Aleksandr Podrabinek: On the thirst for peace and the Moloch of dictatorship

3 April 2023

by Aleksandr Podrabinek

Source: Radio Svoboda

“We need world peace!” – Soviet leaders loudly proclaimed in their day, while evil tongues added: “But mostly, we want the world.” In these two phrases, in this play on words, the entire Soviet geopolitics came together, both in form and in essence. Little has changed since then, Russia’s current policy is a carbon copy of Soviet policy. Everyone pays lip service to peace. Even those who advocate war explain that what is needed can’t be achieved by peaceful means. “As for other countries, remembering the victims of war, we want to be sincere friends of peace; peace must at last heal the wounds that afflict us” – this was from Adolf Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag on 21 March 1933. The most malevolent aggressors use the rhetoric of peacemaking. There seem to be no greater friends of peace than politicians preparing military aggression. On the one hand, they create a positive image of peacemaker for themselves in the eyes of the public, on the other, they lull future adversaries by their firm assurances of their commitment to peace.

“We have done everything, really everything possible, to solve this problem by peaceful means. We have been patiently negotiating a peaceful way out of this most serious conflict” – this is from Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly on 21 February 2023. He was talking about Ukraine and, of course, about the personal peacemaking efforts of the Russian president.

War is a way for dictatorship to exist

Persistent propaganda sometimes succeeds. Peacefully-minded people are happy to hear words about peace, they want to believe in the best intentions of even the worst villains, and they are inclined to take wishes for reality. The consequence of such complacency is usually devastating military defeats in the early days of a war, shock at what is happening, and panic-stricken searching for a way out. Meanwhile, a sober look at what is happening makes it easy to discern the true intentions of the wolf that has put on a sheep’s clothing. All that is needed is to understand the essential unity of domestic and foreign policy, and to understand that one is an inevitable continuation of the other. The aggression characteristic of any despotic regime manifests itself in domestic political repression and, given even the slightest opportunity, in military aggression against other countries. The nature of these phenomena is one and the same. By overlooking one, we thereby encourage the other.

It was obvious that the Kremlin was preparing to wage wars as far back as 2012, when legislation on civil liberties began to be tightened. To many in the world it seemed at the time as though this was an internal Russian affair. But today we see where the global community’s failure to engage in these issues has led. It is not for nothing that in many international legal documents you find the thesis that human rights are not exclusively an internal matter of one country.

However, what was important was not only being able to forecast in a timely and correct manner what was going to happen, but also the capacity for a sober understanding of the present. The current search in the West for a peaceful way out of Russia’s war against Ukraine makes no sense at all. War is a way for dictatorship to exist, one of its main components. A peace agreement that preserves all the political structures within Russia can only produce a temporary and very unreliable truce. For a while the dictatorship’s aggression will switch to the “enemy within,” domestic political repression will intensify still further, but in the end the Moloch of the dictatorship will no longer have enough of “its own” to devour, and it will return to devouring “others” beyond its borders.

The solution to the problem lies in the tip of the hidden needle that could kill Koschei, the wicked sorcerer of Russian folklore, not in diplomacy or attempts to negotiate peaceful coexistence with the authoritarian regime. This needle, bringing death to authoritarianism, is a civil society capable of offering real resistance to dictatorship and establishing a political system in Russia based on democracy and modern legal norms. It is in this direction, it seems to me, that the greatest efforts should be made.

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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