Putin has discovered the formula to paralyze his enemies. I am referring to the nuclear threat. That is the peculiarity of the current war in Ukraine.
By Fernando Mires (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – To be realistic we must start from a premise. The worst can happen because the worst has already happened on other occasions. No one imagined, for example, that a regional skirmish between Serbia and an Austro-Hungarian unit would lead to World War I, with an aftermath of millions and millions of dead. Nor did anyone imagine that this grotesque clown who took over the German government would carry out the barbarities written in “Mein Kampf,” igniting all of Europe, and attempting to make a biblical people disappear from the face of the earth.
The worst has happened and the worse can happen, even if afterwards historians will not dare to explain why it happened. The worse can and has happened when radical evil, in all its inconceivable dimension, takes hold of human power.
Radical evil was a concept developed and refined by Kant in various texts. According to the philosopher, in human beings there are predispositions towards good, conditioned by that natural political sociability discovered by Aristotle in our species. From there comes the moral notion, then religion, then reason, then civil law, then the Constitution. In that order. Until the arrival of the constitutional phase, human beings have not been constituted as a political entity.
Kant (Metaphysics of Morals) continually clarified that evil does not come from ignorance of the law but from its knowledge, in the same sense as Jesus did not consider sinners those who did not know sin (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do). Radical evil comes from denial of the law, which to be denied has to be known. Evil is transgression of the law: moral law, religious law and political law. Radical evil goes further: it is the intentional destruction of the law. According to the Kantian judgment, Vladimir Putin would be one of the maximum representatives of radical evil. Only comparable to Hitler.
It is not a question of constructing analogies. But there is one point on which the Hitler-Putin comparison is undeniable. For both of them, law, whether national or international, is subordinated to an authority, if you want, to a higher ratio. That is none other than the ratio of the mythical people, in Hitler’s case the Germanic, and in Putin’s case the Slavic. Hitler’s Germania is an equivalent to Putin’s Eurasia, a concept borrowed by Putin from the Slavic fanatics Ivan Illyn and Aleksandr Dugin. Under the influence of both, Putin wrote an article (2021) where he postulates the impossibility of Ukraine to be a nation due to its “natural” belonging to Great Russia.
Of course, it did not matter to Putin that Ukraine had been recognized as an independent and sovereign nation by the Yelsin Government, by his own government, by the EU and not least by the UN. According to José Ignacio Torreblanca: “With the invasion of Ukraine and the current attempt of annexation or submission, Russia has not only failed to comply with all the commitments to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbors assumed in the international framework (specifically Article 2.4 of the UN Charter) and European (Helsinki Act of 1975) but those specifically assumed by Moscow with Ukraine regarding the safeguarding of its territorial integrity: The Minsk Agreements which formalized the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991; the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 in which Ukraine handed over its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange, once again, for a security guarantee; and the Treaty of Friendship between Russia and Ukraine of 1997, where both parties reiterated that commitment.” In brief, with all legislation in force at the international level.
The fact that the Russian government’s geopolitical outlook is not in line with international law but with a mythological conception of history makes it extremely difficult for Western nations to establish diplomatic communication with the Russian regime. For Putin, laws, regulations, or agreements are trifles compared to the supra-legal principles in which he believes with religious fervor. It is even worse if we consider that the principles in which Putin believes, by being mythical, are not negotiable and, by not being so, are also not subject to politics.
The same thing that happened with Putin happened with Hitler. The Nazi strongman did not allow himself to be governed by any law or agreement. For him all treaties could be disregarded if a higher reason —of which he believed himself to be the depository voice— warranted it. This explains why the breaking of the non-aggression pact between Germany and Russia was considered by Stalin as betrayal while for Hitler it was a mere stratagem in the service of the Germanic myth. On that point Putin is closer to Hitler than to Stalin. Like Hitler in relation to Germany, Putin believes in the manifest destiny of the great Russian nation.
It might be thought that what most differentiates Hitler from Putin is the raging anti-Semitism professed by the former. Putin is probably not anti-Semitic, but he is something very similar: he is anti-Western. And that brings him close to Hitlerian antisemitism. For Hitler, it should not be forgotten, the Jews were not so much members of a religion but the people who had come to represent the most and best of the “decadent” Western values, especially in the fields of arts, sciences, literature, commerce and economy. The Jews were the symbolic and real representation of Hitler’s anti-Westernism.
For Putin, on the other hand, his anti-Westernism is direct and pure and needs no representation. The West is what must be destroyed as well as those who follow the West. Certainly, Zelenski and his ilk are for Putin Westernized traitors of Mother Russia and therefore must be eliminated. The same goes for the Ukrainian people who, for not welcoming their Russian “liberators” with open arms, must be punished, subjected to a hellish chastening. The war on Ukraine is the atonement of its inhabitants.
