Rhyming Conflicts – Yugoslavia / Ukraine

Destroyed Church in Krazina

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
(Mark Twain)

The Croatian “special police” crowding into the hotel bar were singing songs of the notorious Second World War pro-Nazi Ustaše (Ustasha). All were sporting the “skinhead” look, which may be benign now but was once the fashion choice of neo-Nazis. It was late. I was bone-weary. Over the past few days I’d been responding to Croatian “ethnic cleansing” and cease-fire violations. I’d allegedly been shot at by Serbs, although I was pretty certain that it was just some Croat trying to inject a touch of drama into a front-line visit. As the child of parents whose lives had been upended by a Nazi regime, my feelings on returning to the familiar comfort of our hotel to find it full of neo-fascists would be difficult to put into words. But my job was to monitor, so I settled down to nurse a beer and watch.

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Portents of Putin’s Ukraine War – Halifax, 1993

In preparation for his invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin deployed the flagship of Russia’s Northern Fleet to the Mediterranean. Now, the powerful cruiser Marshal Ustinov stands between NATO’s naval forces (including Canada’s HMCS Montreal) and the Dardanelles, which link the Mediterranean to the Black Sea coast of Ukraine. Twenty-nine years ago the relationship had been very different. Ustinov made a memorably visit to Halifax and conducted friendly exercises with the Canadian Navy before heading on to the U.S. Looking back, there were warning signs even then that if the collapse of the Soviet Union were not handled prudently, sooner or later Russia would become an adversary again. And so it has proved.

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