Ukraine and the Sudetenland


March 2, 2014

Gray but at least not very cold morning.  A little bit of drizzle. A couple of layers of rock salt and sand on the roads. Some of the ground around the trees unfrozen. Stored-up heat from yesterday's sunlight?

Lots of potholes on the roads. Will Providence's mayor, Angel Taveras, fill enough of them fast enough  to avoid lethally damaging his run for governor? How many broken axles can he take?

Happy to hear that we won't get the snowstorm that had been promised for tonight and tomorrow. But heard little birdsong this morning. No bright sun to get the feathered bastards excited.

In some years, plenty of crocuses out by now in sunny spots.  But on this year's tundra, we will have to wait,  I would guess, until the end of next week. Perhaps the big rainstorm that some meteos see coming up the coast at the of end of this week will unfreeze the ground enough to speed things along.

Meanwhile, about five more degrees this morning and the worms will be wiggling in the compost bin.

Russian dictator and former KGB official Vlad Putin is doing to Ukraine what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia: Using the excuse of "rescuing''  his "compatriots'' (if that's what Russian-speaking Ukrainians are)  to try to bring a whole democratic country to heel.

In Hitler's case, he used the  bogus "plight'' of ethnic/linguistic Germans living in the Sudetenland strip of democratic Czechoslovakia as an excuse to take over that country after it was betrayed by France and Britain as then-isolationist America looked on.

Now we have further proof that Putin's occasionally murderous regime is also an imperialist and fascist one. We had plenty of proof already.

Will the European Union do anything? Has the Europeans' relentless  military disarmament emboldened the Russian dictator to follow Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and create a new empire, or rather reconstitute the Soviet one in the form of a fascist and xenophobic one?

As when the Russians invaded Hungary in 1956 (when Republican Eisenhower was U.S. president) and Czechoslovakia in 1968 (when Democrat and Vietnam-distracted Lyndon Johnson was president) to impose its will, so apparently it is doing now in Ukraine.

Of course, whatever the rhetoric, the West can do little in the short term to stop the Russians, though it would be nice to think that we could ship the Ukrainians some arms. But then, other than risk World War III, we could do little immediately in '56 and '68, despite the demands of conservative Republicans that we "roll back the Iron Curtain.''

But the Russian economy, whose only really successful part is oil and gas exports, is very vulnerable to long-term economic sanctions -- if the Europeans can summon up more courage and persistence that they have shown lately.

The first thing  powerful thing we can do is to start freezing Russian assets in the U.S. (much of them produced from criminal activities anyway) and revoke the visas of Russian officials and businesspersons. Hit the Putin regime very hard in the pocketbook.

And let's hope that we not only take strong measures to thwart cyber-attacks on the Ukrainians, the Western Europeans and us during Russia's invasion of Ukraine but also go on the offensive to do everything possible to make Putin's invasion painful to his regime, which presides over what is in many ways a very fragile, if geographically vast, nation.

Of course, with Putin pal and Moscow resident Edward Snowden probably continuing to feed U.S. systems information to the Kremlin that will be more difficult than it would have been a couple of years ago. (Why oh why has Snowden, who took his information first to the Chinese communist dictatorship and then to the fascist one in the Kremlin been presented as some sort of a hero? )

But America, as an innovative and open society, has far more creativity than does the profoundly corrupt and paranoid Russia ruled by Putin. In the end, we can outsmart it.

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