Alexander Motyl: Russia’s Drift toward Fascism

1868.jpgThe Rutgers political science professor Alexander Motyl has an interesting but not subtle op/ed in the Kyiv Post today arguing not only that Russia is quickly drifting toward becoming a fascist state, but that there is little anyone can do about it. Containment is the only feasible policy response, he argues, and says that countries like France and Germany must urgently recognize that Russia today is not democratic, and that this authoritarian mass model could have a dangerous contagion effect in neighboring countries. Motyl also points out the weaknesses of fascism: “Leadership cults only work as long as the founding leaders are still vigorous. When supreme leaders falter — as they inevitably do — or leave the scene, successor elites engage in cutthroat competition to assume the mantle of authority. As they weaken the regime’s foundations and expose the system as brittle, the state’s image as a Leviathan worthy of official and popular veneration crumbles. The next two years will be especially difficult for Russia, as it copes with a genuinely post-Putin political system or with a seemingly post-Putin system still run by Putin. Humiliation is a weak foundation on which to build state and leader legitimacy. Although Russians currently want the reassuring guidance of a “vozhd” (chief), sooner or later they will cease feeling humiliated. When that happens, as it surely will (once their prosperity and exposure to the world and its blandishment increases), they will eventually abandon humiliation for more satisfactory forms of self-identification. ” I am yet to be convinced that rising prosperity is in any way tied to the emergence of stronger popular pro-democracy movements.