Why Putin Can’t Tap Fascism’s Greatest Resource

The Bucha atrocities and more recent evidence of torture from the areas near Kharkiv recently retaken by the Ukrainian military create an impression of a Russian genocidal zeal —

the kind exhibited by Nazi German troops in the territories they captured or, say, by Italian fascist troops in Ethiopia.

Yet Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine adventure is such a flop precisely because he is failing to ignite the kind of hatred and self-

-righteousness in the Russian nation that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini inspired in Germans and Italians.

The Italian empire had a population of some 56 million in the 1930s compared with modern Russia’s 140 million, yet Mussolini’s 20,000 Blackshirt storm troops quickly expanded to 115,000 in 1935-1936 for the Ethiopian campaign

Pier Paolo Battistelli and Piero Crociani wrote in “Italian Blackshirt 1935–45.” There was no shortage of volunteers.

Germany, with a population of about 85 million, saw the Waffen SS, the Nazi party’s own army, grow from a maximum of 28,000 to 150,000 in the first year of World War II

George Stein wrote in “The Waffen SS: Hitler’s Elite Guard at War, 1939-1945” — this despite the SS troops’ still extreme selectiveness at the time.

Both in Germany and in Italy, the professional militaries were jealous of the dictators’ party troops

which signed up voluntarily for much longer service terms than those decreed for ordinary soldiers. Both Hitler and Mussolini had to compromise,

keeping the numbers of Waffen SS and the combat-ready Blackshirts down and placing them under regular military commanders in the field.