- - Thursday, July 16, 2015

All historical analogies are odious, some dead white man has written somewhere. It’s true that comparisons from one era to another are obviously false because the facts and conditions may be different. They always are.

Nevertheless, there’s a temptation to see the growing crisis in Ukraine as analogous to what happened to the Spanish republic at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Then, as now, a democratic government with blemishes and shortcomings was under siege from aggressive local forces backed by foreign aggressors. The Western powers, steeped in the self-righteousness of “neutrality,” refused to help the beleaguered government and it tumbled gradually into the hands of the Soviet Union and its local Communist puppets, the only source of foreign help.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco and his putschists, 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 the beginning of a long, dark night for Spain, under an authoritarian, lackluster government that lasted for almost a half-century. Spain is still is recovering, both socially and politically.

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The news that Russian arms and even soldiers in uniform are flowing into Ukraine from Russia is dismissed by the oblivious as “yesterday’s news.” Having said all the right things, the Obama administration is holding back on sending to Kiev the arms Ukraine needs to stand up to the Russians and their surrogates. It isn’t clear whether 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 central to his attempt to rebuild the Soviet empire.

This week’s news is that the Chechens, who have fought Russian domination in the North Caucuses since the end of the 18th century, are fighting now with Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine. It completes the analogy, however faulty. Neither is it comforting to learn that obscure Ukrainian neo-Nazis are tagging along, giving substance to Moscow’s claims that its soldiers are not on that battlefield, but if they were they would be fighting a holy war against fascists.

It might not have been inevitable — few things are — but the denial of aid by the Obama administration and its allies in the West sends the Ukrainians to whatever source of help they can find. The presence of Chechen Muslim guerrillas, recruited from across the world and with ties to the jihadists, is new evidence of the failure of U.S. and Western strategy and more evidence that the Obama gang is the gang that just can’t shoot straight.

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