One of the assumptions often voiced by the democracy promotion crowd is that countries themselves are a sort of blank slate, and that conflict comes when societies end up dominated by authoritarian rulers. One would think that for American democracy promotion types, the scales would have already fallen from their eyes after Trump. The idea that Trump was the source of American evil would have given way now to the realization that various elements of Trumpism in fact remain authentically popular among a large percentage of American voters. But not having been able to bring themselves to understand this at home, they persist in their errors abroad.
Take Vladimir Putin, the supposed source of all evil in Russia. If you believe this, Russia-watcher Paul Goble has some bad news for you:
Many Russians blame their country’s moves toward fascism on Vladimir Putin alone, Lev Ponomaryov says. But it is “important in principle” to recognize that those pushing Russia in that direction include a far broader spectrum of people, something that means replacing the current Kremlin leader is only a necessary but not a sufficient step.The senior Russian human rights campaigner, one of the founders of Memorial in Soviet times, says that “in fact, to a significant degree,” the push for fascism “comes from below, and people in shoulder boards and not only those woke up to the reality that they could do something” without constraint.Everyone hoped that those at the top would notice this and stop it, but instead, especially under Putin, they have encouraged this process. As a result, Russia is undergoing “creeping fascism, the most horrible kind in the country. And escaping from this will be put more complicated than escaping from Putin.”
Every so often, I put it out there that we have a Russia problem, not a Putin problem. I'm afraid I'm right on this.