Back in 1914, nobody expected that a 20-year-old Bosnian Serb could set off the chain of events that we now know as World War I. Suffice it to say that that the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was only the spark. The political posturing, battle lines, and stockpile of weaponry served as the tinderbox that erupted into a much greater explosion. What turned Gavrilo Princip’s singular act of defiance into a world war was a combination of the toxic political atmosphere of saber-rattling coupled with the layered nature of diplomatic treaties and assurances, many of which required action by one nation if another nation was attacked.
Fast forward to 1939, when Great Britain and France watched helpless as warlike political posturing, battle lines, and stockpiling began anew. That year, the spark came in the form of Adolf Hitler’s decision to invade Poland, its neighbor to the east. As in 1914, the combination of toxic political forces coupled with a host of mutual defense pacts and other treaties forced nations to choose between a loss of national “honor” (i. e., failure to live up to their diplomatic promises) and the death of untold numbers of soldiers and innocent civilians. As has too often been the case throughout the history of mankind, nations regrettably preferred mass death to political loss of face.
Fast forward to yesterday, December 10, 2021, when the BBC published the following quote from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov with respect to the imminent nature of a Russian invasion: “The most likely time to reach readiness for escalation will be the end of January.” See: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589
President Biden has assured reporters that the direct use of American troops to aid Ukraine is not an option now on the table. Spirited Reasoners must recall, however, that both President Wilson (in the case of World War I) and President Franklin Roosevelt (in the case of World War II) assured Americans that the United States would remain neutral in what seemed to be distant foreign wars. Continued submarine attacks by German U-boats in World War I and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II changed the minds of those two Presidents.
Anything can happen two large countries go to war against one another. Nearby countries can get dragged into the fighting whether they want that to happen or not. For example, we wonder what secret treaties the Ukraine might have with other nations in its region? What would happen if a nation friendly to the Ukraine takes the opportunity to strike at Russia, thus widening the war?
Spirited Reasoners can only hope and pray that (1) Russia will not choose to invade the Ukraine, and (2) if such an invasion happens, it will not spread across boundaries in a manner that could draw other nations, especially the United States, into a wider war.