one year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

All analogies are ahistorical. History does not repeat itself, nor are historical figures reproduced with tracing paper. Another thing is comparisons and parallels, procedures to which it is lawful to resort from a historiographical point of view. Of course, Putin is not Hitler, although we can compare them and find similarities and differences, just as we can with Putin and Stalin, or Putin and Peter the Great, with whom the Russian dictator himself has been compared.

In his article precisely entitled “Putin and Hitler”, Manuel Castells, one of the leading sociologists of the Spanish left (Podemos and some factions of the PSOE) calls “hawks” (a concept used in the United States to refer to warmongering sectors) who have reached agreements to confront Putin’s advance in Ukraine. With this he imagines perhaps placing himself in the fraction of “the doves” (moderates, in the American lexicon). But the problem is not that simple. Not all those who believe in the policy of military support for Ukraine are hawks, and not all those who believe in the policy of negotiation are doves.

Many of us think that we must seek negotiations between the belligerent parties. But we also know that the main enemy of the negotiations is Putin, because as Castells himself notes “Putin is not going to give up until he occupies the part of Ukraine that he defines as Russian” (that is, all of Ukraine, according to his 2021 essay). Hence, the problem correctly posed is how to bring Putin to the negotiating table, something that Castells does not tell us.

Let’s start from a premise: as long as Putin has firepower, he will not go to negotiations. Experience, at least so far, shows that Putin is not going to agree to negotiate where he can lose (and in any negotiation, businessmen must lose something). Putin will only accept total victory from him. Seen in reverse, Putin will only agree to negotiate when he understands that he cannot win. A conclusion that he is not going to reach through an intellectual exercise. So you have to force him to negotiate. Well, that is the objective of this war for the western democratic camp (hawks, according to Castells).

War itself is a negotiation. Every inch conquered is an argument against or in favor of Putin. Nobody thinks that the war is carried out to kill more enemies but to get closer to a negotiating condition acceptable to both parties, not just one. If it were for one, we would talk about capitulation. Well, that’s what Castells proposes.

In order to convince us, Castells uses two premises that are also the same as Putin’s. The first is that in Russia there is a feeling of humiliation that must be compensated. Fake. Putin feels humiliated, but not the Russian citizenry. For Russians to feel humiliated, we should accept that the end of communist Russia was the work of NATO, which never lifted a finger to support the insurgent democratic forces in Russia (not in Hungary in 1956, not in Czechoslovakia in 1968, nor in Poland in the 1970s). The fall of communist systems was the work of the citizens of the communist world, not a foreign power. For the rest, it was not only the humiliation derived from the Treaty of Versailles that determined the rise of Hitler. If Hitler came to power, it was in the first place because of the fear felt by the German population in the face of the advance of communism, the political impotence of the Weimar Republic and the inflation unleashed since the crisis of 1929. Hitler enriched Germany. That explains why Hitler was adored by the Germans as a messiah. Which is not the case with Putin, who is impoverishing Russia. If the Russians saw him as a historical redeemer who is going to end a humiliation and then enrich the country, Putin would be as loved as Hitler. But Putin only inspires fear, or terror, but not love.

The second premise is that Putin may at some point use nuclear devices. And of course, it is a latent possibility. That is why the democratic camp uses means to avoid an atomic outcome without having to hand Ukraine over to Putin, as Castells proposes. The direct non-intervention of NATO is a means. Another is international diplomacy, and one of its objectives is to ensure that China does not become a military ally of Russia, which has been achieved so far. Germany, France and other European countries have intensified economic alliances with China to an even higher level than prevailed before the Russian invasion.

To exchange peace for territory, as Castells brutally proposes, is to assume that Putin is fighting for more territory (it is not what interests him, Castells himself argues) and not for Ukraine’s sovereignty. In other words, Castells’s is not a negotiation proposal. It is one, we reiterate, of pure and simple capitulation.

Naturally, capitulating is also a political option and, as it is, it should not be ruled out. But like any option, it requires certain conditions. The first, that it be the Ukrainian government together with the governments of Central and Eastern Europe – those that in the event of capitulation are the ones that would be most affected in the face of possible new advances by Putin – who accept a capitulation. Without this procedure, NATO and the European Union would be divided into two antagonistic parts, and that is what Putin wanted most.

The second condition is that the result of that capitulation is not to bring us closer to a new war. Something very important to keep in mind. For a capitulation would lead to disregard of all international agreements and treaties, of the United Nations itself, and an incitement to all anti-democratic world powers in the world to follow the example of triumphant Russia. A capitulation, in short, would bring no promise of peace. Most likely, the next day Russia would do everything possible to take over Moldova and Georgia.

The Baltic countries, plus Finland and Poland would demand, and rightly so, to concentrate all military devices, including nuclear ones, in their vicinity. NATO, or at least a part of it, would be under pressure to intervene directly. In short, a capitulation would bring us much closer to nuclear war than away from it. To think otherwise would be to trust Putin’s words. And that, recent history has shown, is the least that can be done. And last but not least, with whom does Castells propose to carry out negotiations that lead to capitulation? Anyone who understands a bit of international politics knows that the Western camp, precisely because it is democratic, is not monolithic. In the Scandinavian countries and England, people don’t think the same as in France or Germany, in Poland they don’t think the same as in Hungary, in Europe they don’t think the same as in the United States. Turkey and Hungary are even closer to Putin than they are to the EU and NATO. This means that any proposal for capitulation would lead to a division of the Western ranks (the highest achievement reached so far by the West) and therefore to a new expansionist temptation for Russia. Is that what Castells is looking for?

For the rest, the West has already capitulated once. The war that Putin started in Ukraine in 2014 and his violent seizure of Crimea and the Donbas territories did not bring him, apart from minimal sanctions that did not materialize, any problems with the US and even less with the EU. It was precisely the West’s undauntedness and the consequent refusal to allow Ukraine to join NATO, events that encouraged Putin’s expectations. 2014 would open the way for 2022. According to Castells, we are in Munich in 1938, when the allies sought to appease Hitler behind the back of Czechoslovakia.

But obviously this is not the case: we are not in Munich in 1938. However, proposals by Castells, aimed at dividing up Ukraine behind Ukraine’s back, would lead to repeating the sad episode of Munich in 1938. Well, that is precisely what there is. what to avoid A winning Putin is much more dangerous than a losing one. Perhaps that is the only thing that unites Putin with Hitler.

The European allies had to overcome their anti-Americanism to achieve world unity against Hitler. Today unity has been achieved against Putin, but Castells and his right-wingers want to distort it in the name of that same anti-Americanism that in the past left Europe, for a while, helpless against Hitler. Unfortunately, history proved that Chamberlain was wrong.


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