“The usual date given for the start of World War II is Sept. 1, 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But that was just one in a series of events that at the time could have seemed disconnected.
Among them: Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. The remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 and the Spanish Civil War, which started the same year. Anschluss with Austria and the Sudeten crisis of 1938. The Soviet invasion of Poland weeks after the German one and Germany’s western invasions the following year. Operation Barbarossa and Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The point is, World War II didn’t so much begin as it gathered, like water rising until it breaches a dam. We, too, have been living through years of rising waters, though it took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for much of the world to notice.
Before the invasion, we had the Russian invasions of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine; the Russian carpet bombing of Aleppo; the use of exotic radioactive and chemical agents against Russian dissidents on British soil; Russian interference in U.S. elections and massive hacks of our computer networks; the murder of Boris Nemtsov and the blatant poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.”
“. . . . . Refusing to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine may be justified because it exceeds the risks NATO countries are prepared to tolerate. But the idea that doing so could start World War III ignores history and telegraphs weakness. Americans squared off with Soviet pilots operating under Chinese or North Korean cover in the Korean War without blowing up the world. And our vocal aversion to confrontation is an invitation, not a deterrent, to Russian escalation.
There is now a serious risk that these illusions could collapse very suddenly. There’s little evidence so far that Putin is eager to cut his losses; on the contrary, to do so now — after incurring the economic price of sanctions but without achieving a clear victory — would jeopardize his grip on power.
Bottom line: Expect him to double down. If he uses chemical weapons, as Bashar al-Assad did, or deploys a battlefield nuclear weapon, in keeping with longstanding Russian military doctrine, does he lose more than he gains? The question answers itself. He wins swiftly. He terrifies the West. He consolidates power. He suffers consequences only marginally graver than the ones already inflicted. And his fellow travelers in Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang take note.
How does the next world war begin? The same way the last one did.” -30-
David Lindsay: Excellent points in general by Bret Stephens. The comments against him are also good. He could acknowledge that NATO going to war with Russia could lead to a nuclear world cataclysm. But I side with Bret on four grounds. First, some things are worth dying for, and if we are going to be the land of the free, we have to be willing to fight our enemies. Second, The US and Britain, and possible NATO, guaranteed Ukraine’s independence, if it would give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons left there when the Soviet Union collapsed. We are obligated by our agreement to come to their rescue. Third, the Russians don’t want the end of world this year, any more than we do. Even if Putin turns suicidal, the generals around him as group probably are not.
Fourth, we are probably all going to die anyway from climate change and the sixth extinction, so one should do an analysis as to whether stopping the destruction of the Ukraine will help or hurt the war on climate change causing green house gas pollution.
I’m not sure this last point is decisive, but it would be sad indeed, if we sacrificed the Ukraine and its brave people to ambition of the Putin regime, only to all go up an Armageddon of climate disasters. Which brings me back to the the first point. Some things, for people who believe in law and order and democracy, are worth dying for.