The Armed Forces of Ukraine carried out a successful counteroffensive operation in Kharkiv Region thereby liberating the northeastern part of the country. The liberated territory is of the size of Umbria in the center of Italy. It includes 388 settlements in 8.5k sq. km.
Russia used to boast to have the “second army in the world” and a strongman in power. It is still trying to continue its barbaric expansion bulling its neighbor but the “three-day operation” that began in February turned into a threat to the existence of the Russian regime.
This article draws parallels between the consequences of this defeat for Putin and the failures of dictators or dictators-to-be in the contemporary history, in particular:
• Mussolini regime in the 1930s and 1940s,
• Argentine Junta in connection with the Falkland (Malvinas) war in the early 1980s,
• regime of the corrupt president of Ukraine Yanukovych and his Party of Regions before the Revolution of Dignity in the early 2010s, as well as
• The rise and fall of Putin’s friends in Austria among the far-right Free Party in the 2010s.
… but first, on Italy’s role in the successful counterattack of Ukraine
Heroism of Ukrainian service members and the great tactical prowess of the military commanders were bolstered by the weapons that partner countries supplied to Ukraine. Italy made an important contribution such as armored vehicles and artillery, including FH-70 howitzers with a firing range of up to 25-30 km, ammunition and machine guns, including Beretta MG42/59, camp tents and medical equipment.
Russia reacting sneakily
After the defeat in the Kharkiv region, the Kremlin asked Ukraine to resume peace negotiations… on its terms. To stop the advance of Ukrainian troops, in recent days, Russian officials started calling Ukraine for negotiations.
Moscow continues the campaign of misinformation on the progress of the Ukrainian counterattack using official and unofficial channels. Russian bloggers are trying to show that de-occupation is harmful to Ukraine. A report of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in the USA exposed these attempts.
Russia also supports this attempt by increasing energy pressure on Europe, turning off the gas valve. Putin hopes that the European population will cease to support Ukraine, driven by carnal interest, and not by the principles and impressions from the images of sufferings of the civilians in Ukraine.
Russian nationalists threatening with nuclear weapons
Everyone knows that at the beginning of Russia’s full -scale invasion, Putin put nuclear weapons on combat readiness and broke this news to the world.
Not everyone knows though that after the Ukrainian counterattack in September, Russian far-right have been demanding a nuclear strike on Ukraine. They began to collect signatures for the resignation of Putin if he fails to be tough enough to do it.
The consequence of a nuclear strike, even if with tactical rather than strategic nuclear weapons, is likely to lead to the spread of radiation throughout Europe. The use of nuclear weapons by Russia set in motion the collapse of the European economy and may lead to a crisis in the EU.
But crisis is not the only scenario of the course of events.
Putin to resign: the president of the Russian Federation is accused of high treason
Many Russian parliamentarians believe that since 2014 the war against Ukraine has been a big challenge to Russia and its people and it makes the existing problems more pronounced, the economy and the political environment. But the most important reason for being angry with the dictator is how the scaled-up war on Ukraine has been developing since February 24, 2022.
News broke recently that councilors of two local governments of the Russian Federation – in Moscow and St. Petersburg – made a public call for Putin’s resignation. Their colleagues from other cities joined them. So far, municipal deputies of 18 districts signed a public statement demanding Putin’s resignation. Will they be successful? And if so, when?
History remembers Benito Mussolini, who, siding with Adolf Hitler, brought devastation to Italy. Mussolini, the founder of fascism, the term that comes from an Italian word for a sheaf, came to power legitimately with a promise to restore order and to finish with a decade of chaos First World War One. While putting things in order, Mussolini consolidated power in order to harass opposition, indulge in veneration and populism, and pushed Italy into World War Two on the side of evil, bringing death and suffering to millions of people. Following Mussolini’s banner, a half a million Italians died. Italy lost both territory and status as a respectable nation. The Italians who fought against Mussolini became heroes, and the WW2 tragedy will be never forgotten.
In Kyiv, one of the arterial roads is named after Marshal Tymoshenko. In 1943, Tymoshenko’s troops captured an Italian fascists corps together with the German Nazi troops. Tymoshenko told the Italians, “this is not your war” and let them go home on parole that they will not fight anymore. One of the released Italians opened a restaurant in the province of Parma of the Emilia-Romania region and called it Timocenko. All Italians of that time had a strong aversion to dictator Mussolini, including those who supported him and were defeated under his banner.
Party of the Regions and the 2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine
Until 2014, there was a party in Ukraine that resembled the Lega of the times of Umberto Bossi and the early Matteo Salvini. The Party of Regions of Ukraine campaigned that the eastern industrial regions should have more autonomy, privileges, and political weight in the capital, Kyiv. Or else, they will secede.
