of Germany, what Germany did under Hitler in that period: seizure of the Sudetenl and and the Anschluss or annexation of Austria, all on the basis that they were German speakers. The invasion of Poland. The treaty with the Soviet Union, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, that also enabled the Soviet Union to take portions of Poland but then became a prelude to Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Invasions of France and all of the countries surrounding Germany, including Denmark and further afield to Norway. Germany eventually engaged in a burst of massive territorial expansion and occupation. Eventually the Soviet Union fought back. Vladimir Putin’s own family suffered during the siege of Leningrad, and yet here is Vladimir Putin doing exactly the same thing.
Maura Reynolds: So, similar to Hitler, he’s using a sense of massive historical grievance combined with a veneer of protecting Russians and a dismissal of the rights of minorities and other nations to have independent countries in order to fuel territorial ambitions?
Hill: Correct. And he’s blaming others, for why this has happened, and getting us to blame ourselves.
If people look back to the history of World War II, there were an awful lot of people around Europe who became Nazi German sympathizers before the invasion of Poland. In the United Kingdom, there was a whole host of British politicians who admired Hitler’s strength and his power, for doing what Great Powers do, before the horrors of the Blitz and the Holocaust finally penetrated.
Reynolds: And you see this now.
Hill: You totally see it. Unfortunately, we have politicians and public figures in the United States and around Europe who have embraced the idea that Russia was wronged by NATO and that Putin is a strong, powerful man and has the right to do what he’s doing: Because Ukraine is somehow not worthy of independence, because it’s either Russia’s historical lands or Ukrainians are Russians, or the Ukrainian leaders are — this is what Putin says — “drug addled, fascist Nazis” or whatever labels he wants to apply here.
So sadly, we are treading back through old historical patterns that we said that we would never permit to happen again. The other thing to think about in this larger historic context is how much the German business community helped facilitate the rise of Hitler. Right now, everyone who has been doing business in Russia or buying Russian gas and oil has contributed to Putin’s war chest. Our investments are not just boosting business profits, or Russia’s sovereign wealth funds and its longer-term development. They now are literally the fuel for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. [Continue reading…]