Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Same Conditions That Allowed Hitler's Rise to Power in Germany Helped Putin Come to Power in Russia

A growing number of people, including myself, can't help but compare Putin's Russia to Nazi Germany before World War II.  There are significant similarities between the two, some of which I have mentioned in my previous posts.  One thing I haven't talked about yet, however, is how the conditions in Germany before WWII, which helped precipitate Hitler's rise to power, are very similar to the conditions faced by Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, which ultimately allowed Putin to rise to power.

Germany paid a heavy price for its defeat in WWI.  The country was forced to cede territory and pay reparations to the victorious allied powers.  The Germans were also forced to accept responsibility for starting the war.  Furthermore, Germany's once mighty military was to be dismantled to the point where the country could no longer project military power beyond its borders.  As a result of these conditions, the German economy was ruined and the country became less than a third rate power.  Frustrated and humiliated, the Germans looked to someone who could restore the country to prominence again.  They found that person in Adolf Hitler.  Hitler played on the anger of German citizens towards those perceived to have caused Germany's ruin in order to gain popularity.  And as we all know, Hitler's growing popularity with the German people eventually led him to the seat of power as he became Chancellor in 1933.

Fast forward a few decades to 1991, the year that the Soviet Union collapsed.  Just as Germany was crippled by its defeat in WWI, so was Russia by its defeat in the Cold War.  The end of the Soviet Union meant that Russia could no longer dominate the other countries that were once part of the Soviet state, let alone the former Soviet satellite states of eastern Europe.  In fact, Russia had to struggle even to maintain its own borders as separatist revolts sprang up in the Caucuses region and threatened to spread to other parts of the country.  Much of the former Soviet Union's military might was now in the hands of newly sovereign countries, and whatever was still in Russian hands was largely left to decay due to lack of funds.  Russia also lost hold of many of its ethnic kinsmen as millions of Russians came under the sovereignty of new states like Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.  The decade that followed the Soviet Union's demise was one in which Russia was reduced to an economic basket case.  People that were once taken care of by the old Soviet state found themselves in abject poverty, not knowing where their next meal would come from.  Even Russia's soldiers, once the pride of the Soviet Union, were reduced to begging in the streets. 

As an avid follower of politics and current events, I remember watching and reading the news about the harsh conditions in Russia.  I was only in high school at the time, but I can remember thinking about how the situation in Russia mirrored that of Germany between the two world wars, and I knew that all it would take for Russia to become dangerous again was a strongman who could promise the Russian people that he would restore the country to greatness.  Unfortunately, I was right, and although my prediction came to pass a lot later than I had initially anticipated, it did eventually come to pass when Putin took the reigns of power following President Boris Yeltsin's resignation on the first day of the new millennium, January 1st, 2000.

Fifteen years later, Putin's position as Russia's dictator is almost unchallenged.  He has rebuilt Russia's economy and its military, and now threatens the security and stability of not only Europe, but the entire world.  So unfortunately, it seems that history has repeated itself as the tyrant known as Vladimir Putin has managed to swing his people behind him by tapping into their anger over Russia's post-Cold War humiliation, just as Hitler came to power by playing on the anger of the German people over their country's defeat and humiliation in WWI.  My greatest fear?  That a world war bringing destruction upon humankind as never seen before will follow Putin's rise to power, just as it did Hitler's.     

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