The world takes Putin’s actions on the chin – and does nothing about it

Many, many years ago, in the first half of the previous century, a Dutch sea captain of Czech origin, Jan Van Toch, anchored his ship by a small island somewhere in the Pacific. His company ordered him to find areas where they could get some original pearls. These jewels were coming back into fashion, you see. And Van Toch’s Rotterdam bosses wanted to ride the wave, enhancing their own bank accounts in the process.

The good Captain found, to his genuine surprise, animals whom the natives feared and called black devils. They were intelligent newts. Captain Van Toch befriended them, gave them all kinds of equipment, including underwater guns so they could defend themselves against the local shark population, and convinced a captain of Czech economy who, accidentally, had been born in the same little town as Jan Van Toch, that this could become a business venture.

It did. Thus Czech author Karel Čapek. That, by the way, is the guy who gave the world the word “robot.” But that’s another story for another day.

Čapek wrote and published (in 1936) War with the Newts (Válka s mloky in the original Czech). It was also translated as War with the Salamanders.

This satirical science-fiction novel describes how modern industrialists first enslaved and exploited the newts, until the creatures acquired human knowledge and rebelled. They needed more shores for themselves. So, they started destroying the continents, enlarging the world’s oceans and thus creating more space in which they could live.

If it resembles Adolf Hitler’s demand for “Lebensraum” (space to live in) for the German nation by any chance, it is no accident.

The conflict between the humans and the newts led to a global war for supremacy.

As the war progressed, the author introduced an anonymous voice, known as Mr. X, who told humankind it was perfectly insane to continue developing and delivering all kinds of weapons and sundry equipment to the newts who were, all along, continuing with their operation to destroy that same humankind. Mr. X called on people to stop this. His call was met with derision: economists, politicians, labour union leaders, they all said humankind had never had it better, employment figures were reaching 100 per cent, in fact, people would need more workers to meet all the orders coming from under-the-sea level, and who was this Mr. X anyway to try to stop progress.

If you want to know how it all ended, run to your local library or a bookstore.

Cut to the chase

We are in the twenty-first century now, and the world keeps supplying another Hitler, one who goes under the name of Vladimir Putin, and is also known as the president of Russia. Putin’s Russia is getting all kinds of sophisticated weaponry, and the European Union goes on without stopping but once to think how suicidal this is.

Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas, writing for an Estonian web publication, ICDS (the abbreviation stands for International Centre for Defence Studies), of Tallin, that country’s capital, have exposed the world’s dark secret.

Before we proceed, a tip of the hat is due to Jan Maisler for a competent translation, and to Jiří Wagner, editor of the Czech news site, Neviditelny pes, for preparing this information jewel for publication.

If you don’t speak Czech, learn to. You would be able to read the story quoted from below in its fullness. And if knowing the language of the people who gave the world such beers as Pilsner Urquell and the original Budweiser (not the weak imitations as provided by Anheuser-Busch) is not important to you, where are your values, for crying out loud?

Back to the topic

The European Union (EU, for short, and it doesn’t deserve anything more, anyhow), says it’s upset about the Russian aggression in Ukraine and it’s going to impose sanctions.

Oh yeah? That’s the question posed by Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas.

How about weapons exports to Russia? And – more importantly, perhaps – how about the close co-operation between some EU countries and Russia, developing new weapon systems and transferring military technologies and expertise to Russia?

Strangely enough, most mainstream media all over the world keep their mouths shut when it comes to this topic.

But why?

Is it because speaking out would equal washing dirty linen in public? Is it because putting a stop to this shameful behaviour would (let’s go back to Čapek) slow down or, Heaven forbid, stop the flow of income that happens to turn into profit at a later stage? Is it because mainstream media never got a press release detailing these shenanigans?

Realizing that modern-day reporters seem to have never heard that what makes a reporter is curiosity, this could be as valid a reason as any.

Or is it hypocrisy, pure and simple?

A few years ago, Russia invaded Georgia. The reason, Putin said on the occasion, was to defend the poor, defenceless Russians in Ossetia (sounds familiar, does it not?). Shortly after that, Russia signed a deal with France. It would buy from the French amphibious vehicles of the Mistral class (a.k.a. “projection and command” vehicles). The Baltic republics, all of whom had known Soviet occupation, objected. The EU called their reaction “hysterical” and worse.

That, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas write, was a clear signal: who cares about Russia’s aggressive behaviour, so long as France’s military economy prospers? It may even fill French government’s coffers with new taxes. So, what’s the big deal?

Everybody’s happy: Russia has got new killer toys to use in its future aggressions, France gets richer. What’s there to complain about?

Remember the Iraqi nuclear facility, Osirak? It used to be called by many “Ochirac,” after then-French president Jacques Chirac who allowed the transfer of his country’s sophisticated nuclear knowledge (and the training of Iraqi scientists in his country) despite clear warnings that something dirty was going on. In a daring air attack, the Israelis would obliterate the place, thus earning eternal hatred from France.

So, what’s new? Nothing much, really.

As Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas inform us, the Franco-Russian military co-operation now includes the development of a new generation of vehicles for the transport of Russia’s infantry, the development of a production line for building thermovision, equipment that would allow the Russian military to operate in the middle of the night, as well as a number of other similar projects. Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas also quote Dmitrii Rogozin, Russia’s vice-premier responsible for defence (read: military) industries, as saying that the two countries have launched a “new era of intensive Franco-Russian co-operation that includes intensive exchange of confidential information.”

