an·nex transitive verb \ə-ˈneks, ˈa-ˌneks\

1 : to attach as a quality, consequence, or condition
2 (archaic): to join together materially : unite
3: to add to something earlier, larger, or more important
4: to incorporate (a country or other territory) within the domain of a state
5: to obtain or take for oneself

Origin of ANNEX: Middle English, from Anglo-French annexer, from annexe attached, from Latin annexus, past participle of annectere to bind to, from ad- + nectere to bind. First Known Use: 14th century -- Merriam-Webster

The smaller country sat astride a fault-line. While not exactly a recently developed one, the line had moved back a few countries in the past few decades. Its neighbor was a new-old power rising, one that had set its sights on reclaiming what it considered part of its homeland. Centuries of shared culture and language, not to mention shared rulers and borders, combined with the actual intent of many in the small country made conditions ripe for the rising empire to make its move.

(Europe ca. 1850, note also the peninsula on the right jutting into the Black Sea)

Riots were fomented, and broadly telecast by state-supported/owned media. One early spring the elected president, facing an imminent threat of lethal violence, and realizing that the Western powers were not going to lift a finger to help him, left office. An official dispatch of plea for help in quelling the lawlessness was transmitted to the ‘friendly, helpful’ neighboring power’s capital. ‘Reinforcements’ were sent from the benevolent patron. A few weeks later, a referendum was held, in which 99.7% of the population voted for immediate political and financial union with the neighboring larger country. Hundreds of thousands of citizens cheered in the streets to welcome their new overlords.

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The newly enlarged budding empire sat down at the negotiating table with the major Western powers, and on the grounds of protecting its ‘countrymen’ managed to strike a deal to annex more adjacent territories. These were summarily swallowed whole into the new empire, which wasted no time in moving its troops to make absolutely 'final' these new borders. Incidentally, the territories thus acquired contained a disproportionate share of heavy industry and natural resources. And of course the new borders would become anything but final.

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The Western powers, confident they had settled the crisis, wasted no time in patting themselves on the back. It was only the schedule of the prize committee (and of course subsequent geopolitical events) that prevented the architects of this monumental agreement from receiving the Nobel peace prize, though three of them actually WERE nominated the following year.

The new (again) empire secured its Eastern flank by signing a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with the larger superpower to its East, cementing its relationship of ''friendship and cooperation'' for decades to come.

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In case you were wondering, this is not Crimea/Ukraine (see links in text vs. those in pictures). The story above is one that is being bandied about with incredible frequency on occasion of its 76th anniversary -- the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938.

There was only one small hitch with all of the above, of course… By some calculations, 2.5% of the global population perished in the following 6 years. A continent was badly damaged (in many places leveled), entire nations of people were decimated, humanity was subjected to the wonders of nuclear warfare and other sundry barbarisms arising from the need for efficiency in permanently (or temporarily) removing certain human occupants of various locales.

As a small aside, here is a PM-related account of the era from a very smart guy whose profession becomes important further below. I disagree with his misunderestimating assessment, and would argue that this time around the gold transfer mentioned seems to have gone in the other direction...

"The Czechs, seeing the writing on the wall, had transferred almost all their gold reserves outside of the country for safekeeping by 1939. Some went to Basel, and 1845 bars of it, worth six million 1939 British pounds, or nearly $400 million in today’s dollars, went to the Bank of England in London. Just days after the Nazis took Prague, on March 18, two bank-transfer requests quickly went out. (Literally at gunpoint, it was later revealed.) One for the 23.1 tons of Czech gold held with the BIS at the Bank of London, to be moved to the Reichsbank’s account. The other for 26.8 tons held by the Czechoslovak National Bank in London. The second transfer did not take place, as the Bank of England followed the new law freezing Czech assets in Britain.

But the BIS emptied the Czech account of the 23.1 tons and just a few days after that, the Reichsbank moved the gold via transfers and then physically to its vaults in Berlin. It took weeks before the British and French press got wind of the story, and the outrage was far too late in coming to do anything about it. Then in June, a remarkable discussion took place in the British House of Commons, when a bill was introduced to oblige the Bank of England to consult with the government on any issue affecting national interests. [...]

Putin is no master strategist. He’s an aggressive poker player facing weak opposition from a Western world that has become so risk-averse that it would rather fold than call any bluff, no matter how good its cards are. In the end, Putin is a Russian problem, of course, and Russians must deal with how to remove him."

There are, of course examples in history where something that was initially tried but failed, could be re-attempted in later years with subsequent success. The concept of blitzkrieg for most people evokes the image of German tanks rolling over the BeNeLux region and on to Paris during WWII. However, the plan for such an assault was drawn up nearly half a century earlier, by Herr Alfred von Schlieffen. It was sold to Kaiser Wilhelm as a foolproof and brilliant piece of military science that would guarantee German victory, a la "Paris for lunch, dinner at St. Petersburg.". We have the benefit of hindsight to know how it turned out the first, as well as the second time around.

I have no crystal ball, and claim to draw no direct parallels. Today is most assuredly not 1938. It is all too common to end a conversation by comparing current world participants to Nazis. If anything, such is one of the favorite pastimes of the Western MSM. The outcome of the current setup is still being written (or so I'd like to think).

But it seems to me that some participants in the current proceedings on the global stage may have been reading history a little more intensively than others. And in recognizing (and exploiting) the differences in current conditions and resources between the past and today, empires often DO rewrite history. Perhaps Vlad and crew really believe they have built a better mousetrap this time around. And there is a non-zero chance that they indeed have.

In chess, the beauty and wonder of the game comes in large part from the nearly infinite number of combinations of moves and positions that can follow any particular earlier setup on the board. There is a concept known as ‘swindle’, where a seemingly completely hopeless situation is turned by the grandmaster into a draw, or in some cases, even a win. Now, a swindle implies that one’s situation is lost. Against a perfect opponent, it would not be possible to pull off a swindle, but of course humans are not perfect.

Imagine what a skilled player can do with a position that is nowhere near lost? Or better yet, what a set of several skilled opponents working together can accomplish while engaging their more or less singular adversary at the same time? And what if the rules of the game are not quite so formal and strictly enforced?

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PS: For a refreshingly different view of the situation on the Eastern front, I would recommend Dmitry Orlov's blog.

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Key Economic Events Week of 11/28

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