Žižek says West knew Putin will try to restore Russian Empire

Maribor – Philosopher Slavoj Žižek has assessed that both the Western countries and Russia are responsible for the crisis in Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin had been preparing the invasion for years and the West had been aware of it. He believes that Putin’s policy means return to the Russian Empire.

As he addressed a congress of the opposition Left in Maribor on Saturday, Žižek recalled the period of the Russian Empire, in which the Ukrainian national identity was prohibited.

It is alleged that it was only in the first decade of the Soviet Union that Ukrainians fully developed their national identity, got dictionaries and their own literature. According to Žižek, Putin’s policy means a return to the Russian Empire.

“Putin is not only a conservative nationalist, but even worse, because he elevated van Ilyin, a political theologian who advocated a basic version of fascism of his own a hundred years ago, to his national philosopher,” he said.

Ilyin is said to be imagining democracy as “people voting only to confirm support for our leader”, as votes do not legitimise the leader.

“Thus is how democracy has worked in Russia for the past decade, and it is no wonder that Putin has become popular among modern-day populist politicians, especially in the US,” Žižek said.

“When Putin talks about denazification, we must remember that this is the same Putin who for years supported Marine Le Pen in France, Lega and Salvini in Italy, Alternative for Germany even Orban in Hungary, who has shown remarkable understanding for Putin.”

He noted that Russia today was not returning to the Cold War with a set of clear rules that both sides are supposed to respect, but that something much crazier is happening, as an era of warm peace has begun.

“We are in a period when peace means a constant hybrid war, where armed operations are declared as peaceful humanitarian missions against genocide. How many times have we heard this phrase from the western forces,” Žižek said.

He thinks that the west taking a critical look at itself is the only successful way to oppose Putin, as it was the West who had pushed Russia into fascism. He noted the economic proposals from the US that destroyed the Russian economy in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin and paved the way for Putin.

He agrees with the assessment that Putin is a war criminal, but wonders how this has been noticed only now. “Wasn’t he a war criminal when the Russian air force bombed the city of Aleppo in Syria, much more brutally than Kyiv is bombed now,” he said.

“Remember that Ukraine is the poorest of all post-Soviet countries,” Žižek said, adding that even if they won the war, they would have to accept the bitter truth that the western liberal democracy is in a deep crisis itself.

He wondered what kind of Europe should be saved. “If Europe that does not tolerate non-white refugees and excludes the uncivilised wins, then we do not need Russia to destroy us, we will do it ourselves,” he added.