Frustrated by the economic crisis that began with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in the US, Ukrainian voters gave a chance to the party leader Viktor Yanukovych, electing him the president in 2010. Instead of economic decentralization, Yanukovych fully consolidated power, set up corruption schemes of an unprecedented scale and, using Ukraine’s sovereignty as a bargaining chip, he sold himself to Putin and his propagandists. They were openly insulting Ukraine, calling it a failed state and saying that Europe would deceive Ukraine but Russia would not.
During the general protests, Russia instilled fear of political and criminal consequences in Yanukovych. They organized his escape. He took his money with him, but did not have time to dismantle the golden toilet in his full-security residence near Kyiv. Putin settled him in a city close to the border with Ukraine, making him a free propagandist. His son died under mysterious circumstances a few years after the 2014 Revolution of the Dignity in Ukraine.
The Party of Regions, which included many big businessmen, dissolved. The fates of its members differ greatly. The current mayor of Krivyi Rih, where president Zelenskyy was born, is taking an active part in the defense of the city located near the frontline. Some others have left politics, for example the richest person in Ukraine. There are also those who are now offering services to Putin’s occupation administrations, but those are much fewer and, more often than not, they have families and businesses in Russia.
By shooting at the protesters who held a rally against corruption and for closer ties with the EU, Yanukovych wanted to show his toughness. But when this only angered and strengthened the protesters, Yanukovych was completely defeated. His power fell like a card house from a blow to the wind.
Defeat of the powerful Argentine junta
Let’s recall Argentina of the 1980s where a number of rotating military dictators and, in particular, Leopoldo Galtieri, came to power, ruining people’s lives and indiscriminately killing innocent people. When the popularity of Galtieri dropped, he organized a military campaign to gain control of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) that were part of the UK and which Argentina always disputed. The corrupt generals laughed at the UK that had just elected a woman, Margaret Thatcher, as the prime minister.
Argentina’s attempt to capture the main island led to the 1982 Falkland War, which Argentina lost. The power of the omnipotent junta fell.
Argentina’s cultural affinity with Italy, Spain and France made citizens of these countries make a very painful choice. The UK threatened to vertically escalate the war and to completely break relations with its NATO allies, when the British intelligence learned that the French president had considered supporting the Argentinean dictators with weapons.
But when the ex-members of the Argentine junta with Italian surnames Viola, Lacoste, Galtieri, Lombardo, etc. died 10-20 years ago, no one in Italy cried for them and did not remember them, even Umberto Bossi.
Putin’s fun club within and outside Russia
Paradoxically, we can observe the same thing with Putin’s dictatorship. When his popularity began to fall, he decided to follow the classic route of all dictators and started the war of invasion.
Today’s Italy has its own politicians who flirt with dictatorial regimes, such as Matteo Salvini, a political leader who supports Putin’s dictatorship.
One can look at Austria that already had its populist rightwing politician, Jörg Haider. An Austrian nationalist and a leader of the Freedom Party got elected as the governor of the state of Carinthia.
Carinthia was far from a poor area but became bankrupt because of the populist policies of Jörg Haider. And no one forgets how his party put Karin Kneissl to the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria later. Karin Kneissl took advantage of her official job to invite Vladimir Putin to her wedding.
In the end, neither Jörg Haider nor the Freedom Party nor Karin Kneissl brought anything good for Austria. Politicians like Salvini should be mindful of this.
As history shows, dictators are prone to resorting to wars, inciting crises and losing at the end. Great and magnificent empires do fall, and so do pseudo-empires too.
A comprehensive study by Erica Franz showed that 239 authoritarian regimes collapsed painfully between the end of WW2 and until 2014, no matter how successful they had been at the beginning. A typical way they collapse is a palace coup. The elite groups rebel against the dominant party or leader. In 70% of cases, authoritarian regimes collapse due to internal conflicts followed by mass protests.
Italy: major elections amid biggest geopolitical crisis
Undoubtedly, the outcome of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the likely painful transition of power in the Russian Federation, or even its collapse, will greatly affect the balance of power on the international arena, and the foreign policy of the EU and EU member countries, among which Italy, a major EU power, now stands out. No matter the outcome of the September 25 elections, the leaders should be extremely careful about dealing with dictators like Putin and bargaining on sovereignty. The main thing for Italians is to balance short-term and long-term consequences of decisions of those who are in power. A poor choice in the domestic arena can be very consequential. And it will take a long time to pay for ill-conceived decisions on the international arena.