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Timothy Snyder: Shamelessly Shilling for U.S. Capitalism-Imperialism in the Proxy War in Ukraine with the “Tyranny vs. Democracy” Hustle

banner bootlickers gallery Snyder


Timothy Snyder is a historian and award-winning Yale professor. On the basis of (undeserved) cred as an expert on “tyranny” and how to oppose Trump,1 Snyder is widely promoted now by liberal ruling class media to shill for U.S. capitalism-imperialism in its proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a criminal act by a capitalist-imperialist power. But Snyder is a cheerleader behind the U.S. transformation of that conflict into a proxy war against Russia, using Ukrainian soldiers and people as cannon fodder to advance U.S. imperial interests. And he openly minimizes the risk of nuclear war this entails.2

The U.S. Is Not Pumping Tens of Billions of Dollars of Death Machinery into Ukraine to Defend Rule of Law and “Democracy”

Snyder claims that the U.S. is fueling the war in Ukraine to defend a democracy from tyranny.3

The record of U.S. imperialism staging or orchestrating coups to overthrow democratically elected governments around the world disqualifies any of its apologists from claiming it is a champion of “defending democracy.”

The U.S.-sponsored coups against the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran; Lumumba in (what is now) the Democratic Republic of Congo; Sukarno in Indonesia (in a coup that resulted in the murder of hundreds of thousands of people or more); Allende in Chile; and many more when those governments stood in the way of the economic, political, and/or military objectives of the U.S. (See the American Crime series at

And in 2014, the U.S. and its “free world” Western European allies orchestrated a coup in Ukraine that ousted Russian-leaning Ukrainian President Yanukovych (whose election in 2010 was reported as an “impressive display of democracy” by international observers closely aligned with the U.S. and its European allies).

As the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian put it in BAsics 1:3:

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

Top U.S. officials are on record with actual motives that have nothing to do with “defending democracy” in Ukraine. Biden called for regime change in Russia, declaring that Putin “cannot remain in power.” U.S. Secretary of “Defense” Austin declared U.S. objectives in the Ukraine war are for Russia to be “weakened.” And Austin gloated that Russia “has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly, and we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”

Snyder Whites Out U.S. Provocations and Moves on Russia

Snyder insists the U.S. did nothing (or at most, maybe “some little thing”) to provoke Russia to invade Ukraine.4 Snyder, who brands himself an expert on Ukrainian history, somehow missed a decade of moves by the U.S. to draw Ukraine more tightly into its economic, political, and military orbit, posing the prospect of U.S. and allied troops positioned on Ukraine’s border with Russia.5

And before that, there were decades of massive expansion of NATO, a military “alliance” run by the U.S. Over those decades, NATO countries came to encircle Russia in Europe.6 This despite the fact that in February 1990, U.S. Secretary of State Baker promised Soviet leader Gorbachev (who was the last leader of the Soviet Union before its collapse and the emergence of the Russian Federation) that “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.”7

BAsics 1-3 English


Nuclear War? Snyder Says “Rather Unlikely” but Worth the Risk

Snyder blithely dismisses the danger of nuclear war erupting out of the proxy war in Ukraine as “rather unlikely.”8 That’s not what the two people in position to make that happen are saying. In September of 2022, Putin declared, “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” And it was clear he meant that to include territory seized by Russia in Ukraine. A month later Biden said, "[I]f, in fact, things continue down the path they are going” in Ukraine, the world faces “the prospect of Armageddon.”

Snyder even insists (by extension) that the “rather unlikely” risk of nuclear war is worth it because a “Ukrainian victory” (even if it takes nuclear war!) “will improve the world we live in.” In other words, risking nuclear war, with unimaginable suffering and death to humanity, is worth it to maintain the U.S. atop a world of exploitation and oppression.

August 6 and 9, 1945—The Nuclear Incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6 and 9, 1945—The Nuclear Incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki   

Bob Avakian has written that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this."


See also:

American Crimes Around the World

An Outlook That Is the Product of and Serves an Empire of Exploitation and Oppression

Snyder’s “tyranny vs. democracy” framework is a variant of “anti-authoritarianism” that, particularly since the end of World War 2, has been invoked to blind people, particularly liberals, to the endless crimes of the U.S. empire.

