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Steve Lunetta: A European history lesson

Posted: September 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Last Sunday, our pastor asked members of the congregation to raise their hands if they were interested in history.

About five or six intrepid souls out of a couple of hundred tentatively raised their hands.

Fortunately, Pastor Todd does not give his sermons based on a vote of his audience — but seeks to educate us anyway.

I think it’s very sad and potentially disastrous that so few people like history or seem to care about it.

Take the case of the aggressive despot who is seeking to annex an area of a neighboring country on the pretext that language and ethnic similarities are so close to his own that keeping them apart would be unjust.

Of course, other mighty nations, seeking to avoid an armed conflict in Europe, attempt to pacify the despot through official and unofficial channels.

The despot’s own countrymen, stung by a series of embarrassments in previous years, feel that the re-acquisition of these disputed lands will return some semblance of honor and dignity to their homeland.

Emboldened by weak responses from the West in previous acts of aggression, the despot views the other leaders as weak and easily forced aside in support of his acquisition goals.

You would guess Vladimir Putin and Russia? Nope. Try Adolph Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Sudetenland in 1938.
Sud-what? Sudetenland.

Right after the Anschluss, which was the annexation of Austria into Germany in March 1938 (remember “The Sound of Music”?), Hitler was emboldened to keep grabbing more real estate.

Eerie coincidence No. 1: Putin just seized the Crimea by justifying it as a protection of Russia’s only warm water port.

It was a “defensive” action. It also didn’t hurt that many of the Crimeans were ethnic Germans.

Why such thirst for more property? In a nutshell, Hitler and the German people were embarrassed and humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Stripped of national honor, Hitler sought to regain that which was lost.

Eerie coincidence No. 2: The Russians were severely stung by the loss of their “sphere of influence” in Eastern Europe with the fall of communism.

Ex-KGBers like Putin long for the good ol’ days when the Soviet Union was a powerful, First World nation and not merely the butt of a bad joke.

The Sudetenland was a set of territories on the border of Czechoslovakia and Germany that contained several groups that were German-speaking. In fact, according to the 1921 census, German speakers made up a 23 percent minority of all Czechs.

Eerie coincidence #3: Reuters reported that Putin has personally “described Ukranians and Russians as ‘practically one people,’ language that Ukranians say dismisses the very existence of their thousand-year-old nation.”

Ethnic Russians in the eastern portion of Ukraine have now taken up arms against the Ukranian government, controlling numerous towns and villages. Reports of Russian support and incursions into the disputed territory have begun to accumulate over the past week.

In the summer of 1938 and going into the fall, western nations attempted to find a diplomatic solution to Hitler’s aggression with the eventual culmination of the gifting of the Sudentenland to the Germans in October.

In fact, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was famously quoted as saying that this was “peace for our time” on Sept. 30, 1938.

Eerie coincidence No. 4: The Guardian recently reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying “there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis.”

Ki-moon went on to say, “There should be a political dialogue for a political solution — that is the more sustainable way.”

“Peace for our time,” eh, Secretary Ki-moon?

Finally, in 1938, many nations had mutual defense treaties that pledged military support if attacked by a neighboring state.

Poland, in particular, had defense pacts with both Britain and France that triggered the beginning of the Second World War upon Germany’s attack in September 1939.

Eerie coincidence No. 5: Ukraine is desperately seeking admission into NATO, which would grant that nation a protected status from the rest of the member nations. An attack on Ukraine would be an attack on NATO, bringing all member nations into a war with Russia.

Folks, European history tends to repeat itself. Without an understanding of this concept, Europe will fall into disarray once again.

Is the current administration cognizant of these parallels? Highly doubtful.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and a reluctant student of history. He can be reached at


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