Staunton, June 28 – From the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine, Russians overwhelmingly have overwhelmingly expressed their support of the Kremlin leader’s policies and have refused to consider the overwhelming evidence of Russian crimes of war and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, Aleksandr Skobov says.
As one middle-aged Russian infamously put it, “it’s too bad of course that children are dying but the main thing is that there must not be a war,” a remark that the Russian commentator says is shocking in its absurdity but that captures much about the state of mind of a significant part of the Russian population (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62D19D206AA02).
Ordinary Russians find it easier to accept or at least appear to accept such glaring contradictions when their country is at war; and liberal pollsters are uncomfortable with accepting that the population thinks that way because it is clear evidence that Putin’s Russia has become fascist, Skobov says.
But there is far less reason for optimism than the latter believe, he continues. “In any case, the majority which accepts the official propaganda does because it corresponds to the picture of the world which took shape in their heads quite a long time ago.” And that picture, despite these contradictions is “in its own way logical and without contradiction.”
At its base, Skobov says, is “the deep conviction that the world is constructed along social Darwinist lines and that there is a constant struggle of all against all,” in which either one wins by fighting or loses by failing to do so and in which there are no legal or moral limitations on the means used.
This vision of the world is not an immanent characteristic of the Russian mentality as some suggest but rather has been formed “as a result of deep disappointment in the values of freedom, equality, law and democracy for which there had been a powerful public demand during Gorbachev’s perestroika,” Skobov argues.
What happened in Russia in the 1990s powered this disappointment and with it came a return to hostility to the West which had proclaimed these values but not always insisted on them within Russia itself. Vladimir Putin understood this and used his understanding as the basis for his rise to complete power.
The powerful propaganda machine he created insisted that the values the West proclaimed weren’t real but rather a tactic other countries had adopted to denigrate or even destroy Russia and its proper place in the world and that to prevent that Russia must break not only with the West but with these values as well.
Many Russians have been prepared to accept this line of argument and to back whatever lies or crimes the Kremlin commits as long as those are in aid of opposing the West and its declared values. That acceptance not only makes logical thought impossible but destroys any conscience and reduces people to a kind of infantilism.
“This then is Nazism,” Skobov says. “It is the freedom to lie, humiliate and repress, the freeing of the ancient tribal archaism with its cult of force, domination and Hottentot morality. War in this world is only when they bomb us. When we bomb them, this is not war. This is punishment for their not obeying us.”
Such attitudes, he continues, lead to a kind of dehumanization in which there is no empathy not only for others but even for one’s own. And for many, it has been a horrific surprise how indifferent Russian society has been to the enormous losses of its own army, an indifference which shows just how destructive Putin’s Nazism has become.
Many in the West don’t want to call Putinism Nazism because they still hope for deals with the Kremlin, and they can point to the fact that the Putin version is different from Hitler’s. Among the most important differences is that the world views Nazism as an absolutely unacceptable evil that must be destroyed. Labeling any system that is thus a call to arms.
But despite Putin’s efforts and despite Western reluctance, Skobov continues, it is becoming harder and harder not to see that the Kremlin leader has copied not only the narratives of Hitler but expresses the deep essence and essential spirit of its predecessor: “the denial of the power of law and the assertion of the power of force.”
And because that is so, he says, Putinism represents “just as much a threat to human civilization as did Hitler’s regime.”