By Paul Goble
Some in the West are now beginning to say that Putin and his entourage are “’copying the Nazis,’” Aleksandr Skobov says; but in fact, given what they are saying and doing in Ukraine, it is far more appropriate to day that they “are not ‘copying the Nazis’ but that ‘they are Nazis.’”
Indeed, he says, “the threat to humanity from Putin is no less than that from Hitler.” And just as no compromise was possible with Hitler, so too no compromise is possible with Putin. He and his regime must be “liquidated, an international court convened, and the de-Putinization, de-militarization, de-nuclearization, and de-verticalization of Russia must take place.”
After the advance of democracy in 1989-1991, Skobov continues, “no one expected that a comprador kleptocratic and peripheral country with two percent of the world’s GDP would challenge the entire international order and aspire to world rule,” especially when the elite of that country had become so rich (graniru.org/opinion/skobov/m.285163.html).
“Why should they try to burn down this home?” The answer lies in the fundamental nature of Putin and the people around him, about what they believe and hope for, and in particular about what they hate: liberal democracy, freedom, equality, the supremacy of law, and humanism.
For them now just like the Nazis earlier, “the world is a place of eternal struggle for domination. Force decides everything. Those who have power decide everything. This natural law of the right of the strong cannot be limited by the weak. The fate of the latter is to subordinate themselves to the rulers established by the strong.”
“This still was not an ideology,” Skobov says. “This was the worldview of the Russian ruling class which considered itself the caste of the elect” and who were ready to use force to achieve their goals. They went looking for a theoretical justification of this and found one ready-made in fascist ideology.
Having violated with little cost to themselves the fundamental rights of liberal civilization within their own country, they decided on that basis to attack liberal civilization because they viewed it as “their own existential enemy.” And as they did so, they picked up and applied ever more provisions of Nazi thinking.
They built their system into one based on “an ultra-conservative thought with its notion of their exclusiveness, supremacy and messianism of the Russian people which in their view was distinguished by its unique spirituality from the individualistic, consumerist, and pragmatic West.”
According to Skobov, Putin has not simply violated the Potsdam system of prohibiting aggression and annexation but has attacked “all its principles: the supremacy of law, the equality of peoples, and collective responsibility for maintaining rules common for all.” It is thus “no accident” that he has unleashed a war abroad as he has moved to totalitarianism at home.
In all these ways, the Moscow commentator says, “Putin is acting exactly as Putin did in the 1930s. He shakes up the world order by creating a series of precedents for the brutal violation of both international law. He even draws on Hitler’s propaganda themes such as the notion of “a divided people.”
But his convergence with Nazism is clearest of all in his statements about Ukraine, Skobov argues. There he and his acolytes have spoken about the need to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians because they are opposed to Russia and thus are “an anti-people” which must be liquidated.
In Putin’s understanding as in Hitler’s, “force and cruelty in fascism are not just instruments for the achievement of some specific goals. They are goals in and of themselves.” That reality is one that the West is only beginning to understand. It took the West a long time to take Hitler’s measure; one can only hope it won’t take as long to recognize the threat Putin is.
Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .