Friday, November 17, 2017

Putin Needn’t Fear a Russian Stauffenberg, Aleksandrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 – Yesterday marked the 110th anniversary of the birth of Klaus von Stauffenberg, the German officer who, as part of a broader conspiracy of military officers coded named Valkyrie, unsuccessfully attempted to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944 and was executed the following day, Viktor Aleksandrov recounts.

            Stauffenberg’s actions, the Russian commentator says, “are a clear example of the fact that love for the Fatherland and loyalty to the authorities are not one and the same thing. When a conflict between [them] arises, there is no question for a real patriot as to which side he should be on” (

            In recalling these events, Aleksandrov says, “it is impossible not to notice that the regime” which Stauffenberg sought to overthrow was “by its nature very similar to the regime which exists now in Russia,” albeit with one significant difference that makes the appearance of any Russian counterpart to the German officer unlikely.

            Hitler came to power not only because he played to German feelings about the need for revenge after the defeat of their country in World War I but also because he pledged to promote the well-being of ordinary Germans. It was no accident that his party was called the German National Socialist Workers Party, Aleksandrov says.

            It is one of the signal successes of Soviet ideologists that most people now call Hitler’s movement fascist, thus ignoring the socialist component of his actions, and that they have succeeded in suggesting that he and the Nazis occupied the extreme right on the political spectrum rather than being a fusion of various elements from across the spectrum.

            Hitler was prepared to compromise with business, allowing it to retain de jure control of property while requiring de facto support of himself and the state, a compromise very much like the one Putin has made with the oligarchs.  But at the same time, Hitler transformed himself into the embodiment of the state and “not simply its head.” That too has some Russian analogies.

            Under Hitler, there was no place for any independent institutions and the fuehrer based his unique power on direct communication with the population rather than having it mediated through any other arrangement, Aleksandrov continues. In this way too, Putin resembles the German leader.

            Putin rose to power when he was anointed by the Yeltsin “family” who very much feared the neo-Sovietism of Primakov and his allies would threaten their property and their lives. But those who thought they would be the puppet master of the new leader were rapidly outplayed by him and lost out as well.

            Drawing on nostalgia for the Soviet past and anger about the rise of income inequality in the 1990s, the nationalism and socialism of Russian conditions, Aleksandrov continues, Putin moved to create “a personalist regime in which ‘the national leader’ appeals to the masses directly” and in which institutions are largely irrelevant. 

            Even the presidency as an institution was rendered irrelevant when Putin installed Medvedev as a placeholder for himself and ran the country from the supposed office of prime minister.

            “Like Hitler,” Aleksandrov continues, “Putin successfully plays on both these components,” nationalist and socialist, talking about having Russia “rise from its knees” and showing himself willing to put the oligarchs in their place. And in the latter case, Putin has behaved much like Hitler, allowing businesses to retain their property in exchange for total loyalty and willingness to contribute to his causes.

            But despite all these similarities between “the two personalist regimes,” he says, “there is one important distinction which permits Putin to avoid having any fear of a conspiracy against him.” Knowing that he needed the military for his plans, Hitler didn’t destroy the old German office corps, many of whose members were from the nobility and had their own patriotism.

            They were prepared to compromise with Hitler but only to a certain point as most were offended by his ideas and knew very well that the fuehrer was leading Germany toward a catastrophe.  There is no such group in the Russian military, Aleksandrov says. “Seven decades of Soviet power has destroyed any will to resistance.”

            Consequently, he concludes, no Russian “Valkyrie” is going to fly, and Putin needn’t fear a threat from that quarter.

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