In 1939, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany marched into European capitals with ease, precipitating a global conflict that lasted six years because of two main reasons — France and Great Britain’s appeasement policy and the United States’ isolationist policy.

There was tremendous pressure at home in the United States, Great Britain, and France to avoid conflict after World War I and the economic collapse in the late 1920s added more reason for Washington to stay out of the conflicts in Europe and Asia.

The lack of US interest to intervene emboldened Germany, Italy, and Japan to annex more territories — Hitler took the German-speaking Austrian region, Japan invaded China’s Manchuria, and Italy went to Abyssinia, now the modern day Ethiopia in Africa.

The US only watched as Germany, Italy, and Japan took aggressive actions while Great Britain and France did nothing but appease Hitler, hoping he would be satisfied after uniting all German-dominated regions in Europe.

The United States, France, and Great Britain tolerated Hitler and Benito Mussolini’s ambitions as the League of Nations, which was created after World War I, was a toothless organization.

The US was not part of it and later, Germany and Japan left the League, weakening the organization further.

Looking back at the events that led to World War II, the United States has taken a more proactive approach to prevent another Hitler from rising in Europe and another country in Asia from replicating Japan’s hegemony in the first half of the 20th century.

President Joe Biden is coming out again on the world stage to assert US dominance in global security affairs after years of Donald Trump’s America first policy.

Biden made a visit to Ukraine, promising to pour an extra $460 million in military aid to help repel Russia’s invasion into its eastern and southern regions.

In the same way, Washington has taken a strong stance against Beijing’s coercive and aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region. Biden also gave firm assurance Washington would not allow Beijing to take over Taipei.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province, and vows to unite the two countries. China said reunification with Taiwan was non-negotiable.

It also has ambitions to dominate the world economically and militarily by 2049, exactly 100 years after the Chinese Communist Party ascended to power after a bloody civil war with nationalist Chinese.

Great Britain, France, and Germany have also dipped their fingers in the Indo-Pacific region. In fact, France announced an Indo-Pacific strategy to ensure a free and open South China Sea.

Like Russia, which sought to create a buffer zone by invading Ukraine, China also wanted to push out the United States, Australia, Japan, and other allies from the South China Sea to create its own buffer zone.

The Philippines, which has the weakest military in the region, has been at the receiving end of China’s aggressive behavior.
Its coast guard and militia vessels have controlled the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys, moving closer to territorial waters and blockading features occupied by the Philippines.

This week, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talked again by phone to Carlito Galvez, his Filipino counterpart, to reassure the Philippines of US support under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) after China’s laser incident near Second Thomas Shoal, or Ayungin Shoal, early this month.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also warned China against sending weapons to Russia, the largest army in Europe.

Washington and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies must not give in to Russia’s and China’s ambitions to expand their spheres of influence to avoid a repeat of the disastrous World War II where more than 50 million people were killed.

In Europe, Western allies have stepped up their support to Ukraine with tanks, artillery, and rocket systems that can strike deep into Russian territory, an offensive capability. Ukraine has been requesting modern fighters, like F-16s, to gain air superiority.

For his part, Vladimir Putin has been using World War II as a reference to invade Ukraine, citing threats from the Nazis to destroy Russia.

He was also using the memories of Stalingrad in 1943 to rally Russian forces in Ukraine. Stalingrad was the turning point in the war when Germany tasted its first defeat in the war. It was Russia’s heroic defense that stopped the German invasion. Two of Germany’s army divisions were wiped out, forcing them to retreat after Operation Barbarossa’s failure to capture Russia and Ukraine in only three months in 1941.

China also opposed Japan’s recent moves to re-arm itself after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a $320-billion, five-year plan to strengthen its self-defense forces. It evoked memories of Japanese atrocities during the invasion of Manchuria and in World War II.

As Russia and China have been using World War II to justify their military actions, the United States and its allies should not commit the same catastrophic mistakes of the 1930s.

They should stop at all cost Russian and Chinese hegemonic ambitions. Russia could want to restore its Cold War-era leadership in the Warsaw Pact.

In the 1990s, the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) disintegrated, paving way for many independent republics to emerge in central and eastern Europe as well as central Asia. Some of these new states joined NATO, making Moscow nervous.

Does Putin want to protect Russia or relive the old USSR glory?

China has bigger ambitions. It does not only want to expand its sphere of influence in the region but wants to dominate the world, eclipsing the United States in terms of military and economic power.

World War II could give leaders in the Western world a valuable lesson in stopping a global conflict from erupting. Russia and China’s ambitions must be stopped.

But the Philippines must not rely on the US and its allies. It has to stand on its own and be ready to defend its sovereignty and territory.

The Philippines must also learn from the lessons of World War II to avoid another global conflict, which was predicted to happen in the second half of the 21st century.

After all, Manila was the second most destroyed city in the world at the end of war, next to Warsaw.