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22 March 2014

The Case For Nationalism

Trying to abolish or replace the nation-state is almost certain to produce more evils than it deters.

By John O'Sullivan

Incessant "antifascist" propaganda from Moscow, baseless claims of attacks against Russians in Ukraine, incitement of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, Russian troops without insignia seizing official buildings in Crimea, a stage-managed illegal plebiscite there and then its annexation by Russia, assurances from President Vladimir Putin that he has no further territorial designs in Europe (though, alas, he may be forced to intervene elsewhere to protect ethnic Russians)—yes, it all has the disturbing ring of the 1930s. 

Isn't this where nationalism leads—to fascism and war? 

That is a common interpretation of Europe's recent crises. It is also, coincidentally, Mr. Putin's interpretation of events in Ukraine, which he blames on neo-fascist followers of the nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, who was murdered by the KGB in 1959. But this view is really too simple by half. 

Nationalists are certainly implicated in the Ukraine crisis, but more as victims than perpetrators. The crisis began as an attempt by Moscow to rescue its stillborn concept of a Eurasian Economic Union by forcing Ukraine to join it and to reject associate membership in the European Union

Mr. Putin, who isn't a nationalist (see below) but the ruler of a shaky multinational empire hostile to nationalism, sparked off the crisis by closing Russia's borders to Ukraine's agricultural exports. He did so to compel a reluctant President Viktor Yanukovych to abandon the more popular EU option. 

The Ukrainian government, encouraged by Mr. Putin, unified the assorted democrats, nationalists and activists of the left and the right who protested this move by firing indiscriminately on them. Mr. Yanukovych's power crumbled almost visibly; he fled; and a new Ukrainian government that includes nationalists took over. 

Nationalism was thus one impulse in this general movement. Others were love of freedom, desire for a more democratic system, economic hopes for greater prosperity through ties to Western Europe and simple human decency. The Ukrainians inspired by these aims have just sustained an (inevitable) defeat in Crimea, but they still govern most of Ukraine, which is now escaping from Moscow's post-Soviet institutions. While that remains the case, Mr. Putin has suffered a reverse overall. 

If Ukrainian nationalists have been reactive, even victimized, in this crisis, what about Mr. Putin himself? His actions have certainly been objectionable—ruthless, aggressive, deceitful, illegal, repressive, subversive. But to describe them as "nationalist" is to reduce the concept of nationalism to a politics of aggressive self-assertion. There is no reason to suppose that nations and nation-states are more prone to indulge in such folly than are federations, empires or states founded on non-national principles. 

Mr. Putin has indeed acted ruthlessly of late, but he has done so in the service of what he sees as clear state or even personal interests, not from a commitment to Russian peoplehood. 

The history of the 1930s is instructive for making the necessary distinctions here. World War II began as the result of a conspiracy by Hitler and Stalin—the Nazi-Soviet Pact—to invade Poland and divide Eastern Europe and the Baltic states between them. Nazi Germany was a state built upon the ideology of racial nationalism (which places race above nationhood), the Soviet Union upon the ideology of proletarian internationalism (which rejects nationalism entirely). Both acted far more brutally and unrestrainedly than any conventional nation-state of the period. 

Besides, today's Russian Federation is itself not a nation-state but an empire. Mr. Putin's conduct of the crisis, in addition to being aggressive, might best be described as imperialist or neo-imperialist, not nationalist. We should not illegitimately associate the nation-state with crimes that aren't uniquely nationalist and may even be less likely to be committed by stable nation-states. 

This matters because nationalism is an increasingly necessary word that is too often misused as a term of abuse. Nationalisms and nationalist movements are popping up all over Europe. These can take very different forms: left, right and ambivalent. Some are straightforward secessionist movements, like the nationalist parties in Scotland and Catalonia, striving to establish new states rooted in historic nations. Others are movements resisting further integration of their existing nation-states into the European Community, such as the True Finns party in Finland and the U.K. Independence Party in Britain. 

Still others want to protect the nation and its distinctive political spirit (the National Front in France), or the welfare state (the Danish People's Party in Denmark) or "liberal values" (the Party of Freedom led by Geert Wilders in Holland) that each feels is threatened by mass immigration. Even the mercifully cautious Germans have the Alternative for Germany party, which, though not avowedly nationalist, emits a distinctively postwar German anti-Euro economic nationalism—and should probably be renamed the Alliance of Patriotic Bankers. 

