Writing in Novaya Gazeta (and the fact that he can still be published there does say something in Russia’s favor) Vladimir Pastukhov takes a look at Putin’s “rightward” tilt (call it what you like; FWIW I take a look at this topic in the latest NRODT) and has come up with an intriguing analysis.
The piece is in Russian, but fortunately Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble is here to explain:
Staunton, January 12 – Fascism threatens Russia and even its continued existence as a territorial unit, Vladimir Pastukhov says, but that threat comes not from marginal “nationalist” groups many Russian liberals are so worried about but rather from the day-to-day actions of the Kremlin itself. In a 2500-word article in yesterday’s Novaya Gazeta Pastukhov, a scholar at St. Antony’s College in Oxford and one of the most penetrating observers of the contemporary scene lays out his reasons for a conclusion that many in Russia and the West are certain to find unsettling and therefore likely to reject out of hand.
A major reason for that, the scholar says, is that Russians think of fascism “exclusively” in terms of German Nazism “one of its more cruel and bloody versions,” rather than recognizing that “fascism has existed in more ‘vegetarian’ forms,” such as those which were institutionalized by Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain. Their approach to governance, Pastukhov continues, which might be called “’soft fascism,’” is one towards which Russia is moving ever more closely by Moscow’s rejection of liberal values, chauvinism, a powerful state propaganda machine, persecution of minorities, including sexual ones, suppression of independent courts, an oppressive law enforcement system, and a cult of personality around the leader.
Pastukhov goes on to explain that its experiences over the last century have led Russia to view the world in a dark (he’d say apocalyptic) way. I might not agree with why that it is, but that it does is difficult to deny.
Pastukhov (filtered through Goble) continues:
As was the case 150 years ago, “the Russian consensus is that the West is dying,” a view held across the political spectrum “from the black hundreds to the radical liberals” and reflecting near Russian unanimity in their dislike of capitalism. “But the biggest pessimist in Russia, of course, is Putin,” who has become convinced that the outside world is rotting and that Russia must create a citadel to allow it to survive. Hence, the erection of “a new iron curtain in order not to allow the further dissemination” inside Russia of what Moscow views as the destructive ideas of capitalism, liberalism and democracy.
The Kremlin leader appears to think that he can “sit out the world crisis in this fortress” and “pretend to the role of the leader of a new Holy Alliance, which would unite all the archaic, tough, and cannibal regimes of the world … from Venezuela and Iran to Syria, Libya, and North Korea.”
But because no one can say just when the West will collapse according to this scenario, Pastukhov continues, Putin is arming Russia, “the inevitable consequence of the course taken toward self-isolation.” “Russia naturally views the entire world as a potential opponent.” And thus “not Europe but Russia itself is erecting a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around itself…”
Yes and no, I’d say. At least part of what Putin is doing is merely putting an ideological wrapping on crude self-interest. Equally Russia’s rearmament is an expression of its (despite all its problems, not unreasonable) view of itself as a great power.
Pastukhov’s gloom only deepens from there. Too much so, I reckon (as with his view of the Russian distaste for capitalism, a term that, in this context, is too vague to have much meaning), but take a look and judge for yourself.