The Specter of Munich

Since 24th February, the war is raging in Ukraine where a small army is battling, with an incredible courage and dedication, enduring incessant bombardment on targets, often those on civilians.

The context of this massacre, in which hospitals, a maternity ward and entire residential quarters are being destroyed, lies in the Memorandum of Budapest, signed on 5 December 1994 by Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the United Kingdom. France and China later joined it (Mathieu Lasserre, La Croix). Kyiv, within the framework of this accord, had agreed to transfer 4000 nuclear warheads to Russia.

In return, the signatories pledged to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its political independence, that is to say, not to invade it and not to interfere with its democratic decisions.

For almost a month now, the Russian dictator has ostensibly violated these accords and engaged in crimes against humanity. During the writing of this article; men, women and children were unfortunately bombed and ripped apart. Dead bodies laid on the ground, propagating the horror of the war and eventually even cholera.

The “imprisonment” for additional thirteen years of Alexeï Navalny, the principal political opponent of the strongman of Kremlin, speaks in volumes about the concept of justice and separation of powers under the Russian regime. The vast majority of requisitions (more than 90%?) from the prosecutors are followed by the judges in Russia. In fact, it is not very good for the career of a magistrate to oppose the wishes of the Kremlin, particularly if he acts as a political opponent. 

The Russian dictator, whether it is in the matter of international rights or of the rights of people, respects nothing. And we see him doing that with, it is important to underline, the generosity of the civil society which organises humanitarian aids. But the latter, when they are not plundered by the Russian army, are not sufficient to win this war.

With respect to economic sanctions, the Russian autocrat is only, at the personal level, a little impacted: his power and wealth, that he misappropriated, thanks to the vast system of corruption in his country, protects him materially speaking. As far as his threats to dreadful results are concerned in a case of military intervention from the part of the West, just take a stock of the last four weeks for better understanding the situation. While we are dithering, the Russian army, even if its equipment is quite old, is shelling and bombarding missiles, day and night, on several major Ukrainian cities which are progressively being wiped off from their map, with their inhabitants under the rubble, except the ones who have fled.

A point that caught my attention: the American and European abstinence from defending the Ukrainian sky against the Russian aerial attacks. But technically speaking, when the President Volodymyr Zelensky pleads the West to come to the nation’s aid and more particularly by crisscrossing its airspace in order to prevent any attack by the Russian fighter-bombers, is this not simply participating in the defence of this country, following its invitation? As these actions will remain within the Ukrainian boundaries, it would not concern Russia. Unless the latter discontinues its invasion over Ukraine and therefore does not violate one of the rights, known today almost universally – the right of the people to self-determination. This signifies the liberty to ally with the nation(s) or the organisation of their choice, whether it is NATO and/or the European Union.

This conflict points the finger at our weaknesses and our cowardice. On the economic front, again the economic driver of the European Union, ‘Green’ Germany, shows how much it is dependent on a form of energy (gas) from a country (Russia). On the military front, the European Union decided to create an army: 5000 men (available when?) in the face of around 900,000 (Russian army). As for France, its military organisation suffers from a structural gap in terms of budget and equipment, as demonstrated by the former general Pierre de Villiers. For example, most of the operations in Africa were not possible without the logistics of the US army, particularly in terms of helicopters. Our country however, has an asset that it can use to defend Ukraine: the Rafale jets. Considered as one of the best fighter jets in the world, this aircraft could be very effective in a defensive against all violations of the Ukrainian sky. But we prefer to not to move: organise a summit at Versailles where Germany declares that it will only reduce its expenditure on Russian gas in some years from now (today, our neighbours spend a billion euros everyday on Russian gas) and that it will send a little bit of portable defence equipment.

In fact, it is the sceptre of Munich that immobilises us. We hope that the Russian dictator, on a beautiful day, will change his opinion and will withdraw its troops. Even if it is always necessary to leave a door of the mind open for miracles, we need to take action. The president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned us: if Ukraine does not survive, the entire Europe will survive neither. In front of a man who only understands balance of power, any cowardice on our part will make us pay the price. When France (Daladier) and the United Kingdom (Chamberlain) signed the Munich agreement in 1938 and betrayed the Sudetens (Czhehoslovakia), they were thought to have preserved the peace. But it was Churchill who had the last word: You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.

Now that the entire world knows what the politics of the Kremlin is about, it is perhaps time that we actively participate in the defence of Ukraine. If we don’t do so, who will prevent the Russian dictator from crossing the borders of the Baltic nations, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and even Moldova? Our humanitarian convoys? The confiscation of a part of the yachts of the Russian oligarchs? The deployment of portable anti-tank rocket launchers? Or our strength and determination to help protect the Ukrainians and their nation, followed by their demand and help face the massacres they have been victims of every day since almost a month?

We also can question ourselves another question: in a scenario when a European country of NATO is invaded, what are we prepared for? To organise a concert (certainly necessary) or to organise something much more? We must not forget our Munich betrayal and the courage of Churchill!

From left to right: Neuville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Lord Ciano (Italian Press and Propaganda Minister) at the Munich conference which took place from September 29 to 30, 1938. Traumatized by the First World War , France and the United Kingdom betrayed their treaty of alliance with Czechoslovakia and signed the Munich agreements with Hitler, thus hoping to maintain peace. In October, the Nazi army invaded the Sudetenland region. In March 1939, violating these same Munich agreements, the Führer secured control of Bohemia and Moravia from the Czech Republic. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, triggering the entry into the war of the United Kingdom and France two days later. On June 22, 1940, the French capitulated. Cf : https://www.herodote.net/30_septembre_1938-evenement-19380930.php

(Cover photo: the Ukrainian flag. Source : Pixabay.)

Translation: Vidhi Taparia.

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