Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Putin’s Russia Today Resembles Hitler’s Germany of the 1930s Except in One Critical Way, Travin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 20 – Vladimir Putin’s Russia in many ways resembles Adolf Hitler’s Germany of the 1930s, Dmitry Travin says. Like its counterpart, Russia today has “more than enough revanchism and militarism” to make the comparison compelling. But there is one major difference: Russia’s elite “is not set up for world domination but for personal enrichment.”

            The head of the Center for Research on Modernization at St. Petersburg’s European University points out that “today some think that the defeat of the USSR in the cold war have given rise to a revanchism approximately the same as the defeat of Germany a century ago.” That widespread needs to be carefully examined (

            And it is also time to examine why the Germans “calmed down after 1945” when they lost World War II but not after 1918” when they lost World War I because that different too helps to explain why Russia today both resembles and yet is very different than Hitler’s Germany with which it is often compared.

            After World War I, Travin says, “Germany was seriously reduced economically but not politically. The opportunities for the normal development of German society were undermined, but the empire remained almost untouched which preserved the basis for the rebirth of statism and militarism.”

            In 1919, the victors thought “not so much about the future arrangements of Europe as about compensating themselves” for the losses they had suffered. To that end, they improved draconian reparations requirements on Germany, a  move that destroyed the economy and convinced Germans that their enemies wanted them to suffer.

            But at the same time, Travin continues, “territorially Germany remained almost as it was under the Second Reich.” Yes, it lost Alsace and Lorraine, and “the rebirth of Poland pushed the eastern border of Germany significantly to the west. But te country was not split up into separate pieces.”

            “Therefore,” he says, “when Hitler decided to move toward confrontation, he was able to build a Third Reich quickly because he had sufficient territory, population and an industrial base.”

            After World War II, the allies behaved in exactly the opposite way: they divided the country but they left in place “all the possibilities for rapid economic recovery and even helped this process to go forward.”  Moreover, they pursued de-Nazification, integrated Germany into larger military blocks to prevent it behaving independently, and sponsored its integration into larger economic communities as well.

            As a result, “in contrast to the situation of the 1920s and 1930s, the Germans became ever richer and ever less thought about the revival of imperial power, all the more so because the democratic politicians ruling in the country in the 1950ss and 1960s did not urge the population to think otherwise as the Nazis had done in the 1930s.”

            That provides the basis for a comparison between Germany in the to post-war periods and Russia today, Travin says.  The USSR did fall apart and its population was halved, similar to the situation in Germany n 1945.  But the Russian Federation retained an enormous empire which recalls Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

            Because of the latter factor, “certain citizens believe that we will be able to easily bring down our enemies without understand that one must compare strength according to the level of economic development and the size of the military budget.” Russia could mobilize the population, but even if it did, it could not achieve equality with NATO or China.

            But that is not the chief differences between Russia today and Hitler’s Germany. That lies in the state of the minds of the elites.”  In interwar Germany, the ruling party and the army and the industrial leaders assumed that they could defeat all of Europe in a war. Many were revanchists, and life punished them severely for this.”

            Russia today, however, has an elite which thinks “not about revanchism but only about filling its own pockets,” Travin says.  And its members understand that will be possible only in peace time because a major war, which would be required to take revenge, would be “the path to the loss of millions of their wealth, bank accounts and property in the West.”

            For this reason and despite all the similarities in other aspects, “Putin’s Russia is not like the Germany of the 1930s.” Yes, there is aggressive rhetoric, and yes, there is a desire for revenge among the less well-educated. But the elites don’t share these values and there is nothing like the world crisis of the 1930s.

            “The goals of the Russian ruling circles today are completely different,” Travin says. “There are no illusions among them regarding the world rule in this circle. On the other hand, the striving for personal enrichment is enormous.” 

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