Putin has defied calls from the West to pull back his troops, insiting that Russia has a right to protect its interests and those of Russian-speakers in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. His confidence is matched by knowledge that Ukraine's 46 million people have divided loyalities - while much of the western Ukraine wants closer ties with the 28-nation European Union, its eastern and southern regions like Crimea look to Russia for support.
There's historical precdent for what happens when a power-hungry, aggressive leader with a dislike of minority groups decides he wants to protect the interests of ethnic or linguistic fellows.
On this day, Adolf Hitler announces an "Anschluss" (union) between Germany and Austria, in fact annexing the smaller nation into a greater Germany.
What other countries have Russian-speaking populations?
- Armenia (significant minority)
- Azerbaijan (significant minority)
- Belarus (co-official with Belarusian)
- Bulgaria (minority)
- Estonia (significant minority)
- Finland (minority)
- Georgia (significant minority)
- Germany (minority)
- Greece (minority)
- Kazakhstan (co-official with Kazakh)
- Kyrgyzstan (co-official with Kyrgyz)
- Latvia (significant minority)
- Lithuania (minority)
- Moldova (co-official with Ukrainian and Romanian in Transnistria)
- Mongolia (significant minority)
- Poland (minority)
- Serbia (minority)
- Turkey (significant minority)
- Tajikistan (significant minority)
- Turkmenistan (significant minority)
- Ukraine (significant minority, regional in some regions)
- Uzbekistan (significant minority)
If I were a minority group in Russisa/the former USSR, I'd be very concerned about now. And I was was a Western leader, I'd be making damned sure I was fully versed on the errors of the past so as not to perpetuate them.
UPDATE: And it looks like I'm not the only one who's worried about this. Thanks Leonid Bershidsky for the quote I was looking for:
"It is not only the same people but above all a long communal history and culture which bind together the Reich and Austria."
"We are one people," Russian President Vladimir Putin said of Russians and Ukranians in September 2013. "We have, unquestionably, common historical roots and a common destiny."
If you think this is crazy talk, just remember - that's what they used to say about Churchill.