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Ideas

The Club Of Tyrants: Putin And His Western Comrades, Past And Present

Russia's President Putin may speak of denazifying Ukraine, but his words and actions — from the Mariupol maternity hospital to the atrocities of Bucha to Friday's missile attack on the Kramatorsk railway station — show that he's taken up the mantle of Europe's line of fascist dictators. Take a look at those today who still lend him support.

photo of a woman holding up an anti putin sign

An anti-Putin protester in London last month

Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images via ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — A Ukrainian soldier at the front walks across a snow-covered field. He has one of the saddest smiles one could imagine. There is a photographer nearby, Alex Lourie, one of those people who risk everything to show the truth, who hears the soldier speak a language he knows. Both have been in Iran and discover they can understand each other in Persian. So the soldier recites him a verse: "I wonder at times / Who will tell you of my death?"

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He is not a soldier by profession. He ran a business and was forced to fight. He feels a moral obligation to defend his country from the Russian invasion. His wife and child stayed home. Who will inform them of his death?


The same may be said of thousands of Russian recruits, aged between 18 and 20 years, whom Putin has sent to be slaughtered because of an obsessive delusion that Ukraine is not a country, is run by Nazis, and is making weapons of mass destruction to attack Russia.

Extremists in Europe

Even some of my own colleagues repeat his idiotic ideas, preferring to believe an autocrat's fabrications over the United Nations, the WHO or any independent media that can see how Putin's Russia is using lies and threats.

In Mariupol, Putin is recreating the hell he made before in Syria and Chechnya

Who are Russia's remaining allies in the world? Which countries voted with Putin at the UN? In the European Union, his friends coincide precisely with right-wing extremists, like Viktor Orbán, who would not allow arms for Ukraine to pass through Hungary. They are the likes of Italy's Matteo Salvini, French politicians Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, and Spain's Santiago Abascal — the denizens of the sordid, anti-European world of right-wing extremism.

And his allies in the Americas? They're also of the extreme Right: Trump called him a genius. In Brazil, Bolsonaro is awed. Then there are the tin-pot dictators who claim to be socialists, in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. As the novelist Javier Cercas said, "The Russian invasion is the first, large-scale martial confrontation between national-populism and democracy."

Kramatorsk train station aftermath

photo of military covering dead bodies at Kramatorsk railway station

Victims of the missile attack Friday on the Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine

Seth Sidney Berry/ZUMA

Murderer in the Kremlin

At the start of his tale, Taras Bulba, the 19th-century writer Nikolai Gogol explains the role of the Ukraine's cossacks in European history. In Ruthenian, cossack means a "free man," and his tale shows just what it means to "drink like a cossack."

The cossacks, he wrote, arose in the 15th century, in a corner of Europe "devastated and pillaged by the Mongols," where men had to become "brave and forget there is fear in the world." These became the warriors of a once-peaceful land, and an unyielding rampart for Europe against the ruinous invasions of the East.

Today, the invasion, as well as the bloodstained imperialism behind it, come from a fascistic autocrat. He showed his colors in a recent speech, urging a purge of "Russian traitors" who oppose his "military operation." He wants to pummel those "who live in Russia but think like Europeans" and deny this is a war to "denazify Ukraine." He wants them spat out like "a pesky fly in your mouth."

Putin spouts a Nazi-style jargon, and confirms it with vile deeds: bombing hospitals, schools, theaters and residential blocks. In Mariupol, he is recreating the hell he made before in Syria and Chechnya, sending thousands of civilians — and hundreds of children — into mass graves. In more recent days, we have seen the atrocities in Bucha and the massacre at the Kramatorsk railway station.

This is Putin the murderer, a hero in the West to the extremists on the right.

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Geopolitics

For Erdogan, Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Is Perfect For His Reelection Campaign

Turkey's objections to Swedish membership of NATO may mean that Finland joins first. And as he approaches an election at home, Turkish President Erdogan is playing the game to his advantage.

For Erdogan, Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Is Perfect For His Reelection Campaign

January 11, 2023, Ankara (Turkey): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the International Conference of the Board of Grievances on January 11.

Turkish Presidency / APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — This story has all the key elements of our age: the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the excessive ambitions of an autocrat, the opportunism of a right-wing demagogue, Islamophobia... And at the end, a country, Sweden, whose NATO membership, which should have been only a formality, has been blocked.

Last spring, under the shock of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's Russia, Sweden and Finland, two neutral countries in northern Europe, decided to apply for membership in NATO. For Sweden, this is a major turning point: the kingdom’s neutrality had lasted more than 150 years.

Turkey's President Erdogan raised objections. It demanded that Sweden stop sheltering Kurdish opponents in its country. This has nothing to do with NATO or Ukraine, but everything to do with Erdogan's electoral agenda, as he campaigns for the Turkish presidential elections next May.

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