A New World Order, I: Vladimir Putin Is Building His Fascist State

Sep 3rd, 2022 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

With the end of World War II in 1945 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, America emerged as the first and only global superpower.  America therefore championed the values of democracy, open markets, human rights and the rule of law—and it had the clout of both military and financial power to impose this moral code on terrorists and tyrants.  The result was a period of peace, prosperity and progress.  That world order championed by the US is breaking down.  What are the elements of the new world order now emerging?  Who are the primary players in this new order?  What will the future look like as the new order unfolds?  With this edition of Issues in Perspective, I begin a three-part analysis of this emerging world order.  We begin with Russia and Vladimir Putin.

The Economist has argued that “The Kremlin has built a cult of personality around Mr. Putin and a cult of the dead around the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.  Mr. Putin’s regime yearns to restore a lost golden age and for Russia to be purged by healing violence . . . [Putin is] drawing on the fascist thinking that had re-emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union . . . Putin got caught up in a cycle of grievance and resentment that has left reason far behind.  It has culminated in a ruinous war that many thought would never happen precisely because it had defied the weighing of risk and rewards.  Under Mr. Putin’s form of fascism, Russia is set of a course that knows no turning back.  Without the rhetoric of victimhood and the use of violence, Mr. Putin has nothing to offer his people.  For Western democracies this onward march means that, while he is in power, dealings with Russia will be riven by hostility and contempt . . . there can be no true peace with a fascist Russia.”  Let’s examine two aspects of Putin’s fascist Russia.

  • First the war in Ukraine.  Although Russia was humiliated during the early months of the war, it is evident now that Putin has a clear plan.  It has three facets that go beyond the war and involves the fanciful delusions of Putin.  Indeed, each aspect reveals the calculated delusions of a totalitarian dictator who seems divorced from reality.  Tatiana Stanovaya, nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for international Peace, explains Putin’s three-fold “plan.”   [1] “The smallest, most pragmatic and achievable goal concerns Russia’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine.  Having failed to advance much further into Ukrainian territory since the first days of the war, Russian promptly downsized its ambitions, relinquishing the idea of taking Kyiv.  The current, more realistic goal appears to be control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions—which the Kremlin sees itself attaining in a matter of time . . . For this goal, of minimal geopolitical weight for the Kremlin, Mr. Putin appears to believe that time is on his side.”  [2] The next focuses on the eventual capitulation of Ukraine government in Kyiv.  “On a practical level, capitulation would mean Kyiv accepting Russian demands that could be summarized as the ‘de-Ukrainization’ and ‘Russification’ of the country.  That would entail criminalizing the support of national heroes, renaming streets, rewriting history books and guaranteeing the Russian-speaking population a dominant positon in education and culture.  The aim, in short, would be to deprive Ukraine of the right to build its own nation.  The government would be replaced, the elites purged and cooperation with the West voided . . . In one or two years, by which point the Kremlin expects Ukraine to be exhausted by the war, unable to function normally and profoundly demoralized, the conditions for capitulation will ripen.”    [3] The final goal is to build a new world order.  The high energy prices combined with ruinous inflation will cause the West to abandon Ukraine and be transformed into a much friendlier West in terms of Russia.  “Russia will then be able to return to all the security demands it set out in its December ultimatum to the United States and NATO.  This may seem wishful to the point of impossible.  But that doesn’t stop it from being what Mr. Putin expects to happen.”  These delusional ambitions of Putin, the fascist tyrant, cannot be ignored.  What if he does not achieve these goals?  Will he use nuclear weapons to preserve his ultimate goals and plans?  Vladimir Putin is not acting rationally or wisely.  But fascist dictators rarely do.  Consider Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.  Their delusional fantasies resulted in 20th century wars and internal policies that killed nearly 100 million people
  • Second: The other dimension of Putin’s fascist rule is his relationship with Israel: Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening to shut down the offices of the Jewish Agency for Israel in Russia. [The Jewish Agency, founded nearly a century ago as the Jewish Agency for Palestine, was instrumental in helping establish Israel in 1948, and has facilitated the emigration of millions of Jews from around the globe.  The agency was banned in the Soviet Union, where Jews faced pervasive discrimination.  Anton Troianovski and Isabel Kershner of the New York Times report that about a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union arrived in Israel from the late 1980s to the 1990s.   “The agency now helps Russians with Jewish roots move to Israel and runs Sunday schools and Hebrew classes across Russia.”] Gal Beckerman of The Atlantic reports that “Since this mass exodus, the agency’s role there has been to maintain Jewish communal life for the roughly 150,000 Jews who remained, as well as supporting any who want to emigrate to Israel. This it has done, largely without incident. Putin’s move has to be seen as an act of aggression, intended to make it harder for Jews to leave.  The punitive action is surprising in its suddenness. For years, relations between Israel and Russia were on an upswing, and Israel took a notably neutral stance when the Ukraine invasion began. But the tone has shifted of late. Yair Lapid, who as foreign minister used the phrase war crimes to describe Russia’s behavior, recently became interim prime minister. This has coincided with a flurry of Russian offenses, beginning with the claim that Ukraine’s government, led by a Jewish president, is actually neo-Nazi and including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s musing out loud in May about whether perhaps Hitler ‘had Jewish blood.’ Israel now appears to have finally chosen a side in this conflict.  For his part, Putin is looking to shore up the allies he still has, including Iran, Israel’s No. 1 enemy. After Putin’s first trip there, earlier this month, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, cryptically tweeted: ‘Recent stances taken by the President of Russia against the Zionists are commendable.’”

