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Opinion: Hitler’s Avatar

The Czechs have never forgotten that allies handed over their Sudetenland Province to Hitler in 1938 after the German dictator promised it would be “last territorial demand I have to make in Europe.”

The Czechs have never forgotten that allies handed over their Sudetenland Province to Hitler in 1938 after the German dictator promised it would be “the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe.”

Months later, Nazis occupied their country and waged war in Europe and around the world for seven more years, killing tens of millions.

To many today, Ukraine is the next Sudetenland as it fends off another war criminal with imperial ambitions who promises he will stop once it is occupied. The synchronicity is obvious and is why one of the most hawkish and driven leaders in Europe is Czech President Petr Pavel, a retired general and former NATO advisor.

He has been as outspoken and blunt about Putin’s ruthless intention to swallow Ukraine and Europe as was Winston Churchill in the 1930s. And he has also taken the lead by devising a scheme to prevent Ukraine from running out of needed munitions shortly due to US and EU delays. On March 7, he announced that Kyiv will receive between 800,000 and 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition in weeks.

Pavel quietly procured one year’s’ worth of ammo from arsenals around the world, on a no-names basis, in order to safeguard suppliers from Russian retaliation. He’s done so because “if Ukraine fails, so will we.”

President Pavel is blunt. He believes that once again Europe hurtles toward war, and that, if Kyiv falls, war in the rest of Europe is inevitable and troops must be ready for such a potential outcome. He’s a proponent of whatever it takes to halt Putin, and dismisses Putin’s claims that he has no interest in invading another NATO nation.

In the aftermath of the attack on Crocus City Hall near Moscow, for which Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility, fears of attacks by Islamist terrorists are growing in other countries.

In August, at the 55th anniversary of the “Prague Spring” (or the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops that crushed its democratic movement) he remarked “Russia has not changed… The 1968 invasion was a time of lost dreams and lost dignity.

We should remember what it felt like. Because Ukraine only wants what we wanted at the time. They want to determine their own path. Russia hasn’t changed since then – the country has a different name, but its foreign policy, its values are the same.”

Pavel is the Czech Republic’s head of state, not an elected politician, a position that provides him with enhanced stature and influence that he uses to help bolster Europe’s resolve and strength. He describes Putin’s ambitions as Hitlerian and also has provided ammo and motivation for the fearful Euros: They are next on the conquest list and that America’s support falters and may disappear if Donald Trump wins.

While Joe Biden remains ahead in polls, even a small chance he will lose represents a gigantic existential threat to all Europeans and they know this. This is why the next two years are crucial, warned Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. “We are living in the most critical moment since the end of the Second World War.”

Pavel and Tusk influenced France’s Emmanuel Macron to speak out publicly two weeks ago about the possibility that European “boots on the ground” may be necessary to help Ukraine and prevent all-out war across the continent. Macron’s comment, the leader of the European Union’s only nuclear power, immediately generated attention.

Putin mouthpieces responded that NATO troops in Ukraine would constitute a threat by NATO and warned about a possible nuclear response. In Berlin and Washington, the notion of European escalation caused a furor among its elite where war politics have become complicated and gridlocked.

But Macron was correct to raise the possibility and Pavel supported him. “From the point of view of international law and the UN Charter, there would be nothing to prevent NATO member states’ troops—as well as civilians, for example—from assisting in the work in Ukraine,” he said. For instance, NATO had training missions inside Ukraine after Russia’s first invasion in 2014 of Crimea and the Donbas region.

On March 20, a report by the once-removed, but credible, Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank also emphasized that Putin’s intention is to escalate beyond Ukraine. “Several Russian financial, economic, and military indicators suggest that Russia is preparing for a large-scale conventional conflict with NATO, not imminently but likely on a shorter timeline than what some Western analysts have initially posited.”

It added “Polish President Andrzej Duda told CNBC that Putin is intensifying efforts to shift Russia to a war economy with the intention of being able to attack NATO as early as 2026 or 2027, citing unspecified German research.

Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen stated on Feb. 9 that new intelligence indicates that Russia may attempt to attack a NATO country within three to five years, an accelerated timeline from NATO’s reported assessment in 2023.”

There’s also concern that the current frontline in Ukraine won’t hold, but Pavel’s delivery of ammunition soon will help greatly. Ukraine’s Commander in Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said last week that Russia outguns Ukrainian forces sixfold on the front lines.

And after the latest civilian bombing attacks, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told the media that “we need help now.” Ukrainians prepare for another Russian offensive at the end of May or June.

If successful, Russia will keep going west and some speculate that Putin may try once more to capture Kharkiv then Kyiv. “For him, we are a satellite of Russian Federation,” said Zelensky. “At the moment, it’s us, then Kazakhstan, then Baltic states, then Poland, then Germany. At least half of Germany.”

Russia already threatens NATO members and a number of incidents have come close to direct attacks, which would invoke the Charter pledge that an assault on one is an assault on all 32 nation-state members.

On March 29, Poland stated that a Russian cruise missile, fired at Ukraine, entered Poland’s airspace. “I don’t want to scare anyone, but war is no longer a concept from the past. It’s real, and it started over two years ago,” Polish President Tusk told the BBC. And Estonia’s foreign-intelligence service declared in a report last month that Russia was preparing for a “confrontation with the West.”

Pavel suggests that European nations mobilize and impose war measures now, by enhancing border and cybersecurity and by placing any Russian citizens living in their countries under “strict surveillance” by intelligence services.

“All Russians living in Western countries should be monitored much more than in the past because they are citizens of a nation that leads an aggressive war,” Pavel said in an interview with Radio Free Europe. “That’s simply a cost of war.”

Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, the current NATO military committee chief, said in Brussels that NATO will soon be launching the Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise, which will run through May and deploy 90,000 troops who will rehearse the alliance’s execution of its regional plans.

“This will show that NATO can conduct and sustain complex multi-domain operations over several months, across thousands of kilometers, from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe, and in any condition,” the 31-nation organization said in a statement.

European leaders now openly discuss the seriousness of the situation, but Putin said this month that Moscow had “no aggressive intentions” towards NATO countries. He said it was “complete nonsense” that Russia would attack NATO members Poland, the Baltic states and the Czech Republic.

However, he warned that if Ukraine used Western F-16 warplanes from airfields in other countries, they would become “legitimate targets, wherever they might be located.”

President Pavel simply urges preparation, not panic. “We’ve all agreed that it is in our imminent interest that Ukraine succeed,” he said in an interview. “On the other hand, there are many variables in the calculation that could change the situation. It will really depend on the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine. All armies are preparing for the possibility of a high-intensity conflict.”

Source: Kyiv Post