The Russian “Anschluss” :: By Matt Ward

On March 12th, 1938, German troops marched into Austria, annexing the German-speaking Austrian nation into the Third Reich.

This annexation was not an instinctive act from Adolf Hitler. It was something that he had envisaged and planned for quite a considerable amount of time beforehand. In 1938, Austrian Nazis conspiring with Germany attempted to seize the Austrian government by force and unite the nation with Germany.

Austrian Chancellor Kurt Von Schuschnigg, learning of the conspiracy, met with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to try to resolve the crisis peacefully and avert a disaster for Austria.

But Adolf Hitler was not for turning. Hitler had already decided that he was going to use the pretext of protecting the “German-speaking” people of Austria to justify his invasion.

So Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany, mercilessly bullied Schuschnigg when they met in 1938, not giving a single inch, and overtly threatened him. The end result of the meeting was that several top Austrian Nazis were forced the next day into the Austrian cabinet, very much against the government’s will.

On March 11th Schuschnigg resigned. The very next day, on March 12th, Germany invaded Austria, an event known in history as the “Anschluss,” the uniting of Germany with Austria.

German troops, met by enthusiastic crowds, marched into Austria, and a once independent nation became merely an additional state province of greater Germany, a situation that lasted until the very end of the Second World War.

At the end of the war, the Allies declared the Anschluss null and void, restoring Austria to full, independent nation statehood, and releasing Schuschnigg from the prison cell in which he had been confined for almost seven years.

Today, in 2021, Russia is attempting to do the very same thing with Ukraine. At the point of writing, 25,000 Russian troops have amassed on the Ukraine border. This is something that cannot be ignored. Yet like so many other things today, it is being ignored and is almost completely unreported by mainstream media outlets.

To all impartial observers, it looks exactly like it potentially is, a prelude to an invasion.

US Central Command has escalated its military posture to its highest level, “potential imminent crisis,” with the United States Air Force now flying constant observation missions over and along the Russian border, tracking Russian troop movements.

US President Joe Biden called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to express his support and his solidarity. It seems to have offered little succour.

Dominic Raab, U.K. Defence Secretary, has issued a similar statement of support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity, stating, “We are gravely concerned about Russian military activity which threatens Ukraine.”

On Thursday, NATO ambassadors held a nonscheduled crisis meeting to discuss this fast-developing situation, tweeting as a group of the “grave concerns” they share over Russian actions.

Russia’s response is a belligerent one. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, rebuffed all concerns, essentially openly threatening NATO should they attempt any future aid of Ukraine.

Peskov continued,

“There is no doubt such a scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions close to Russian borders. Of course, this would lead to additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security.”

This all sounds ominously familiar. Not just because there is historical precedent between Germany and Austria, but because Vladimir Putin has used these old German tactics before, extremely successfully.

It was these same tactics that Putin used to invade Georgia in August 2008. At that time, Russia accused Georgia of aggression against South Ossetia and launched a large-scale land, air and sea invasion of Georgia on August 8 with the pretext of a “peace enforcement “operation.

Currently, 20% of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory is under Russian military occupation. Additionally, Russia does not even allow EU monitors to enter South Ossetia and Abkhazia at all now, in direct violation of the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement signed by all participants.

Russia has annexed this territory into greater Russia, and just like the original German Anschluss in 1938, the world stood by and did nothing.

Russia’s actions today regarding Ukraine are merely a rehashing of an old Putin tactic to justify military action by claiming Russian interests are at risk. It worked for him before, just as it worked for Adolf Hitler in 1938.

To further cement this claim, the Kremlin has been handing out thousands and thousands of Russian passports to Ukrainian residents in the east of the Ukraine.

By making hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians essentially new Russian citizens, Putin is turning them into his direct responsibility.

If he can then engineer a situation where “Russian” people are threatened, he can then justify an invasion to protect them. At this point, that is seeming increasingly likely.

