In my article on 16 February 2022 ‘How much Hitler is in Putin’, I argued that, regardless of all the differences between the two dictators, there is one thing in common: revanchism, the quest to rectify the situation after a lost war. Now I believe this is not enough, there is more they have in common. Putin like Hitler is also an expansionist.
On 5 April 2022 Dmitry Medvedev, former President, now Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote a post on Telegram in which he tried to justify Russia’s war against Ukraine and wrote about an “open Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, which means nothing less than a future ‘Eurasian empire’ – ‘Great Russia’.
On 2 April 2022 Sergej Karaganov, Honorary Chair of the Moscow Think Tank Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow gave an interview in ‘The New Statesman’ in which he said: “Russia cannot afford to lose, so we need a kind of a victory”. Karaganov is an ‘old war horse’ who had been a security advisor in late Soviet times (when I saw him in conferences in Moscow, Washington D.C. and other places). He managed to ‘survive’ the Yeltsin period and is still active as a scholarly ‘elder statesman’ today. While it is not clear to me how close Karaganov is to Putin’s circle, some of his statements seem to be significant:
- This conflict is nothing less than a “proxy war between the West and … Russia …”.
- It is Russia’s “real war against the Western expansion.”
- He also uses the term ‘Greater Eurasia’.
- “We are living in absolutely a new strategic situation [after the] Cold War [and the] post-Soviet years”.
- Russia’s leadership considers the Ukraine war as “existential”.
Karaganov also repeats Putin’s threat of a nuclear escalation. His message is unmistakable: This is really serious.
Both Karaganov and Medvedev used the term ‘Open’ or ‘Greater Eurasia’. Actually, the slogan ‘Open Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok’ had been coined by the ultra-nationalistic and mystic writer Aleksandr Dugin. In one of his last pamphlets ‘The Great Awakening vs the Great Reset’, Dugin wrote: “America is in retreat. We have to attack”. He also wrote about the “task of bringing back the Ukraine to Russia”.
Reading Putin’s recent statements, it seems that Dugin’s writing had some influence on his thinking.
Now, please tell me the difference between “Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok” (Dugin/Medvedev) and “Living Space in the East – Lebensraum im Osten” (Hitler). There no substantial difference. The first is expansionism towards the West; the second is expansionism towards the East!
Therefore, the real aggressive fascists are certainly not the Ukrainians, as Putin’s cronies are claiming. It’s the Russian leadership!
In that February 2022 article I compared Putin’s war against Ukraine with Hitler’s aggression against Czechoslovakia in Spring 1939. I have to correct myself: Putin’s war is more like Hitler’s attack against Poland in September 1939, which started World War II.
There is one major difference between 1939 and 2022: We are living now in the nuclear age, with the doctrine of ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ (MAD). Any direct confrontation between Russia and the United States could lead to a nuclear attack with unpredictable consequences. Will the MAD logic of “Who shoots first, will die second” prevail and prevent such a conflict? The problem is escalation: Will the deployment of, say, smaller battlefield nuclear weapons by one side lead to the use of long-range nuclear missiles by the other, escalating into a full-scale nuclear conflict?
In his interview Karaganov claimed that the United States would not use its nuclear arsenal to defend its European NATO allies. This is a highly dangerous, wishful assumption! On the other hand, Karaganov did not mention the British and French nuclear weapons, based on submarines. Although this arsenal is comparatively small, it still would be enough to destroy Moscow…
How serious then is the Russian nuclear threat? Everybody knows that many Russians are enthusiastic chess players. The game of chess demands careful long-range thinking. Have Putin and his cronies really planned their war “game” carefully enough? Have they thought enough about the ‘escalation problem’? Unfortunately, we cannot know.
It seems that the next few weeks will be crucial: Can Ukraine, with Western military support, prevent Russia from cutting away significant parts of its territory in the southeast?
- If not, the war could end like the Soviet-Finnish Winter War in 1940: Finland survived as a nation but had to cede 10 percent of its territory. Putin could then celebrate ‘victory’ in Red Square on 9 May, Russia’s ‘Victory Day’.
- If Ukraine succeeded, what would “Tsar Vladimir Adolfovich” do? Would he, could he accept defeat? We cannot tell.
In any case, it is already highly probable that Putin’s Russia has not succeeded in “pushing NATO away from its borders”. On the contrary: Finland and Sweden, ‘neutral’ countries for decades, are now seriously considering joining the Western alliance. This would create a NATO-Russia border in the North more than 1,300 km long. The Western alliance is also preparing to permanently station troops in territories of its East European allies.
So let us hope that expansionism will fail, that Adolfovich’s “Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok” will end like the “Lebensraum im Osten”.
Ed: Russian names consist of three parts: first name, father’s (given) name and surname. In using ‘Adolf’ as his father’s name, Helmut intends to show Putin’s real heritage.
What is the difference between NATO’s ‘Eastern Enlargement’ and Putin’s ‘Expansionism’?
For years the Kremlin’s propaganda has defended Russia’s military actions as “defensive moves against NATO’s expansion to the East”. This is not true, it’s propaganda, because NATO is a defensive not expansionist organization.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), Poland and others, because of their decades-long experience of Soviet occupation, absolutely wanted to join those Western institutions – the European Union and NATO. It was their free will, expressed by democratic elections, to defend their newly-won sovereignty and their determination to join the West. NATO didn’t force anybody to become a member. The ‘enlargement’ was voluntary.
On the other hand, Georgia and the Ukraine did not invite Russia’s military intervention. They became victims of Putin’s brutal ‘expansionism’.
The truth is so precious, nobody should believe propaganda!