Few countries ever annex the territory of their weaker neighbours and then tell the world to grin and bear it. They always offer some justification, however flimsy.
The most widespread pretext is a territorial claim presented as valid for historical, ethnic, linguistic and philosophical reasons. The aggressor is both the star and the referee in this game: it’s he who establishes the rules by which the weaker country is supposed to play, but blithely refuses to.
However, if the world accepts the new set of rules in theory, they become a model for everyone else to follow in practice.
For example, once it was accepted, on rather shaky grounds, that every Third World country was entitled to independence, they all claimed it – even those like Algeria, which was an equal province of France, rather than her colony.
That’s why we should sit up and listen whenever a world leader formulates a geopolitical philosophy justifying annexation. As often as not, action may follow.
Donald Trump can’t be easily confused with the philosopher king of Plato’s fancy. His intellectual prowess doesn’t quite stretch to the point where philosophy begins and, though his role is modelled on that of a monarch, he isn’t exactly king.
But, to give him his due, he has strong principles and tends to act on them, God and Congress willing. Hence, whenever he proposes embellishments on geopolitical doctrine, his words ought to be heeded.
His recent contribution to geopolitical theory was to tell G7 leaders that Russia was entitled to help herself to the Crimea because everyone in that peninsula speaks Russian.
Never before had annexation been justified by linguistic commonality alone, although the Anschluss came pretty close.
However, Trump tends to act on his ideas. Hence one has to assume that, rather than limiting that startling discovery to Russia, he believes it has a practical significance for the conduct of US foreign policy.
So if I were a Canadian, I’d be worried. Actually, I’m already worried even as a British subject but, if I were a Canadian, I’d worry even more.
For the fact is that everyone in both Canada and Britain speaks English, although those who’ve heard Sir Kenny Dalglish might disagree. And Canada has the added disadvantage of being right on Trump’s doorstep.
Since the US also enjoys an overwhelming military superiority over Canada, and since Trump is known to hold a dim view of Justin Trudeau and his policies, the stage is set.
Before long the US will annex most of Canada, granting an independent status only to the Francophone Quebec. By the same logic, that province must be claimed by France.
And why stop there? After all, many countries of Africa and Asia speak English too. Some of them do so incomprehensibly, but then no one understands Sir Kenny Dalglish either. This linguistic proclivity makes them ripe for American conquest, presumably led by Trump astride a white steed.
Also, to be fair, the same principle should be extended to other languages as well. For example, every South American country except Brazil speaks Spanish.
I say if Russia is entitled to the Crimea, Spain is entitled to Uruguay. And it’s not just the language either. Uruguay used to belong to Spain, just like the Crimea used to belong to Russia. What better reason for annexation can there be? And fine, Portugal is welcome to Brazil.
Mr Trump added a few glints to his shining concept of linguistic expansionism. We might as well forget Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, he offered magnanimously, because it “happened a while ago”. That’s like a football referee playing advantage, allowing the play to continue after a foul.
This simplifies the task facing the US in Canada, Spain in Uruguay and – as the patriot in me insists on adding – Britain in India. Should these countries claim what’s rightfully theirs, they wouldn’t have to fight a permanent war.
They’d only have to hold on to their acquisitions for four years, after which no arguments against the annexations would have any force.
And speaking of Britain and India, have you noticed a direct parallel with Russia and the Crimea? India belonged to Britain from 1757 to 1948, which is almost exactly the period during which the Crimea belonged to Russia (1783-1954).
Call me a British nationalist and report me to Jean-Claude Juncker, but this makes our claim to India unassailable – especially since most Indians speak English, some of them better than most Englishmen and most of them better than Sir Kenny Dalglish.
Nor is it just about language and prior ownership. According to our philosopher king, the Ukraine is entitled neither to our support nor, by inference, to the Crimea because she’s “one of the most corrupt countries in the world.”
That’s true. The Ukraine is indeed one of the world’s most corrupt nations, finding herself at around Number 130 on that score. Yet Russia, at 195 out of 198 countries in the Verisk Maplecroft corruption rating, is even more corrupt, finding herself next to Sudan and Burma.
My head is beginning to spin. For both Sudan and Burma are largely Anglophone and both used to belong to Britain. If we had the ships to transport a sizeable expeditionary force, I’d say let’s sail and claim what’s ours.
And shouldn’t the Ukraine annex parts of the Russian territory on the basis of being less corrupt than Russia? She should, if she could.
Jokes aside, all 14 former Soviet republics were ruled by Russia until 1991. They all speak Russian and they’re all corrupt, both accomplishments being the inheritance of communism added to some indigenous proclivities.
President Trump seems to be issuing his friend Vlad a carte blanche to recreate the Soviet Union, which is exactly what friend Vlad wants. Nor does Trump seem to see Russia’s aggression as a disqualification from re-entering the civilised community or having all sanctions against her repealed.
I’m not going to add my own collusion stone to those being thrown at Trump, but it increasingly seems that his foreign policy isn’t so much America First as Russia First.
The overriding stratagem appears to be punching holes in all Western alliances, both military and economic – which is Putin’s policy too. Trump clearly sees both NATO and G7 in his sights, and he allows Putin to control the temperature and duration of the Syrian war. That pushes oil prices high and keeps the hydrocarbon-centred Russian economy afloat.
I’m not sure an American invasion of Canada is on the cards, but I wouldn’t bet against more Russian aggression against the neighbouring states. If that happens, Vlad should send a letter of thanks to his friend Donald.