Paul Goble, originally on Window on Eurasia
Staunton, May 3 – Only those who are in complete denial can fail to see that Vladimir Putin is a fascist, émigré Russian historian Yuri Felshtinsky says, given that “this analogy is so evident” in the wake of the Crimean Anschluss and the Kremlin leader’s own words and promotion of openly fascist figures like Dmitry Rogozin.
In an interview conducted yesterday and posted online today, Felshtinsky says that “the world has not gone out of its mind.” Only “one particular country has” – Russia – and in fact “only a relatively small group of people who run this country” who have nothing new to offer and so are using evil ideas from the past.
Because Putin and his entourage don’t believe in democracy and view the population with contempt, they have not felt the need to come up with a formal ideology or at least a new one, the historian says. Vladislav Surkov tried to come up with one but couldn’t “although he tried very hard.”
However, Felshtinsky continues, when Dmitry Rogozin, now deputy prime minister, was promoted, that was a real and disturbing indication of where Putin is heading because “Rogoin is an open Russian fascist.” And tht in turn means that a new-old ideology now “has been formed: Russian fascism.”
Putin and his team do not use the term because of its negative denotations and connotations among Russians, “but nazi” as in “nazionalist” is “fine and correct. And even the president himself is not embarrassed to say in a multi-national country like the Russian Federation that he is a Russian nazionalist – note, not a patriot but precisely a nazionalist.”
In other comments during the course of this wide-ranging interview, Felshtinsky said what what Putin has done in Ukraine is only the first step toward a third world war, one that Russia will ultimately lose but that will entail untold suffering for vast numbers of countries and peoples.
That war is ahead is the message Moscow television is delivering every day, the Russian historian continues, and says that it is most unfortunate that the Americans “having believed in the normality of Russia not only did not create their own television for Russia but closed down their old radio stations” that could have countered that message.
But what is striking is that the threat of war from Russia is not the subject of Ukrainian television or of Western television either, he says. In Ukraine, “television is like television” with all the shows and entertainment one would expect in normal times. And in the US, there is barely time to talk about Ukraine given the time given to the loss of the Malaysian plane.
Felshtinsky says that “the greatest problem of the Ukrainians is the Russian network of agents” in that country and especially in their defense establishment. Neither they nor anyone else can be sure that anything shared with these institutions will not be immediately passed on to Russia.
But despite this, it is absolutely clear to everyone that what has been taking place is “the overt aggresson of Russia gainst a weak neighboring state,” an attack is exactly the same – Felshtinsky uses the expression “like to drops of water,” the operations of Hitler and Stalin in 1938-1940.
“Everyone understands that the ‘rising’ in Eastern Ukraine has been organied by Russia,” he continues and insists that Moscow’s seizure of Crimea “will never be recognized by the world community” and “has not been supported by a single state.” Moreover, what is true in the case of Crimea will be even more true with regard to eastern Ukraine.
“Good sense” dictates, he continues, that “opposing Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine, with Ukraine as an ally, and not after the seizure of Ukraine by Russia when it will take control of the entire military-industrial complex of Eastern Ukraine” is the best way to proceed.
Moreover, Felshtinsky says, opposing Russian aggression in Ukraine “is simpler because Ukraine is not a member of NATO and thus there is no need to formally declare war on Russia. Of course, from a military point of view, it would have been most correct to launch a preventive strike” against Russian forces concentrated on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border. But that, he concedes, would require that the people involved “be Israelis not Ukrainians.”
An absolute precondition for NATO assistance to Ukraine is that “the Ukrainians themselves resist aggression “with arms in their hands.” Had they resisted in Crimea, he continues, they might have lost some territory as Finland did in 1940 and Georgia in 2008, but they would not have seen the betrayal of their country.
But the most compelling reason to resist Putin now is that his appetites will only grow, and it will be harder and more costly to oppose him if after Ukraine, he tries to absorb even more countries under his “back to empire” slogan. He may even attack the Baltic countries believing, wrongly Felshtinsky says, that NATO of which they are members will not protect them.
Hitler made the same mistake in Poland which had guarantees from Britain and France and for the same reason – the German dictator did not believe those countries would live up to their obligations because they hadn’t done so earlier. Putin doesn’t understand Western democracies or how they will react. He will learn just as his predecessor did.