Why Putin’s Russia is fascist and why Ukraine is fighting on behalf of the free world and needs to win*

Why Putin’s Russia is fascist and why Ukraine is fighting on behalf of the free world and needs to win*
© EPA-EFE/SERGEY GUNEEV/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN /   |   Vladimir Putin la Consiliul de Stat at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 22 December 2022.

On February 24, 2022, the free world woke up to a dystopia. It had believed in peace more than it did in the signs of war, and had invested Putin with its good faith, just as it had done with Hitler in the years leading up to World War II. Russia has reintroduced large-scale war into a post-modern, hedonist society whose instincts were weakened by peace and prosperity, thus restoring evil to a global standing. Prior to the launch of the invasion, Europe hadn’t seen an interstate conflict in over 75 years. Any counterfactual examination is obviously pointless, but still, the question remains: how could the West fail again to foresee the predictable advent of a totalitarian regime with fascist overtones and the start of a new war in Europe?

Russia’s war against Ukraine did not start on February 24, 2022, but eight years earlier, when the Russian Federation invaded and seized Crimea and launched false-flag operations in Donbas. The free world deluded itself in thinking Putin would content himself with what he had already obtained, and that peace was here to stay. It continued to trade with Russia, exporting sophisticated weapons, allowing this country to host the 2018 World Football Cup. It negotiated, on Ukraine’s behalf, the Minsk protocols to Kyiv’s disadvantage, and continued to give credit to Putin as a global leader. For 8 years, Ukraine’s regular army and Russian “volunteers” in Donbas were involved in a continuous “frozen” conflict. Nevertheless, Putin and Russian propaganda had started the offensive long before that, seeking to legitimize this barbarous act both at home and abroad.

Putin, a Cold-War-seasoned KGB officer, never believed in peace. He legitimized his station as an iron-fisted ruler through countless wars, mistaking his personal destiny for Russia’s. The Messianic nostalgia of the Russian colonial empire, the last of its kind to collapse, was the spark that kindled Putin’s ambition. Some say it was paranoia, other merely the cold mechanics of history. In his February 24, 2022 address, which served as a declaration of war, Putin spoke of a “special military operation” designed to denazify Ukraine. He picked up on some of the Kremlin’s earlier narratives about the flight of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and the start of the war in 2014. Ukraine’s legitimate government was labeled “the Kyiv junta” and the Ukrainian army was considered an “occupation force”.

On March 18, 2014, two days after the so-called referendum on the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian Federation, Putin said that “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”, whom he described as “ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II”, had executed a coup, resorting to “terror, murder and riots”. Those who opposed the coup “were immediately threatened with repression”, Putin argued. Therefore, “naturally”, Russian speakers in Crimea called on Russia to help “in defending their rights and lives”. “We could not leave this plea unheeded, this would have been a betrayal on our part”, the Kremlin leader said. Here is what Joseph Goebbels said on March 12, 1938, when he read on the radio Hitler’s proclamation on Anschluss: “The German Reich will not tolerate persecution of Germans in this region because they belong to our country or because they hold certain opinions. […] Our soldiers guarantee that the Austrian Volk will shortly be given the opportunity to determine their future themselves and thereby their fate with a plebiscite”. This is no coincidence: Putin was starting to resemble Adolf Hitler more and more.

The Russian fascism idiolect

To any Russian, being accused of having collaborated with the Nazis is an unacceptable stigma, and it is in this key that the Kremlin’s propaganda should be interpreted. Ukrainians are described as fascists, oppressors, aggressors and xenophobes. Ukraine is labeled an artificial state doomed to collapse. In this context, the Kremlin argues, Russia’s actions are legitimate and legal. The “special military operation” is justified through the careful manipulation of myths, conspiracy theories and false historical narratives, steeped in symbolism and charged with emotion. Of these, the most important one is the reference to the Great Patriotic War for the Defense of the Fatherland, which is how the USSR referred to World War II. The terminology used to exploit the Ukrainian narrative focuses on such words as “karatel” (executioner), “fascist”, “Nazi”, “Banderovist” and “posobinky” (accomplice). The war propaganda idiolect revisited such terms as “challenge”, “Russophobia”, “saboteurs” or “the Fifth Column”. The present-day rhetoric speaks of a regime serving a revanchist, fascist and anti-Russian West, conspiring against a peaceful Russia. Executioners thus become victims, and victims become executioners.

