Vice President Kamala Harris was in Munich this morning while most Americans were sleeping.
She delivered a tough speech that connected our vital interests in Ukraine to our long term alliances with NATO and the European Union.
Regardless of who you supported in 2020, regardless of who you will support in 2022 and 2024, America is facing the most daunting national security challenges since 9/11.
Many would shift that comparison to World War II, and they might be right to do so. The parallels are significant and strike a chord that has brought together allies that were once stretched far apart just a few years ago.
Stalin had flirted with an alliance with Hitler. Ultimately, Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, followed by Stalin on September 17th, triggering a declaration of war by both France and the United Kingdom.
A declaration of war did not stop Stalin from the three month Winter War with Finland, which not only was a failure but led to the Soviet expulsion from the League of Nations. After signing a peace treaty with Finland where the Soviets annexed part of their territory, Stalin continued his annexation race by occupying the Baltic states.
None of these annexations were without repression and brutal bloodshed.
It was followed by Hitler invading the Soviet Union, marching all the way to just 20 miles from Moscow. Defending the homeland came at the high cost of scorched earth and a discarding of the Geneva Conventions by both sides.
The Nazi massacre of Jews opened a door for Stalin to form the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, or JAC, in 1942, which gained him foreign support. The Soviets were then able to join the Allies.
It was a race to Berlin and 1945 from there. The race was deadly and too long.
The invasion of Poland on September 17, 1938, until the Soviets sacked Berlin in April of 1945, laid the groundwork for what would become the Eastern Bloc of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Throughout that Eastern Bloc, freedom, liberty, and justice would wither as suffering behind the Iron Curtain would take their place. The Berlin Wall would rise, and would remain for nearly half a century.
What happens in Ukraine right now may yield results for decades. We may not know what decisions will make the most impact today but it is up to our leaders to make certain that whatever results those decisions will yield will not be as dire of consequences as we witnessed throughout much of last century.
We witnessed Putin annex Crimea days after the close of the Sochi Olympics. The consequences have not dissuaded him from further actions to destabilize Ukraine and other independent nations. Some would call Crimea a major concession. People today are calling for us to give Putin even more concessions.
What do we think will happen if we do?
We teach people how to act by how we respond to people’s actions.
If we don’t do so with forethought, strength, and the wisdom gained from our history and our experiences, then we are doomed to repeat the same lessons we should have learned last century.