It was 75 years ago when Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Nazi Germany, invaded and annexed Czechoslovakia for exactly the same reason Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, has invaded the Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea.
Hitler's reason was that there were three million Germans in Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland, whom he, in blatant falsehood, he said the Czechs were mistreating. So he was moving in to "protect" his people. Russian President Putin is using the identical argument as an excuse for his invasion of Crimea. But like Hitler, Putin is dead wrong—the Russians in Crimea are under absolutely no threat. Like Hitler, however, Putin has territorial ambitions. His aim is to resurrect the Russian Empire, and if allowed to, he will not stop at Crimea. The world must not be fooled as Hitler fooled British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938.
The British, French and other European nations suspected Hitler's nationalistic and territorial ambitions and knew that they had to resist him, otherwise it could lead to war. But Hitler convinced Prime Minister Chamberlain that all he (Hitler) wanted was protecting the Germans in Sudetenland.
Prime Minister Chamberlain paid several visits to Germany for discussions with Hitler over this issue.
But Chamberlain was first misled by another Fascist leader, the Italian "Duce" Benito Mussolini. According to Wikipedia, Hitler, in February 1938, began to press the Austrian government to accept "Anschluss" or union between Germany and Austria. Chamberlain believed that it was essential to cement relations with Italy in the hope that an Anglo-Italian alliance would forestall Hitler from imposing his rule over Austria. British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, however, believed Chamberlain was being too hasty in talking with Italy and holding out the prospect of "de jure" recognition of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia. But Chamberlain concluded that Eden would have to accept that policy, or resign, which he eventually did.
The pact with Mussolini was Chamberlain's first act of appeasement in the face of Italy's blatant territorial aggrandizement against beleaguered Ethiopia.
In later years, Eden portrayed his resignation as a stand against appeasement. In his book, The Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill, who succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister, described Eden as "one strong young figure standing up against … drift and surrender."
In March 1938 Austria became a part of Germany in the "Anschluss". Though the beleaguered Austrians requested help from Britain, none was forthcoming.
Hitler's next target, the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. The full British Cabinet agreed that there was little Britain could do to help the Czechs in the event of a German invasion. Later that month the new French Prime Minister, Édouard Daladier, came to London for talks with Chamberlain and agreed to follow the British position on Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain decided to fly to Germany to negotiate directly with Hitler and his Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, begun on September 15, 1938, in a three-hour face-to-face meeting with der Fuhrer at Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat. Hitler demanded the annexation of the Sudetenland, and through questioning him, Chamberlain was able to obtain assurances that Hitler had no designs on the remainder of Czechoslovakia or on the areas in Eastern Europe which had German minorities. After the meeting Chamberlain returned to London believing that Sudetenland would be annexed by Germany if a plebiscite in the Sudetenland favored it. Czechoslovakia would receive international guarantees of its independence.
It is not the same plebiscite Putin has planned in Crimea this weekend, to "legitimize" his invasion of the peninsular?
The French agreed to the requirements. Under considerable pressure the Czechoslovaks also agreed, causing the Czechoslovak government to fall.
In a subsequent meeting with Chamberlain, Hitler demanded immediate occupation of the Sudetenland and that German territorial claims in Poland and Hungary be addressed. That amounted to a veiled threat that Nazi Germany would invade these two nations as well which, of course, happened.
Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler ended amicably, with Chamberlain confiding to Hitler his hopes they would be able to work out other problems in Europe in the same spirit. Hitler hinted that the Sudetenland fulfilled his territorial ambitions in Europe. On the morning of 29 September, 1938 Chamberlain left Heston Aerodrome (to the east of today's Heathrow Airport) for his third and final visit to Germany as Prime Minister. Present at that meeting were French Prime Minister Daladier, Mussolini and Hitler. It was
there that Hitler informed them that Germany would invade Czechoslovak on October 1, 1938. The two Prime Ministers urged quick acceptance by the Czechoslovaks of the agreement since the evacuation by the Czechs was to begin the following day. At 12:30 p.m. the Czechoslovak government in Prague objected to the decision but agreed to its terms.
This "appeasement at Munich," which John F. Kennedy, then a young Harvard graduate, wrote about in his book, ¬"Why England Slept," was complete. It was an agreement that would ignominiously cast Chamberlain in history as the great appeaser.
Germany invaded Czechoslovakia on October 1, 1938 and quickly overran the entire country.
United States President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron, French President Hollande, President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, NOW is the time for you all to stand up against Russian aggression, tyranny and territorial angrandizement and STOP it. The world cannot sit idly by and accept this blatant injustice, this dangerous repeat of history.
Today, it is Crimea, and next would be Ukraine itself, then on to Georgia, Latvia and the other former satellite states of the defunct and moribund Soviet Union.
Putin MUST NOT have his way, and only you all, led by the United States, can stop him.