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Stop the Hitler Comparisons

Published: March 20, 2014 (Issue # 1802)


In response to Russia's intervention in Crimea, a powerful anti-Russian discourse is spreading across Western media. Russia's actions are compared to those of Nazi Germany, which incorporated Austria in 1938 before breaking up Czechoslovakia and igniting a World War. The implication is that the West must not follow France's and Britain's 1938 example by appeasing an aggressive Russia and that only tough actions may stop President Vladimir Putin from further expansion into Ukraine or even beyond.

Also by this author: Russias Tilt Toward China

In the U.S., politicians as different as Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have endorsed the appeasement theory. Those with nationalist Eastern European roots, too, have been vocal in applying the theory to Russia. For example, writing in The Guardian, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili darkly warned that "the cycles of appeasement usually get shorter with geometric progression" and that the longer Putin stays in power, the sooner he will be likely to "strike again."

We have watched this play before when those who stood in the way of U.S. hegemony were being compared to Hitler. First, it was former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic who refused to follow the U.S.-negotiated peace accord. Then came former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was accused of building nuclear weapons and conspiring with al-Qaida, none of which proved true. Unsurprisingly, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and Syria's Bashar Assad were also compared to Hitler. Each time, the vision of a "bloody dictator" and "murderous thug" was heavily publicized in the Western media with the implication that the U.S. must urgently confront the aggressor and save global civilization from horrors of another holocaust and World War.

Also by this author: The Russophobia Card

None of these dictators elicit any sympathy, of course. Yet in each case, the comparison with Hitler was vastly overdrawn. Far from being Hitlers, they were regional strongmen with ambitions to control their own country by suppressing opposition. Although their foreign policies had a potential to destabilize their regions, none had an explicit expansionist design. Although the U.S. has no vital interests in those regions, it should speak out against gross violations of human rights. But it should have employed concerted diplomatic actions to address them. Instead, a regime change strategy was adopted. As a result, democracy was associated with putting a U.S.-friendly regime in power rather than supporting democratic processes. As to those daring to oppose the U.S.' global agenda, they risked to be isolated at best and killed at worst.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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