Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Putin-Medvedev Regime ‘Proto-Fascist,’ Ukrainian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 7 – Despite the hopes of many in the West for a more progressive approach from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the Moscow “tandem” of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin represents a form of “proto-fascism,” one that will only get worse for both its people and the surrounding countries unless Western countries adopt a tough line.
In Kyiv’s “Den’” on July 4, Ukrainian commentator Volodomyr Lesnoy said that the current Russian regime can best be classified as “proto-fascist,” a system he defines as one “in which the characteristics of fascism exist in an incomplete form” but which are sufficiently developed that they recall “the first stage of fascism” (www.day.kiev.ua/276377).
While many analysts had pointed to fascistic elements during the presidency of Putin, Lesnoy continued, most of them expected that the situation would improve under Medvedev. But that has not happened, and the situation, after a brief period of apparent improvement, has “begun a [new] attack on civic freedoms.”
As in the early stages of fascism elsewhere, in today’s Russia, Lesnoy pointed out, “perfectly peaceful demonstrations have been cruelly suppressed, and supporters of freedom of speech have recalled that this freedom must now be understood [in Russia] just as it was treated in the USSR.”
Moreover, he continued, the creation of the commission for the struggle against the falsification of history and “threats to pursue both Russians and foreign citizens” who violate Moscow’s understandings in this area, “the Kremlin is now forming an extremely important attribute of fascism – an aggressive state ideology.”
Also similar to the beginnings of fascism elsewhere, he noted, “the foreign policy of Moscow has become still more selective,” restrained and positive in relations with some countries and “openly aggressive in relation to others,” especially toward “countries which emerged from the USSR in 1991 and which conduct independent foreign and domestic policy.”
One reason for this rapid descent, Lesnoy suggested, is to be found in amazingly rapid rise of Putin himself. The former president and current prime minister “is not an hereditary or career politician, who gradually rose up the political ladder.” Instead, he is someone who rose unexpectedly quickly and thus manifests “the syndrome of Bonapartism.”
That syndrome is something, Lesnoy argued, that “the majority of authoritarian leaders suffer from: with confidence in their own genius and infallibility and with the conviction that there is nothing impossible and that they can win at any price and by any means because victors are not judged.”
Such attitudes in a leader, the Ukrainian commentator suggested, “threaten problems in the future both for Russia itself and for [those who are] its neighbors.” And that is all the more likely because “judging by everything, the Putin regime or its followers is going to be in place for a long time to come.”
Russia will overcome the economic crisis, Lesnoy said, “and the laurels of the savior of the nation will be laid on Putin after which he will have the chance to become a lifetime national leader of ‘vozhd’ on pension, to whom future leading politicians will come for advice and guidance.”
But Putin’s personality and background are not the only causes of Russia’s “adventurous aggressiveness.” Another reason is the country’s “essential weakness.” It remains “a colonial but in civilizational terms, a backward country,” one in which many of the minorities will continue to strive for independence.”
And because of that, Lesnoy went on, “the struggle with separatism will require enormous financial expenditures and human resources, neither of which the Russian Federation has in abundance.” Indeed, over time, it will become ever more obvious that “the enormous territory is both the wealth of its Russia and its curse.”
Moreover, Lesnoy pointed out, “the Russian economy except for oil and gas is terribly weak. If the Russians had to pay for oil and gas as Ukraine does, then their country would collapse in the course of four or five years,” especially since “the Russian ethnos is in a deep existential crisis.”
What happens next both inside Russia and in Moscow’s relations with its neighbors depends on what the Western democracies say and do, Lesnoy argued. “If they do not draw clearly a line beyond which Russia’s adventures will not be tolerated, then in the future, they will have the same kind of problems with Russia that they had with Nazi Germany.”
And what is most disturbing, Lesnoy concluded, is that the “roots of fascism in Europe and in the world have not been destroyed.” Consequently, if that kind of system is established in Russia, “the bacilli of fascism could again lead to a pan-European epidemic,” with all the tragic consequences that would involve.

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