Western non-intervention policy that let Nazi Germany rise lives to this day
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. He wrote a memoir of the five years he spent in Hollywood, where he worked in the movie industry prior to becoming a full time and activist and organizer with the US antiwar movement post-9/11. The book is titled Dreams That Die and is published by Zero Books. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
With the anniversary of the Battle of Berlin approaching on April 21, which signaled the final defeat of the Nazis at the close of the Second World War in 1945, it is worth recalling an event which took place seven years earlier, without which the Second World War would likely never have taken place – or at least certainly not to the cataclysmic extent that it did.
While it may be a hard truth for Western ideologues to grapple with today, Hitler’s expansionist aims and objectives could never have prospered without the aid of Western powers, which up to 1939 rather than resist the fascist menace in Europe – at the point when it could have been quashed - did everything in their power to appease it, providing Hitler and the Nazis with the impetus to build the military apparatus required to unleash total war and catapult Europe into an abyss of carnage and destruction.
The tragic lessons
This appeasement began with the non-intervention policy of the Western powers during the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930s. A democratically elected government had come under military attack by General Franco and the nationalist military forces under his command, determined to crush any last scintilla of democracy in the country on the way to its fascist overthrow. Hitler and Mussolini both threw their military resources behind Franco, identifying Spain as an opportunity to test both the military hardware and tactics they had been formulating to advance their own strategic objectives, but also the resolve of the West when it came to resisting them.
The policy of non-intervention followed by Britain and France was a green light to Franco and his German and Italian allies to press ahead with their campaign to crush democracy in Spain, which it eventually did despite the aid provided by the Soviet Union and the heroic efforts of the Spanish people to save the Republic.
Lessons that should have been learned from the Spanish debacle were not, leaving any objective historian to conclude that the West was not only guilty of the crime of appeasing fascism but actively colluded with it. How else are we to make sense of the Munich Agreement of September 1938, which handed Hitler the keys to Czechoslovakia and led inexorably to the fascist dictator’s march into Poland, precipitating the Second World War and everything which followed?
The agreement involved Germany, Italy, France and Britain ratifying Hitler’s annexation of the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, without the prior agreement or even consultation with the Government of Czechoslovakia. Moreover, the Soviet Union and France had in place a mutual military assistance treaty with Czechoslovakia, which the Soviets were eager to uphold by offering to send troops to defend Czechoslovakia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The offer was ignored by the Western powers, while Poland refused to allow transit rights for Soviet troops to pass through Polish territory in order to defend Czechoslovakia, thus sealing its fate. Worse than refusing to allow Soviet troops permission to transit through its territory to defend Czechoslovakia, the then Polish government took the opportunity provided by Hitler’s annexation of the country to seize the Czechoslovakian border town of Tesin for itself.
The historical similarities
The point is that the record of the West when it comes to resisting fascism has been a shameful one in the past. Sadly, it is a record that continues today with the role of the US and EU in lending legitimacy to the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine, and its replacement by a so-called interim government involving the participation of neo Nazis and fascists.
Yet to judge from the way this ongoing crisis is being covered in the Western media, you would think it was the Russian government that was giving succor to fascism and anti-democratic coups in the country. The administration that is currently wielding power in Kiev has no legitimacy, and it inspires no respect from those who have risen up against it in eastern Ukraine. Indeed to ascribe legitimacy to the collection of neo Nazis and ultra-nationalists in Kiev that describes itself as an interim government is, in the words of the French novelist Victor Hugo, to “confound the brilliance of the firmament with the star-shaped footprints of a duck in the mud.”
With tensions rising in the eastern half of Ukraine, the only chance of averting civil and military conflict would now appear to lie with the talks in Geneva between the four powers. In this regard, it is impossible at this point to foresee how any peaceful solution to the crisis can avoid the implementation of a political framework that will satisfy the justifiable desire of people in the East of the country for some sort of regional autonomy, which restores their democratic rights and guarantees protection from an administration in Kiev that has no democratic mandate or legitimacy.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.