Dangerous Words: Calling Putin 'Hitler' Stokes Western Belligerence
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Arrogance like ignorance is a generator of stupidities. But while the latter is excused, arrogance-bred follies must be eschewed. In that way, politicians and academics that know better than to compare Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler cannot be excused. Arrogance is inherently indifferent and frequently malicious.
Invoking Nazism and Hitler tends - at best - to mystify not clarify. In reality, it is propagated to demonise and harm. Indeed, such comparison aims to end a discussion instead of starting a free and frank exchange. If Putin is a modern Hitler, what is there to explore, explain or argue? Any rational explanation becomes an appeasement of evil.
And yet, as we discuss in the next episode of EMPIRE, Western media is abound with such comparisons because the former Cold War enemy makes for an easy target just as "imperialist America" is an attractive target for certain Russian nationalists.
Putin is not an enlightened democrat. As a politician he's shown persistent totalitarian tendencies. And as a former KGB officer, he's demonstrated signs of paranoia. But that doesn’t make him a Third Reich type leader. Nor do Moscow's deployments in Crimea demonstrate that Russia is bent on invading and occupying Eastern Europe. Far from it.
Paradoxically, it was Putin's government that demonised the anti Russian government/camp in Ukraine, branding them as fascist-led or fascist-infested. This is certainly counterproductive even if a case was made regarding two radical rightist groups that participated in the Kiev uprising: The Svoboda and the Right Sector. The two groups have - indeed - displayed certain fascist tendencies in the past, and waved flags with Swastika like symbols. For Washington, however, and to rephrase President Barack Obama's sports analogy: "Not everyone who wears an FC Barcelona Jersey is a Messi."
In response to Moscow's charges against Ukraine, the US State Department pointed out in a 10-point rebuttal statement that: "Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada."
This characterisation of events has been widely disputed in Moscow recently. But assuming Putin is paranoid, this doesn't mean that no one is after him, or after his regime.
I reckon the Russian embassy in Washington, a couple of months before the Ukraine crisis began, had sent Putin the following quote from an article by Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy: "Ukraine is the biggest prize, and there Russia's bullying has been particularly counter-productive…. Ukraine's choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents."
And I assume the KGB had briefed President Putin about Victoria Nuland's conversation with US Ukraine Ambassador telling him that "Yats" was Washington's preferred "guy", only for Yatsenyuk to become the interim prime minister a couple of weeks later.
None of that, however, seemed to matter to Nuland's former boss - and maybe - the future US President, Hillary Clinton when it comes to demonising Putin as an exercise in populism.
From the populist to the slimy
Soon after Putin moved on Crimea, the Washington Post reported that Former Secretary of State Clinton compared Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine to actions taken by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler outside Germany in the run-up to World War II.
"Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s," she said, adding "All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous."