February 28, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9798

Columnists In Arab Press: Putin Is Behaving Like Hitler While The West Stands Helplessly By

February 28, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9798

In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, articles in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat compared the conduct of Russian President Vladimir Putin to that of Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. The articles likened Russia's recognition of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine to Nazi Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the Nazis' invasion of Poland in 1939. The authors of the articles stated that history is repeating itself, for Putin, like Hitler, seeks to establish a new world order and re-establish the Russian empire. But the responsibility for the tragedy currently unfolding in Europe, they said, does not rest solely with Putin, but also with the West, which for over two decades has ignored Putin's dangerous actions – including the assassination of his opponents in the heart of Western capitals, his support of the Syrian regime and his pact with the Iranian regime, and the annexation of Crimea. Today, they added, the West continues to stand helplessly by and does nothing but condemn Putin and try to appease him, just as the leaders of Britain and France tried to appease Hitler before World War II.

Cartoon in Egyptian paper: Putin as Hitler (Al-Diyar, Egypt, February 28, 2022)

The following are translated excerpts from these articles:

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Columnist: This Is A Black Day For Europe, Like On The Eve Of World War II

In an article titled "Europe's Map Is Being Redrawn in Blood" in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Lebanese journalist Elias Harfoush wrote: "History is repeating itself. The world experienced a [similar] dark period 80 years ago. A man comes to power who has delusions of grandeur and dreams of expanding [his rule] beyond the limits of the map, which is no longer large enough to contain his ambitions. Moreover, he wishes to settle historical scores for 'aggression' perpetrated against his country by the victors [in the past]. Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in Berlin to avenge [the injustice of] the Treaty of Versailles. Vladimir Putin ascended to the Kremlin to avenge [the injustice of] the agreements between [U.S. president] Ronald Reagan and [Soviet leader] Mikhail Gorbachev. [These agreements] ended the Soviet era and Moscow's rule over 14 neighboring countries, but opened the gate for [Moscow] to join Europe, and thus to become part of a family [of nations] that is guided by principles of neighborliness and respect for each country's right to manage its affairs according to the will of its citizens.

"[But] Putin is no Gorbachev and no Boris Yeltsin. He belongs to a different school… He does not  recognize the right of these countries [of the former Soviet Union] to determine their own fate, for the simple reason that he does not believe they have a right to exist as independent countries.  This is his real issue with Ukraine, and with the three Baltic countries, which are in danger of facing the same fate [as Ukraine] if Russia's invasion of Ukraine goes well and Putin manages to establish a [puppet] regime of his choosing in Kyiv. This is a terrible day for Ukraine and a black day for Europe… 

"But the responsibility does not lie solely with Putin. The West chose to ignore Putin's real plans for over two decades, during which he repeatedly tested the boundaries of the West's response to his flouting of the norms of foreign relations. Let's leave aside his domestic policy and his revolutionizing of [Russia's] government-turnover laws, which were seen by the West as an internal [Russian] affair. But Putin also poisoned his opponents on the soil of Western capitals, and undermined the Syrian opposition, thus imposing the continued rule of Bashar Al-Assad, amid widespread regional and international criticism of the Syrian regime's crimes against its own people. He [also] used his veto power in the [UN] Security Council more than once to prevent an investigation of these [crimes]; made a pact with the Iranian regime despite the latter's intervention in more than one Arab country; invaded the Crimean Peninsula on the pretext that it is 'Russian soil', and sent his troops to the two separatist regions in Ukraine on the pretext that their inhabitants are Ukrainians of Russian origin – just as Hitler did when he annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland  on the grounds that they had a German majority. 

"Putin did all this in front of the whole world, and the latter did nothing but issue condemnations and statements. Even when intelligence reports indicated that Putin meant to invade Ukraine, the Western leaders only rushed to sit at the end of that long humiliating table, like [defendants] in court, begging [Putin] not to invade his neighbor. The U.S. President [even] reassured Putin that he would not send American troops to Ukraine. What could Putin infer from all this, except that the West is completely helpless to confront him and that he has a green light to do whatever he pleases in Ukraine?

"History is repeating itself, and the appeasement of Hitler [at the time] by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and French prime minister Édouard Daladier is repeating itself in the form of [French President Emmanuel] Macron's and [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz's hopeless [meetings] with Putin. While Putin was negotiating with them, his military commanders were preparing the attack on Ukraine…  

"Just as Hitler started on his path by invading Poland, after saying that it had never been an independent or normal country, Putin's invasion of Ukraine started in [its] eastern regions, using the same pretext: that it has never been a normal country that exists in its own right…

"This is a black page in Europe's history, and Putin is not the only one responsible for it. Because the policy of turning a blind eye and appeasing this spoiled KGB officer – who convinced the West he had shed his [KGB] uniform – is what inevitably led to the events we are witnessing today."[1]

Former Turkish Diplomat: Putin Now Resembles The Man Who Gave The Orders In 1938

Ömer Önhon, formerly Turkey's ambassador to Syria, wrote in an article titled "The Ukrainian Shock and the Loss of Western Deterrence":

"…Some consider Putin's moves ingenious and brave, but most people think that they are insane and foolish. What kind of game is Russia playing? There is a difference between conquering an entire country, with a population of about 40 million, which enjoys powerful military assistance and has a strong army, and capturing a few parts [of Ukraine] that are controlled by the Russian minority. The invasion of Ukraine will not last and will be self-defeating for Russia. Perhaps Russia's goals are to paralyze Ukraine and kill its fighting spirit; secure Donbas…; cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea and topple its government so as to prepare the ground for [establishing] a pro-Russian government [in Kyiv]…

"In the 1990s and early 2000s, Russia was not able to do much against the new world order established by the West. But now the situation is different: the Russian [army] is in good shape and has immense capabilities and a strong command. [Moreover], Russia is confident that its economy can withstand all the difficulties and cope with them.  Russia in Putin's era feels a need to take care of itself and correct what Putin has described as 'the greatest geopolitical disaster of the [20th] century,' namely the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is now trying to reshape its region so as to establish a new world order, so that Putin can build his empire…

"What is happening [today in Ukraine] reminds me of the Anschluss [Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria] and of the [Nazis'] annexation of the Sudetenland… In terms of his means and ways, Putin resembles the man who gave those orders in 1938 [i.e., Hitler]. A few days ago, Putin claimed he had no intention of invading Ukraine. This too resembles what happened in 1938, in Munich.[2] In the meanwhile, the U.S. is retreating in a selfish and devastating way that reminds me of what happened in Iraq and Syria, and more recently in Afghanistan. These and other [developments] have created a problem of a lack of confidence in the U.S. The E.U. is a lost cause, due to a multiplicity of [conflicting] interests, leaders with big ambitions but limited abilities, and the absence of a unified, goal-oriented policy, including in terms of defense… The situation in Ukraine must remind everyone that, when deterrence is weak, security is compromised, and when deterrence is absent, there is no security at all. The situation can go from bad to worse. Hence, let us hope that [Russia] immediately stops the hostilities and withdraws from Ukraine, and that the diplomatic efforts resume."[3]    



[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 25, 2022.

[2] I.e., the September 1938 Munich Conference, held amid Hitler's threats to invade Czechoslovakia in order to capture  the Sudetenland, which had a German-speaking majority. The summit included the leaders of Germany, Britain, Italy and France – but not Czechoslovakia – who agreed to Hitler's demands to annex the Sudetenland. Several months after the conference Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 27, 2022.

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