More On: Putin
Attempting to analyze Vladimir Putin's behavior or Russian politics using Western narratives is likely to fail.
The Russians have been "eschatologically selected." They must fight the rise of Western liberalism's false faith, pseudoreligion, and evil: modernity, scientism, postmodernity, and the new world order. This is Aleksandr Dugin's thesis, who is a well-known Russian philosopher and a mentor to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia, as a geographical "pivot location," must reclaim its place in the Eurasian continent's heartland.
Aleksandr Dugin’s political theory of traditionalism wants to free socialism from its materialist, atheist, and modernist features. He calls his approach “the fourth political theory” (2012) because it is directed against the other ideologies of communism, liberalism, and fascism. Dugin, who teaches sociology and geopolitics at the Lermontov University of Moscow, seeks a new political idea for Russia. He finds it in the region’s traditional identity, which Dugin associates with “religion, hierarchy, and family.” As such, his theory is a “crusade” against postmodernity, the postindustrial society, liberal thought, and globalization.
Aleksandr Dugin is a well-known geostrategist in his native Russia and a mentor to current Russian President Vladimir Putin. America, according to Dugin, is a threat to Russian culture and identity. He expresses his position unequivocally when he says:
I strongly believe that Modernity is absolutely wrong and the Sacred Tradition is absolutely right. USA is the manifestation of all I hate—Modernity, westernization, unipolarity, racism, imperialism, technocracy, individualism, capitalism.
In his opinion, America is "the Antichrist's society." The United States of America is a threatening and frightening country on the other side of the ocean, "without history, tradition, or origins... the consequence of a pure experiment by European utopian rationalists." He bemoans the fact that America is consolidating its global dominance and that its way of life is spreading over the globe. He criticizes America for seeing progress and civilisation "in herself and solely in herself."
The United States, according to Dugin, denies everyone else "the right to their own path, culture, and system of values." As a result, burying America "is our holy obligation," he concludes. Returning to Russia's "Sacred Tradition" will save not only Russia, but the entire Eurasian continent. Russia, according to Dugin, must reclaim its genuine identity. Returning to Russia's former glory is a moral imperative. America stands in the way of Russia's messianic aspirations.
According to Dugin, the cultural divide has a geopolitical counterpart. His grand ambition is to establish a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis that would fill the geopolitical void left in Eurasia by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Some of Dugin's fundamental geopolitical principles can be traced to English geopolitical geographer Halford J. Mackinder and German geopolitical theorist Karl Hans Haushofer (1869–1946). As early as 1904, Mackinder (1861–1947) advanced his theory that the heartland of Eurasia is the "geographic pivot of history" at a Royal Geographic Society meeting.
The huge expanse of Eurasia has remained inaccessible to ships, according to Mackinder's prediction, but Russia is set to create a comprehensive train system, which would eliminate this disadvantage. The absence of ship access is no longer a disadvantage. The Russian Empire intends to exert pressure on "Finland, Scandinavia, Poland, Turkey, Persia, India, and China" with its railway system. A modernized Russia would occupy the dominant strategic position currently occupied by Germany in Europe."
At the time of Mackinder's presentation at the turn of the twentieth century, London was already anxious about Germany's emergence as an industrial force, and if Russia followed suit, a new, potentially even stronger adversary would arise. The prohibition of any coalition between Russia and Germany became a strategic priority in British foreign policy circles. Maintaining the balance of power in Europe and preventing the invasion of Russia by Germany or vice versa became a strategic imperative and prompted the United Kingdom's entry into World War I in 1914.
In the 1920s, Karl Haushofer's geostrategic concept of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo axis intrigued Soviet strategists and took shape in Germany. Dugin's geopolitical theory is the continuation of this line of thought and follows Haushofer and Mackinder's dictum: "Whoever governs East Europe commands the Heartland: Whoever commands the Heartland commands the World-Island: Whoever commands the World commands the World."
Dugin compares the fight between NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War to the conflict between Carthage and Rome. This historical war has entered a new phase with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the advent of the United States as the single superpower. Now, Russia faces an expanded NATO of its own. This brings the battle between the Atlantic region and the core of Eurasia closer to a head-on confrontation.