The million-dollar question is what will the United States do in response? What will NATO do in response?

In the event of an invasion, Ukraine has only a few very limited options: cede a big chunk of its territory over to Russia, hit back politically by cozying up to and asking for help from the West, or it could fight.

However, despite Ukraine being stronger in military terms than one would think, they are simply no match for Russia.

NATO, for its part, could retaliate militarily. This, though, is unlikely. Just the thought of a hot war between Russia and NATO is enough to turn your blood cold. Such a confrontation would bring with it the highest risk of nuclear war in human history.

NATO might immediately admit Ukraine into its membership. But again, if NATO does this, it would be duty-bound to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression, bringing the nuclear superpowers once again back into direct confrontation.

More likely is that NATO would immediately admit Ukraine to the last stage before full membership, without becoming a full member, thus warning Russia, “this far, no further.”

The United States might employ sanctions against Russia or even reinvigorate the missile shield program, which Russia truly hates, in places like Poland in Eastern Europe. This would be a direct threat to Russia’s own deterrence capability.

But in such an eventuality, should Russia actually invade Ukraine as it did Georgia in 2008, there are simply no good options.

The world will be on tenterhooks; and diplomats, military leaders and politicians will be managing the finest of all balancing acts, trying desperately to avoid all out escalation.

In the Bible, when describing the very last days of the end times, Jesus talks of a time of “wars and rumours of wars.” We have long since been in that time frame. As we hurtle increasingly into that time period, the increasing birth pains will become more and more severe and intense. War will become more intense.

In 2021, in every direction one chooses to look, Jesus’s words of wars and rumours of war are and have become a present-day reality. From Russia to China, dictators are looking out from their own lands with greedy eyes. From Ukraine to Taiwan, to the south China seas to Hong Kong.

Whether it be in Eastern Europe between Russia and NATO, or more likely in Southeast Asia between the United States of America and China, major superpower confrontation and conflict is almost certainly coming in the next decade.

It is like a slow-motion train crash; everybody can see that it’s going to happen, but nobody seems to be able to stop it or even slow it down.

For us who believe in and hold to Jesus, we have a different hope and a different expectation of the decade to come. One of deliverance. That should be our focus today, and every day, until that deliverance becomes our own reality.

“When you see these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your head for your redemption draws nigh” (Luke 21:28).

wardmatt1977@gmail.com

 

Iran’s Fait Accompli :: By Matt Ward

While the world has been distracted by Coronavirus, Iran has been busy making its moves. What a mere twelve months ago would have been big front-page news all across the world now barely even registers in the mainstream news media at all. Yet, despite the lack of coverage, Iran seems to be rapidly approaching the point of acquiring a viable nuclear weapon. Shockingly, nobody in the mainstream media even seems to care.

At this writing, it is widely assumed that Iran is now mere weeks away from nuclear breakout status. If true, this is a crisis that is very soon going to come to a head.

Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor, referred to Iran’s forthcoming nuclear breakout status as a “critical early priority” for the Biden administration. Sullivan went on to state that this issue could well become an “escalating nuclear crisis as they move closer to having enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.”

As a show of force and possibly intention, US B-52 nuclear bombers have been flying sorties over the Gulf and right up to the border of the Islamic Republic, clearly signposting Western intent should the revived nuclear deal negotiations fail.

French President Emmanuel Macron has described how the international community has but a “very short time” to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But there is a problem with all this hard talk. Iran, it would seem, is not buying this show of strength, and they are not afraid. The uncomfortable reality is that they simply do not seem to fear President Joe Biden, as they once feared President Donald Trump. The inauguration of a new president, rather than put them on notice and high alert, seems to have emboldened them.

In the face of all the tacit threats from America and Europe, Iran remains belligerent. The Islamic Republic has thus far refused point-blank to come back to the negotiation table for talks, something Joe Biden put so much faith in during Obama’s final term.

