Danzig Corridors of Europe

In 1939 Hitler demanded ex-territorial access to East Prussia across the Danzig Corridor controlled by Poland. In some analyses the Polish refusal was what led to WW2 although Hitler had a track record of escalating his territorial claims and I believe that had Poland acquiesced other issues would have cropped up. In any case, Danzig Corridor became a generic reference to territorial claims which may lead to a military aggression.

You may believe that, in view of the decades of political stability, there are no potential Danzig Corridors left in Europe. If you do, the following news item should make you think again:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20341739

The silliness and bullying attitude of Spain may on the face of it look surprising. Both Spain and the UK are members of NATO and EU and have enjoyed peaceful relations for as long as the living generation can remember. But, as I will try to show in this post, the stability of Europe is just a thin veneer of political expediency which may crumble if conditions change. I will bring up a few episodes from the post-WW2 history to show how volatile the political life of Europe really is behind the facade of civility.

France, May 1958. Driven by their dissatisfaction with the political elites in Paris a group of French military based in Algeria plan a coup. A Committee of Public Safety is formed in Algier and demands that one Charles de Gaulle be named by the French president René Coty to head a government of national unity. On May 24 French paratroopers from the Algerian corps land on Corsica, taking the French island in a bloodless action called “Operation Corse”. Subsequently, preparations were made in Algeria for “Operation Resurrection,” which was to seize Paris and remove the French government, through the use of paratroopers and armoured forces. On May 29 the French President lends his support to De Gaulle, who proceeds to take over the political power (15 hours before the planned start of the “Operation Resurrection”). The Constitution is changed and the Fifth Republic is established, with De Gaulle at its helm. A military coup d’etat? In all but name.

France, April 1961. Another bunch of French generals in Algeria decide the time is right to act. They take over Algiers and make radio pronouncements that the French Government has lost its legitimacy and must be replaced. De Gaulle finds out about the putsch and counters it with his own radio broadcasts calling for national unity. To be sure it does not fall into the insurgents’ hand the French Government decides to hastily explode the nuclear bomb Gerboise Verte (Green Jerboa) in the Sahara testing ground. The airfields around Paris are closed to prevent the military stationed in Algeria flying into France. The putsch loses momentum. The leaders are captured, tried, convicted and sent to prison (but later pardoned).

Greece, 1967. Just weeks before a scheduled democratic election a group of colonels take control over the country by detaining most of the politicians and political activists. The junta ruled Greece for a few years before democratic elections were eventually held in 1974.

Germany, 1970s. A group of young educated, upper middle class Germans influenced by leftist ideology establish a terrorist group known as Red Army Faction (sometimes referred to as Baader-Meinhoff). They carry out a spate of attacks on the “corrupt establishment” – killing police officers, robbing banks, bombing police stations and US Army Bases, and kidnapping state officials. After the leaders were caught the remaining RAF operatives carried out more terrorist acts to force their release: the takeover of the German Embassy in Stockholm and the killings of the Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback and the head of Dresdner Bank Juergen Ponto. Germany has no death penalty so there appeared to be no way to stop the rearguard actions by the RAF stalwarts. But then an amazing thing happened. During the night after a hijacked German plane was retaken in Mogadishu, Somalia the remaining RAF captives in German high security prisons all committed suicide. Held in the high-security German prison they somehow managed to get hold of the guns and knives. You may want to believe it (some people believe in Tooth Fairy and Santa) but I could not possibly comment!

Those who bet on the unchallenged stability of Europe in the face of the economic disintegration need to think again.

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