The Yale historian who predicted Trump’s fascist turn foresees Putin’s failure in Ukraine: ‘You pretend to win a war and we pretend to show enthusiasm’

July 24, 2022, 9:26 PM UTC
Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the State Awarding Ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace on June 12 in Moscow.
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A Yale historian who predicted former U.S. President Donald Trump’s fascist turn contends Russian President Vladimir Putin is losing his war in Ukraine, saying the fact that other powerful Russians are speaking out means the despot is “lost in the fog of war.”

“We now regularly hear … from people aside from Putin (for example, former Prime Minister and President Dmitri Medvedev) about the meaning of the war, the catastrophic consequences that await Ukraine and the West, and so forth. This is a sign that Putin is losing control,” said Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History at Yale, Saturday in a lengthy Twitter thread.

Among Snyder’s myriad other reasons for the assertion: Russia’s “doom propaganda” is serving as “rhetorical preparation for a power struggle after Putin falls,” and “drastic proclamations” are serving as “evidence that important Russians think that Russia is losing.”

Russia is capable of mobilizing its people for war “only at the level of emotions, not bodies,” Snyder said, adding that the country has taken “horrible losses in men” since invading Ukraine in late February.

“Russian regions are now working hard to find highly paid ‘volunteers’ who are sent to die with little training,” he said. “Putin is clearly afraid that a general mobilization would undo his popularity and bring down his regime. In this sense, he is weak.”

Tentative factors like “mastery over rivals, soft support in the population, [and] integrity of the army” keep Putin in power—barely, Snyder said.

“Putin has been good at keeping us all in a fog. But now he himself seems lost in the fog of war.”

Snyder has long warned publicly of the existential threat Trump poses to American democracy, saying shortly before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that “we are in a slow-motion Reichstag Fire right now.”

“Donald Trump is not as skilled as Hitler,” he told Salon in October 2020. “He doesn’t work as hard as Hitler. He doesn’t have the same level of confidence as Hitler, but he’s clearly looking for that Reichstag Fire emergency. … ‘Antifascists’ and ‘thugs’ and ‘law and order’ and so on is part of that effort.”

“Donald Trump keeps trying to make the Reichstag Fire work.”

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