Meanwhile, his government has tightened its grip on the media to control what Russians see and think.
International media organizations have expressed fear for their journalists in Russia.
Information crackdown. Western news sites and Facebook have been blocked to keep information from the population.
Authoritarian Russia. “It has been authoritarian for a long time, it’s getting worse and worse and worse,” Beth Sanner, former deputy director of National Intelligence, told CNN’s Abby Phillip on Sunday, when asked if Russia was veering toward totalitarianism — where the state controls all aspects of life.
“There are no limits really on Putin’s ability to do what he wants inside that society. And I do worry about this brain drain, you know, the people who have means, the people who are smart, the people who might challenge Putin over time are the ones leaving and the people left are the ones who believe state TV.”
Must the US learn to live alongside dictators? Sanner appeared alongside the Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who said the democratic experiment in Russia is failed — and that’s something the US and the West need to start dealing with.
“We need to examine the idea that democracies and dictatorships can coexist,” Rogin said.
“How we go forward is we realize these dictatorships are not in the business of working with us,” he added.
Netflix had refused to put Russian state TV on its platform. TikTok cited the new punitive “fake” information law.
“We do not need to be funding these murderous dictators that mean us harm and that mean to replace the United States, who is leading the world’s democracies, with their version of totalitarian regimes,” Rep. Mike Waltz, a Florida Republican, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Sunday.
It’s a unique challenge, for a world that has grown so interconnected as a result of globalization, to be dealing with a nuclear-armed autocrat leader bent on nationalist expansion.
Call this what it is. Putin’s goal in all of this isn’t control so much as a Russian empire of sorts, according to Fiona Hill, the former White House official and Russia expert, who compared Russia’s effort to expand today to Germany’s before World War II.
“But let’s focus here on the territorial expansionism of Germany, what Germany did under Hitler in that period,” she said in the interview, in which she laid out Germany’s expansion over the course of years and concluded, “… here is Vladimir Putin doing exactly the same thing.”
Viewed over the longer term — since 2008 — Putin has been slowly acquiring land, bringing neighbors under his control and setting the precedent that he can take by force whomever resists.
“He’s saying Ukrainians and Russians are one and the same,” Hill said. “This idea of a Russian World means re-gathering all the Russian-speakers in different places that belonged at some point to the Russian tsardom.”
“As sad or scary as it might sound, in my view a turn to totalitarianism for a certain period of time in our country is possible,” Putin said, according to video published by Russia’s Lenta and aired on CNN.
The extended clip is about him pushing Russian democracy, but recognizing a Russian tendency to seek comfort in a strong hand, according to CNN’s John Avlon, who discussed the clip on “New Day.” It’s a stretch to think he was referring to himself. In the next line, per Avlon, Putin says, “Sometimes that strong hand, though, can strangle us.”
A refugee crisis. Hill is not the only one seeing vivid comparisons between Russia’s current attempts at expansion and Germany’s.
“Historically, I’m reminded of when Hitler invaded Poland, the country I’m in right now,” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
“This seems eerily similar, and watching these refugees coming out of Ukraine … 1.5 million over the last week and a half, and they say it’s only going to get worse as the noose is tightened around the neck of Ukraine,” he said.