FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Putin's Ugly Demagoguery
Crying “Fascist” on Ukraine

The Russian media and Russian politicians claim it is their duty to confront Ukraine’s “fascism.” What does that emotionally charged label really mean? And who has the right to hang it on whom?

Published on: March 13, 2014
Andrew Wood is associate fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, and served in the British Embassy in Moscow from 1964–66, 1979–82 and 1995–2000, the last as Ambassador.
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  • montfaucon1916

    Yeah, just like how Latvia and Estonia “voted” to join the USSR, right? I mean, nothing says “free and fair” like a Kremlin-run election!

    Never again!

  • BobSykes

    All this is nonsense. Russia perceives the Ukrainian crisis as an existential threat and a plot by the US/EU to humiliate and subjugate Russia. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. The morality/immorality of Russia’s actions are irrelevant. Russia perceives the stakes to be too high to back down. The US/EU has started up and escalation ladder that ends in nuclear war. They had better get off now.

    US/EU impose economic sanctions.

    Russia shuts off gas and oil supplies to Europe. Europe falls into recession.

    Turkey/NATO close Bosporus to Russian shipping.

    Russian mines Bosporus, closing it to all shipping.

    US/EU invite Ukraine to join EU and NATO. Ukraine accepts.

    Russia invades Ukraine and annexes all of it.

    NATO masses troops in Poland and Baltic states.

    Russian begins submarine campaign against oil tankers sailing from Persian Gulf to English Channel.

    NATO launches air campaign against Russia and Belarus.

    Russia nukes Berlin.

    etc.

    In a similar vein, if Scotland does vote for independence a few months from now, will Britain go to war to keep its naval bases in Clyde and Skapa Flow?

    Will Spain fight to keep Catalonia and its Basque region?

    Will France fight to keep Corsica and its Basque region?

    • danram

      Bob, this is absolutely ridiculous. For one thing, Russia doesn’t have the naval might to get away with mining the Bosporous. That’s absurd. And even if they did, the mines could be quickly cleared by NATO mine-sweepers.

      Also, your post seems to imply that there is a rough equivalence between the military capabilities of Russia and NATO like there was in the 1980s. To put it bluntly, there isn’t. Russia’s military today is but a pale shadow of what it used to be. Most of their equipment is outdated and most of their troops are poorly-trained conscripts. NATO outspends Russia by more than 10-to-1 each year on defense.

      I suggest you go a re-read the history of the 1930s and the run-up to World War II. The parallels between then and now are striking. When Adolf Hitler invaded the Rhineland, ostensibly to “liberate” the ethnic Germans there (sound familiar?) he did it with only 3,000 troops. France had over 1,000,000 troops stationed on its border with Germany. HItler could have been easily squashed and World War II would have never happened. Many of his own generals were itching for the excuse to overthrow him. A humiliating defeat in the Rhineland would have provided it.

      Instead, as now, the leaders of the west dithered, delayed, and in the end did nothing. Hitler was allowed to annex the Rhineland and that only increased his political strength back home. 50,000,000 people ultimately died as a result of this inaction. We must not make the same mistake with Putin.

      I don’t give a tinker’s damn what the Russians might “perceive” about Ukraine. The fact is that Ukraine does NOT belong to them and they have NO RIGHT to impose their will upon it!!!

      The US and Europe pledged to defend Ukraine from attack back in 1994 when Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear arsenal. (I’ll bet they now wish they hadn’t done that.) Russia also signed that agreement, and they have now blatantly violated it with their invasion of The Crimea. US and NATO credibility is on the line. We need to aggressively move military forces into Ukraine RIGHT NOW!

      If he west did so, I highly doubt you’d see Russia make any further moves into Ukraine. But if Putin really wants to take on not only Ukraine but NATO as well, then so be it. I’d much rather fight him now than 10 years from now when he makes a move against Poland or Latvia and is far stronger than he is today.

      “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.”

      • Kelp

        Putin used the Ukrainian protests as a rather obvious pretext to get Crimea back. Russia wanted that for decades, because of historical symbolism, the lease on Sevastopol, and the touristic value. We all know the sanctions won’t last. As long as Ukraine doesn’t make any large steps towards EU integration (which is incapable of relieving their economy anyway), Ukrainians can elect themselves as much democracy as they want without Russians trying further annexation. As they say, they won’t benefit from a split Ukraine.
        They know that bullying works : Georgia is more unlikely to join NATO than they were in 2008 and may now crawl into the Russian customs union in hope of regaining agency over their breakaway regions.

        As for the military option, you speak of NATO as a coherent force, but only the USA has the inventory, the logistics, and the will for actual force projection. Bombing Lybian bunkers and convoys defended by 1960’s AA in 2011 taxed the European air forces so much that they ultimately had to rely of cruise missiles launched from USN ships. They began having trouble organising sorties and ordnance supply. I serve in one of these militaries (not air force, but still) and people don’t seem to grasp just how much successive budget cuts have hurt.

        Now, Russia’s (mediocre) ships are too slow getting out of reserve and could never hold a candle to the US in some overseas operation. Naval power is THE result of American military expenditure; 10 carriers and 600000+ tons of destroyer. The Russian air force is better modernised and more adequate than their navy but badly lacks aerial refuelling capabilities. But Ukraine is basically their front yard, with a large land border to deploy tanks and AAM through (those are world class and plentiful), and easily within the range of their airfields. You can count on them digging in during our offensive preparations. Without even considering a drawn out conflict, gaining enough air superiority to flush the ground troops out of Ukraine without casualties unnaceptable for our “soft” public opinions would be the largest US military undertaking since WW2, with no guaranteed results and a big risk of getting a lot uglier than planned.
        Bottom line is, it won’t happen. The modern NATO only fights “safe” wars.

  • Tom_Tildrum

    Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post has been pushing Putin’s “fascist” line in his column.

  • DSD

    Wow…you managed to get through an entire article on purported Fascism in the Ukraine without even mentioning the word Svoboda. Impressive how the Party of the ‘insignificant minority’, whose leader makes actual Nazi salutes when giving his speeches at rallies, has managed to gain six ministries in the new Ukrainian Government, I thought. And yet you can’t even seem to summon up the honesty to say their name…

  • danram

    The only true “fascist” in this entire situation is Vladimir Putin.

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  • PStockl

    Interesting style of argumentation – there is no fascism on Ukraine at all because in Russia is the situation even worse… GSQ

  • Bretzky1

    What is described here isn’t fascism in particular but charismatic authoritarian leadership in general. The only descriptor that specifically relates to fascism is state corporatism. It is ideology and policy that marks fascism, not its means of organizing itself and controlling the people, which it shares with other non-democratic ideologies.

  • Дмитрий Белякин

    do you really think that Ukraine has no fascists?

    This is true

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