Staunton, December 28 – In an important new article, Moscow analyst Andrey Illarionov documents the ways in which Vladimir Putin has distorted the historical record and manipulated sources to present a false and tendentious picture of the role of Poland at the beginning of World War II, even suggesting that Poland shares responsibility for that conflict with Hitler.
No one who reads Illarionov’s study will ever accept Putin’s argument. It is a tissue of false and self-serving lies (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/2562255-echo/). But given the Kremlin leader’s lose connection with the truth that may not surprise anyone. However, the economist ends his article with a question that he doesn’t answer but that deserves attention.
That question is “why,” both why Putin is doing this now and why does he hate Poland so much. There are at least five obvious answers that deserve to be noted.
First, whenever he or Russia is criticized as both have been for their defense of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Putin’s response is to try to change the subject either by using force or when that isn’t possible, changing the subject by another bout of “what-about-ism” propaganda. Where there are facts, he will use them; where there aren’t as here, he will invent and lie.
Second, Putin like many Russians has long been obsessed with Poland as a threat, not only as a power which occupied Moscow at the start of the 17th century and organized anti-Russian movements since that time but also as a Catholic country and thus a cat’s paw of the West against Orthodox Russia.
Third, Putin has complete confidence that once he enters this ideological fray, the Western media will do much of his work for him, presenting his argument as one among many and thus giving it credibility it doesn’t deserve. The “on the one hand, on the other hand” approach of balanced journalism doesn’t work when one of the parties is openly lying.
Fourth, Putin knows that many in the West accept his notions concerning Polish anti-Semitism. It isn’t that it doesn’t exist, but it is not the overwhelming force that he paints it as. After all, many Western authors refer to “Polish death camps” when in fact they are talking about “German death camps on occupied Polish territory.”
And fifth, Putin,like many realpolitik leaders, believes that the great powers should and can make all the decisions and that smaller powers, especially those between Russia and Germany, are invariably the source of problems rather than the source of solutions. For him and them, blaming Poland for World War II may not seem an absurd case of blaming the victim it is.
There are other reasons as well – including distracting Russia’s from the Kremlin’s failure to improve the economy among them. But perhaps behind all of them is this: in the new round-the-clock news environment, people will regrettably soon move to other Putin lies and ignore this one, failing to connect the dots or ever hold him accountable.