The cross : To explain the intervention of his army, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denounced the “genocide”, according to him, of the Russian-speaking populations of eastern Ukraine and described the government of Volodymyr Zelensky as “neo-Nazi”.But is this insistence effective?
Anna Colin Lebedev (1) : The big cliches in connection with the Second World War to disqualify the West do not date from today. They have been used for about 20 years, and in my opinion more markedly since 2014, when the demonstrators of the Maidan revolution in Ukraine were portrayed as “collaborators of Nazism”.
At the start of the war in Ukraine, the theme of denazification traditionally returned to official Russian communication. It is present again in this moment of commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, it will perhaps be so for the 90th anniversary of Hitler’s accession to power, but I have the feeling that now this spring is pushed without great conviction. The process is, in my opinion, losing momentum to the benefit of others more able to convince other audiences.
What is this new approach?
A. C. L. : In a memorial text delivered to his Telegram account, the Russian governor of the occupied Zaporizhia Oblast, Yevgeny Balitsky, uses the history of World War II in a different way. He insists in particular on the multinational nature of the victims of Nazism, making Jews victims among others, including the Russians.
The fact that for the first time Russia was not invited to the celebrations of the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in southern Poland will not have much impact on Russian internal opinion. On the contrary, this exclusion serves the official discourse very well, which consists in saying that the West wishes to erase Russia from history. But the other great theme promised to a great future is that of American imperialism and Western colonialism.
How are these language elements exploited?
A. C. L. : There is the affirmation of a Russia, an actor in the liberation of the peoples, which fights for the restoration of national sovereignty, and contrary to a West led by the United States, which has vassalized Ukraine to weaken Russia. This speech, also addressed to the former colonies, presents Moscow as their only ally, at a time when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is on a tour of Africa.
The argument gets better, including vis-à-vis Russian public opinion which does not fully understand the rapprochement between NATO and the Third Reich, which moreover remains marginal. The Russians are much more afraid of the will of the United States to restore its hegemony by crushing Russia. Perhaps World War II will be called again, if a German-made Leopard tank faces a Russian tank in the coming weeks. But for now, this rope is relatively little actuated: for the Russians, the nerve center of the threat is in Washington, not in Berlin.
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