Most of these parties, which didn't exist 20 years ago, are now represented in Europe's parliaments. They are expected to do well in May's elections. They probably won't win power or enter government, but they force mainstream parties to deal with such issues as the loss of national sovereignty. 

In the eyes of Europe's various political and cultural establishments—what the British call the Great and the Good—none of this should be happening. It is akin to water running uphill. For several decades now, we have heard from these precincts that the nation-state is on its way out, losing power upward to supranational institutions and downward to organized minority groups. Behind their hands, the critics of resurgent nationalism murmur that it is nothing but xenophobia, authoritarianism or even fascism, in folkloric drag. They see Europe's rising nationalist parties as the preserve of bitter losers or those in the grip of nostalgia. 

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, expressed this view perfectly in 2010 when he announced for the umpteenth time that the nation-state was dead, adding: "The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear; fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war." 

This pronouncement didn't foresee Mr. Putin's recent actions. But it illustrates nicely how Europe's political elites see events like the Ukraine crisis in the distorting mirror of anti-nationalism. This view persuades them to consider nationalism a threat, but a dying one. And it is, quite simply, wrong on both counts. 

A practical refutation of this view lies in the fact that there are more nation-states in the world today than ever before. They have multiplied since 1945 in two great leaps forward: the decolonization period of the 1950s and 1960s, and the years following the dissolution of communism in 1989 and 1991. Some of these nations gained their independence, alas, by war and revolution—Zimbabwe, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo. Others did so by peaceful negotiation. Most former British colonies and Soviet republics took this route, but the most significant example of it is the "velvet divorce" that produced successful Czech and Slovak states. 

This upsurge of nationhood might be dismissed as a detour on the high road to global governance if the establishment view of nationalism weren't so absurdly crude. It elides vital distinctions and treats all forms of national loyalty as if they were the most aggressive and exclusivist type. In reality, the full spectrum of nationalist loyalties runs roughly as follows: from Nazism, which is totalitarian racial nationalism; to fascism, which is authoritarian and aggressive nationalism; to ethnic nationalism, which is exclusivist, treating ethnic minorities as second-class citizens (if that); to civic nationalism, which opens full citizenship to all born in the national territory in return for their loyalty to the nation and its institutions; and finally, to patriotism, which is that same national loyalty plus simple love of country—its scenery, its sights and sounds, its characteristic architecture, its songs and poems, its people, its wonderful familiarity. 

Here, for instance, is George Orwell, perhaps the most famous critic of nationalism, upon returning to southern England from Spain: "Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood: the railway-cuttings smothered in wildflowers, the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate, the slow-moving streams bordered by willows, the green bosoms of the elms, the larkspurs in the cottage gardens; and then the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen—all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England." 

England has changed since then, of course; men no longer wear bowler hats. But it would be as absurd to condemn such a tender patriotism as likely to lead to fascism as it would be to abstain from all interest in sex on the grounds that it might lead to promiscuity. Ordinary people, attached to reality as they must be to survive, feel exactly that sense of absurdity when they hear statements like Mr. Van Rompuy's. 

But that hasn't hitherto affected their political behavior. Why have they suddenly begun thinking and voting in line with such sentiments? 

One obvious reason is that all the ideological rivals to patriotism have been largely discredited. Orwell pointed out that those who abandoned patriotism generally adopted a more virulent ideological substitute. In our day, the most obvious rival ideologies are Europeanism in Europe and multiculturalism in the U.S., both of which seek to weaken national patriotism to change the political character of their societies. 

But neither of these creeds has yet become more than a niche loyalty, even though they enjoy lavish official support and the sympathy of those government officials, international bureaucrats, NGO executives, "denationalized" corporate managers and academics ambitious to be the vanguard of the new or transformed nation. Old-fashioned patriotism survives, perhaps weakened by such defections, but not seriously challenged. It remains in the shadows until tempted into the open by a 9/11, or an anniversary of D-Day or the funeral of a Margaret Thatcher. It is then suddenly recognized as the sentiment of most of the nation. 

Until recently, those voters for whom patriotism and the national interest were determining issues found comfortable homes in parties of both the left and the right. But that has gradually ceased to be true. 

As parties of the left swapped their working-class identity for that of middle-class liberalism, they began to think patriotism vulgar, cheap and xenophobic. At the same time, mainstream parties of the right drifted unthinkingly into a posture that treated nationalist and socially conservative voters as somewhat embarrassing elderly relatives whose views could be safely ignored. Party leaders reasoned that their atavistic voters had nowhere else to go. 