A decade before the Dugin’s geopolitical worldview gained prominence, the American geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski had also identified the Eastern European heartland as a pivot region. In his The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (2016), Brzezinski explains that to maintain America’s prime role in the world, it must include both Germany and Japan as its strongholds on the Western and Eastern sides of the Eurasian continent to keep Russia in check.
Regarding the significance of the geostrategic position of Russia and its neighbors, Aleksandr Dugin and Zbigniew Brzezinski would not vary greatly. Eurasia is the chessboard on which the contest for global preeminence continues to be waged by both parties. The collapse of the Soviet Union has left the United States in the unusual position of becoming the world's first superpower with worldwide reach, which is the basic difference between the United States and Russia.
Brzezinski believes that Eurasia is the "geopolitically axial" and Ukraine is a geopolitical pivot state in order to create this hegemony. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Nonetheless, if Moscow regains authority over Ukraine, Russia will inevitably reclaim the capacity to become a formidable imperial state encompassing Europe and Asia."
It is difficult to comprehend Dugin's assertions of "tradition" and "identity" when the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of Russian history have been a disaster. It was clinging to fictitious traditions that paved the way for the tragedies to occur. The resistance of the Tsars to liberalism and capitalism, which lasted under the Soviets and the current government, has impeded Russia's development.
Russia endured one calamity after another throughout the twentieth century. The Russo-Japanese War of 1905 resulted in a humiliating defeat and sparked violent upheavals in Russia. The First World War caused millions of deaths and devastated Russia's economy. The Bolshevik takeover resulted in a violent civil war between 1918 and 1921, followed by the Russo-Polish War between 1919 and 1920. The Soviet Union was founded concurrently with the enormous network of concentration camps known as the GULAG.
The Holodomor was caused by the forced industrialization and collectivization of agricultural land, which resulted in millions of fatalities in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The murderous dictatorship of Stalin imprisoned millions in work camps.
World War II, which lasted from 1941 to 1945, resulted in horrific military and civilian fatalities, and was quickly followed by the Cold War, with its arms race and costly battles in numerous Third World nations. The devastating ten-year war in Afghanistan, which ended in 1989, dealt the ultimate blow to the Soviet Union and contributed to its disintegration. The failed attempt to construct a market economy established oligarchical state capitalism rather than prosperity.
Dugin's understanding of war and culture as the primary struggle between the Atlantic region and the Eurasian heartland is similarly dubious. His paradigm of "Atlanticists" vs "Eurasians" is fundamentally incorrect for both war and culture. Wars between seafaring Europeans have shaped history since the era of Greece and Rome, and they have reached new heights since the discovery of America. Similarly, France and Germany, both "land powers," invaded Russia and were destroyed by Russia with the aid of "Atlanticists."
Regarding the notion of a fundamental cultural chasm between Western Europe and the Russian Federation, it is important to note that the Russian Orthodox Church is in many ways closer to Catholicism than the Catholic Church is to Protestantism in the West. The literature and music of the Russian Empire in the eighteenth century were profoundly inspired by the western part of Europe, as were the contributions of the Russian Empire. It was not a cultural schism that led Russia to accept Marxism rather than free capitalism and classical liberal ideas. The West exported incorrect ideologies to Russia. By choosing Marxism from the West rather than liberal capitalism from the West, Russia has committed its worst error to date.
Regarding the ongoing battle in Ukraine, not only has Russia's foreign policy but also that of the United States become a geopolitical hostage. By losing Ukraine, Russia fears losing both its identity and the opportunity to become a global actor once more. For the United States, Ukraine is the key state for maintaining and expanding its worldwide hegemonic position. Foreign policymakers in both nations view the global map as a chessboard. Both parties appear to feel that the Ukrainian government has absolute control over their own future.
It would not be the first time in history that a "fixed idea" such as the geographical determination of global events threatens the wealth and peace of all continents.
By adopting Aleksandr Dugin's ideological path, Russia would commit another grave miscalculation. Instead of adhering to the illusions of a fictitious tradition, the Russian leadership should grasp that without free capitalism, neither liberty nor prosperity are possible.
Historiographically, Russia's home is within Europe. Petersburg and Moscow are cities in Europe. Nonetheless, if the Western countries fail to integrate Russia into a shared security structure, Russia will turn its attention to Asia. New alliances with China, India, and Iran are awaiting formation.
Considering Ukraine's geopolitical "pivotal" role, both Russia and the United States may be in error.