The Ongoing Russification of the Liberal West

When Russian troops began their invasion of Ukraine on February 24, some announced that world war three had just started. Some of this idea’s most vocal supporters are quite well-known, like dissident Garry Kasparov. However, except Fiona Hill, former National Security Advisor, and a few others, they are not security “experts”. On the contrary, many professional security analysts are much more cold-headed and emphasise the unique history behind the war. Nevertheless, most media and governments in virtually all NATO countries, the EU and even hedge funds are spreading this narrative.

The waning of liberal-democratic freedoms

At the time of writing, a full-fledged military confrontation between Russia and NATO has not started — perhaps not yet. Though, in many the liberal-democratic NATO countries, it would be easy to get the opposite impression. Progressively, over less than 20 days of fighting, several countries invited to or imposed a ban on Russian media. Nowadays, RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik TV are out of the air in virtually every EU country. Moreover, anyone who refuses to adhere to this warmongering narrative of fear faces generalised hostility within and outside public institutions. Essentially, everything the Western has criticised the Russian government for doing to free-thinkers and dissidents. The Russification of the West began without the need for a single shot fired against a NATO soldier.

Crucially, neither this degeneration of liberal democracy nor its driving mechanisms are unique to the 21st century. On the contrary, the same malaise began manifesting already at the eve of the First World War. Most commonly, politicians and laymen held that it may have been “necessary to Prussianize ourselves in order to destroy Prussianism in Europe”. In other words, there were fears that defeating the Second German Empire’s militarism required the “prussianization of the democracies”. Thus, there was an acknowledgement that one needs to be careful of whom to choose as the enemy “because that’s who you become most like”.

A known script

Since 9/11, Western media and governments have been finding new ways to scare the public and scapegoat mostly harmless minorities. Inarguably, Americans witnessed the impressive efficacy with which a government can infiltrate blameless citizens’ everyday life. Back then, many saw the Bush administration’s PATRIOT Act as an attempt at restoring the US’s lost sense of security. On the contrary, it was a prime example of the ways in which liberal-democratic publics can forgo their freedoms in a Faustian bargain for inexistent security.

Meanwhile, the criminalisation of Muslimspioneered the systematic defamation of those hindering the government’s agenda. Clearly, this strategy underpinned the mainstream contempt, first, for Trump supporters and vaccine sceptics and, then, anti-interventionists and Russian.

Liberal democracies win their wars because theyremain free

As it is the case today, when a war starts in Europe pacifist sentiments dissipate almost overnight. Thus, US citizens’ and their government’s position become even more weighty for the future of global peace.

Against his background, the works of Bertrand Russel, one of the greatest public intellectuals of the past century, resound strongly. As an active opponent to US and British war efforts, Russel wrote extensively on war and its acceptability. Eventually, he came to realise that “the evils of war are almost always greater than” those of an unjust peace. Moreover, he argued that it is not enough to abstain from participating in the war effort on the individual level. Indeed, “a civilized and humane way of life” requires women and “men who try hard, beforehand, to prevent their country from going to war”. The only reason to take up arms is “resistance to tyranny and aggression” against an aspiring “Emperor of the World”.

But there is no sane mind who would compare the current Russian leadership to such an enemy. Still, liberal-democratic publics are renouncing their rights at an alarming speed while the steadfast Prussianization of democracy goes on. And this time it brings a poisonous dose of cultural racism and a heightened risk of segregation. Yet, no one prevented British Nazi sympathisers from doing propaganda in support of the Third Reich. Yet, no one censored Henry Ford’s antisemitic publications for their astounding consonances with Nazi ideology. Yet, no one prevented artists and intellectuals from Fascist Italy from perform or have exhibitions in the US. And liberal democracy not just survived: it grew stronger. Even if NATO was at war with Russia, demonising everything Russian would not help win it.

In conclusion, the majority of conservatives and democrats against US interventionism is heartening. But it cannot cancel the hawkishness of elected and campaigning representatives from both the left and the right. It is freedom itself that is stake.

Fabio A. Telarico
Fabio A. Telarico
Fabio A. Telarico was born in Naples, Southern Italy. Since 2018 he has been publishing on websites and magazines about the culture, society and politics of South Eastern Europe and the former USSR in Italian, English, Bulgarian and French. As of 2021, he has edited two volumes and is the author of contributions in collective works. He combines his activity as author and researcher with that of regular participant to international conferences on Europe’s periphery, Russia and everything in between. For more information, visit the Author’s website (in English and Bulgarian).