These are reasons that lead me to think that during and after the Ukrainian episode, the West should be prepared for the worst. Putin has discovered the formula to paralyze his enemies. We are referring to the nuclear threat. That is the peculiarity of the current war in Ukraine. Putin has swept away all agreements and treaties concerning the regulation of nuclear weapons and threatens to become the violator of what, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was called the “nuclear pact,” respected during the entire period of the Cold War by the two competing blocs.
This, more than the magnitude of the massacre committed in Ukraine, is what is unprecedented in the pre-world war unleashed by Putin. That is also what a relativist current that has penetrated deep among some Western political sectors, for whom Putin’s crimes are justified a priori by the armed invasion committed by the United States in various parts of the world (others add those of Israel and Turkey), fail to understand.
What these sectors —usually militants or clients of the left— fail to see is that in those military conflicts of the past, no nation threatened to jeopardize the fate of all mankind by means of a nuclear operation. There, right there, lies the bone of Putin’s radical evil. The possessed dictator has threatened that, if Western nations provide direct assistance to Ukraine, he will push the nuclear buttons. Just with that statement Putin broke the taboo that made world coexistence possible, even between enemy nations, after World War II. He has definitely crossed all limits. Either they let him do what he wants in Ukraine, or humanity, or part of it, will end.
A clever threat, Putinists (anti-Western) will say among themselves admiring their idol, although they surely think deep down that Putin is not going to do what he says. Putin is playing the fool, some say, with no less admiration. However, no one is quite sure. Because if we continue to compare the Russian leader with his peer, Hitler, we could manage to ask a dreadful question. Do you really believe that, if Hitler had had access to atomic energy, knowing in his bunker that he was defeated, would he have hesitated to press the button to end the world? Between a defeated, humiliated, and offended Germany, or between going down in history as he became, a monster, why would he not choose nothingness? Let us recall that Hitler murdered his wife Eva Braum before committing suicide. Let us remember that Joseph Goebbels murdered his six children while his wife, Magda, said: “In the coming Germany there is no place for my children.”
I don’t think Putin is much different from Hitler. The two great murderers have one thing in common: their decisions are not controlled by anything or anyone. Putin, like Hitler yesterday, has autonomized himself from any collective directorate. Locked up in his digitized mansions, he has no need to be accountable to anyone. It may even be that Putin is not going to press the nuclear button as many believe. But the mere fact that we all must depend on the good or bad faith of a tyrant, is horrifying. Nor can anyone say that a nuclear holocaust is an absolute impossibility. Going out of this life taking with him, if not the world, a perverse and decadent Europe, is, like it or not, something perfectly imaginable. We are being blackmailed by an international thug. That is the irrefutable truth of the war on Ukraine.
It is very easy for the comfortable Putinists in the West to blame democratic nations and what in their ideological repertoire is the “cause” of all evils of this world, NATO. They have gone so far as to claim that the EU and the USA are throwing Ukraine on the bonfire and then leaving it abandoned, thus making Zelenski and all those fighting for independence of their country appear as mere puppets of the US and the EU.
In other words, they adopted Putin’s discourse as their own. Suspiciously, they are the same miserable people who oppose arms shipments to Ukraine and the sanctions against the Russian Government. That is why the fight against Putinism should not only take place against the Russian Government, but also within each nation. It is enough to look at social networks and ascertain how Putin has fans, with organized parties, even with governments, be they ultra-right in Europe or ultra-left in Latin America. Putin, as I have said it many times before, is the leader of the anti-democratic counterrevolution of our times.
It is true that Putin found in Ukraine a resistance he did not expect. It is true that European Governments have been able to unite among themselves despite not having institutions that represent such union (the EU is a financial and bureaucratic institution and was not created to face a war). It is true that the clamor against Putin’s aggression is worldwide, expressed in 141 votes counted at the UN. It is true that China has gone from being Putin’s ally to a somewhat neutral position. All this is true. However, nobody can and should not come up with happy tales. Neither should anyone let themselves be carried away by bursts of enthusiasm and repeat with Yuval Harari that “Russia can win many battles and lose the war.” No: there are no moral victories in war. In war there are only military victories and defeats.
We are not sure whether we have already entered through the gates leading to World War III. All we know is that in Putin’s Russian roulette not only the fate of the admirable and courageous Ukraine is at stake. There is a much more at stake in the roulette of this war. At stake, among other things, is international law and the jurisdiction intended to protect the self-determination of nations. At stake are all the post-war agreements, including those for the protection of the civilian populations. At stake are all the regulations contracted by the atomic powers, including Russia itself. At stake are Poland, the Baltic countries, Finland, and even Sweden. The world security order is at stake. And finally, and said without any drama, but with all its letters, the fate of humanity is at stake.
This article was initially published in Polisfmires.