However, the fundamental myth at the core of the Kremlin’s propaganda states that the Ukrainian people never actually existed. This is nothing but “homo sovieticus” – a Soviet people. Ukraine is a “colony” created by Bolshevik Russia, its only specificity consisting in its ethnography. From the Kremlin’s point of view, Russia and Ukraine have always been “one and the same nationality”, reunified under the Pereiaslav Agreement, and anyone opposing this view is a Russophobe, fascist and traitor. “Modern Ukraine is entirely the work of Russia!”, Russian propaganda claims, the exact same thing it would later claim about modern Romania.

However, Ukrainians have started to reconsider their past. In 2015, Kyiv pulled down a few thousand Soviet monuments and renamed over 50,000 streets and 1,000 towns and villages. The Supreme Rada passed a law that criminalized Soviet and Nazi symbols, banning their public use. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the move, describing it as a “barbaric anti-Russian decision”. The Ukrainian government was accused of having launched “a war on the Russian language and everything associated with Russia”, which was further evidence of Kyiv’s fascism.

At least 3.5 million Ukrainians starved to death during Stalin’s Holodomor in the 1930s. Today, Putin capitalizes on famine for propaganda purposes: racist Ukraine, the Kremlin says, is starving the countries of Africa and Asia, refusing to export the cereals they so desperately need, pointing the finger at Russia instead. Speaking at the International Economic Forum of June 2022 in Saint Petersburg, Margarita Simonyan, the director of Russia Today, said that “all our hope is in the famine”.

The women and children of Ukraine’s occupied territories are deported to Russia because they cannot be ethnically assimilated. Similarly, Stalin deported non-Russian ethnics from across the Soviet Union who “had betrayed” the Fatherland and had sided with the fascist occupants, joining the ranks of “saboteurs” and “spies”. Non-Russians are traitors by definition, they represent the Fifth Column. In his March address, Putin said that the West “will be counting on the so-called Fifth Column, on traitors with their slave mentality”.

Putin’s racist and fascist worldview also capitalized on the wave of African and Asian immigrants that arrived in Europe in 2015, in an attempt to fuel hatred in adepts of the “great replacement theory”, one of the favorite narratives of the far right in Western elections. Another fascist narrative is the allegation made against president Zelensky, who is purportedly part of a global anti-Jewish master-scheme, as well as in a Nazi plot against Jews. Therefore, Kremlin propaganda echoes the grotesque themes of Nazi propaganda.

Fascizing history

In 2017, Putin did not celebrate 100 years since the Bolshevik “revolution”, but the start of the Great Patriot War for the Defense of the Fatherland, the milestone he considers to be the fountainhead of modern Russia. As Nina Turmakin wrote, starting 1945 on Victory Day, the Soviets have been celebrating the cult of war. By 2000, Putin employed the death cult as the centerpiece of his policy-making, much in line with fascist tradition. Putin wanted Russia to re-experience the Great Patriot War in a time loop, like in Groundhog Day. The wars in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Ukraine are a reality show for the common Russian, glorifying the new Red Army. It’s a process designed to fascize history. Françoise Thom writes that, in Russia, “the war reconciles the Russian elites with the population. It blurs the gap between the ruling class and the rest of the population, between “the two Russias”. Every time he needed to (re)legitimize his regime or whenever his approval rating dropped, Putin launched a war, whether it was “terrorists”, Chechen “separatists”, Georgian anti-Russian “revisionists” or Ukrainian “Nazis” he was fighting.

The cult of war has saints of its own. Admiral Fyodor Ushakov, who reclaimed Crimea for Russia in the 18th century, fighting against the Ottoman Empire, was canonized in 2001 and declared the patron saint of Russian nuclear-armed strategic bombers. “He said that these thunderstorms would glorify Russia”, Putin told a pro-war rally organized at the Luzhniki Sports Center on March 18, 2022. The Russian Orthodox Church remains an instrument at the whim of the Siloviki and their death cult: Russian clerics bless the bombs that are about to be launched against Ukraine.

The god of war has a temple of its own too. The Russian Armed Forces Cathedral was opened in Kubinka, in the presence of president Putin and Patriarch Kirill, on June 22, 2020, 75 years after Nazi Germany invaded the USSR. In December 1941, the Red Army had stopped the advance of the Wehrmacht on the outskirts of this small town, located some 70 kilometers from Moscow. Mosaic murals illustrate the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russia’s war in Syria. To Moscow, the war against Ukraine is a holy war. Patriarch Kirill spoke about the “metaphysical significance of war against gay pride parades” and “desatanizing Ukraine” and called Putin “a miracle of God”.

