With his unprovoked attack on Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has shown himself to be untrustworthy as a world leader and a threat to the international order established after World War II.
As his troops advance towards the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the United States, Europe and the United Nations are seeking ways to halt the invasion and/or make the cost of occupying Ukraine too high for him to continue.
Some of the better suggestions have included:
1) Sending in lethal aid, so Ukrainians can continue to defend their county... Impressed by the strength and capability of the Ukrainian army and citizens to resist Russia, a growing number of countries have promised to supply them with weapons. We, as defenders of democracy, must keep the pressure on them to do so.
2) Removal of Russia from the SWIFT banking system, in order to cripple their economy and ability to trade... Some European nations, at first, resisted this move out of fear for the impact upon their own economies and peoples. But, under public pressure, they seem to be softening their stance and bans on some Russian banks to participate in SWIFT have now been announced.
3) Increasing U.S. oil and gas production and restoring American energy independence... Almost half of the Russian economy is based upon oil production, so increasing world supplies would reduce Putin's profits and ability to sustain an occupation of Ukraine. It would also lower Europe's dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, allowing leaders to stand up to Putin without fear of him cutting off the energy supplies they need.
Other suggestions have been made to thwart Russia's aggression, but there is an option, that I have not heard discussed, that comes right out of the Putin playbook. It is the classic move of all fascists, who justify military aggression as defending their ethnic countrymen, living abroad, from persecution. Both Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler used this tactic to explain their military expansion, as did Putin during his 2008 attack on Georgia, 2014 annexation of Crimea, and his current invasion of Ukraine. He falsely claimed to be protecting ethnic Russians from persecution and supporting their goal of self-determination. America and our European allies, too, can borrow this tactic and support separatist movements within Russia itself.
Borrow from Putin's playbook...
Many think of Russia as a homogenous nation inhabited primarily by ethnic Russians. But, this is not the case. The Russian Federation is a geographically broad country with a long history of imperialist annexation and absorption of a neighboring peoples. As such, there are many, ruled by Moscow, who yearn for freedom.
It is beyond the scope of this article to include all separatist movements within the borders of Russia, but here are a few examples.
1) Kaliningrad... If one looks at a map of Eastern Europe, they will see an oddly isolated Russian enclave, surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, and separated from the Russian heartland. This is the former East Prussian area of Konigsberg that was annexed and absorbed into the Soviet Union after World War II. The region does not share a long history with Russia, and its citizens identify more with Europe. They don't even refer to their enclave by its Russian name, but as the "amber country," in reference to its major natural resource. While 80% of Russian citizenry have never traveled outside of their country, 60% of Kaliningrad residents hold international passports and 25% of them have European Union visas. Local parents prefer to send their children to study at high schools and colleges in neighboring countries such as Poland and Lithuania. The Baltic Republican Party was founded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, before it was disbanded by Russian authorities and its leaders imprisoned. This has not eased the desire of local residents for federal autonomy and/or outright independence. Most citizens, including some local authorities, want to restore the regions historic name of Konigsberg. The constituent congress of the Kaliningrad Public Movement, which replaced the Baltic Republican Party, took place in February of 2005. An internet movement urging support for annexation by Lithuania launched in 2014.
2) "Stop Feeding Moscow!" is the recent slogan of separatists in Siberia, who want strong local autonomy and/or independence. The movement dates back to the mid-1800's, when the Society for Siberian Independence was formed. Following the arrest of its leaders, the movement was disbanded in 1865. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a local Siberian legislature adopted the "On the Autonomous Region of Siberia" proposal, reviving the independence movement. The white and green flag of Siberia was created at this time.
3) Circassian nationalists with to see federal autonomy and/or independence within their historic homeland, located along the Black Sea, just north of the Republic of Georgia. The modern movement rose during the Soviet glasnost and perestroika eras of the 1990's, with nationalists pressing local authorities and forcing them to accept many of their demands. With the ascension of President Putin to power, the International Circassian Association was taken over and turned into a puppet organization of the Russian government. Those who opposed were imprisoned, or assassinated. Circassian nationalism faded, as a result, until 2010 when it was reborn and grew over the next few years. The movement saw growth in 2014, when the international Olympics competition was held in Sochi, Russia, where the Circassian genocide began. Today, Circassian nationalism is extremely popular among younger generations, both in their homeland and abroad. Youth study their language and history with devotion and make up the core of Circassian activists around the world.
Other regions where separatist sentiments thrive include...
The self-declared Kuban Republic, of south Russia, with its own flag and internet declaration of independence...
The Karelia Republic, in northwest Russia, that held a referendum to join Finland...
The Kuril Islands that circulated a petition to join neighboring Japan...
and Ivangorad, which collected signatures in support of joining neighboring Estonia.
The north Caucasus regions of Tatarstan, Bashkiria, Tuva, Buryatia and Chechnya, which fought two civil wars with Russia, all yearn for more freedom from Moscow too.
Many of these regions would be better supported
within a truly federalized Russia...
It is the belief of Fighting Fascism that all peoples have the right of self-determination. They deserve the right to determine their own destiny and not be dominated by a more powerful neighbor. But, this does not always mean independent nationhood, or merger with neighboring countries. Many of these regions would be better supported within a truly federalized Russia, with constitutional guarantees of their political and individual rights. Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, told the republics to take on as much power and responsibility as they can handle.
Besides defending the right of self-determination for all peoples, support of these separatist groups would aid in bring down the fascist dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. A core component of fascist political philosophy is strongly centralized government and rule by an elite few. Constitutional federalism devolves power to local administration where citizens can have greater control of their lives.
Putin's stated goal is to restore the historic Russian empire, of 1922, with him as its ruler. That is the legacy he seeks. Forcing him to defend against separatism within his borders would reduce his ability to invade and annex other countries and loosen his control over Russia itself. By coordinating their efforts towards a common goal of federalizing Russia, with truly protected constitutional guarantees for both regions and residents, they can form a strong civil rights movement that Putin can't control, or stop. This would transform Russia and bring down his regime. It would be the end of Putin-land!
Samuel Griswold is a lifelong student of history and politics, whose studies have given him unique insights into the true nature of totalitarianism in all of its aspects... Fascism, Communism and Socialism. As an American Jew, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, he's lived by the pledges "Never Forget" and "Never Again." But, for him, these pledges mean to never let the policies that led to the Holocaust happen again. To prevent fascism from thriving, we must know how to see and define it. That is the purpose of FightingFascism.com, to draw attention and rally opposition to current fascist policies and governments.