Staunton, March 24 – Russians must recognize that Vladimir Putin is “an aggressor and instigator of war,” that he is making them into “victims and participants in state crimes,” that he will eventually lose to the democratic world, and that he, they and their country will suffer and be held accountable just as the Germans were after 1945, according to Yury Felshtynsky.
The distinguished Russian historian says that Russians must understand that the democratic world will once again be slow to react but that as in the past, once it does so, Russia will not be able to withstand it. And thus they must conclude that “if [they] want to live, [they] need to get rid of Putin” and soon.
“The time has come,” the historian says, “to open one’s eyes and call things by their own names.” Many are reluctant “to call Putin the Hitler” of today, largely because until March 2014 and despite blowing up apartment houses in 1999, the new war in Chechnya, the suppression of freedom at home, and the war against Georgia, Putin considered it “important to remain a member of the European community.”
But “in March 2014, Putin crossed the Rubicon.” He wrote himself out of the European and world communities by showing that for him, “the national or more precisely nationalistic and geopolitical interests of Russia as [he] sees them” are more important to him than the financial interests of the country.
Putin today “views Russia exclusively as a new empire rising from the ruins” and himself as the author of this development, Felshtynsky says.
The Kremlin leader is “an irresponsible and purely educated simplifier.” He doesn’t know history very well, and that is what German Chancellor Merkel was referring to when she said that “the president of Russia lives in another world.” He is trapped in the values of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when states regularly seized territories.
In 1853-1856, Russia fought a war in the Crimea and it lost. Today, Putin thinks he can achieve a different outcome. He “speas with the world from a position of strength just as Hitler did at one time. But Hitler despite everything operated in an alliance with Italy and Japan, and as of August 1939 in a union with Stalin.” And despite that, “he lost everything.”
In its seizure of Crimea, Russia is in “absolute isolation.” No country, except its dependent clients and a few interested in attracting attention, supports it. Even China which might be expected to back Moscow has limited itself to “polite neutrality.”
“The analogy between March 1938 when Hitler first seized Austria and then, in September of the same year, the Sudetenland, and Crimea which Putin occupied in March 2014 is so obvious that comparison of Putin and Hitler have not disappeared from the newspapers and the mouths of political and social activists. Even Hillary Clinton compared Putin with Hitler.”
But the most important question is not whether Putin is Hitler and whether he has or will follow in the German dictator’s footsteps. The question, Felshtynsky says is what those who know the history of Hitlerism can expect and should do. If the world had stopped Hitler in September 1938 or even March 1939, he would have had a much less tragic influence on the world than he did.
Unfortunately the international community did not stop him, and it appears that “Putin will not be stopped either.” Just like Hitler, Felshtynsky says, “Putin cannot stop” on his own. “Crimea cannot be the end of the nationalist and imperialist strivings of the Russian president for life.”
In 1938, he continues, “Europe chose to wait and do nothing. A year and a half later, after having yielded the remains of Czechoslovakia, it all the same was drawn into a war begun by Hitler,” one in which he was faced with demands for unconditional surrender. “We know who won in this war and how Hitler ended. Germany and the Germans suffered defeat, a divided county and the Nurnberg trials.”
Felshtynsky says that he expects that “the Nuremberg trial of Putin will take place in Sevastpol, and he suggests that if they are alive, the following people should join Putin in the dock as war criminals: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s Ribbentrop, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, advisor Vyacheslav Surkov, Security Council secretary Nikolay Patrushev, Russian fascist Dmitry Rogozin, and a number of others.
And that tribunal will remember as well those who boosted Putin’s imperialist grab in the media or who remained silent in the face of his violation of international law. They may be riding high now, but “we will remember all of them … somewhat later … when we win” and they are in the dock.
March 2014 confronted the democratic war with the same difficult choice it faced before World War II: to begin war with Putin now or later after “concluding a global anti-Russian international accord and isolating Russia by introducing all possible sanctions” and waiting “while doing nothing in the hopes that something will change.”
“Unfortunately,” things aren’t going to change in the direction the West hopes, the historian says and then predicts, on the basis of what happened in the 1930s, that the third world war will begin in September 2015, 18 months from now.
“We will win in this war because Russia is not in a position to conduct it against all humanity,” he says. And as a result of this war, “there will be a disintegration of the Russian Federation in comparison with which the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 will seem a modest repetition before a première.”
It certainly does not appear that there are sufficient “internal forces” in Russia to “block this approaching catastrophe,” Felshtynsky says. But Russians need to reflect on what the likely future course of events means for them: Putin is drawing them into a war and making them victims or co-conspirators of his campaign.
And they need to begin asking themselves: “Are you prepared to die for Putin’s imperil ambitions?” Russia will lose Putin’s war because the democratic world will not lose this fight, at least not at the end. It and not Russia will come out the victor. “If you want to live, get rid of Putin!”