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“Feeding the Russian crocodile” — the GAN white paper of why the appeasement policy toward Russia still led to war

The Ukraine Task Force of The Global Accountability Network (GAN UKTF) has published a white paper “Feeding the Russian crocodile: a historical analysis of appeasement as a modern threat to international peace and security” in which historical facts demonstrate how fear among democracies of the threat of war forced them to indulge the aggressive foreign policies of despotic regimes which ultimately led to war anyway. The authors of the report note that, unfortunately, this mistake of the past has been repeated by the civilized world in the case of the Russian dictatorial regime of Vladimir Putin and its aggression against Ukraine.

The GAN UKTF analysts distinguish two modes of appeasement of the Aggressor State usually used by democracies — direct and tacit. By direct appeasement they mean the concessions of the Appeasing State in response to the Aggressor’s threats of use of force. A quintessential example is the Munich Agreement of 1938 by which France and Great Britain agreed to the annexation of part of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany.

Another, less well-known episode of direct appeasement is the US attempts to calm the aggressive mood of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1989-1990. The administration of President George H. W. Bush was offering Baghdad various economic and political incentives but that didn’t prevent the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

Tacit appeasement occurs when the Target State which is suffering from external aggression or from the Aggressor’s threats to use force appeals for help to the international community or a particular country but its requests are ignored. The reason for this behavior of the Appeasing States is the false hope that the Aggressor will be satiated by the Target State and stop there. That was the case with Japan’s conquest of Chinese region of Manchuria in 1931 and fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

Based on this historical analysis, the authors of the white paper conclude that Putin is a typical expansionist tyrant who perceives concessions as encouragement of further aggression. The absence of a tough reaction of the civilized world to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and occupation of the Ukrainian Crimea and part of Donbas in 2014 ultimately led to today’s full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The GAN UKTF experts call on the international community to abandon the failed policy of appeasement and do everything to bring Putin to justice for aggression and international crimes.

“Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, was heard to say that an appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile in the hopes that it will eat him last. Let’s not feed the crocodile but take it down using the rule of law in a forceful and direct manner. Accountability must be our goal using force if necessary to achieve it”, the authors note.

The white paper is available here.

The Global Accountability Network is a network of prosecutors, lawyers, scientists, and other experts, as well as students, who collect from open sources and analyze information about international crimes. GAN continues to focus on events in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, China, and now Ukraine. The Ukrainian Bar Association supports GAN’s efforts to gather information about crimes committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine and to widely disseminate such information to the international community, and also provides expert and volunteer assistance to GAN UKTF investigative activities.

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