Staunton, June 1 – Vladimir Putin is not only moving toward totalitarianism at home but is seeking to force Western countries to act as he does with respect to the Internet lest Russians who move abroad are able to undermine his regime from there, according to Russian commentator Aleksandr Skobov.
Neither of these realities is fully recognized in the West, Skobov continues. On the one hand, “analysts have begun to speak about the uniqueness of the Putin regime which has been have to secure its continuity in power under conditions of unprecedented information openness and freedom” (graniru.org/opinion/skobov/m.281867.html).
Those who make that argument failure to recognize that his regime is “prepared to tolerance expressions of disagreement and the dissemination of alternative information only as long as the Internet was viewed as an insignificant and marginal information periphery.” Then, the Kremlin began to crack down there as well.
And on the other, even when these analysts do note Putin’s moves against the Internet inside Russia, they do not focus on a related and potentially more dangerous move on his part: his efforts to force Western governments to restrict the Internet so that this international medium cannot be used against him.
“Authoritarianism was and remains incompatible with freedom of speech,” Skobov points out. “In any case, over the long term. Either authoritarianism will kill freedom of speech or freedom of speech will kill authoritarianism. Authoritarian regimes know this and therefore always will seek to kill freedom of speech.”
As the Putin regime moves from “’the political demobilization’” which served it in the past to “’political mobilization’” which it wants now, in which loyalty alone won’t be enough but mass participation and expression of support will be required, it is moving to suppress freedom in this sphere.
According to Skobov, “the authoritarian social contract according to the formula ‘you don’t get involved in our affairs and we won’t in yours’ has been torn up.” Instead, “Putin’s Russia ever more clearly is acquiring the characteristics of a classical totalitarian and fascist dictatorship.”
It is attacking the remaining “little islands of freedom” across “a broad front,” often taking as its model the behavior of Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Up to the present, many analysts have ignored that reality as well, the Russian commentator continues.
“For far too long, Europe has viewed Putin’s ‘antics’ as the rough edges of an immature democracy which will disappear on their own as democracy develops and assumed that they will pass more quickly, the more actively Putin’s Russia is enmeshed in multilateral ties with the democratic world.”
And thus many in the West have failed to see that what is going on is something very different from that, that what is happening in Belarus and in Russia is not some system on its way to democracy but rather a monster on its way back to totalitarianism and worse reaching out to demand others accept it and its rules.
“Putin and his Lukashenka cannot avoid multilateral ties with the developed democratic world: they live as parasites on these links. It is precisely these ties which allow them to maintain relative social stability. But they carry with them a threat” not only to their own populations but to the political and social systems of the West.
As ever more opponents of the two regimes moving toward totalitarianism have come to the West and used the Internet to speak to their own peoples, these “new dictatorships inevitably will seek to spread their repressive practices onto the democratic world,” undermining it to protect themselves.
These regimes “will not only force the governments of the West to silent recognition of their ‘right’ to punitive operations beyond their own borders, including kidnappings and murders. They will force the Western government to introduce their own limitations on free social activity.”
According to Skobov, “they will force the introduction of self-censorship by international internet companies and social networks, using both financial carrots and financial sticks in order to protect themselves” while destroying democracy elsewhere. The West must not only recognize this threat but do everything it can to block it.
It “must really isolate the source of this dangerous infection” rather than allowing it to spread because only this can force the new dictatorships to begin to remake themselves within a democratic world.” Cooperating with these dictatorships in this area gives them a victory and the West a defeat that neither deserves.