Robert S. Becker
Why this unilateral and exaggerated looting against Ukraine now? Why devastate a nation full of what the invader boasts of being “brotherly”? Why instantly threaten weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, chemical or biological? Why exalt the primitivism of the strongest makes right, arousing worldwide indignation (and all the more mortifying when it fails)?
Is Putin’s aggression the smartest and most defensible response to prolonged Western pressure – or a series of self-defeating mistakes? Whether “wrong” or justified, is there any method in the madness of this war? Is it worth it, according to historian Benjamin Sawyer, “Ukraine is once again bringing Russia to the brink of financial ruin”?
As this era teaches only too well, genocidal war crimes do not happen by chance: they result from a mania for crushing an already bloodied (subhuman) enemy. Especially in the fascist mode, unprovoked takeovers seek not only economic predation but also to co-opt the heart and soul of a (decadent) culture. Putin’s militarism is being branded as a messianic bombardment by an alleged master race – in addition to warning others not to stand in the way of making Russia even greater.
After:My opinion: Why did Putin invade Ukraine? Why now?
Avenging lost “Russian glory” is understandable, but Putin wants to rebuild, even resuscitate Ukraine in his image, with czarist muscle. A historic homeland of Russian religiosity (and plagued by civil unrest), Ukraine offers the first round of Putin’s power play. He told French President Macron last week that the offensive would continue, “its fallback” being to halve Ukraine “along the Dnieper”, creating a new eastern “Ukrainian Republic”. Remaking borders (which break up illegitimate nations) is what zealous empire builders do.
According to This Week’s relevant summary, “Putin’s Messianic Mission”: “‘In his mind, Mr. Putin finds himself in a unique historical situation in which he can finally recover from the previous years of humiliation,’ said the Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar. … To see Ukrainians building a Western-style democracy within these ancient borders is a “deadly threat to his imperial ambitions. Putin has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church as a central part of his identity Russian nationalist.”
The Daily Beast augments the holy war theme, “Putin is not just mad. It’s much worse than that. Portraying a messiah complex, A. Craig Copetas incarnates in Putin’s inner mental sanctuary:
“The Imperial Kremlin has two masters, one temporal, the other spiritual. … And Putin’s hammer is wielded by God.”
Ditto David Ignatius of the Washington Post: “A month into the war, Putin’s mindset is complex – and dangerous”: “Vladimir Putin is obsessed with Ukraine, angry with his generals, paranoid about enemies at home and abroad, and wrapping his bloody deeds in spiritual, almost mystical language in his vision of Russia’s past and future.
Ignatius cites an earlier writing by Putin where “he noted that the roots of his faith were in kyiv, where St. Vladimir in 988 converted from paganism to Orthodoxy. The Orthodox faithful [abused and repressed] persist in Russia and Ukraine. … “We are one people,” he said [decrying Ukraine as] a separate republic carved out of Mother Russia. … “One fact is crystal clear: Russia has been robbed.”
In place of communism, Putin personifies what Yale Professor Timothy Snyder believes “Russian fascism…Russia as a spiritual organism has served not only all Orthodox nations…but all nations of the world” . Putin is not an imperial tyrant or an opportunistic coward, “influenced by economic pressure or defeated by arms. He deeply believes in the evil he is doing. He considers the destruction of an independent Ukraine almost as a religious duty.
In short, Putin feels anointed by Eastern Orthodox Catholicism to redeem “lost Russia” with all the fire and purist violence at his disposal while expressing radical white nationalist rejection of modernity. From biblical times to the New World conquests and massive European religious conflicts, capped by the Nazi Holocaust and ensuing genocides, war and death by racial/tribal/religious passion surpasses that of imperialism and/or or unbalanced leaders. Not that the categories don’t overlap. Imposing the prisonerless rule of an invader is so much easier when entrenched, unelected missionary prelates promote holy wars.
The brain behind Putin’s brain
Finally, we confront Aleksandr Dugin, the visionary fascist prophet called Putin’s mastermind pushing for maximum Russian imperium. “The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia” by Dugin in 1997 provides [after Ukraine is dispatched] a “gradual division of Europe into zones of German and Russian influence, with Russia very much in charge through its eventual stranglehold on Germany’s resource needs…China too must fall.” Russia’s ambitions in Asia will require “the territorial disintegration, political and administrative break-up and partitioning of the [Chinese] State.” Could you repeat this please?
Oddly, Dugin sees Japan, not China, as Russia’s best partner in the Far East, wildly twisting history: “The wrong alliance won World War II. If only Hitler had not invaded Russia, Britain could have been broken. The United States would have stayed at home, isolationist and divided, and Japan would have ruled old China as Russia’s junior partner. What a world! If Putin worships this fascist revisionist, the world is Russia’s oyster to take – and before he dies, Putin imagines himself alongside history’s most dominating conquerors.
In part, this terrifying and heartbreaking vision explains, according to AlterNet, why “far-right white evangelicals are among the staunchest American supporters of Vladimir Putin”, endorsing positions on “homosexuality, authoritarianism and loyalty to former President Donald Trump”. Imagine your willfully blind neighbor postulating that Putin’s Russia is “like America should be”. Although Putin is today the most visible crusader in the world, we are here in the background, evangelical Protestantism aligning itself with the equally ultra-conservative Russian Catholic orthodoxy.
Now that’s chilling, a most curious finale to past centuries of vicious religious conflict where millions died because their internal thought patterns (called faith) differed. So such nonsense makes our founders look downright civilized when they forbid all religious testing for office holders. This aspect of our democracy is rocking.
— Robert S. Becker’s writings on politics and culture analyze general trends, history, implications, messages and frameworks.