The Russo-Ukrainian war has accelerated authoritarianism in the West, Russia, and Ukraine, putting China and much of the Islamic world aside for the moment. In each of these ‘western’ worlds, public campaigns and legislation are demonizing and/or imprisoning those who take the ‘wrong’ side in the war. A witch hunt is underway across the West writ large (to include Russia however illogical it may be at this point to do so).
In Russia, any expression of support for Ukraine or its civilian population is censored, and those who express such points of view will be fired from their jobs. As Matt Taibbi summarized events: “In the last weeks, Russia took an already exacting speech environment to new extremes. A law was passed that would impose prison sentences for anyone spreading “fake news” about the Ukraine invasion; access was cut to Facebook and Twitter; stations like Echo Moskvi and TV Rain as well as BBC Russia, Radio Liberty, the New Times, Deutsche Welle, Doxa, and Latvia-based Meduza were effectively shut down; Wikipedia was threatened with a block over its invasion page; and national authorities have appeared to step in to prevent coverage of soldiers killed in the war, requiring local outlets to use terms like ‘special operation’ instead. The latter development is connected to the state media regulator, Roskomnadzor, issuing a remarkably desperate dictum requiring news outlets to ‘use information and data received by them only from official Russian sources'” (https://taibbi.substack.com/p/orwell-was-right?s=r). Another new law stipulated punishments for “anti-war’ articulations. For “public calls” for “discrediting” the use of Russian military forces, a fine of $350 for individuals and up to $3,500 for organizations for the first offense. A second such offense in a single year carries a fine from 100 to 300 thousand rubles (approximately $750-2,200) and arrest for a term of 4 to 6 months or imprisonment for up to 3 years. If such actions, including anti-draft calls, resulted in death by negligence and/or harm to the health of citizens/property, “mass violations of public order / security” or obstruct the livelihoods, transport or social infrastructure, banks, facilities of energy, industry, communications, then the fine increases to 300 thousand – 1 million rubles, and the term of imprisonment – up to 5 years (https://thebell.io/ugolovnoe-nakazanie-za-feyki-o-voyne-i-antivoennye-prizyvy-razbor).
The signaling that approves and drives such repression was given the highest level imprimatur, when on March 16th President Vladimir Putin addressed the issue of ‘fifth columns’ in Russia doing the West’s bidding. Russia’s fifth column includes but is not limited to those who make money in Russia but live abroad. It also includes those who hold to Western values, “national traitors long ago mentally live in the West, not with our people, not in Russia” not in the physical sense but in their orientation and preferences (https://regnum.ru/news/polit/3535409.html). Liberal former government minister and chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkadii Dvorkovich is about to be removed from his post for stating the war is wrong (https://yandex.ru/news/story/Edinaya_Rossiya_poprosila_uvolit_Dvorkovicha_sposta_glavy_fonda_Skolkovo–4442ef58a6b0e99d0097523dc59f93c0?lang=ru&rubric=index&fan=1&stid=oyn1-LwUBBj7uUPjeVVP&t=1647470046&tt=true&persistent_id=184636509&story=6f5f6574-a0f3-57b9-a2c8-86e4ee020c06). Since the war began no anti-war protests have been allowed in Moscow or anywhere else in Russia, and any unsanctioned demonstrations are immediately met with police action and detentions. In sum, a Russian regime that was gradually moving in the direction of mid-range authoritarianism has arrived there and is likely to move in the direction of harsh authoritarianism should the war last many months or a year or more.
In the US, new Ukraine-related mantras have been added to the ever lengthening list of beliefs and articulations the Democrat Party-state requires of all Americans to demonstrate they are void of racism, homophobia, and treason and to maintain employment or access to social media. Now one must state that Putin is a war criminal, that Russia has no right to a sphere of influence and friendly states along its borders, that there are no neofascists in Ukraine, that only Russian military forces kill civilians, and only Russia issues propaganda, disinformation and ‘fakes.’ The victims of this party-sate line are not dissidents but mainstream figures. FOX News host Tucker Carlson, former candidate for the Democrat Party 2020 presidential nomination and US active military serviceman Tulsi Gabbard, recently accused of “almost treason” and “treasonous lies” by US Senator and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (https://www.facebook.com/watch?v=389444022993403). This is a consequence of long mounting trend led by the Democrat Party, picking up the ball from the post-9/11 Bush administration’s initiation. As liberal journalist Glenn Greenwald notes: “An entire generation has been trained to believe that “treason” is the crime of expressing views that undermine Democratic Party leaders, diverge from the U.S. security state, and/or dispute the consensus of the U.S. corporate press.” “As pervasive as “traitor” accusations were during the Trump presidency, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has elevated this “treason” mania to never-before-seen heights. Everyone and anyone who questions or deviates in any way from the prevailing bipartisan consensus is accused of being a treasonous Russian agent based on the slightest infraction.” (https://greenwald.substack.com/p/romneys-treason-smear-of-tulsi-gabbard?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjo0ODQwMTYzOCwicG9zdF9pZCI6NTAzMDg0NDAsIl8iOiJNN0tYdyIsImlhdCI6MTY0NzQ0ODM3NywiZXhwIjoxNjQ3NDUxOTc3LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMTI4NjYyIiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.bo2F62BhhHluAgoeqBmIqjYFifTj-IdMZLR1VJD4p0U&s=r). One member of that generation, former US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, in the wake of the Russian invasion called for any one professing an alternative view on the Russo-Ukraine war be banned from all public fora (https://twitter.com/McFaul/status/1496828995878338564). The irony of a person who made his career in democracy promotion and supporting what Russians call ‘color revolutions’ for the sake of democracy in countries allied or adjacent to Russia and in Russia itself is hard to contain below the level of hysterical laughter. More importantly, it is a sign of just how close self-righteous Americans like McFaul are in their mindset to their famous nemesis–Putin. Not even Putin has fallen so low to the level of another authoritarian McFaul tweet — echoed by many other Westerners — in which the democracy promoter called on holding all Russians accountable for Putin’s invasion and the war’s calamities. McFaul then removed his Tweet testimony supporting the fascist principle of collective guilt. (https://twitter.com/McFaul/status/1499016607041007619 and linked at Revolver.com under the heading “Crazed GAE ambassador rips off the mask… he’s a genocidal freak…” on March 2).. This curse was apparently would also fall on all of McFaul’s Russian allies in democracy promotion. Thus, the Russian population is now caught between two ever more hotly burning authoritarian flames: Putin’s increasingly authoritarian regime — sure to become even more authoritarian as a result of the war — and Biden’s and McFaul’s authoritarianizing America, NATO and the Western allies.
With such ‘leadership’, mass and social media have taken up the cudgel of censorship and public denunciation against anything Russian across the West. During the Cold War, there were student, cultural, scientific, and athletic exchanges with the USSR. The USSR’s flagship news program ‘Vremya’ and Radio Moscow could be received in the US. Libraries and individual citizens could subscribe to Pravda and Izvestiya. The West survived and did not compromise its free speech and freedom of journalism and information to do so. Now anything Russian — Russian athletic, scientific, and cultural organizations — is being completely shut off from the West. Now, as Taibbi summarizes, Western governments have de-platformed Russian state media advertisements. “In the U.S., Google and YouTube have banned Russian state media ads (following a request by Senator Mark Warner) and demonetized ‘a number of Russian channels,’ including RT but also many non-Russian individuals, before proceeding to demonetize all individual Russian content creators, even the individuals opposing the invasion. … DuckDuckGo, the speechier, more pro-privacy alternative to Google, announced it was de-ranking ‘sites associated with Russian disinformation.’ A growing list of Westerners have seen accounts frozen for supposed parroting of Russian talking points or ‘abusive’ commentary.” The EU, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube have attempted to cut access to all Russian state media. EU sanctions require the delisting of any RT or Sputnik content, even if posted by from individuals. “YouTube flagged* Oliver Stone’s documentary Ukraine on Fire, while Netflix is going so far as to shelve a production of Anna Karenina. In what might have been the craziest move of all, Meta reportedly followed up a decision to un-ban the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion with a mind-blowing decision to alter its hate speech policies to ‘allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion,’ according to internal emails seen by Reuters.” Following the Soviet model of coerced denunciation and kritika–samokritika, Russian musicians are being required to publicly denounce Russia’s invasion of and war in Ukraine or be fired from their jobs (https://www.city-journal.org/classical-music-cancels-russians). The University of Milan canceled then reconsidered and restored a course on Fyodor Dostoevskii, though perhaps this has as much to do with the communist revival in the West. Thus, a “cultural Iron Curtain” of ostracism and censorship has descended on Europe in addition to the world economy’s economic and financial bifurcation through Western, then Russian sanctions.
One of the hallmarks of authoritarianism is the ubiquity of government lies, disinformation, and today’s omnipresent ‘fakes.’ Each side in the conflict confines news reports on alleged atrocities and catastrophic wartime bloodletting to those committed or allegedly committed by the other side. Western and Ukrainian news report only Russian attacks that kill or wound civilians and in all cases these are classified as deliberate Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians. The Russian side includes no mention or media coverage of Ukrainian civilian casualties whatsoever. The Ukrainian side mentions only its civilian casualties plus Russian military casualties and fully ignores the Ukrainian army’s and its neofascist-dominated volunteer battalions’ infliction of casualties on residents of the DNR and LNR. Thus, Western media immediately report without hesitation or investigation any Ukrainian government or media outlets’ claims of Russian atrocities, regardless of the lack of any evidence in the Ukrainian reports. Thus, when the Ukrainian side fired an inaccurate rocket on a civilian center in Donetsk on March 14th that was intercepted by DNR/LNR or Russian forces and exploded killing more than 20 and wounding many times more, the Ukrainian media and Western media were silent. The Western media is also about manufacturing fakes in the cruelest of fashion, and one was tied to the March 14th Ukrainian rocket attack on Donetsk civilians. The Italian newspaper La Stampa featured on its front page a photograph of the carnage in Donetsk after the explosion under the caption “Carnage” and a claim that the photograph showed the aftermath of a Russian attack on Ukrainian civilians (www.nicolaporro.it/quella-foto-fake-pubblicata-dalla-stampa-in-prima-pagina/amp/).
Ukraine, also caught between the Russian and Western (and globalist Great Reset) authoritarian flames, is following the authoritarian lead of both their friends and foes. Kiev recently adopted a new law against collaborationism, which stipulates sentences of up to 15 years for cooperating with Russia in any way. This would presumably include any business dealings with Russian persons and companies. Any political party or public organization, including any religious organization, that has a member convicted under this new statute is subject to being banned. Cooperation or collaboration with the aggressor country (Russia) can be not only military, political and administrative but also economic and informational. Any refutation of Ukraine’s sovereignty or cooperation with any occupational regime, local administration or educational institution brings a prisons sentence of up to three years and a ban from public office for 10-15 years. (https://strana.news/news/381888-uholovnaja-otvetstvennost-za-sotrudnichestvo-s-rossiej-o-chem-hovoritsja-v-zakonakh.html). Thus, the law appears to be designed not just to punish quislings but also to be another lever created by Zelenskiy since coming to power for using the conflict with Russia and Donbass to consolidate power in the hands of a few nationalist oriented groups. It should also be noted that similar previous laws made any arguments in support of Donbass or display of communist symbols punishable. Zelenskiy has closed five television channels, and his prosecutors indicted his presidential predecessor for treason in January. Petro Poroshenko could also come under the hammer of the new law, since his Rosshen chocolate candies are still sold in Russia.