The letter “Z”, a primary symbol of Russian war propaganda, standing for either “Zapad” (West) or “Za pobedu” (for victory), is half the Nazi svastika. It was imprinted on Red Army tanks, alongside Russian schoolchildren, on the houses of Ukrainians, on the doors of Russians who oppose the war.

A Levada survey shows that 10% of the Russians were subject to torture by the authorities, and 28% of respondents agreed to torture being allowed in penitentiaries. The findings attest to the existence of a culture of cruelty in Russia. Domestic violence was decriminalized in Russia, although over 14,000 women are killed every year by their husbands or partners, N. Kozlova wrote in a February 2017 article for Rossiyskaya Gazeta that Russian authorities took down. Rapes and atrocities committed by Russian servicemen in Ukraine are not just weapons of total war, but echoes of violence traced back to Russia itself. Putin wants Russia to be reborn through violence, casting out the weak, traitors and homosexuals, much like Hitler.

Russians needs to stand with the state and the Church. What does the future hold for Russia, a mafia state controlled by secret services, spreading the doctrine of a colonial and Messianic past? At the end of the 1990s, Alexander Yakovlev, the brain behind Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratic reforms, said that secret services are the “cradle of fascism”: “The danger of fascism in Russia is real because since 1917 we have become used to living in a criminal world with a criminal state in charge. Banditry, sanctified by ideology—this wording suits both communists and fascists”.

A false-flag history

In Russia, the past remains unpredictable, writer Serge Schmemann once said. With the FSB strongman’s surge at the Kremlin, the process of rewriting history had begun. Stalin and the Great Patriotic War are the main leitmotifs, meant to introduce Putin to the hall of fame of “effective leaders” who defended Holy Russia against the decadent West.

For the Soviets, and later the Russians, World War II did not start on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland, but rather when Germany attacked the USSR on June 22, 1941. Formal historical records make no mention of the Soviet acts of aggression against Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Poland. A Russian documentary states that in 1939, Finland attacked the Soviet Union, bombing Mainila, a village in the Soviet borderlands. Except that it was the Red Army that did the bombing. It was a false-flag operation, an excuse to declare war, similar to the ruse Hitler used to start the war against Poland, the so-called “Gleiwitz incident” of August 31, 1939, when German soldiers wearing Polish military uniforms attacked the Sender Gleiwitz radio station in Upper Silesia. Furthermore, Putin today claims that it was Nazis, not Soviets, that killed the 20,000 Polish officers in Katyn in 1940, reiterating the lies of Stalin’s propaganda, although the USSR had owned up to this crime in 1990.

The 75th anniversary of the liberation of survivors at the Auschwitz-Birkeanu camp, where over 1 million prisoners were killed, 90% of them Jews, was boycotted by Putin. On December 20, on the sidelines of the summit of ex-Soviet leaders, Putin claimed that the non-aggression Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of August 1939 and the secret protocol whereby Hitler and Stalin agreed to divide Eastern Europe, followed by the invasion of Poland, were legitimate and that Poland and its Western allies were responsible for the start of World War II. “The Soviet Union took nothing from Poland”, the Russian leader claimed. The United States and the United Kingdom, once Moscow’s allies in the fight against the Nazis, are now enemies who support the Ukrainian “Nazis”. The annexation of the Baltic States, of Western Belorussia, Bessarabia, Eastern Poland and Western Ukraine, the deportations and massacres in these territories prompted historians to make no distinction between the communist and Nazi regimes. To Putin’s mind, this was sacrilege.

The annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, the collapse of Czechoslovakia, the invasion of Poland are all copied by Russia in the case of Ukraine. Putin’s rhetoric emulates Hitler’s. Both in the case of Austria, in March 1938, as well as Crimea, in March 2014, the two leaders invoked the discrimination of national minorities by the majority group, claiming neighboring nations do not exist and have no identity of their own, and their states are artificial. Whoever challenges the Kremlin’s official version of historical events is considered a fascist. At the same time, condemning the crimes of communism is an impiety in itself.

Putin’s Stalinization

The priority of Vladimir Putin’s first term as president was to crush Chechen separatists, stabilize the economy after the 1998 crisis and bring Russian oligarchs into the fold. His contract with the Russian people was straightforward: a better life in exchange of surrendering all political rights.

