During the Cold War, some on the European left routinely chanted “better red than dead” to show their opposition to the United States. Now, their descendants have updated that slogan for analogous reasons to “better Putin than a Muslim,” according to Prague commentator Václav Vlk.
In “Neviditelny Pes” this week, Vlk points to this latest version of a slogan which first appeared among German soldiers in World War II who earlier declared “better dead than red” as evidence of the way in which European thinking has evolved.
The slogan “better red than dead,” the Czech writer points out, reflected not only opposition to the US but also “fear of the Soviet Union and its rockets and tanks.” Many, especially young Germans thus declared their preference to be “red” not “dead.” Now, many in Europe fear the influx of Muslims and thus they look to Russia and Putin.
The new “’arabized’” Muslim immigrants in Europe, who Vlk says “hate our culture and us in general” regardless of our politics are “the problem” that has changed Europe. “In their eyes,” he argues, all Europeans are simply “unbelievers” who should be converted or destroyed in the name of Islam.
“The optimists” among Europeans, he continues, “suppose that when the jihadists get fat and calm down after the seizure of Europe and when through the use of murders they achieve the complete submission of the population, then our situation will recall that of Christians in the Ottoman Empire.” As to how that worked in practice, “ask the Bulgarians or the Serbs.”
European elites have been unwilling to face up to this threat, Vlk argues, but many in the populations of European countries see it – and that explains why they are shifting their views not only about Europe about whose future they have great doubts but also about Putin’s Russia and how they should relate to it.
European populations are increasingly alienated from the ruling elites whose multiculturalist approach they distrust and see as the reason that Muslims now threaten their countries. Some Czechs, Vlk continues, dismiss the EU’s approach with the “ironic comment” that “they have struggle for human rights so long that they have reached the mosque.”
Consequently, “people are searching for a way out,” and “despite the enormous delight at meetings with American soldiers” who have come into the region, “media observers note that on Internet sites, there are appearing ever more supporters of Russia and of Putin.”
This is not “despite” Crimea but “even possibly “precisely because of it,” Vlk says. Many view Putin’s “seizure of Crimea” as “base against the penetration of Muslims to the North (Crimean Tatars and Türkiye)” and thus conclude that annexing it to Russia was “a great idea” that they should support.
Moreover, a short clip on Youtube showing Russian soldiers killing Somali pirates has not appalled Europeans. “’That is how one must act,’ think the majority of ‘white residents of Europe and probably Australia, ‘rather than babbling about human rights and paying off the pirates while allowing them to kill ours.’”
“It is unbelievable,” Vlk continues, “how US foreign policy over the last 20 years has been able to transform friendly countries which welcomed the US and the West as their saviors and as examples for emulation into countries of unconcealed hostility the US among a significant part of the population.”
At the same time, he says, no one familiar with history should have been entirely surprised. “Already from Napoleon’s time, but above all from the time of ‘national rebirth’ not only Czech but also Serbian, Bulgarian, Slovenian and others, these peoples have balanced between ‘West’ and ‘East.’”
They have done so “in the interests of their national survival,” and consequently, “every time when an internal crisis and war begins in the West or when it simply makes a mistake, these peoples) and not only they but also, let us say,” Vlk adds, “Austria, turn to Russia.” That is what is happening now.
These peoples “understand that this is a Byzantine despotism” regardless of its formal title, “but there is the conviction that it is possible to survive in its shadow. With difficulty and misfortunes but possible nonetheless.” Hence, he suggests, the slogan of today, “better Putin than a Muslim.”
Those who can’t see this, the Czech writer says, don’t have any political vision: they “can’t see further than their own nose.”
Obviously, not everyone in Europe feels this way or shares the xenophobic attitudes toward Muslims that Vlk points to. But the attitude he points to, with what might be called its “survivalist roots” undoubtedly plays a large, even growing role in the politics of many countries on the continent. And it can be opposed only if it is first understood.