Snyder on Crimea

7 03 2014

Timothy Snyder continues his series on Russia and Ukraine for the New York Review of Books.

A few excerpts:

“Putin and others blur the category of citizenship by speaking of Russian “compatriots,” a category that has no legal status. By compatriots Putin means people the Russian government claims as Russians—or who, according to the Kremlin, self-identify as Russians—and who therefore need its protection. This sort of argument, the need to protect the Volksgenossen, was used to significant effect by Adolf Hitler in 1938 in enunciating German claims to Austria and then to the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Hitler’s substitution of ethnicity for state borders led then to the Munich conference, appeasement, and World War II.

[. . .]

“Take the idea of Jewish Nazis, which must be taken on if the current Kremlin propaganda about the revolution in Kiev is to have any logical basis. The claim is that Nazis made a coup; the observable reality is that some of the people now in power are Jews. And then we evince our skepticism that Jews are Nazis or that a Nazi coup would put Jews at the top of the Ukrainian state apparatus.

“But in the ideology of the Soviet Union and its communist allies, the identification of Jews with Nazis was convenient for those who were in power, and so Jewish Nazis became a propaganda reality. In the years before Stalin’s death Israel became part of an international plot that was directed by fascists in the capitalist West. After the Six-Day War the Soviets presented Israeli soldiers and citizens as imitators of the Wehrmacht and the SS. This propaganda was followed by the expulsion of Jews from communist Poland. The fact that Jews left Poland for Israel and the US was presented as evidence that they were fascists all along. The regimes found it politically useful for their own future to target Jews, and therefore Jews, so to speak, were made to become Nazis.

“Propaganda is thus not a flawed description, but a script for action. If we consider Putin’s propaganda in these Soviet terms, we see that the invasion of Crimea was not a reaction to an actual threat, but rather an attempt to activate a threat so that violence would erupt that would change the world. Propaganda is part of the action it is meant to justify. From this standpoint, an invasion from Russia would lead to a Ukrainian nationalist backlash that would make the Russian story about fascists, so to speak, retrospectively true. If Ukraine is unable to hold elections, it looks less like a democracy. Elections are scheduled, but cannot be held in regions occupied by a foreign power. In this way, military action can make propaganda seem true.”

The entire article can be read here.



3 responses

8 03 2014

Good analysis of Russia and Ukraine proxy war.

20 06 2014

I seriously wonder if Putin sees the Crimea conflict in the same light as Hitler saw the Sudeten crisis – to find out if he can get away with it and find Western appeasement politicians. One should never forget that Putin is one of the longest serving heads of state AND a secret service officer who knows much more than average politicians in the West do. And he has been abroad and speaks foreign languages, something most US politicians lack.

26 08 2018

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