Bob Avakian concludes a timely and essential article, Shameless American Chauvinism: “Anti-Authoritarianism” as a “Cover” for Supporting U.S. Imperialism, with this challenge:

For those of us who are not willing to be blinded by this, we can and must confront and analyze reality as it actually is, and draw the necessary conclusions. Besides the fact that the U.S. is today, and has historically been, allied with many “authoritarian” governments throughout the world (and, in fact, has forcibly installed such governments in many countries), the even more fundamental fact is that the essence of the conflict between the U.S. and countries like Russia and China is not one between “democracy” and “authoritarianism,” but is a matter of rivalry among imperialist powers, all of which are monstrous oppressors of masses of people, and none of which represent or act in the interests of humanity. What is called for, and urgently now, is to oppose all imperialist marauders and mass murderers, and all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation, while giving particular emphasis to opposing “our own” imperialist oppressors who commit their monstrous crimes “in our name” and seek to rally us to support them on the basis of a grotesque American chauvinism, which we must firmly reject and fiercely struggle against.

Timothy Snyder Falsely Equates Opposites: Communism and Fascism

In addition to acting as shameless shill for U.S. proxy war, Timothy Snyder is a prominent follower and promoter of the work of Hannah Arendt, the most celebrated exponent of “theory” of “totalitarianism,” which conflates communism and fascism. Snyder’s book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, is framed by this in the Prologue:

[T]he precedent set by the Founders [as Snyder rebrands the founding fathers: slaveowners, genocidal Indian-killers, for whom women had no rights at all!] demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century [emphasis added].

The revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA) has deeply and systematically exposed the attempt by “anti-totalitarians” to equate communism and fascism. The article Fascists and Communists: Completely Opposed and Worlds Apart, by BA begins:

Fascists stand for and are determined to intensify, to grotesque and hideous dimensions, every dimension of oppression and exploitation and all the horrors perpetrated by the system of capitalism-imperialism. Communists, and in particular the advocates of the new communism, are determined to put an end to all these horrors, and potentially even worse horrors, through the overthrow of the system of capitalism-imperialism and the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression, throughout the world.

That entire article is important reading, including for timely applicability in many dimensions.



1. Snyder’s book On Tyranny, written during the Trump/Pence fascist regime, promotes “traditional” U.S. capitalism-imperialism and channels outrage over Trump into the confines, thinking, and working within the system that gave rise to a fascist regime. In contrast, for an evidence-based analysis of the Trump/Pence regime, the danger it posed, and how to effectively resist and uproot the basis for, and threat of fascism, watch The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In The Name of Humanity We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America: A Better World IS Possible, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. [back]

2. The actual, underlying driving forces behind the war in Ukraine, and the global context it is taking place in and shaped by, are concisely outlined in the introduction to the article Nuclear-Armed Imperialist Powers Face Off Worldwide—Three Ways the World Just Got More Dangerous at

All of these imperialist powers are driven by the basic compulsion of capitalism-imperialism—expand or die. The U.S. is on top in the existing global power alignment. It is fighting to maintain its domination of a global empire, an empire built on the backs of the exploitation of billions of people worldwide. China is an on-the-rise and expanding power driven by the same basic compulsion, and aiming for a larger share of that exploitation. Russia aims to prevent further U.S. expansion and consolidation in countries bordering or close by Russia, and to expand its own power and influence in the division of the world by imperialist powers. Each side can establish its own supremacy only at the expense of and by ultimately subduing and defeating its opponents.” [back]

3. Opinion: You can’t understand the war in Ukraine without knowing history, Timothy Snyder, Washington Post, February 22, 2023. [back]

4. Putin and the Presidents: Timothy Snyder (interview) | FRONTLINE (begins 14:05), September 26 ,2022. [back]

5. See What You Should Really Know About Ukraine by Bryce Greene at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and the section What is the immediate background to the current crisis? in the article A Hellish War in Ukraine: Where the Hell Did This Come From? at [back]

6. Despite promises made by the U.S., NATO began expanding to the east. In 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were absorbed into NATO. In 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia were added to NATO. Since then, the rapid expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders—Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and (in 2020) North Macedonia have been added to NATO’s rolls—posed the question of whether Ukraine would also join NATO. [back]

7. There is no dispute that Baker did make this promise. Defenders of U.S. policy insist it doesn’t really count because at the time the promise was made, nobody expected the Soviet Union would collapse (see for example Why NATO and Ukraine are a flash point with Russia 30 years after the end of the Cold War, PBS, February 22, 2022). This defense of the U.S. reneging on its promise is essentially that, because the opportunities opened up for the U.S. to seize on Russia’s weak position to grab a military advantage and expand NATO, all promises to not do so were worth no more than every treaty the U.S. ever made with the Native Americans—nothing. [back]

8. How does the Russo-Ukrainian War end? Timothy Snyder, October 5, 2022. [back]

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