The result can be seen most dramatically in Britain, where the U.K. Independence Party, having secured its base among traditional middle-class Tories, is now harvesting new votes from patriotic blue-collar Laborites. But one can see similar outcomes throughout Europe. 

Another factor in this resurgence is a change of intellectual fashion toward bigness. Fewer people in all classes are still confident that the future belongs to the big battalions. They have noticed that smaller states are likely to be richer, easier to manage and closer to the people than larger states. As the Economist magazine pointed out a few years ago: "Of the 10 countries with populations of over 100 [million], only the U.S. and Japan are prosperous." 

These economic facts remove an important obstacle to secession. And if there ever was a link between prosperity and bigness, it has been dissolved by free trade and globalization, which ensure that the size of a nation need no longer coincide with the size of the market open to it. At the same time, a government can shrink to the size that its citizens find most convenient to control. 

The U.S. is the exception to these rules—it is both large and prosperous—because its federalism distributes power to states and localities, where it can be better controlled. Switzerland is another example. Europe might imitate America's success if it were to model itself on Switzerland and distribute power downward. But the opposite is happening—in both Europe and America. 

A final brief argument is perhaps the strongest: Nation-states are an almost necessary basis for democracy. A common language and culture, a common allegiance to national institutions, a common sense of destiny, all within a defined territory, with equal rights for all citizens—these seem to be the conditions that enable people with different opinions and interests to accept political defeat and the passage of laws to which they strongly object. There are a few exceptions to this rule—India, Switzerland—but many more confirmations of it. 

None of these many considerations justify supporting nationalism as a universal principle of statehood. There is no such principle. States rooted in ideas as different as popular consent and the dynastic principle have been handed down to us by history. Wholesale reconstruction of them is utopian and nearly always fails. The best we can hope for is to improve them by piecemeal reform along the grain of their history. 

But trying to abolish or replace the nation-state is almost certain to produce more evils than it deters. The lesson of recent history is that nationalism is here to stay—and that secure, stable and satisfied nation-states are likely to want friendship with neighboring countries rather than their conquest. Wise political leaders anxious for peace will concentrate on shaping their people's nationalism into an amiable patriotism rather than on submerging it in a new sovereignty and driving it toward its darker manifestations. 

Mr. O'Sullivan is director of the Danube Institute in Budapest and a senior fellow of the National Review Institute in New York.


Cops or Soldiers? America’s Police Have Become Too Militarised

By The Editorial Board of The Economist

FROM the way police entered the house—helmeted and masked, guns drawn and shields in front, knocking down the door with a battering ram and rushing inside—you might think they were raiding a den of armed criminals. In fact they were looking for $1,000-worth of clothes and electronics allegedly bought with a stolen credit card. They found none of these things, but arrested two people in the house on unrelated charges. 

They narrowly avoided tragedy. On hearing intruders break in, the homeowner’s son, a disabled ex-serviceman, reached for his (legal) gun. Luckily, he heard the police announce themselves and holstered it; otherwise, “they probably would have shot me,” he says. His mother, Sally Prince, says she is now traumatised. 

Gary Mikulec, chief of the Ankeny, Iowa police force, which raided Ms Prince’s home in January, said that the suspects arrested “were not very good people”. One had a criminal history that included three assault charges, albeit more than a decade old, and on his arrest was found to have a knife and a meth pipe. 

It is easy to see why the police like to be better armed than the people they have to arrest. They risk their lives every day, and are understandably keen to get home in one piece. A big display of force can make a suspect think twice about pulling a gun. “An awful lot of SWAT tactics are focused on forcing the suspect to surrender,” says Bill Bratton, New York’s police chief. 

But civil libertarians such as Radley Balko, the author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop”, fret that the American police are becoming too much like soldiers. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams (ie, paramilitary police units) were first formed to deal with violent civil unrest and life-threatening situations: shoot-outs, rescuing hostages, serving high-risk warrants and entering barricaded buildings, for instance.  Their mission has crept.

Boozers, Barbers and Cockfighters

Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, estimates that SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers. That same year heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando, Florida; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for “barbering without a licence”. Maricopa County, Arizona sent a SWAT team into the living room of Jesus Llovera, who was suspected of organising cockfights. Police rolled a tank into Mr Llovera’s yard and killed more than 100 of his birds, as well as his dog. According to Mr Kraska, most SWAT deployments are not in response to violent, life-threatening crimes, but to serve drug-related warrants in private homes. 

