Community View: Distant Echos of Quemoy and Matsu in U.S. Response to Crimea

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By George T. Wise

San Diegans may be focused on the success of Aztecs men’s basketball team this weekend, but far away on the shores of the Black Sea is a growing international crisis that hopefully will not spiral out of control.

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Russia has annexed the Crimea, taking it from the Ukraine.  President Obama has vigorously opposed the incursion and has applied sanctions. Whether or not the incursion is legal or proper, I believe, at this point it is none of our business.  There was no unrest, no civil disobedience, only one person has died thus far, and the people are not being oppressed. In fact the majority of the people in the area now annexed by Russia were in favor of it.

I am reminded of the famous televised debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Nixon argued vigorously that the United States must defend our allies and their property…that being the islands of Quemoy and Matsu.  Then John F. Kennedy stood up and pulled down a map attached to the wall, which showed the islands in question. He pointed out that they were within a stone’s throw of Red China; then as now one of the great powers in the world. Kennedy then pointed out that the United States was across the world from those islands while Red China was literally next door. He then stated the obvious; if Red China wanted those islands, we were unable in any way to prevent that from happening.

The situation is identical to the  current incursion of the Crimean section of Ukraine by Russia. We’re across the world from there, and if they want it they’ll take it.  We cannot stop them.  Let’s save our outrage and efforts for times when they are proper and when our protests have a semblance of opportunity and reality. We have no business there, and we should stay out of the way; for now.

If my memory serves me properly, this is much the same as when Hitler began taking other countries at the start of World War II. He marched into another country and since they were not prepared for war, they were overwhelmed. The same thing happened in country after country in Europe, finally ending when we began bombing Berlin and at the same time stopped their invasion of England, with the Royal Air Force fighting alongside us.

This pattern is what the world is fearing as we speak. Putin can disclaim all he wants, but actions speak louder than words. So we must wait to see what actions he actually takes. We, along with our allies, must gather together and protect the civilized world. Luckily most of Europe seems to agree with us and is taking much the same steps as are we.

Let’s be frank, if Putin’s actions are limited to taking over Crimea and protecting his interests in the area which houses his Black Sea fleet, that’s one thing. However, if he decides to annex all of Ukraine, that is quite another thing.  Furthermore, if he decides that he wants to reunify what was formerly the Soviet Union, then that is another matter entirely.

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If that were to occur, then there is a likely scenario in which Putin will try to start annexing other countries in the area. Many of those countries have joined NATO, so we and all the rest of Europe are bound by common interests and treaties to defend the threatened countries.

What this boils down to is that Obama is doing exactly the right thing. He is telling Putin: “you have gone so far but we will not allow you to farther.” What Putin is doing is causing a potential threat to world peace, and the civilized world will no longer stand for it.

So, as much as I would like us to stay out of this, we must remain alert and must be prepared to take whatever preventive steps we must in order to prevent what could become another Holocaust.

Putin is apparently just flexing his muscles, but if he stops merely posturing and starts taking more illegal action, we must take whatever steps we have to take in order to stop him. We cannot have another world war.  With the availability of nuclear weapons another world war could be the end of civilization as we know it.

So, even though we do not want to be the world’s policemen, there are times and situations where it is not prudent nor correct to avoid that. It is a very good thing that all the rest of Europe sees things and events exactly as do we. Frankly, I must praise Europe for the actions they are taking, because they are dependent on Russia for much of their gas supply. So, the steps and warnings they issue have the potential of threatening their basic interests.

We are about to find out if principle wins out over basic economics. The United States is, at this point acting out of concern for future events, but Europe is risking their basic lifestyle. I just hope that satisfying Putin’s ego will not lead to another world war.

George T. Wise is a La Jolla resident, published author and frequent contributor to online blogs.

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