In 1941 Canada came to the aid of the British Empire and sent troops to Hong Kong. The Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were supposed to be a deterrent to war. Of the 1975 Canadians who tried to help defend Hong Kong, quite a few less came home after War II from the Japanese prisoner of war camps.
Our government has learned little from history as it prepares to send 450 troops to Latvia to discourage Russian aggression towards its neighbours. Along with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, we will form a division to face off against thousands of Russian tanks. This is supposed to be an open-ended posting for Canadian troops. There will be similar NATO forces based in Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.
It is not clear what these forces will be expected to do if Russian troops decide to annex any of these countries. Since the Canadian troops will be provided with transport vehicles, it is assumed that they will have an option to jump into the vehicles and get out of Dodge.
That was not the case with the troops trying to stop the Japanese at Hong Kong. They had nowhere to go and they lasted less than two weeks under attack by four times the number of a battle-hardened enemy. They were surrendered by the civilian governor of Hong Kong who likely had no idea how the Japanese despised and treated soldiers who surrendered to them.
But those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. NATO has drawn a line in the sand using live troops from the organization’s member countries. They are defying an egotist such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin with this living line.
This is not a deterrent. It has all the character and assuredness of thumbing your nose. A deterrent is submarines armed with nuclear missiles in the North Atlantic. All Mr. Putin needs to know is where the line is and be assured of what will happen if he crosses it.
The Russian leader has already annexed Crimea and created chaos in Eastern Ukraine with a supposed Ukrainian militia who all speak Russian. He needs to be dealt with firmly but with respect. It means we have to listen to his concerns and he has to listen to ours. Diplomacy requires it.
Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry
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