He estimates that 89% of police departments serving American cities with more than 50,000 people had SWAT teams in the late 1990s—almost double the level in the mid-1980s. By 2007 more than 80% of police departments in cities with between 25,000 and 50,000 people had them, up from 20% in the mid-1980s (there are around 18,000 state and local police agencies in America, compared with fewer than 100 in Britain). 

The number of SWAT deployments soared even as violent crime fell. And although in recent years crime rates have risen in smaller American cities, Mr Kraska writes that the rise in small-town SWAT teams was driven not by need, but by fear of being left behind. Fred Leland, a police lieutenant in the small town of Walpole, Massachusetts, says that police departments in towns like his often invest in military-style kit because they “want to keep up” with larger forces. 

The courts have smiled on SWAT raids. They often rely on “no-knock” warrants, which authorise police to force their way into a home without announcing themselves. This was once considered constitutionally dubious. But the Supreme Court has ruled that police may enter a house without knocking if they have “a reasonable suspicion” that announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow the suspect to destroy evidence (for example, by flushing drugs down the toilet). 

Often these no-knock raids take place at night, accompanied by “flash-bang” grenades designed temporarily to blind, deafen and confuse their targets. They can go horribly wrong: Mr Balko has found more than 50 examples of innocent people who have died as a result of botched SWAT raids. Officers can get jumpy and shoot unnecessarily, or accidentally. In 2011 Eurie Stamps, the stepfather of a suspected drug-dealer but himself suspected of no crimes, was killed while lying face-down on the floor when a SWAT-team officer reportedly tripped, causing his gun to discharge. 

Householders, on hearing the door being smashed down, sometimes reach for their own guns. In 2006 Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta, mistook the police for robbers and fired a shot from an old pistol. Police shot her five times, killing her. After the shooting they planted marijuana in her home. It later emerged that they had falsified the information used to obtain their no-knock warrant. 

Big Grants for Big Guns 

Federal cash—first to wage war on drugs, then on terror—has paid for much of the heavy weaponry used by SWAT teams. Between 2002 and 2011 the Department of Homeland Security disbursed $35 billion in grants to state and local police. Also, the Pentagon offers surplus military kit to police departments. According to Mr Balko, by 2005 it had provided such gear to more than 17,000 law-enforcement agencies. 

These programmes provide useful defensive equipment, such as body armour and helmets. But it is hard to see why Fargo, North Dakota—a city that averages fewer than two murders a year—needs an armoured personnel-carrier with a rotating turret. Keene, a small town in New Hampshire which had three homicides between 1999 and 2012, spent nearly $286,000 on an armoured personnel-carrier known as a BearCat. The local police chief said it would be used to patrol Keene’s “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations”. A Reason-Rupe poll found that 58% of Americans think the use of drones, military weapons and armoured vehicles by the police has gone “too far”. 

Because of a legal quirk, SWAT raids can be profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime. Crucially, the property-owner need not be convicted of that crime. If the police find drugs in his house, they can take his cash and possibly the house, too. He must sue to get them back. 

Many police departments now depend on forfeiture for a fat chunk of their budgets. In 1986, its first year of operation, the federal Asset Forfeiture Fund held $93.7m. By 2012, that and the related Seized Asset Deposit Fund held nearly $6 billion. 

Mr Balko contends that these forfeiture laws are “unfair on a very basic level”. They “disproportionately affect low-income people” and provide a perverse incentive for police to focus on drug-related crimes, which “come with a potential kickback to the police department”, rather than rape and murder investigations, which do not. They also provide an incentive to arrest suspected drug-dealers inside their houses, which can be seized, and to bust stash houses after most of their drugs have been sold, when police can seize the cash. 

Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarisation, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs. 

This is no doubt sexier than showing them poring over paperwork or attending a neighbourhood-watch meeting. But does it attract the right sort of recruit, or foster the right attitude among serving officers? Mr Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”). 


Others retort that Mr Balko and his allies rely too much on cherry-picked examples of raids gone wrong. Tragic accidents happen and some police departments use their SWAT teams badly, but most use them well, says Lance Eldridge, a former army officer and ex-sheriff’s deputy in Colorado. 