Tehran has flatly ruled out any amendments to the nuclear accord, describing the document the Biden administration believes can bring Iran back in line as “non-negotiable.” Before they have even begun, the negotiations are dead in the water.

So entrenched and emboldened is Iran that even before any conversation is had, before they even sit down at the table, Tehran wants the harsh sanctions the United States has imposed on them previously for violating the original terms of the nuclear deal, completely removed.

To do so would essentially reward the Iranians for breaking the terms of the original nuclear accord and is something the West is understandably very reluctant to do. But time is against the West, just as time is against little Israel. On this present course, if nobody does something soon, the issue will become a fait accompli – Iran will have a viable nuclear weapon.

Even the United Nations nuclear watchdog has conceded that the Iranian nuclear weapons program is back in full swing, revealing that a second cascade of advanced IR-2m centrifuges for enriching uranium has once again begun working at Iran’s underground Natanz facility. They also believe there is a third cluster just waiting to go.

The Iranians have openly admitted that they have enriched Uranium to the critical 20% level at their Fordow plant, still a large level below the 90% enrichment required for a nuclear weapon, but a significant step in that direction nonetheless. The reason for this is that the time and processes involved in enriching uranium to 20% are much longer and more difficult than that of taking it from 20% enrichment up to 90%. This can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.

Most surprisingly, Iran has been really quite frank and open about these violations. Perhaps this is because Iran no longer fears the reaction of the United States under its current presidential leadership, as it clearly did under its previous incumbent.

At this point, Israel is grappling with a huge number of uncertainties regarding Iran and its nuclear program and the wider geopolitical environment. It is at best unclear to even the most informed Iran pundit just how advanced Iran’s nuclear program now is, or exactly how close they may be to a feasible weapon. It’s all about best estimates, and all the best estimates seem to conclude that Iran is getting very, very close.

Iran is clearly making rapid progress towards nuclear breakout status. It is also widely agreed that Iran would not go for nuclear breakout status unless they had enough material to produce 3-5 viable weapons. They just won’t take the risk for one weapon, as the US or Israel would simply destroy it, and all their efforts would be in vain.

Israel or the United States would think twice before attacking Iran if they knew there were five weapons, not just one. So, this rush to breakout status is likely not for just one weapon but multiple warheads.

As we speak, the IDF is actively preparing to take on Iran’s nuclear weapons program – even if it has to do it alone. The United States, however, would be mistaken to think that this was an issue critical to Israel only. The world is watching new United States President Joe Biden, and just like Iran has done, rulers like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un are weighing Joe Biden and measuring him.

Whether Biden will be found wanting will be directly determined by the outcome of this issue, not by his response to Coronavirus, and may well determine the Biden administration’s international standing during the rest of his term.

Time is not on Israel’s side. Israeli Defense Force chief of staff Lt. General Aviv Kochavi issued his own blunt assessment of the state of play: “I have instructed the Israeli Defense Forces to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to those already in place.”

So significant is Lt Gen. Kochavi’s concerns over Iran’s imminent nuclear breakout status that these comments were entirely unsanctioned and from his own initiative, something he himself was sanctioned for.

Israel’s hand is being forced, and it is increasingly likely that if they are forced to act, they will do so alone. Iran knows this. Last week Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami issued an ominous threat to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa “to the ground” should Israel launch any pre-emptive action against Iran or its nuclear program.

It seems evident from President Biden’s first few months in power that he would likely not be willing to overtly engage the Iranians in direct military intervention, especially if side by side with Israel. To do so would be to enrage a great portion of his base at home, to whom he is so beholden.

On February 2nd, Senior Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegdi commented that in his opinion, he cannot see the Americans agreeing to take on such a military initiative, leaving Israel to face this growing threat alone.

Time is clearly running out. Whether Israel’s hand will be forced or not remains to be seen. If Israel and the West are not careful, though, we will all wake up one morning and an Iranian nuclear weapon will have become a fait accompli.

The drumbeats of war are getting louder and louder.

wardmatt1977@gmail.com