“Among the Jews who left the Soviet Union in its dying decades was a cohort that is still known as the ’79ers . . .  That year was significant because it saw the single largest emigration since the late 1960s, when Soviet Jews started demanding—and were mostly refused—the right to leave. More than 50,000 emigrated . . . When the U.S.S.R.’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, assumed power, he [declared that] “We have to resolve the Jewish question, the most burning among human rights problems,” Anatoly Chernyaev, Gorbachev’s senior foreign-policy adviser, recorded in his diary in 1986. Alongside the reform era of perestroika and glasnost came a liberalizing of migration policy that had opened the door to a mass exit by the early 1990s . . . But the linkage between superpower diplomacy and Jewish emigration had a dark side . . .  Putin’s hostile move toward the Jewish Agency not only brings back memories of that time, but also suggests the making of a new linkage: Punish Israel and show off to Russia’s anti-Israel allies by once again turning off the spigot of Jewish emigration.  Until now, Jews were leaving Russia at a greater rate than they had been in recent years, joining the general flight of urban elites after the war began. Russian authorities fear a brain drain, which seems—at least in part—a reason for the crackdown. The figures are dramatic: About 16,000 Russian citizens have registered in Israel as new immigrants since February—that’s three times as many as did in all of last year. Another 34,000 showed up in the country as tourists, possibly to stay. Among them are valuable citizens such as Elena Bunina, who was the CEO of Yandex, a company Russia considered its answer to Google . . . Putin’s action against the Jewish Agency shows that Russia still considers Jews to be pawns—not individuals with lives and aspirations, but a single, undifferentiated group that matters only as geopolitical leverage for the state. This is especially disheartening for those Jews who stayed after the fall of the Soviet Union to build futures for themselves in Russia as full citizens. Putin just reminded them that he can take that away.”

Without the Jewish Agency in Moscow, Russian Jews will find it almost impossible to apply directly to move to Israel  The fight for the freedom to leave the Soviet Union was never just about Jews. And the closing of the Jewish Agency portends more than reduced emigration.  “At issue is citizens’ ability to vote with their feet, to make the ultimate statement about their society: choosing to quit it. Only a country worried that it has become an undesirable place to live takes this right away. We’ve been here before. Jews pay the price first. But they are far from the last. If a state coerces and manipulates its people, makes them supplicants for their basic rights, then totalitarian might be the most accurate word to describe it.”

One of the key elements of this emerging new world order is Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Putin is a delusional tyrant who is building a fascist state that loathes democracy, freedom and individualism.  We have been down this road before.  He is not a friend; he is not to be emulated; he is not a defender of Christian values.  He is a ruthless dictator, who regards Stalin as a Russian hero who needs to be restored to his rightful place as the savior of Russia.  The war in Ukraine is the beginning of his delusional vision of a new world order.

See The Economist (30 July 2022), pp. 9, 17-20; Tatiana Stanovaya in the New York Times (19 July 2022); Gal Beckerman, “What Putin’s Treatment of Jews Reveals About Russia” in The Atlantic (26 July 2022); and Anton Troianovski and Isabel Kershner in the New York Times (22 July 2022).

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