The problem with
this pivot was that it came at an ideological cost. Rather than open Russia to
democracy, Putin began to rebuild an autocratic empire. In fact, Russia’s move away from democracy has
been so severe that the former National Security Advisor of the United States likened
Putin to Hitler.
The analogy is
quite striking. Compare, for example, Putin’s persecution
of homosexuals ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics with Hitler’s persecution
of the Jewish minority during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Or, consider that
both rose to power mostly through democratic means and then brutally began to consolidate
power by outlawing all competing political parties, all non-nationalized
media, and then controlling the judiciary. Or, contrast how both grew their
territorial holdings with land grabs justified by ethnic and nationalistic
means (Hitler with Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Putin with Georgia in 2008). Somewhat
ironically, Hitler was named Time’s Man
of the Year in 1938 and Putin was Forbes’ Most Powerful Man in 2013.
As Putin’s power
increases and the world settles into new spheres of influence, the West must
act to ensure that Russia will not be in a position to dictate terms. Putin
recently showed the world how powerful he has become by flexing his muscle in Syria, while simultaneously shaming the United States
through a New
York Times Op-Ed (on September 11th of all days).