Researcher: Nazi rhetoric from Putin’s subconscious shows that Russia has become partly like Hitler’s Germany
Putin has long worked for a “Russian world” in the West, and the researcher says there has been a backlash.
President Vladimir Putin summed up his objectives in two words when Russia launched its war of aggression on 24 February: disarming Ukraine and eradicating Nazism.
In April, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti wrote an article in which it directly equated Ukraine with Nazi Germany. According to it, the Ukrainians have disguised Nazism as a ‘desire for independence’, which is even more dangerous to the world than Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism.
It says that the Ukrainian leadership and all Ukrainians who have taken up arms should be eliminated. The text estimated that “liberation” would take at least 25 years. After that, the country should no longer be called Ukraine, but would be part of Russia.
Serbian security and international relations expert Orhan Dragaš, 47, has studied Russian behaviour throughout Putin’s rule, for more than 20 years.
Dragaš finds claims of Ukrainian Nazism absurd. He thinks it may be some kind of defence mechanism, in which Putin subconsciously projects his own behaviour onto Ukraine, which he perceives as the enemy.
In his latest study, Russism – New Nazism, Dragaš brings to light the similarities between Putin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. He says that, like Nazi Germany, the Putin regime has convinced Russians that they belong to a superior “civilisation”.
“Just like Hitler, Putin has made the people his partners in creating a common reality. It has been a long psychological operation, and to a large extent it has been successful,” says the researcher.
“The Russians have been transformed into robots, ready to do exactly what the great leader wants at any given moment.”
For example, according to a Levada poll, more than 70 percent of Russians support Putin’s military action in Ukraine.
Orhan Dragaš is the director and founder of the International Security Institute (ISI) in Belgrade.
He specialises in security integration in the Balkans and south-eastern Europe, in particular the relationship of the countries in the region with the EU and NATO. In his book Two faces of globalisation – truth and deceptions (2019), Dragaš discusses globalisation as an unstoppable process.
“Russia has been very aggressive in the Balkans, especially under Putin. It has used the full arsenal of its imperialist influence in the region – corruption, myths and propaganda, intelligence and military operations.”
As an example, Dragaš cites the attempted overthrow of the Montenegrin regime in 2016.
“We are dealing with an authoritarian and militarised regime. At its core is a dream of expanding borders and oppressing other peoples.”
In his new study, Dragaš talks about the “Russian world”, or Russism as a political ideology. Its construction began even before Putin’s rule. According to Dragaš, the ideology’s mentor is political scientist and Moscow State University professor Alexander Dugin. He has been called “Putin’s brain” or even “Putin’s Rasputin”.
Dugin is known in Russia as perhaps the most outspoken opponent of liberal democracy. He believes that Russia and its Orthodox Church should take back its ‘historic territories’ and preferably rule the whole of Europe and Asia. Nazi Germany also sought to expand its sphere of influence. In both ideologies, peoples – once German, now Slavic – are united around ‘blood and soil’.
“Putin’s Russia blames the West for its suffering and problems. It claims that the West is trying to destroy the Russian social model. In Nazi Germany, Jews had no right to exist, while Putin’s Russia does not accept the existence of Ukrainians,” says Dragaš.
To realise his dream of a “Russian world”, Putin has worked hard not only inside Russia but also in the West, Dragaš says. A long-running hybrid operation has been under way.
“The aim was to undermine the traditional institutions of liberal democracies, to question their effectiveness and fairness, and to create a gap between the liberal democratic bloc and Russia.”
Dragaš says there are 45 political parties and movements in Europe that have supported Russian policies and shared its values. These include the Alternative for Germany (AfD), France’s National Front, Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos.
“Their actions have made it possible to create the environment in which the Russian invasion of Ukraine could take place.”
Dragaš does not believe that Putin’s departure from the scene will change Russia’s perception of the rest of the world or lead to a democratisation of Russia.
“Whoever runs Russia would try to do the same. With or without Putin, Russia will continue to dream of its supremacy and its civilising role.”
However, after the war in Ukraine, Dragaš says Russia does not have the resources to realise its dream. The war is exhausting it not only militarily but also economically and politically.
The war in Ukraine has been a turning point for the entire Western world,” he says. The EU and NATO have become more cohesive.
“The (possible) accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO is a historic event, not only for these countries but especially for NATO. As a result, the US bond with its European partners will be strengthened.
Dragaš hopes that the war in Ukraine will speed up the Balkan countries’ entry into the EU and NATO.
“We have waited too long for these steps. The process needs to be accelerated because Russian influence in the region is strong and very damaging,” he says.