Putin's regime is becoming more fascist

The Russian leadership and Putin have repeatedly said that Russia is fighting fascists in Ukraine. Why? And what does this lead to?

Stefan Meister: On the one hand, the struggle against fascism and National Socialism is key to the identity of much of Russian society. And if this struggle continues now in the war against Ukraine – as the Russian leadership wants – Russia could achieve some mobilization.

On the other hand, it is very problematic that the notion of fascism and one’s history is being misused to justify a kind of imperialist war in the neighboring country. And a war started by the regime of Vladimir Putin – it is his regime that is becoming more and more fascist, as could be seen if we look at the definition of fascism.

And to blame Ukraine for this, to use it as an argument for war, and at the same time to abuse the victory over National Socialism in World War II, is a distortion of history. This includes the scandalous statements of Foreign Minister Lavrov about the Jews.

Putin goes even further – with his claims that the so-called fascists in Ukraine led by Zelensky are leaders of NATO and the United States. So it turns out that the West and these “fascists” are one – the West supports Ukraine and uses the “fascists” to weaken Russia. Ie Putin compares not only Ukrainians to fascists, but from a certain point of view, the West as their supporter.

And what are today’s Germans in the eyes of the Kremlin?

Stefan Meister: It is difficult to say – in the context of the established positive image of Germany and the reconciliation achieved between Germans and Russians. What we are seeing now is an attempt to turn things around: to define the Germans as enemies who also support the “fascists” in Ukraine, thus undermining the reconciliation process, and for Russia to start looking at Germany negatively again. To some extent, this is already happening.

Since the end of Soviet communism, Russia has been looking for an idea on which to build a positive narrative. Is the answer in linking the current wars of aggression to the past of a victorious nation?

Stefan Meister: Probably this is what works best in Russian society. Given that the question is: what is the reason for pride in the last hundred years of Russian history? The victory over the National Socialists was a great success – despite being a totalitarian state, the Soviet Union managed to overcome the danger to Europe and Russia. This is something that most Russians will agree with, and there are not many other things Putin can be proud of in Russia’s new history.

At the same time, society is closing down more and more, pluralism is declining. In recent weeks, Putin-led Russia has become increasingly a totalitarian state. This trend has been a fact since 2014 – given the approach to the media, against the opposition, and any different opinions. In this respect, the example of the Soviet Union is being taken and attempts are being made to inspire people at this level: these are familiar circumstances that probably arouse nostalgia in the older generations – or so the elite think, and it seems that at least partially functioning.

In the polls, many support, at least superficially, this parallel world, this new reality created by Russian propaganda. But this is also an element of the totalitarian state – people say what is expected of them, in this case, approval of the war and Putin. And this is reminiscent of the Soviet Union and Stalinism.

What does this mean in the long run for the development of Russian society? Where is Putin directing him?

Stefan Meister: This leads to the construction of a picture in black and white: we are on the side of truth and justice, the rest are enemies. This, of course, means that society is immersed in a system of non-freedom, including thinking. That fear will become more and more decisive for society. And people will either have to move away or adapt.

This, of course, is a very depressing prospect for a society that has slowly opened up and slowly begun to rethink its past. This process is now being reversed from black and white: the traumas experienced by society are now intensifying instead of being reworked. And so it becomes vulnerable and easily manipulated. In this way, the cult of violence rooted in this society will continue to develop. All this naturally makes Russia a very problematic country in Europe – with a society that has too few development opportunities.

Stefan Meister is a program manager at the German Foreign Policy Association. His highlights include Russian foreign and security policy, as well as relations between Russia and the EU.

FSB agents believe Putin is terminally ill

As in the dark days of the Soviet Union, nothing is believed in Russia until the state says it is a malicious lie. The situation is similar to the health of President Vladimir Putin. The state claims that he is in excellent health.

However, rumors are growing that he is seriously ill. Bulgarian journalist Hristo Grozev of Bellingcat told New Lines magazine that a top-secret note was circulating from Lubyanka (the headquarters of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) to regional officials not believing rumors that Putin had cancer. However, this has the opposite effect.

The directors were additionally instructed to dispel any rumors in this regard that could be spread in the local units of the FSB. According to a source in one of the regional units who saw the note, this unprecedented instruction had the opposite effect, with most FSB officials suddenly beginning to believe that Putin was indeed suffering from a serious illness, Hristo Grozev revealed.

The timing of the spread of this note in the FSB structures is also curious – just weeks after investigators revealed that Putin was visited regularly by doctors specializing in the treatment of cancer. Putin has long acted as the de facto boss of the Kremlin mafia, an arbiter among those fighting for influence or money. These clans are now positioned to survive, no matter how this crisis ends. On February 24, the Russian army launched an unprovoked full-scale war against Ukraine. So far, the Russian occupying forces have suffered heavy damage, both in manpower and military equipment. More and more oligarchs are speaking out against Putin’s aggressive policies, which have imposed heavy economic sanctions on Russia.

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