Cleanly Washed Russian Brains
Megalomaniac tyrants with excellent propaganda capabilities always run the risk of believing their own lies. History constantly repeats itself.
The world’s response to Russian President Putin's decision to attack Ukraine brings to mind Germany a hundred years ago. In January 1919, in spite of the efforts of American President Wilson, at Versailles near Paris, the French and British imposed on Germany brutal reparations for its role in WW1. The result was the collapse of the German economy, its population became impoverished, and lawlessness and chaos descended upon the country.
When in 1933 Hitler was elected Chancellor, he brought Germany out of distress, refused to pay war contributions, and with the help of Stalin began the rapid arming of the country and thereby raised the economy from ruins. Stalin, however, had his own long-term calculations — he was thinking of Germany as a spearhead for conquering Europe, so his help was rather self-serving.
After Hitler came to power, the life of an ordinary German improved markedly; inflation disappeared, factories, universities, and scientific institutes returned to work, and to find a scapegoat, Poland, the United Kingdom, and France were appointed to the position of an external enemy, while Jews were subjected to the position of an internal enemy.
The Propaganda Ministry, under the leadership of Goebbels, began mass brainwashing of the population. Megalomaniac Hitler was obsessed with the idea of world domination and in 1939, together with Stalin, unleashed WW2 by attacking Poland. The sequence of events was as follows: the impoverishment of the country, Hitler's rise to power, the rebuilding of the economy, the designation of an enemy, brainwashing of the population, and finally — the outbreak of war. Now let's look at our times.
After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the country fell into a state of distress, industry collapsed, and people became impoverished and desperate as lawlessness and chaos ensued in the country. In the early 2000s, when Putin came to power, he criminalized the government and, with the help of the West, turned Russia into a giant "gas station," that is, into a source of petrodollars. Using efficient Western technology, oil and gas were pumped out of the ground, while billions of dollars lined the pockets of oligarchs that were close to Putin and other corrupt officials. Imported food, household appliances, clothes, cars, and other goods appeared in stores, and the life of the Russian population, especially in large cities, improved. For the two following decades, the country was thriving on petrodollars, manufactured almost nothing but weapons.
Like megalomanic Hitler’s obsession with conquering lebensraum for Aryans to populate, megalomaniac Putin was obsessed with the idea of restoring Russia to the borders of the USSR. To unite the Russian people and crush opposition, like Hitler, he needed a permanent enemy, and he appointed to this position the United States and Ukraine. Ukraine was particularly hated by Putin because it was stubbornly unwilling to join Russia and turned its political and economic interests toward Europe. The sequence of events today is similar to that of Germany 80-100 years ago: impoverished country, Putin coming to power, improving the standard of living and accumulating large reserves of currency, designating an enemy, and starting a series of wars.
In Soviet times the philosophy of the Communists was: "All that is ours is ours. Whatever is yours – it’s negotiable." Putin went much further; his slogan became the phrase: "All that is ours, is ours. Whatever is yours, also will be ours, if we want it.” His appetite grew throughout the 20 years of his rule, with the full connivance of the European countries and the United States, so he was capturing the neighboring territories, one by one. Under Russian President Yeltsin in 1994, Russia attacked Chechnya and the first Chechen war began. In 1999, three months before his resignation, Yeltsin unleashed a second Chechen war, which his successor Putin continued. The U.S. and Europe just quietly watched. In 2007 Putin openly declared his intention to change Europe's borders to his liking and in 2008 attacked Georgia, seizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The West reacted lukewarmly to this move, too.
In 2014, he attacked Ukraine and seized Crimea and two of its eastern regions: Donetsk and Luhansk. Obama and his liberal colleagues in Europe limited themselves to symbolic verbal protests and minor sanctions, after which Putin learned his lesson — the West is weak and indecisive, so it can be ignored, and therefore it’s time to prepare the army and population for a larger war against Ukraine.
Russia's brainwashing industry has launched a misinformation campaign, blaming all its economic difficulties on the United States and Ukraine -- an "American puppet" that allegedly threatens to attack peace-loving Russia and enslave its people. By 2016 Putin was ready for a full-scale war with Ukraine, but his plans were delayed by the U.S. election of Trump as president. The Russian dictator realized that he had to be more careful under this president: Trump was too unpredictable. On the one hand, he declared himself a "friend" of Putin but, at the same time, he imposed harsh sanctions on Russia.
When four years later Biden became president of the United States, he turned America from an energy-independent country into a buyer of Russian oil. To Putin’s joy, fossil fuel energy prices had tripled and in Europe Germany was ready to buy Russian gas delivered through the Nord Stream-2 pipeline. Putin realized that the U.S. and Europe now depend on Russian oil and gas and thus he could act at will.
There is an old saying: "Every nation gets the government it deserves.” It seems that these wise words are fully applicable to Russia. The 70 years of Soviet rule did not pass without a trace for the Russian people. The Bolsheviks physically destroyed, sent to camps, or exiled the cream of the crop of the country — its intellectual elite. The poet Robert Rozhdestvensky once wrote of Stalin's Russia: "Half the country is prisoners. Half the country is convoy guards." And whose descendants live in today's Russia? Those who were behind bars did not sire children, so only the guards produced descendants. The majority of today's population in Russia are children of jailers, hence their servility and slave mentality. That’s why the modern-day Russians are an amorphous and passive mass for Putin.
In Russia, the intensive brainwashing, far surpassing the effectiveness of Goebbels propaganda, continues today with quite tangible results. All independent media are banned in the country, while honest journalists are either in jail or abroad. So, it’s not surprising that Putin's policies are supported by about 80% of the Russian population. A month ago, an opinion poll showed that in Moscow 51% of respondents said they would be willing to go to war in Ukraine or to send their children to fight there. The other day, a good acquaintance of mine in St. Petersburg posted on Facebook an appeal to his colleagues calling for peace and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine, to which he received quite a few negative responses. Among them was, "Why no war? We tried to negotiate with the Ukrainians peacefully, but they are too stubborn, so our beloved President Putin just had no choice but to coerce them by force.”
It seems that Putin believed his own propaganda and was as brainwashed as most of his subjects. Not only that, but he had also totally underestimated two factors: the freedom-loving mentality of the Ukrainian people and the unexpected reaction of the entire world. So far, the fighting continues, but the Russian military machine is beginning to stall, despite its overwhelming superiority in manpower and equipment.
Apart from the military setbacks, this campaign has another side effect for Putin. It has demonstrated to the world, and more importantly to China, the low efficiency of the Russian army, the vulnerability of its weapons to modern Western technology, and, most importantly, the ineptitude of its command staff. Even if Russia succeeded in enslaving Ukraine, its future in any scenario is unenviable — with the lack of its own industry, being almost completely cut off from the world and its dramatic decline is guaranteed. By attacking Ukraine, Russia is committing suicide. In the not-so-distant future, it could become easy prey for China.
It is now clear to everyone that the war must be stopped, and Putin must go. Alas, he has nowhere to go — he's a war criminal, an outcast, so there is only one path left for him: either behind bars or to the gallows. It’s difficult to predict the future course of events, but history suggests a solution: a change in Russia’s ruler, with just a few exceptions, has always happened there from within. Let's hope that this time the Putin cronies will have if not common sense, then at least a sense of self-preservation.
Photo credit: President of the Russian Federation
Jacob Fraden's website is www.fraden.com