Staunton, August 7 – During the Cold War, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists rated the level of danger of a nuclear war in terms of the number of minutes the clock was running before midnight. Now, Russian historian Yuri Feltshtinsky has told a Polish newspaper that Vladimir Putin has set the world’s clock back to July 1938, just before Hitler launched World War II.
Felshtinsky, who has lived in the West since 1978, told Niezalezna Gazeta Polska that Putin’s occupation of Crimea in March 2014 put the Kremlin leader at the same point Adolf Hitler was in March 1938 when the Nazi leader carried out the Anschluss of Austria.
“Now,” the historian says, after the occupation of Crimea the world has sent Putin the following signal: ‘Tell us that the foreign policy expansion of Russia will end with the occupation of Crimea and we will forgive everything and happily and peacefully begin to live again in the old way.”
But in response, Putin declared that “Russia is beginning (only beginning) to correct the great historical injustice of 1991 when the Soviet Union fell apart and territories were lost by Russia,” he continues. Putin has acted on those words: he has created a powerful military position in Crimea, in border areas near Ukraine, in Kaliningrad and in the Baltic region.
Moreover, Feltshtinsky points out, he has constantly violated the airspace of neighboring countries, conducted “an unprecedented anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western campaign” in the Russian media, called up Russian reservists, send “diversionary groups into Ukraine,” and sought to undermine Kiev’s position throughout the country.
Thus, Felshtinsky says, clocks should now be set to July 1938, “that is, ‘everything is developing according to plan.’”
It is clear, he says, that “the task of Russia [now] is to provoke the maximum number of border incidents which then Russian foreign minister Lavrov” will “read out to his foreign colleagues in order to justify by these incidents the introduction of Russian forces into Ukraine.” All kinds of provocations are possible, including Russian troops shooting their own.
In this period, Feltshtinsky says, “the fascist or nationalist ‘opposition’ to Putin” will call for “immediate” action. They will “’demand’” that he send forces into Ukraine and revise the borders of 1991. And any hesitancy or slowness in Putin’s actions will lead them to complain all the more.
But one shouldn’t “overestimate the influence of fascists on the actions of the Kremlin, at least not on the current situation. It isn’t that there are few fascists in Russia of the type like Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Dmitry Rogozin. Perhaps there are many. But this ‘opposition’ is controlled by the Kremlin and is strong only when its vector correspondents with that of the Kremlin.”
According to Felshtinsky, it will be time to reset the calendar again to August 1939 when one of two events occurs: “geopolitically,” the Anschluss of Belarus; and “ideologically, the appointment of Rogozin as prime minister (“’chancellor’”). And everyone knows what happened a month later.
Asked which Russian political leaders he views as worthy candidates to be president, Feltshtinsky replied that this is “a very complicated question,” equivalent to asking “who (in 1938) you would like to propose as chancellor of Germany in place of Hitler? Or whom in place of Stalin?”
“You understand,” Felshtinsky concludes, “in order to seriously respond to this question one must first reform and perhaps even destroy the present state system of Russia. Because in 1938, it was already insufficient to replace Hitler alone, just as in 1923-1953, it was insufficient to replace only Stalin.”