Diane Francis on Putin: Hitler’s Avatar

April 4,2024 492
Diane Francis on Putin: Hitler’s Avatar

by Diane Francis, Editor-at-Large at the National Post, columnist at the Kyiv Post, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Eurasia Center, author, publisher on Substack

The Czechs have never forgotten that allies handed over their Sudetenland Province to Hitler in 1938 after the German dictator promised it would be “the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe”. Months later, Nazis occupied their country and waged war in Europe and around the world for seven more years, killing tens of millions. To many today, Ukraine is the next Sudetenland as it fends off another war criminal with imperial ambitions who promises he will stop once it is occupied. The synchronicity is obvious and is why one of the most hawkish and driven leaders in Europe is Czech President Petr Pavel, a retired general and former NATO advisor. He has been as outspoken and blunt about Putin’s ruthless intention to swallow Ukraine and Europe as was Winston Churchill in the 1930s. And he has also taken the lead by devising a scheme to prevent Ukraine from running out of needed munitions shortly due to US and EU delays. On March 7, he announced that Kyiv will receive between 800,000 and 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition in weeks. Pavel quietly procured one year’s’ worth of ammo from arsenals around the world, on a no-names basis, in order to safeguard suppliers from Russian retaliation. He’s done so because “if Ukraine fails, so will we”.

President Pavel is blunt. He believes that once again Europe hurtles toward war, and that, if Kyiv falls, war in the rest of Europe is inevitable and troops must be ready for such a potential outcome. He’s a proponent of whatever it takes to halt Putin, and dismisses Putin’s claims that he has no interest in invading another NATO nation. In August, at the 55th anniversary of the “Prague Spring” (or the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops that crushed its democratic movement) he remarked “Russia has not changed… The 1968 invasion was a time of lost dreams and lost dignity. We should remember what it felt like. Because Ukraine only wants what we wanted at the time. They want to determine their own path. Russia hasn’t changed since then – the country has a different name, but its foreign policy, its values are the same.”

Pavel is Czechoslovakia’s head of state, a position that provides him with enhanced stature and influence that he uses to help bolster Europe’s resolve and strength. He describes Putin’s ambitions as Hitlerian and also has provided ammo and motivation for the fearful Euros: They are next on the conquest list and that America’s support falters and may disappear if Donald Trump wins. While Joe Biden remains ahead in polls, even a small chance he will lose represents a gigantic existential threat to all Europeans and they know this. This is why the next two years are crucial, warned Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. “We are living in the most critical moment since the end of the Second World War.”

Pavel and Tusk influenced France’s Emmanuel Macron to speak out publicly two weeks ago about the possibility that European “boots on the ground” may be necessary to help Ukraine and prevent all-out war across the continent. Macron’s comment, the leader of the European Union’s only nuclear power, immediately generated attention. Putin mouthpieces responded that NATO troops in Ukraine would constitute a threat by NATO and warned about a possible nuclear response. In Berlin and Washington, the notion of European escalation caused a furor among its elite where war politics have become complicated and gridlocked.

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