Last week Prince Charles is alleged to have compared the Sudetenland Crisis of the 1930s to the Crimean crisis of this year ‘now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.’ And it seems many, even the otherwise flawless David Mitchell think this a perfectly sensible observation.
But it must be fairly clear, leaving aside the debate about whether Charles should say anything at all about diplomatic crises, that he, Nick Clegg, Hillary Clinton or anyone else who asserts this view cannot really be observing the whole picture.
You will remember that what precipitated the Russian military annexation of Crimea was the recent Ukrainian revolution, or coup depending on your perspective, after which a newly formed Ukrainian coalition swept to power.
You may not be aware that this new government includes the Svoboda party who are apparently Nazis and most certainly Fascists. They only won 10% of the vote in the 2012 elections but now control several ministries of the new Ukrainian government, including the chief law officer and until his recent resignation the Minister of Defence.
Putin, whilst seizing the opportunity of a power vacuum, could have credibly claimed (and probably did claim) that his intervention in Crimea was less the equivalent of the German army moving into the Sudetenland, and more a preemptive move anticipating the likely domination of Ukraine by real Nazis, which of course would be a serious threat to Russian Ukrainians. Never mind the oft repeated point that Crimea was only moved into Ukrainian territory by Khrushchev in 1954. This is not to say that Putin didn’t rather stupidly spoil his case when the subsequent dodgy Crimean referendum didn’t even offer the option of voting for the status quo.
Nevertheless I have to say I am somewhat perturbed to say the least that in both the media and political circles there has been so little alarm that a far right political party has taken control of government ministries in such a strategically significant country on the border of Europe.
So far in the UK only Tim Stanley of the Telegraph, and David Stern and Gabriel Gatehouse of the BBC seem to be seriously concerned at what must surely be a very sinister development. Even the Washington based James Kirchick seems rather sanguine about Svoboda’s displays of anti-semitism.
Our political classes rightly worry about the rise of New Dawn in Greece, and the increased success of the French National Front, to give just two examples, but apparently they are too inept to even notice that the interim government of the Ukraine actually has Nazis in positions of political power.
Matters have moved on somewhat with the Ukraine electing a new President, Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman and at the time of writing his attempt to wrest control of Donetsk Airport from Russian rebels appears to have been somewhat successful. We must hope that this violence does not precipitate further intervention from Putin, and if the Russian premier does indeed restrain himself, comparing him with Hitler will finally cease to have any credibility.