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Unlike Brezhnev, Putin Is Not ‘A Rational Scoundrel’ With Whom Compromise Is Possible – OpEd

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Many who are now arguing for Ukraine and the West to make concessions to Moscow and thus end the war are operating on the false assumption that Vladimir Putin is “a rational scoundrel” like Leonid Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders with whom the West often negotiated, Aleksandr Skobov says.

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But in fact, the Russain commentator and Putin critic says, the current Kremlin leader is not a rational scoundrel like Brezhnev but an irrational one like Hitler; and as a result, such assumptions will only lead to disaster both immediately and even more over the longer term (graniru.org/opinion/skobov/m.285221.html).

Like other Soviet leaders and all dictators, Brezhnev was a scoundrel, Skobov continues; but he was a ‘rational scoundrel’” of the kind that Russian liberals have always preferred at least in retrospect, someone with whom it was possible to conduct negotiations and even reach a compromise.

This characteristic of Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders had its roots in their commitment to Marxism which for all its heretical nature “relied on the rationalist tradition of European thought,” something which “allowed the Free World to somehow negotiate with the Kremlin” and which “made possible the relatively peaceful, ‘velvet’ exit of the USSR from history.”

But Putin is not part of this tradition. He is a fascist. And fascism is “a revolt of the archaic against rationalist civilization as such. The triumph of the will over reason, of a will to rule, suppress, denigrate, and rape,” “a dark ‘will to power’ which is irrational in its essence,” Skobov continues.

This was most obvious in the case of Hitler, but it is also true of Putin and his entourage. That regime, the commentator says, consists of a group of people “who went made as a result oof the unlimited and uncontrolled power over an enormous country that suddenly fell into their hands and quickly developed delusions of grandeur.”

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“At the same time,” Skobov argues, “they have not overcome the inferiority complex of criminals who aren’t treated as equals in ‘polite society,’ and they too are obsessed with the desire to prove to the world that they are cooler than the Anglo-Saxons” and to demonstrate that no laws others have fashioned apply to them.

There are of course many differences between Hitler and Putin. Leaders acting almost a century apart are going to display distinctive features. But at the core of each is this rejection of rationality and desire to rule via the triumph of the will. As a result, no compromise with Putin is possible just as none was possible with Hitler.

Those who argue otherwise now like those who called for appeasing Hitler in the 1930s aren’t helping the situation, Skobov says. They are only putting off the day of reckoning and raising its price, not lowering that price as they and those who want an easy life imagine once again.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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