In 2005, a faction of the FSB produced an anonymous volume titled “Project Russia”, which warned that democracy is a threat and the West is the enemy. The booklet was delivered by post to certain ministries overseeing security and Russia’s relations with the outside world. This was the first sign of Putin’s recalibration of relations with the world and the inception of his own ideology. In 2007, Yegor Gaidar, the first Prime Minister of post-Soviet Russia, foresaw the threat of post-imperial nostalgia: “It is a disease. Russia is going through a dangerous phase. We should not succumb to the magic of numbers, but the fact that there was a 15-year gap between the collapse of the German empire and Hitler’s rise to power and 15 years between the collapse of the USSR and Russia in 2006-2007 makes one think”, Gaidar wrote in Collapse of an Empire: Lessons from Modern Russia.

Stalin’s rehabilitation followed shortly. It was Putin’s manner of legitimizing prevarications, paranoia, violence and terror, all deeply rooted in the Russian political state, while his regime stepped from autocracy to dictatorship. Stalin was redeemed as “the efficient leader” who had eradicated fascism on a global scale. In 2021, Putin’s propaganda started to bear fruit. Within merely 5 years, the number of Russians who believed Stalin had been “a great leader” rose from 28% to 56%, according to a survey conducted by Levada. The parallel with Stalin is not coincidental: both leaders had been in power for over 20 years. Both were at the top of a regime that fostered paranoia, suspicion, fear and brutality as its core tenets. Both tracked down their adversaries across the world, taking them out. Both wanted to build an empire on the foundations of obedience and heroic death.

Putin copied Stalin also in terms of using military force. In 1939, Stalin failed to get Finland to concede the territories he coveted, so he launched a large-scale invasion, using a diversion for his tactics – a false-flag operation. Putin did the same in Ukraine in February 2022. Both failed, underestimating the determination of the peoples they were up against. In 1939, Stalin expected the Finnish proletariat to give Red Army soldiers a warm welcome, while Putin expected Russian ethnics in Ukraine to greet the “liberating Russian force” with flowers in 2022. Stalin believed the Winter War was fought by England and France against the USSR. Similarly, Putin believes his troops are fighting NATO in Ukraine.

The puppet regime that would be installed in Helsinki called for the annexation of Finland to Karelia, an autonomous Soviet republic. The puppet regime that Putin was supposed to install in Kyiv following his blitzkrieg was expected to make Ukraine a part of the Russian Federation. To better illustrate his plans for Ukraine, Putin quoted the lyrics of a Soviet punk band: “You may like it, you may not, but you’ll have to endure it, my beauty!”, a reference to necrophilia. Ukraine had had enough. In the 20th century, over 14 million Ukrainians died to purges, famine and the Holocaust. (The term “genocide” was coined by a lawyer from Lviv.) Russkiy Mir, or the Russian World, did not greet “Russian liberators” with flowers. Odessa, for instance, which Putin mentioned in his February 21 speech as a martyr city of “Ukrainian Nazis”, chose Ukraine. A cosmopolitan city of the Russian World founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great, Odessa refused to return to the fold. 86% of Ukrainians support EU accession, while 76% want Ukraine to join NATO. 

Just like Stalin before him, Putin sees the world as divided in spheres of influence, and believes he can map out his territory by the wave of his pen. Just like Stalin, Putin believes Russia can fulfill its destiny through isolationism, which will keep the country untainted by the West’s nefarious, decadent ideologies. Talking to a stranger would get you into the gulag under Stalin. Under Putin, being labeled “a foreign agent” makes you an outlaw.

In Russia, challenging historical truth is forbidden and even punished. The Memorial Association, the most important human rights organization in Russia, was disbanded. Its digital archives, comprising the names of hundreds of thousands of victims of atrocities committed under Stalin, compiled over the course of 20 years, was confiscated. Whereas the Soviets were behind the Holodomor, the Russians are responsible for the Memoricide – “the total ban on evoking tragedy in order to thus prevent victims from identifying themselves as such and naming their executioners”, Stéphane Courtois wrote. Spreading “fake news” or any other narrative at odds with the official narrative of the Defense Ministry is a crime punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years. Independent media outlets were blocked or disbanded, while foreign news agencies left the country. Since late February, over 16,000 people have been arrested. Simply caught carrying Lev Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the Red Square was enough to get Moscow residents arrested.

Just like Stalin, Putin is destroying the bourgeoisie, the engine of Russia’s modernization. This time around, they are not sent to the gulag, but they are running abroad. Putin’s inner circle waits for the dictator to meet his natural end, just like Stalin. At least this is one way of looking at speculations and reports about Putin’s health.

