Hitler-Stalin meme: When childish talk becomes dangerous
Peter Lavelle has extensive experience in academia and the world of business. He did his doctoral studies at the University of California in Eastern European and Russian studies. He has lived in Eastern Europe and Russia for a better part of the last 25 years. During that time he was a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, a market researcher for Colgate-Palmolive, an investment analyst for a number of respected brokerage firms, including Russia’s Alfa Bank.
In the realm of media, Peter Lavelle is widely published. He has written for Asia Times Online, Moscow Times, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, United Press International, In the National Interest, and Current History – to mention only a few.
Comparing any contemporary political figure to either Hitler or Stalin has more to do with designating who is an enemy of the West and almost nothing to do with history.
Having covered Vladimir Putin’s entire career in high politics, it is absurd that western politicians and media compare him to Hitler or Stalin. Both these twentieth century dictators subverted political systems and ideologies to capture power and to maintain it. On the other hand, Putin was elected to the presidency three times by the people by large margins. Putin could have easily backed changing the country’s constitution to stay in power indefinitely. But he hasn’t and probably won’t.
It is the area of foreign policy that Putin’s name is most mentioned when the Hitler-Stalin meme is bandied about. Again the Washington Consensus and its media echo chamber are intellectually lazy and extremely prejudiced – and dangerously so!
Post-soviet Russia is a profoundly conservative and status quo power. While western media paints Putin’s foreign policy as revisionist and aggressive, the fact is Russia under Putin is almost completely obsessed with internal modernization. More times than not Russia’s so-called high profile foreign policy is a reaction to western meddling in the internal affairs of countries around the world, including Ukraine.
Hitler and Stalin were sworn enemies of the international order designed by the western powers after the First World War. For a short time both were allies in contempt of the west. From the very beginning of Putin’s time in office he asked the west (politely at first) to respect international law and the values it so loudly claims to uphold. Then and now, the West – particularly Washington – is not listening mode. The fact Russia challenges the West regarding international law and values is considered an affront and a threat.
One should always be careful when making historical parallels; be it about events or individuals. However, if the reference to Hitler and Stalin is meant to be about countries and leaders who act aggressively and without the slightest regard to law and morals, then the west needs to take a close look at itself – not Putin’s Russia.
Hitler and Stalin were driven by ideologies. Hitler was the quintessential racist and moral nihilist. Stalin rejected the very idea of markets, state sovereignty, and nationalism in the name of a social and class leveling ideology that glorified the Communist Party and its leader. Both also ultimately understood posterity would judge them harshly – their life project only lasted as long as they were alive.
Putin has a very different project for Russia. At the top of the agenda is Russia’s sovereignty to act as an independent state to ensure the country’s prosperity and existence. This very simple and straightforward idea enrages the west. An independent and prosperous Russia tells Washington the illegal invasion of Iraq was wrong and would have dreadful consequences. Putin’s Russia tells the West it’s meddling in the Middle East only makes matters worse, including the growing blowback from the violent regime. How many countries have Washington and its coalition destroyed in this regime in this century alone! One could well imagine Hitler and Stalin would be impressed!
Let’s talk about Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Baltic republics and Russia. This is the region that gives the Hitler-Stalin meme artificial traction. Let’s be clear: since the end of the Soviet Union Russia has demonstrated no interest in ruling over non-Russians outside of the Russian Federation’s borders. However, when push comes to shove, Moscow will do what it can to protect ethnic Russians immediately beyond its borders. Russia intervened to protect Russians and Russian passport holders in South Ossetia in August 2008. Russian tanks didn’t go to Tbilisi. Why? Because, Russia is no longer interested in an empire.
Ukraine is a tragedy today because the West’s miscalculation, blunders, and hubris. Russia is wrongly blamed for this. The west, in particular Washington’s Victoria Nuland, backed forced regime change in February. Russia repeatedly supported compromise and negotiations prior to the coup. Hitler and Stalin too hated to even listen to compromises. Both would probably hat tip Nuland and her Ukrainian thugs for their single-mindedness and ruthlessness. Nuland and her thugs destroyed Ukraine – now there are at least two Ukraines when one worked for all before Washington and Brussels naively attempted to save the country for “democracy.”
In the endless quest looking for the new Hitler and Stalin in this world, we all should examine all actors who in fact act and think like dictators of the past century. They are not hard to find – they reside in your own homes and governments. As far as Putin is concerned, well think Charles de Gaulle. Both Putin and de Gaulle are thought of as strong men with vision, with a love of their country. Indeed, but post-modernist America and Europe can’t understand this.
We should all be wary of new Hitlers and Stalins.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.