All historical analogies are odious, some old dead white man has written somewhere. That is, comparisons from one historical period to another are obviously false because the conditions are always so different.
Yet there is a temptation to see to the growing crisis of Ukraine as analogous to the situation of the Spanish Republic at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Then, too, a democratic state – with blemishes – was under attack from aggressive local forces backed by foreign aggressors. Then, too, the Western powers, steeped in the self-righteousness of their “neutral” position, refused to help the beleaguered government and it fell increasingly into the hands of the Soviet Union and its local Communist puppets, the only source of foreign help. Generalissimo Francisco Franco and his putchists, on the other hand, were getting help from both Hitler and his Nazis and Mussolini and his Fascists. The result was a so-called “Nationalist” victory and a long dark night for Spain with an authoritarian, lackluster government lasting almost a halfcentury, and from which it still is recovering socially and politically.
The news that Russian arms and even soldiers in uniform are flowing into Ukraine from the Soviet – oops! Russia – is yesterday’s news. Having said all the right things, the Obama Administration is holding back on sending Kiev the arms Ukraine needs to stand up to the Russians and their puppets. It isn’t even clear whether the new dictator- man•qué Vladimir Putin is trying to carve out more territory for Moscow as he did in Crimea, or simply trying to dominate a Ukraine government as part of his aim to rebuild the Soviet Empire.
But the bad news this week is that Chechens, who have fought Russian domination in the North Caucuses since the end of the 18th century and with two wars since the Soviet implosion, are now fighting alongside Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine. It completes the analogy, however faulty. Nor is it comforting to know that some obscure Ukrainian neo-Nazis are also tagging along, giving just that much substance to Moscow’s claims it is not there but if it were, it would be fighting a holy war against fascists.
It might not have been inevitable – what is? – but the refusal of the Obama Administration and its Western allies to deny aid to the Ukrainians sends them to whatever quarter they can find help. But the presence of veteran Chechen Muslim guerrillas from around the world, with their ties to the jihadists elsewhere, is a disquieting new sign of the failure of U.S. and Western strategy. It’s time the Obama Administration woke up to that.