The ideology behind the half-svastika

Russia, a reactionary fascist dictatorship, is trying to destroy Ukraine, a young democracy that pursues its non-Russian destiny. The Kremlin is using every weapon at its disposal, the same as it did in previous centuries: war, propaganda, assassinations, atrocities and rapes, famine, mass deportations, poverty and humiliation. Once again, genocide is a Russian state policy, this time however targeting not Chechens, but Ukrainians.

The political theorists who have inspired Putin are all fascist prophets: Gumilyov, Ilyn, Panarin or modern propagandists such as Dugin. Ivan Ilyn, an early 20th-century philosopher whom the Bolsheviks exiled in the 1920s, saw fascism as “a necessary and inevitable phenomenon, based on the healthy feeling of national patriotism”. “Western democracy and elections will bring Russia to ruin. Only a powerful state, dictatorial in scope and national in essence”, will be able to save Russia from chaos. Ilyn’s book, Our duties, was an essential read the Kremlin recommended to state officials in 2013.

As regards Ukraine, Ilyn wrote in 1950 that the Western powers will try to “carry out their hostile and ridiculous experiment even in the post-Bolshevik chaos, deceptively presenting it as the supreme triumph of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘federalism’… German propaganda has invested too much money and effort in Ukrainian separatism (and maybe not only Ukrainian)”. In 2005, after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Putin spoke about the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. That same year, Ilyn’s body was brought back to Russia from Switzerland, where the Russian political theorist had died in exile in 1954.

Alexander Dugin is the one who told Russians how to treat Ukrainians: “Kill, kill, kill! No more talking!” The son of a colonel-general in the Soviet military intelligence, Dugin went through several ideological phases over the course of his life, leaving behind works that speak volumes of the Kremlin’s top ideologist: an anti-communist phase, a national-Bolshevik phase (Leftist nationalism, 1992), a pro-fascist phase (Fascism – Borderless and Red, 1997, where he forewarned of the advent of a “genuine, true, radically revolutionary and consistent, fascism” in Russia), and finally a return to the tenets of Stalinism (“We are on the side of Stalin and the Soviet Union”). Dugin became Putin’s Rasputin, the ideologist who envisaged a revisionist regime (The Basics of Geopolitics, 1997) and founded or endorsed political movements such as the National Bolshevik Party, the National Bolshevik Front or the Eurasian Party. Many of Dugin’s ideas are now echoed by Moscow’s narratives: “The Fifth Column is receiving money and instructions from the US Embassy”, “There are no more political opponents of Putin, and if there still are, they are mentally ill and require a medical checkup”, “Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute, Putin is irreplaceable” (a 2007 statement published by Izvestia and reiterated for Der Spiegel in 2014). The cornerstone of Dugin’s theory states that Orthodox Russians should rally behind the president of the Russian Federation in the final battle between good and evil, following the example of Iran and North Korea. The oxymoronic distortion of political science concepts is commonplace in Putin’s inner circle. Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, coined the term “Liberal fascism”.

Apocalyptic fake news fostered by Kremlin propaganda – a total, holy war against the West, whose stake is Russia’s very existence and the protection of Russians against the Ukrainian Nazis’ slaughter – resonates with Russian society. According to Levada opinion polls, 75% of Russians supported the war against Ukraine ever since the first months of the war. Yet figures can be deceptive. The fear of possible criminal sanctions might have distorted their answers. Can that be taken as evidence of a Russian fascism, rooted in exceptionalism and resentment, Messianism and humiliation? Bringing Russians who for centuries have been violently repressed into the fold of imperialism is no paradox, but rather an offset. The external enemy fashioned by the Kremlin could thus be blamed for all the humiliations experienced by ordinary Russians. The fulfillment of the nation’s destiny is born only from the nonfulfillment of personal destiny. Fear and propaganda have prompted Russians to rally behind their supreme commander. Putin’s partial mobilization however paints a different reality. Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled Russia in 2022, most of them after the passing of the September 21 decree to mobilize over 300 thousand reservists. The virtual war, watched on TV, suddenly got very real, its fallout reaching people in their own homes. And it was too much to bear.

The Kremlin is said to rely on no ideology, merely on pragmatism. The hybrid war against the free world and the all-out war against Ukraine have nonetheless shown that there is more to the Kremlin than meets the eye – a fascist ideology has taken deep root. Disinformation morphed into war propaganda. The Kremlin claims it needs to cleanse Ukraine of its chauvinistic, anti-Russian proclivities, and it’s been doing just that in annexed or occupied territories by deporting the civilian population to the depths of Russia. And that is pure fascism. Goebbels told Hitler in 1943 that “war has allowed us to solve certain problems that normal circumstances would have otherwise prevented us from doing”. Russian fascist ideology employs a concise idiolect: denazification, demilitarization, de-Ucrainization.

