Staunton, Apr. 28 – Most analysts are convinced that Russia’s future depends to a great extent on the outcome of Putin’s war in Ukraine, with most believing that if Putin wins in Ukraine, there will be dark days ahead for Russia; but that if he loses, then Russia may have a chance to become a freer, more democratic and federal state.
But Sergey Medvedev, a professor at Prague’s Charles University now visiting at the University of Helsinki, has a darker view, one that suggests the future of Russia may hinge on the outcome of the war but in ways very different and more unsettling than most currently appear to believe (theins.ru/podkasty/261298).
He says bluntly that “if Putin wins in Ukraine, Russia will face Stalinist fascism; but if he loses, it will face a Hitlerite variant.” By this, he appears to mean that a Putin victory in Ukraine would lead him to expand repression at home and aggression abroad much as it did Stalin after 1945; but a Putin defeat by itself would not necessarily open the way to progress.
Instead, a defeat could power a new wave of revanchist sentiment in Russia, a wave that might prove even more totalitarian, repressive and aggressive than Putin himself has overseen in the last few years. One can only hope that Medvedev is wrong, but his argument must lead to serious reflection in the West and in Russia.
The lesson is obviously this: It is not going to be enough for Putin to be defeated. Even his removal won’t be enough to prevent yet another disastrous cycle in Russian history. Instead, the world must be ready to take steps to ensure not only that Putin loses but that Russia is not left in a position where a new Hitlerite kind of rule can emerge in Moscow.
That is not something that many in the West or in the Russian opposition want to hear, but it is a useful corrective to the overly optimistic and even naïve assumptions now circulating, assumptions that in their naïve optimism recall all too tragically those of 30 years ago when the West and much of the Russian opposition assumed that there would be no going back.
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