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When autocrats fascinate democrats

It is once again surprising to note how much autocrats fascinate democrats.

As between the two world wars of the 20th century, a dictator who uses lies and violence, despite the denial of his word and his signature, finds defenders, even promoters, in the countries of freedom.

After having put on a show, fishing, hunting, swimming, praying, dancing, flying, etc. for internal propaganda purposes in a country that has always glorified the image of the tsar, Putin, as if he had arrived from another world, has brought war back to Europe and received the support of a part - admittedly a very small minority - of the continent's elites.

He certainly stimulates the dream of some people regarding strong power, if possible male and dominating, adept at blunt and brutal force, muscular virility. This attraction towards the autocrat makes him, quite wrongly, the star of the moment and the topic of all conversations.

Yet this individual is not a strategist at all. He is an opportunist with an average profile. Like the autocrats of the previous century, who often had a criminal past, his professional history is marked by failure and mediocrity. His relationship with money is opaque and suspect. The simplicity of his discourse seduces weak minds, his anti-Americanism flatters the bitter people of the West. Extremists of all persuasions take pleasure in it.

The violence he embodies, associated with his past as a spy, seems to hypnotise the ignorant or to move a few cynics, who are happy to spread the fear he wishes to arouse in democratic Europe.

This fear is far from being justified.

Although the situation is serious, and the Ukrainians taken hostage are paying an exorbitant price for their resistance, the truth deserves more restraint.

His isolation is already a defeat. His country's image has been damaged for a long time to come, its economy wounded for even longer.

The difficulties of his army remind us that it is far from being equal to the European forces. If it cannot yet be said that it is bogged down, it is obvious that it is facing a strong and courageous opposition that the Europeans will support in the long term.

Nothing can justify this quasi-fascination for a character whose deeds history will certainly condemn. In the twentieth century, it was after the implementation of their policies that general opprobrium fell on dictators such as Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Mao. In the 21st century, it is from the moment they first appear.