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Stalin or Hitler? Who will Putin copy when sanctions really ...

World

Stalin or Hitler? Who will Putin copy when sanctions really start to bite?

He has to con Russians into enduring economic hardship for his sake. Of the two routes he can take, one is more likely

Leonid Bershidsky

Two months after Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, it’s clear there will be no quick return to any kind of normalcy for Russia, and particularly of the economic kind. With no negotiated end to the war in sight, Russia is set for a protracted period of living under tough Western sanctions and thus under enforced autarky. 

Putin’s line, echoed by other Russian government figures, is that Russia is too big to be isolated and the West is not big enough to isolate it. While that’s true as far as it goes, isolation is a straw man. The goal of the post-invasion sanctions is far more practical — to undermine Putin’s ability to wage the current war and the likely future ones. The sanctions are designed to weaken, not to isolate, and while Russia can draw on its own past experience as well as on that of modern-day sanctioned nations such as Iran, it is in uncharted territory: the hurdles it faces are higher than those Joseph Stalin and the ayatollahs have had to jump.

The fascist states of 20th-century Europe saw economic self-sufficiency as a policy goal — one that helped bring about World War 2. Adolf Hitler, as Tiago Saraiva and M Norton Wise wrote in a 2010 study of fascism and autarky, “explored the question of whether autarky in raw materials and food could be attained within Germany, even assuming strict National Socialist leadership of the state. He concluded that for food the answer was a ‘flat no’. The only viable remedy lay in the expansion of Lebensraum to the East.”..

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