It would be easier to determine who is right if police departments released more information about how and how often they deploy SWAT teams. But most are extremely cagey. In 2009 Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, signed a law requiring the police in his state to report such information every six months. Three published reports showed that SWAT teams were most often deployed to serve search warrants on people suspected of crimes involving drugs and other contraband, but the law is set to expire this year. Utah’s legislature has passed a similar measure; it awaits the governor’s signature. 

No one wants to eliminate SWAT teams. Imminent threats to human life require a swift, forceful response. That, say critics, is what SWAT teams should be used for: not for serving warrants on people suspected of nonviolent crimes, breaking up poker games or seeing that the Pumpkin Festival doesn’t get out of hand.

21 March 2014

Where the Fascists Are

By Cathy Young 

The claim that last month’s democratic revolution in Ukraine was actually driven by ultra-right extremists, fascists, or even “neo-Nazis” has been a staple of Kremlin propaganda. It is also echoed by Western pundits who think that Vladimir Putin is getting a bum rap and the United States is backing the bad guys in this conflict. It is true that far-right nationalists are a troubling, though by no means dominant, presence on Ukraine’s political scene and a potential problem for the new leadership’s quest for European integration. But the cries of “fascism” from Moscow and its apologists are breathtakingly hypocritical, considering the Putin regime’s entanglement with far-right, ultranationalist and, yes, fascist elements at home and abroad. 

It’s hard to gauge the actual extent of extremist involvement in the Maidan protests, which began in late November in response to Yanukovych’s rejection of a European Union trade deal. At the start of February, Dmitry Likhachev, a Russian Jewish journalist and board member of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, estimated that “radical nationalists” made up about one percent of the protesters. On one occasion in the early days of the “Euromaidan,” a notorious hatemonger, poet Diana Kamlyuk, took advantage of an open microphone night to make overtly racist and anti-Semitic remarks; but Likhachev stressed that this was an isolated, widely condemned incident, and that the rallies featured prominent Jewish speakers as well as Jewish religious and cultural events.

As tensions between protesters and riot police escalated, the radicals took on a larger role—particularly Right Sector, a paramilitary group some view as bordering on neo-Nazism because of its admiration for World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist, onetime Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. (While Bandera’s record on anti-Semitism is a matter of some dispute, his followers unquestionably committed atrocities toward Poles, Russians, Jews, and others; by any objective reckoning, he was certainly more terrorist than freedom fighter.) Right Sector has made some effort to improve its image: its leader, Dmitro Yarosh, has met with the Israeli ambassador in Kiev to assure him that the group strongly opposes anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Yarosh and other militants have also praised Jewish fighters on the Maidan. Still, concerns about their influence justifiably remain. 

Another alarming factor is the nationalist party Svoboda (“Freedom”), whose head, 45-year-old Oleg Tyahnibok, has a history of anti-Semitic and racist comments—though he has tried to reinvent himself as a moderate. Svoboda has about 8 percent of the seats in Ukraine’s parliament; thanks to the deal brokered by Germany and France before Yanukovych’s resignation, it also holds four of the twenty posts in the interim government, including that of Minister of Defense. The party’s attempts to shed its thuggish reputation have not been entirely successful; on March 18, three Svoboda parliament members threatened and assaulted the chief of Ukraine’s TV Channel 1, angered by what they regarded as the station’s pro-Russian slant, and forced him to write a statement of resignation. The incident, which caused near-universal outrage, is now being investigated.

The good news, as historian Timothy Snyder points out in The New Republic, is that current polls show Svoboda getting 2 or 3 percent of the vote in May’s presidential election. And some reports on the right-wing menace in Ukraine clearly overstate the party’s impact. Thus, a March 13 column in the Los Angeles Times and a March 18 Foreign Policy article pointed to Svoboda’s successful push for a law making Ukrainian the country’s sole official language—without mentioning that Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov later vetoed the bill. 

Meanwhile, in Russia, nationalists in the upper echelons of power include such prominent figures as former NATO envoy and current Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who first entered the political scene as a leader of the nationalist bloc Rodina (Motherland). In 2005, Rodina was banned from Moscow City Council elections for running a blatantly racist campaign ad: the clip showed three Azerbaijani migrants littering and insulting a Russian woman and Rogozin stepping in to tell them off, and ended with a slogan promising to “clean up the trash.” While Rogozin is no fan of America, he has some peculiar American fans: in 2011, a glowing tribute that concluded with, “Let’s hope that Rogozin rises to power in Russia—and for the rise of a ‘Rogozin’ in America and elsewhere throughout the West,” appeared on the “white identity” website, Occidental Observer.

