Munich Revisited: Is Putin Hitler?
Andrew Sullivan lambasts John McCain’s bellicosity on Russia as displayed in his “Today We Are All Georgians” speech:
All of this is quite potty. Russia is no longer the Soviet Union. You’d think conservatives would understand this distinction. There is a difference between totalitarian states seeking world expansion and authoritarian petro-states in demographic collapse bullying neighboring states because of perceived humiliations.
Look: every Republican wants to be Churchill. But this is not 1938. And Putin’s Russia is not Hitler’s Germany. You’ll have to find another fantasy on which to base a campaign.
I tend to agree that the Munich analogy has been so misused in the ensuing decades as to be meaningless and that Russia’s reach and grasp are much more modest than that of Nazi Germany. Then again, Neville Chamberlain and virtually everyone else thought Hitler’s aims were modest and not totally without justification. Hitler didn’t become Hitler until he invaded Poland in 1939.
To the extent that the lessons of Munich still have any bearing, they are that unilateral concessions to despots with territorial ambitions only serve to whet their appetite. The Russians aren’t going to launch WWIII in an attempt to reconstitute the old Soviet bloc. Putin and company understand that they lack the resources to do that. While the West isn’t going to war over Georgia or Ukraine, it would, again, go to war over Poland.
The West needs to recalibrate its foreign policy towards the region with an understanding the Russia is a regional power with real concerns about NATO expansion to its borders. At the same time, however, Russia has to be made to understand that there are real consequences for bad behavior.