Importance of history

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Sunday, March 23, 2014


HALFWAY across the globe, history seems to be repeating itself.

Towards the end of last month, Russian special operations troops marched into Crimea to seize the peninsula from Ukraine.

Last week, the occupation was cemented when majority of Crimea’s
population, who happen to be Russians, voted in a referendum to join
Russia. Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed parliament bills incorporating Crimea into Russia.

History buffs should not be surprised by the development. The fates of Ukraine and Russia are intertwined.

The Russian Orthodox Church was founded in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. In the mid-1600s, when part of Ukraine was ruled by Catholic Poland, locals turned to Moscow for protection and sovereignty.

In fact, the last Ukrainian “state” disintegrated in the 12th century.

Since then, different parts of the country were ruled by different powers
until an independent Ukraine was established in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But that’s not why I’m sensing a déjà vu.

In 1938, ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia, in a region called Sudentenland, complained against their alleged maltreatment by the Czechoslovakian government. German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler felt it was his duty, as a good German (of course), to protect his countrymen across the eastern border from brutal oppression.

And so, despite protests from the Czechoslovakian government, Nazi
Germany, with the go-ahead of Great Britain and France, took over the region before eventually taking over the rest of the country later in March of 1939. On Sept. 1, 1939, the world was
introduced to blitzkrieg as Nazi Germany unleashed its forces on Poland, which marked the beginning of the catastrophic World War 2.

Unlike what happened to Czechoslovakia, there is no Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain character in the current crisis. (So eager was Chamberlain to avoid another great war that his government ignored the rearmament of Nazi Germany, which violated the 1918 Treaty of Versailles, or the Anschluss, Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938.)

Western Europe, led by Germany’s Angela Merkel (isn’t it ironic), and the
US have condemned the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and have
imposed economic sanctions against Russia and some Russian government
officials. The US, though, has ruled out any military incursion into Ukraine.

Putin, perhaps to ease tensions, said “he saw no need to further retaliate against US sanctions,” according to Yahoo News.

Putin ina mo! At least, the world can heave a momentary sigh of relief.
So why is it important to keep abreast of news happening halfway across the globe?

Look at photos of Intramuros in Manila after the Americans bombed the walled city in 1945. That should provide the answer.

***

Last week, I wrote about the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight
370 and what I thought was the arrogant handling of the investigation by
Malaysian authorities.

Nothing has changed much since then. The plane carrying 239 passengers
and crew remains missing. Foreign officials and governments continue to be frustrated by the Malaysian authorities’ apparent lack of transparency.

The Malaysian government insists that it wants to verify everything it has gathered before releasing the information to the public. That’s actually commendable if the Malaysian government has been consistent, but it flip-flops with its “facts” almost on a daily basis.

Its image is further marred by distraught relatives showing up at press conferences, bemoaning the Malaysian government’s lack of action on their clamor for news of their missing loved ones.

No one wanted this incident to happen, least of all the Malaysian government.

But the disappearance of Flight 370 clearly illustrates that Malaysia is
way over its head and should have, from the very beginning, handed the reins of the investigation to experts.

There’s no room for national pride when the lives of 239 people are at
stake. And that’s hoping against hope.

(publiobriones@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 23, 2014.

Opinion

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