As much as I hate the “everything bad is a Nazi” comparisons, unfortunately, it may fit here. I won’t even go into Germany’s fixation on Ukraine, although it is an interesting parallel.
After World War I, the world placed harsh sanctions on Germany for its aggression during the Great War. Those sanctions were enacted in the Treaty of Versailles and put Germany under debt it found impossible to surmount. Sure, it took the Great Depression to sink Germany into the morass that birthed the Nazis, but the weak German economy before then was easily blamed on the treaty and those that forced it upon the German people. The financial actions taken by the world were intended to punish Germans for the acts of their leaders, but in the end, punished Europe and Russia as badly.
Would the Third Reich have grown out of Germany’s ashes had the Versailles Treaty’s sanctions been less harsh or the depression not pushed them over the edge? That’s hard to say, but a disastrous economy gave someone like Adolf Hitler all the ammunition he needed to get Germans to consider what the world had done to them and that they should want to fight back – and so they did.
What happens when the everyday life of Russians turns back into bread lines, soup kitchens, crappy apartments, and poverty after they’ve experienced the lives they have today? How bad do things get if, after these sanctions, a new recession – which is a very likely possibility – hits? What happens when they decide to direct their anger at someone or something? Will it be at Putin or the west? Even if it is Putin, could that anger give rise to someone or something even evil?
Putin is power-hungry, but he knows that war with NATO will end him – so he plays the brinkmanship game that Kruschev and countless other Russian leaders have shown him. Push the world to the edge of what they will accept where they will cede concessions to avoid crossing over into outright war. Kim Jong-un and Iran’s Mullahs also know this game well. That’s where the world is now.
It’s a tough place to be for the rest of Europe. If they go too deep on sanctions and create a devil worse than Putin, then what? If they don’t go harsh enough, how much will Putin take before they have to go further?
All of this largely depends on Putin’s intentions and willingness to wager his country’s wealth on expansion. Then again, maybe his country’s wealth is in such decline that he has no choice but to expand.
I struggle to think of a single case where an expansionist, warring, dictator was stopped by financial punishment. It has always taken violence of action to stop that aggression. Always.
I don’t want war, could never advocate for it, but as Einstein is quoted as saying:
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
The question now is what is the definition of ‘anything’?
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