Rodina co-founder and Rogozin’s erstwhile rival for its leadership, Sergei Glazyev, most recently served as Putin’s man in charge of developing the Customs Union—the alliance with Kazakhstan and Belarus that was also to include Ukraine. Like Rogozin, Glazyev has attracted the sympathetic attention of far-right kooks in the Unites States—in this case, Lyndon LaRouche: in 1999, LaRouche Books published an English translation of Glazyev’s book,Genocide: Russia and the New World Order,” with a foreword by LaRouche himself. 

But Rogozin and Glazyev are mere peons compared to self-style “traditionalist” intellectual Alexander Dugin, a writer and professor at Moscow State University. In his New Republic article, Snyder identifies Dugin—“an actual fascist”—as “the founder of the Eurasian movement,” the ideology that provides the foundation for Russia’s expansion into Ukraine.

In fact, Dugin—who, in his writings in the 1990s, was quite explicit about the fascist and even Nazi roots of his views, asserting that true fascism had never been tried and would be born in Russia—is more than just the father of an idea. As documented in a 2009 article by Ukrainian scholar Andreas Umland (who has also chronicled the rise of extremism in Ukraine), Dugin has extensive, close ties to Russia’s political elites and the pro-Kremlin media. A number of high-level officials and journalists have served on the leadership council of his organization, the International Eurasian Movement. Dugin’s admirers include Ivan Demidov, a TV producer who at one point, in 2008, headed the ideology section of the ruling party, United Russia. 

Dugin’s frightening rhetoric has been on display in recent days. After a massive antiwar demonstration in Moscow on March 15, he wrote on his Facebook page, “This is no longer simply filth, ideological opponents, or dissenters, but a parade of traitors. Today, they have risen against the Russian people, against our State, against our history. They are defending murderers, occupiers, Nazis, and NATO. All the participants in this march of the fifth column have been condemned—by history, by the people, by us.” Then, he quoted a line from a famous wartime poem: “As many times as you see them, kill them.” (The poem, of course, referred to German invaders.)

If those are the ideologues, it’s hardly surprising that some of Russia’s foot soldiers in the conflict with Ukraine are of the brownshirt type. Most notable among these is Pavel Gubarev, the pro-Russian activist in Donetsk who briefly proclaimed himself the city’s “People’s Governor” and raised a Russian flag over the local government building. A few days after Gubarev gained notoriety, it was revealed that he had once been an activist in the militant group Russian National Unity, whose emblem bears an unmistakable resemblance to the swastika. (Photos of Gubarev in uniform made the rounds of the Internet):

Губарев в нижнем ряду третий слева

And, shortly before the March 16 referendum, the Kremlin’s man in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, used a blatant anti-Semitic code in a televised speech, referring to Ukraine’s new leadership as “an unnatural union of cosmopolite oligarchs who have grown rich plundering the Soviet era’s heritage, and neo-Nazis.” Of course, “cosmopolite” was once an infamous Soviet euphemism for “Jew”—and it is no accident that the best-known business oligarch allied with the new government is a Jewish man, Ihor Kolomoysky. 

Then there’s the matter of the “international observers” Moscow invited to the referendum in Crimea—a veritable freak central of neo-Stalinists and far rightists including Belgian neo-Nazi Luc Michel, Hungarian right-wing extremist Bela Kovacs, and Serbian-born American paleocon and war crime apologist Srđa (Serge) Trifković. Another observer, Polish parliament member Mateusz Piskorski, who praised the referendum in a Russia Today interview, is a former neo-Nazi in a very literal sense. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Piskorski published a magazine called Odala, which openly praised Nazi Germany, interviewed Holocaust deniers, and proclaimed that “considering the decay and multi-racialism of the West,” a united Slavic empire was “the only hope for the White Race.” Piskorski now belongs to Dugin’s Eurasian Movement.

Umland’s 2009 article on Dugin and creeping Russian fascism ended with the eerie prediction: “Should Dugin and his followers succeed in further extending their reach into Russian high politics and society at large, a new Cold War will be the least that the West should expect from Russia, during the coming years.” Perhaps fascism has indeed won—and not in Ukraine.