Putin vs. the free world

Putin moved from authoritarianism to dictatorship, reaching a point of no return: his penchant for violence and his henchmen’s thirst for power will prevent him from backing down. To the Siloviki, the end of the Cold War was a betrayal and a defeat, just how the German socialist nationalists perceived defeat in World War I. “I hate them. They are bastards and degenerates. They want us, Russia, to die. And while I’m still alive, I will do everything to make them disappear”, Dmitry Medvedev wrote on social media. Russia’s hostility has now turned to the liberal West, democratic Ukraine and traitors back home.

Putin’s fascist policies sought to undermine Western democracies by interfering with local elections, providing support to far-right parties, using communities of Russians in the Diaspora (the third-largest in the world, totaling some 25 million people) against their adoptive homelands. Far-right parties (France, Germany, Austria), populist parties (Hungary, Romania), pro-Russian parties (in Bulgaria) or neo-Nazi (Sweden) or fascist (Italy) parties are backed by the Kremlin, either financially or via propaganda and fake news campaigns. The Kremlin doesn’t expect the Bolshevik prophecy (the West’s vengeful fascism) to come true by itself, it actively strives to make it happen. That is maskirovka, the art of deception.

In Romania, Putin’s fascist rhetoric was carried over by far-right parties, former government officials, intellectuals and journalists. Andrei Marga, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Education, also the former rector of the “Babeş-Bolyai” University in Cluj-Napoca, said that Ukraine has “unnatural borders” and that “it should concede territories to Hungary (Carpathian Ruthenia), Poland (Galicia), Romania (Bukovina) and Russia (Donbas and Crimea)”. Adrian Severin, another former Foreign Minister, referred to the “fanciful allegations of genocide targeting Russia”. “If we must speak of genocidal intentions or actions, this would rather be an accusation against the Ukrainian far-right movements, whose agenda includes the elimination of Russian elements from society”. Ukraine was built “based on Stalinist principles underlying people’s Soviet republics”, which is why “it needs a Trianon of its own”. Both statements were picked up by Russian propaganda, as they legitimized Putin’s fascist discourse.

Yet what is the stake of this war? Yuval Noah Harari reckons that humanity’s greatest political achievement since World War II, the decline of war as an instrument of power, is now in jeopardy. If the aggression of powerful countries against their weaker neighbors become not just a precedent, but normative, then the result would be a return to the law of the jungle. The UN has demonstrated its inability to stop this war. Restructuring international institutions will be key in the decades to come.

Moscow’s victory will be tantamount to the victory of fascism and dictatorship over democracy. Putin can at any given moment declare victory, invoking the already annexed territories, even at the risk of thus disgruntling the blood-thirsty and honor-bound Siloviki, who wanted Russia to crush Ukraine. Yet will Ukrainians put up with the occupation, the status quo, maybe also in response to informal pleas from Western powers, which have recommended reopening Kyiv-Moscow negotiation channels? Southeastern Ukraine will become a huge frozen conflict. Except that, unlike Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, this would be the stage of a long-lasting guerilla war, much like Afghanistan.

The hope that Russia without Putin might return to peace and even democracy is again a sign of the West’s recurring credulity. Russia falls short not just of democratic traditions, but also reconciliation with its own past. The ever growing community of Russians living in exile holds high hopes for a new revolution: the cycle of history is looked upon not just with hope, but with an almost mystical fervor.

The war will be long for Ukraine. Putin is fighting not just for new territories, he wants to crush democracy itself, which surprisingly took root in an ex-Soviet republic. He cannot afford to lose this war, because that would mean losing at home too.

Putin has been unpredictable, yet the West trusted its own hope for peace more than it did the signs of war. We could keep going over similarities with the events that led up to World War II, or between Putin and Hitler: just like Germany, Russia too might implode, thus opening up a new historical cycle. Just like pre-revolutionary Russia, the free world fears Russian chaos more than it does an anti-Western despotic regime.

Putin’s victory would nevertheless spell victory for fascism, with devastating consequences for the future of Europe.


*Text published in The War in Ukraine. A regional conflict with global ramifications, Institutul European Publishers, Iași, 2022. 

Marian Voicu

Marian Voicu

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