God knows where all that is going to end. And if She knows, She’s not telling: it’s confidential information, after all.

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

Since the EU includes two major weapons exporters (France and Germany), it was to be expected that the Germans would not be far behind their French brethren.

Germany’s Federal Security Council (Bundessicherheitsrat in German) is chaired by the country’s Chancellor herself (her office is equal to Canada’s Prime Minister, with the President serving as a figure-head, just as the Governor-General does in Canada). It has been issuing export licences for weapon sales like nobody’s business. Russia has been quickly making its way to the top of the list of countries that deserve getting Germany’s military technology.

One of the most alarming recent German sales to Russia: modern equipment to train units up to the size of a brigade. That, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas document, happens to be first-class equipment to run an operations command post. Thus far, it has been available only to the most developed countries. Whether Russia is one of the most-developed countries remains to be seen, but it now has this equipment.

In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has developed a doctrine that basically gives her country’s military industry a free hand. Thus Merkel: “I am convinced that it is in our interest to enable our partners to effectively participate in keeping or renewing security and peace in their regions.”

Which means that if Putin says that Russians in Ossetia or Ukraine (or anywhere else, for that matter) are in danger and he only wants is to ensure their safety and security, his word is gospel.

Konrad Henlein used this refrain in the Sudetenland regions of former Czechoslovakia, with Adolf Hitler’s enthusiastic support. It ended in a deal (the so-called Munich Agreement) signed by British Prime Minister Sir Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier, Italy’s Duce (Leader) Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Reichskanzler (Chancellor) Adolf Hitler.

Sir Neville Chamberlain returned to London, telling all and sundry he had secured “peace in our time.”

Indeed. We all know how it ended.

Lying through their teeth

The EU politicians claim that if they co-operate with Russia, they would have a say in what that country is doing.

A bald-faced lie if there ever was one, and they know it.

Vladimir Putin is much more realistic. He knows that, beside some tut-tutting that followed his incursion into Georgia, nothing happened and everything was business as usual even before the dust settled. So, he figures, and quite correctly, too, that if he annexes the entire country of Ukraine, not just Crimea, he’ll pass jail and will be free to buy, say, Pennsylvania Station, to use the language of the game of Monopoly.

Why Pennsylvania Station? Just a play on words: Putin received a phone call from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., the other day. The U.S. president himself, Barack Obama was on the line. They chatted for about an hour after which Putin told Obama he had other, more pressing, commitments to attend to and bid good-bye.

Would Putin change anything, pray tell, after this conversation? Are you kidding? Why should he? What can a president whom he considers a perfect weakling do to him? And besides, all of his military’s supply needs are met, courtesy France and Germany, so, who cares about the U.S., anyway?

So, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas pose a legitimate question: who’s influencing whom, come to think of it? It’s obvious the EU (and the rest of the Western world) have practically no impact on Putin’s thinking and actions with whatever rhetoric they dare mouth. And not that the EU overextends itself in its condemnations of Russia’s aggressions, either. In fact, it seems that Canada is the only country willing to take at least some action, symbolic as it is. Expelling Russian military personnel and limiting Russian officials’ right of entry is nice, but if Putin had feathers, none of them would be ruffled.

What can be done?

Not much, really, if we decide to subscribe to what today’s Western politicians (and those of the EU in particular) call realpolitik.

Impose sanctions? To be effective, they would have to include all matters military, including an immediate stop to all military sales and knowledge transfers.

Is this going to happen? A rhetorical question.

EU politicians would tell you they haven’t got enough money to maintain their military and, besides, NATO isn’t that rich of an uncle as it used to be any longer, either. Pray tell, they would demand, where else are we going to get the finances to maintain our own defence? We’re taxing our own citizens beyond acceptable levels as it is.

Here’s a logical follow-up question: maintaining your defence means that you’re defending your sovereignty. Except, it seems everything the EU stands for is dismantling individual (and sovereign) European countries. So, how can you explain that contradiction?

Here’s the answer you’d get: silence. Overwhelmingly deafening silence.

The crux of the matter is that to maintain their military, EU countries are supporting someone who’s getting more and more aggressive. Putin relies on the shortsightedness of EU politicians because he knows he can.

To sum up: EU politicians are undermining their own security while helping a new Hitler along the way. In addition, some of the countries that have common borders with Russia (including some EU members) will lose their faith in EU’s ability to defend them against somebody who’s got that same military hardware (and software) as EU has. Where they will go to get their own weaponry is anybody’s guess. China? Korea? South Africa? Israel?

And where’s the U.S. on this list? you may ask. Nowhere is the answer. The Europeans mostly seem to share Putin’s assessment of America’s current administration. That’s one of the very few things they share with him.

Meanwhile, Putin will continue to test EU’s policy of appeasement and profit. It’s going to be his gain and, eventually, his trump card.

If you start digging a hole, you should stop digging once you’re inside, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas say.

The question is: do the French and the Germans realize they’ve dug a hole that now has not only them, but their alleged EU allies inside, too?

Where is Karel Čapek’s Mr. X now when we need him?

And would we wake up and start listening to him?

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