*** Everyone knows how I feel about Russia, but this blog prints a variety of views. In fact, there is much we agree on — more than we disagree on.
A hundred years since the fateful events of 1914, the world is once again on the brink of war
Western sources cite August 1 as the day the “Great War” truly began, with Germany’s declaration of war on Russia. In actuality, the war had already been underway, with Austria-Hungary’s attack on Serbia in the night between July 28-29. Far from being a limited, “punitive” action, Austria-Hungary intended a war of extermination. “Serbien muss sterbien!” – Serbia must die! – cried the Viennese press.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a month prior in Sarajevo, was but a pretext for a war that Vienna had wanted for a while, seeing Serbia as both an obstacle to its further expansion eastwards and a threat to its control over millions of Slavs. A strong, independent Slavic state simply could not be tolerated. Nor were the Austrians the only ones to think so. The decision to go to war was already made by July 7 – how Serbia responded to the Austrian ultimatum was irrelevant.
“Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it,” wrote George Santayana. As do those who study, but refuse to learn. Exactly a hundred years since the fateful events of 1914 – driven by imperial lust for power and wealth – the world is once again on the brink of war. Just as Austria-Hungary falsely accused Serbia of being behind the event in Sarajevo, the Atlantic Alliance is falsely accusing Russia of downing a Malaysian jet over Ukraine. This even as the US/NATO puppet government in Kiev pursues a bloody civil war under the slogan “Moskals must die,” indiscriminately targeting civilians with aircraft, artillery and weapons of mass destruction.
Are Western policymakers fully aware of the possible consequences of their belligerence towards Russia? It appears they are not – just like the Austrians of a century ago could not have conceived that their “short, victorious war” would be anything but. It is worth noting that, while Serbia was “declared dead” in December 1915, three years later it was the Serbian army that led the charge on the Salonica Front, collapsing the Austrian and Bulgarian armies and bringing about Austria-Hungary’s dissolution. Those who wish for war usually get war – but not always the war they wanted.
Unintended consequences of 1914 linger to this day. On April 9, 1917 – three days after the U.S. entry into the war – Germany arranged for V. I. Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries to travel from Switzerland to Russia on a sealed train, hoping they would destabilize Russia and knock it out of the war. The Bolsheviks did just that, and even signed a shameful surrender to Germany in March 1918 (Treaty of Brest-Litovsk), but Germany still lost the war. Twenty-seven years later, it was the red banner of the Soviet Army that flew over the ruins of the Reichstag, ending Adolf Hitler’s blood-drenched dream of revising the outcome of Versailles. (Though that has not stopped others from trying again…)
The fallout of the Great War was not limited to Europe, either. The present crisis in the Middle East can be traced back to WW1-era British duplicity: London had promised the same territory to both the Jews and the Arabs, while secretly partitioning the Ottoman Empire with the French. Ethnic and sectarian conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; the wars between Israel and its neighbors as well as the conundrum of Palestine; even the First Gulf War – all of these can be directly traced to the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Anglo-French partition of the Middle East. Meanwhile, Kemal Ataturk’s unexpected rise enabled to Turks to hold on to Anatolia – at the expense of the Greeks and Armenians, murdered and expelled en masse from their ancestral lands.
Instead of learning from the tragedy of the Great War, modern policymakers are acting just like their predecessors a century ago. They live in virtual worlds of their own propaganda and play with the lives and livelihoods of others as if they were pieces on a game board, thinking that distance and wealth protect them from the consequences of their actions. While the evil of men has remained the same, however, technology has advanced: nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles have made channels and oceans irrelevant, and care nothing for wealth, real or imagined.
Humanity best learn, and quick. Or winter is coming.