Whereas before the war outright Nazism and neofascism was kept off mainstream media. They were ‘confined’ to official and societal symbols like Stepan Bandera, political parties like Right Sector and ‘Freedom’, and the independent neofascist-dominated volunteer battalions and larger units such as the National Korpus and Volunteer Ukrainian Corps (DUK) of Right Sector (RS). Ukrainians are beginning to ‘remove their masks’ under the pressure of war. The old codes — such as terms for pro-Russians and Donbassians as ‘vatniki‘ and ‘moskaly‘ (ethnic Russians) who were celebrated in a frequent public ritual calling for the stabbing moskaly — are being pushed aside. A recent television segment saw an anchor of sorts call for the extermination of all Russians, starting with Russian children. The speaker quoted Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who helped carry out the holocaust, “since they call us Nazis.” He cited Eichmann’s phrase that “in order to destroy a nation you must destroy, first of all, children” (https://t.co/4VU4fCzROB; https://mobile.twitter.com/clintehrlich/status/1503784248813125635; and https://strana.news/news/382090-vedushchij-telekanala-24-fakhrudin-sharafmal-prizval-ubivat-russkikh-detej.html). This is standard thinking among neofascists such as in RS [see Gordon M. Hahn, Ukraine over the Edge (McFarland, 2018 and https://gordonhahn.com/2021/12/03/zelenskiys-theater-of-simulacra-as-coup-hoax-and-the-activation-of-bad-actors-in-and-around-ukraine/). Ukrainian state officials and media and private media are mass producing disinformation and fake news reports. The martyrdom of 13 Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island turned out to be false as the unit surrendered and is in Russian custody. Another fake was the Ukrainian pilot, the ‘ghost’, who supposedly shot down 5-6 Russian fighter jets in the war’s first days. Another was the Russian bombing of the Babi Yar cemetery and memorial — site of a mass execution of Jews by Nazi and Ukrainians during World War II . More recent fakes include the alleged shooting by Russian troops of Ukrainian civilians in a bread line Chernigov (https://news.yahoo.com/u-embassy-kyiv-without-citing-131723286.html). There have been neither Ukrainian Defense Ministry nor Russian Defense Ministry reports of Russian troops ever having entered Chernigov since the war began. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry apparently also faked the destruction of a Russian warship two weeks ago (https://t.me/asbmil/704). But remember this is not all that new; the Ukrainian Maidan regime was born in the bloody fake of a snipers attack on 20 February 2014 carried out by the Maidan protest’s neofascist wing targeting both demonstrators and police but blamed in the West on President Viktor Yanukovych and the Berkut riot police, who merely returned fire from where they thought it came (https://gordonhahn.com/2016/03/09/the-real-snipers-massacre-ukraine-february-2014-updatedrevised-working-paper/) . Putin surely knows this and this explains in part his determination to change the configuration of the Ukrainian regime and state.
The hypocrisy on all sides knows no bounds. The West declares that it is defending ‘democracy’ in Ukraine, while it destroys democracy at home in the name of the Great Reset, COVID, and now Ukraine. Russia claims it is protecting the ‘last refuge’ of European values–the Russian world–while anti-war demonstrations and any manifestation of anti-war sentiment is punished. Ukraine claims to be protecting the republican West and Western civilization while it strengthens its own authoritarianism under a regime born in the blood of a false flag snipers’ attack. The West rejects and censors the view that NATO expansion and neofascist coups are not democracy promotion but rather threaten Russian national security and pushed Putin’s hand. Russian television expends crocodile tears over casualties and humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war in order to blame the West for the war, but is shockingly self-aware regarding its country’s role in escalating the Donbass civil war into a Ukrainian-wide conflagration. Kiev cries real tears over its civilian losses but has long dehumanized its victims in Donbass for eight years, while refusing to fulfill its Minsk 2 obligations towards its would-be citizens. The normal, human reaction is virtually absent on all sides. Instead, all sides are demonizing and dehumanizing their foe. Americans say Putin is a fascist. Putin says Ukraine’s Maidan regime is fascist and fully backed in this by the West. At 7:30pm on March 17th on Russia’s state First Channel, the anchor of a talk show did express sympathy for everyone suffering in Ukraine. I have not heard any sympathy in the eight years of Kiev’s civil war in Donbass a word of sympathy for its victims — the majority of which are on the rebel, anti-Maidan side – from the West or Kiev. Maybe there have been such words, but I missed them.
Regardless, there are no good guys in this war. The war is another European tragedy becoming a catastrophe for humankind. It is the fault and the result of a lack of vision and willingness to compromise on all sides. We see only international ambitions driven by national ambition and folly of misguided great powers, and their sacrificial lamb, amorphous Ukraine, is losing its chance for statehood as a result of the hubris of its great power ‘friends’ and foes alike.
RELEASED NOVEMBER 2021
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org.
Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored four well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media. Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.
Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu