Yale historian tells MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan what he believes will change the invasion and end Putin's war

Yale historian tells MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan what he believes will change the invasion and end Putin's war
Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2021, Wikimedia Commons

Speaking to MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan, Timothy Snyder, Yale historian and expert on tyranny and authoritarianism, explained that the only way that Russian President Vladimir Putin would stop his invasion is if he was about to lose his own power over Russia.

Snyder has penned several pieces about Russia and Putin's obsession with fascist philosophers, even those who praised Adolf Hitler.

"Putin seems just as determined as ever to destroy Ukraine," said Hasan. "Based on your understanding of Putin and of the teachings of Ivan Ilyin, can there be a middle ground for men like Putin? Will Putin at some point accept a negotiated peace?"

Snyder explained that both of the questions hang very closely together.

"When Putin talks about denazification, he doesn't mean getting rid of Nazis," he explained. "What he means is 'I, the dictator, have the right to say what the word Nazi means.' By denazification, he means getting rid of any Ukrainians who are willing to resist anything he tries to do. He means destroying the state and destroying the nation. So, he's reached the depths of schizo-fascism. But he's operationalized this to mean he has the right to determine when this war will be over. It will only be over when Ukraine is so humiliated that it's willing to accept his characterization of it. And, of course, the Ukrainians are not going to do that. So, we're in for a very long struggle. Unless Mr. Putin himself starts to feel that his power might be threatened. I think that's the moment where this might start to change."

He noted that Putin does actually read books and, in particular, philosophers. He has a repertoire of thinkers that he can quote to justify his fascism. Hasan noted that in the United States we aren't used to our fascists being big readers, a reference to Donald Trump, who rarely read anything.

Hasan also explained that there are neo-Nazi militias fighting in Ukraine, but that those men don't run the country or the military, as Russian propagandists are trying to claim. Russia, he said, has neo-Nazis fighting on their side as well.

He also noted that watching the rally that Putin held on Friday made him think about Trump's MAGA rallies.

"Well, the international far-right learns from itself," said Snyder. "Ironically, it's much more connected than the international left is. The right copies everything from itself. But I was — in that rally, I have to say I was struck also by the fact that Putin is reaching for these Christian themes, going back to Ilyin. He's talking about the death of Russians in war as a good thing. He's talking about the kind of redemptive things that unify us. Those are openly fascist themes that he's pursuing in this. But it looks a little bit like Trump. It also looks like a kind of very low-intensity Nuremberg [rally]. They're not really waving those flags very quickly. And when the cameras are close to people, there was a kind of marked lack of enthusiasm. So, this isn't a rally that really seemed to be terribly successful."

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