To Russia I flew, but there and then I suddenly knew you’d care again. My running around is through. I fly to you, from Russia with love. So goes the title track to the James Bond film From Russia With Love. This song was recorded by Matt Monro, known as the Man With the Golden Voice, in 1963 at the height of the Cold War. Now 50 years later, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin decided that it was a great time to restart the Cold War as he began to re-invade Eastern Europe.
Often when I see history repeating itself I wonder if people in distant times thought about their situation in the same way we do today. It seems obvious that President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is not much different than Chancellor Hitler’s invasion of the Rheinland in 1936, except in that case the French army could have easily defeated the three battalions of German soldiers that illegally crossed into the area. In both cases the excuses used by the dictator were the same – to reestablish control over a population that was of their ethnic group, and to regain territory that was a natural part of their country.
Had the French intervened the Second World War may not have happened. In this case, the laughably weak response by American and its NATO allies will likely also trigger more aggression on the part of a criminal state. It is difficult to see Putin showing much worry about President Obama closing down his Facebook page, or the Europeans harrumphing about his criminal behavior, and when bullies get away with murder, well, they continue to kill.
Many Americans may think that they should not worry about actions taking place in strange parts of the former Soviet Union. It’s a shame that the people of Ukraine fall under the control of a dictator, but hey, they had a dictator before so what’s the difference? Anyway, the entire Ukrainian economy is only about the size of the state of Washington, so what possible effect will this have?
I think this is the wrong question. The fact is that Russia was able to pretty much get its own way on the European from is because bad economic policies – based mainly on junk science – have made Western Europe so dependent on Vladimir Putin and his cronies for energy that they could not stand up to him. And America is making things worse.
Nearly the entire Russian economy is driven by the production of oil and natural gas. Revenues from oil and natural gas account for over 10 percent of GDP and over half of government revenues according to the World Bank. The production process is outdated and inefficient. In other words, Russia relies on markets in Europe to fund its army, but that does not matter because Europe has nowhere else to turn for overpriced energy.
This is because the Europeans are so taken with both the religion of global warming and have been convinced (by a Gazprom financed campaign) that hydraulic fracturing of their own oil and natural gas reserves would lead to some sort of environmental catastrophe. This means that Europe does not produce anywhere near the energy that it could. By exporting their environmental issues to Russia, Europe has become dependent on imported, overpriced energy. If Western governments were to do much more than harrumph, they would find themselves quickly in the dark as other sources are difficult to find.
Add to this the fact that the Administration in the United States has limited the ability for producers in this country to build the energy infrastructure needed to exploit huge North American reserves and to export (particularly natural gas) to Europe, again strengthening the dependence of other NATO countries on the very dictator who is threatening them.
It was only two short years between Hitler’s campaign in the Rheinland until he annexed both part of Czechoslovakia and Austria. Part of Lithuania was annexed in the following year and by the end of 1939 the Nazis were invading Poland. I guess it seemed obvious to people in 1936 that the Rheinland was not important.
If only policies had been changed then rather than waiting for three years.