By Max Glynn
Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Russia to Nazi Germany have been treated with public outrage. The Guardian for example described it as a “gaffe” and stated how to “compare Putin to Hitler is about as foul an insult to Russians as anyone could devise”. While Mr Johnson’s comment on Russia is undoubtedly controversial it must be accepted that there are some extremely concerning parallels with modern Russia and Germany in the 1930s.
Starting with the leaders themselves, we see eerily similar backgrounds in terms of their life events. Both men served in the military – Hitler was a corporal in the Bavarian infantry while Putin served as an officer in the KGB. Both witnessed the fall of their nations as great powers, events they both saw with similar regret and anger. Hitler witnessed the fall of the second Reich following the First World War, an event of which he recorded his revilement in Mein Kampf. Putin, meanwhile, saw the collapse of the USSR – an event he famously described in a 2005 speech as “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”. In both Mein Kampf and Putin’s 2005 speech there is an underlying obsession with reunifying Germans and Russians separated from their respective motherlands in the territorial changes that occurred following their falls.
As we know, after the 1936 Olympics, Hitler began to speed up his pursuit of lebensraum, he annexed foreign territory with the excuse of unifying Germanic groups, he utilised the renewed military might of Germany and threatened the risk of another war to coerce other powers into accepting these annexations. Putin’s Russia with it’s own territorial expansion and rearmament have used almost identical tactics: Hitler annexed Austria less than a year after the 1936 Olympics, Russia invaded Crimea days after hosting the 2014 winter Olympics. While Hitler deployed troops to the frontiers of Germany, such as the demilitarised Rhineland to threaten war, Russia flies bombs with nuclear armaments into the sovereign airspace of other countries on an almost daily basis, constantly reminding its neighbours of their vast nuclear capability.
The similarities between the two states extend in the political sphere as well: Hitler outlawed all opposition parties following the passing of the enabling act, an act he passed by illegally barring the communists from voting. Putin meanwhile utilised similar political skulduggery to bar his biggest threat, the anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, from running in the Russian 2018 presidential election. This move sparked several rallies against the corruption of Putin and his regime but ultimately did little. Again, as in Nazi Germany Putin’s regime controls the media and heavily censors all material that speaks out against him.
The rights of LGBTQ individuals in Russia have become practically non-existent. In June 2013 the Russian federal law: “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” was passed unanimously by the Russian Duma with only one MP abstaining. Forget restrictions on adoption or marriage, this law eradicated any pretence of LGBTQ rights by making it illegal to expose any child to “homonormativity”, i.e cementing into Russian law that homosexuality can never be a social norm thus blockading any hopes of an end to the discrimination and hate. Any material that “raises interest in such relationships” or distributes “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” can result in organisations being forced to cease operations, while foreigners can be detained for up to 15 days and then deported, some even being fined up to 5,000 rubbles before deportation.
In Putin’s Russia, homophobia and crimes against LGBTQ individuals have become worryingly acceptable, indeed they often go unpunished. Horrifically, the law usually actively protects those criminals who carry out this persecution. How can anyone argue that this is not reminiscent of the same prescription carried out by the brown shirts against minorities in Nazi Germany?
For those still in doubt, there is one example that demonstrates the path that Russia is going down. In Chechnya there have been several alarming reports of concentration camps starting in February just last year. A report published in April 2017 by a panel of five international experts to the United Nations Human Rights Council openly condemned these camps as a blatant violation of human rights. Detention and torture of other 100 male individuals occurred with at least three dying in extrajudicial killings. When asked about these camps, the Chechen leader and political puppet of Vladimir Putin, Ramzan Kadyrov, replied that: “there are no gay men in Chechnya” and “they should be removed from the region if there are”.
So, given this, how can people really argue against our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson? When Russia so blatantly violates international law and spits in the face of almost every convention on human rights, especially when it comes to LGBTQ individuals. Putin flies nuclear bombers into foreign airspace, sends submarines into sovereign waters, backs brutal regimes such as Assad, rigs his own internal elections, censors anyone who would speak out against his regime, and poisons people with chemical weapons here in Great Britain.
The British people have a record of standing up to tyranny when its ugly head appears and now, too, we must do the same. For ignoring this threat not only increases the danger to ourselves but also prolongs the suffering of those persecuted under Putin. We, as Britons, must remember what Edmund Burke once said: “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. As the beacon of democracy, freedom and human rights that defeated Hitler last century; we too must now stand up against evil