The inexplicable horrors of war often invite us to look for parallels to try to understand it. And despite the difficulty of the exercise, the last great period of the war in Europe provides some answers. Antonio Scurati (Naples, 52 years old), author of deaf rumble of battle (Alianza, 2008) and the monumental biography of Benito Mussolini, he is currently writing the third volume of his work, in which he describes the moment in which Italy started World War II at the hands of Adolf Hitler. And that character, he explains by phone from his home in Milan, is the one you have to watch to understand the psychology and strategy of Vladimir Putin, the hero of the current conflict.
Ask, In writing this third volume, have you found any analogy with the present moment?
answer, I am careful to draw parallels with a century ago. The situation in the world is very different. And anticipating that the conflict escalates, I don’t see what it might look like. But parallels exist between the behavior of Hitler and Putin. In a manner of justifying waging war or an invasion of a border country. Also in the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland, Hitler, like Putin, justified the use of weapons to protect German-speaking minorities. It is true that Hitler did not use the word genocide like Putin did…
P. Because it didn’t exist in the political terminology yet, right?
R. Sure, but he condemned the violent persecution and destruction of German minorities in the Sudetenland region and the Danzig Corridor. He justified it with the need to protect it from real destruction, even though everyone knew it was a lie. But there is another strong analogy. As the German historian Johann Gottfried Gruber put it, what neither Mussolini nor the rest of the world understood about Hitler was that he was no longer a political figure. His vision and his way of thinking about Europe and international relations responded to an eschatological kind of almost religious perspective, according to which he fled in the final battle against a deadly enemy. The second day, the elite [Mijáil] Jodorkowski pointed out that Westerners do not understand Putin because we apply a political argument, when there is only a criminal argument.
Join EL PAS to follow all the news and read without limits.
P. by which method?
R. In the sense of true criminal. The only thing that matters is strength. So if Putin continues to violate international law and does not participate in a display of force that compels him to stop, he will continue. He checks the enemy’s availability for that resource, and if he doesn’t find it, he moves on. He is a leader who has a political strategic vision inspired by political ideas and projects that respond to a historical and religious reading of Russia’s fate. That’s what Hitler did, when he didn’t stop with the annexation of Austria and changed the map of Europe; But then he invaded Czechoslovakia and then Poland. It is a stubborn and obsessive progress that does not meet the rational expectations of a world that still argues in political terms.
P. Isn’t Ukraine the last stop in the conflict?
R. I don’t know if it is designed with the program “Ukraine first, then the Baltic countries”, but it is inspired by the idea that former Soviet republics are stripped of Russia’s legitimate right to dominate them. Therefore every military action of invasion is a legitimate reconquest. I don’t know if Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are already in the program. But the attack on Ukraine is not the result of a diplomatic event, it is an expression of the idea of hegemony and domination that can spread to other states. Another aspect that resembles Hitler is the army. That desire for power is fueled by a fanatic fanaticism that does not stop at the idea of the complete annihilation of the enemy and its cities. It treats the idea of the enemy as a kind of dehumanizing. It does not recognize the right to propose war against the enemy. It’s as if he thinks he has a right to escape. Nazism ravaged the cities, demoralizing the Dutch to what they did with Rotterdam at the start of the war.
P. In such a situation, it seems that diplomacy is not going to stop it.
R. it will not stop. And this is a feature of Russia, against which Nazi Germany clashed. This will continue till the end. So it is beyond politics. There is no prudent or economic calculation.
P. Will history say this war will end without Putin?
R. I hope the solution can come to the rescue of the tyrant. To refer to Russia is a matter of autocracy, but the Putin regime was sustained by the widespread support of the Russian population made in a certain way by that idea of wealth and welfare organized around oligarchs. But at present the support is to some extent sustained by nationalism and propaganda. And this type of regime in Russian history does not survive a military defeat, a lost war. If this happens, even if it is not on his grounds, it is likely that he will be deposed. And it gives a sense to strategically defend Ukraine.
P. And what will happen to Russia?
R. The problem will remain Russia’s that after a moment of hope, halfway between Gorbachev and Putin, opens up to the west and turns away from democratic life. Putin’s fall will not solve this problem. Politically Russia is not Europe. The only coincidence is that of region culture, but it has never been so politically.
P. Are we at the door of the Third World War?
R. No, and the logic that is used by the equidistant in Italy: People who say they are neither against Putin nor in favor of Putin bother me a lot. The argument that we will go to the Third World War if we do not succumb to their violence is wrong. This is not Putin’s reaction to the dangerous geopolitical situation for Russia, it is an expression of his desire for power that can only be stopped by the use of force of resistance. Therefore, the choice cannot be made between accepting the violence of Russia’s autocracy or preparing for the Third World War.
P. Were we ready for war in the backyard of the EU?
R. This is a real anthropological change in a European society configured between the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, when what I call a total spectator. The destroyer of human experience through the media. Total Viewer grammarizes the television experience and translates it into the practice of life: it is the abandonment of commitment, of political participation, of civil action … and it is created by a war television show with a specific date: January 17th. And the night between January 18, 1991, when you broadcast with a satellite dish the first television direct on the war front with CNN and Peter Arnett.
P. Will Ukraine be able to change this paradigm?
R. This is an unknown. Now the media says that there is a very strong emotional reaction from the people that there is no more apathy. But change recognizes that the appropriate response to an image of death and destruction is to go against democratic sentiments, compassion and tyranny. He must transform himself into logic and renew the civilization and sense of being European. If it’s just the emotion caused by the images, it would only confirm our status as spectators.
P. The power of images was also learned from that oiled duck in Iraq. But Putin can bomb a maternity hospital at no cost to his image.
R. They were media wars. They fought each other on the field with blood and bodies, but paid great attention to the effect of the transmission of images. In 2001, this type of media weapon was used against the West, along with the image of the Twin Towers in reverse fire. But Putin appears oblivious to the historical development between the way war is fought and the way it is told, which has always been united here. His only concern is that the Russians know nothing.
P. And what does it mean?
R. It’s just that Putin is not from the West. He doesn’t give a damn about the war narrative and can develop a dirty and dark war that won’t lead to a glorious memory. He is an Eastern dictator. He is not the military leader of the West.
P. And what kind of leader is the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky?
R. Some intellectual friends criticize him, they call him a charlatan. a man who actually becomes the character of one of his shows… Yes, it may be true. But from the moment a leader puts himself at the head of those who take up arms to defend his freedom, he becomes a great leader. In this war is the mother of all things. Zelensky is a giant in an international landscape dominated by weak leaders.
Exclusive content for customers
read without limits