Browsing through the deep archives of the web, I rediscovered some of my own writings from many years ago. One of the posts on my old weblog in particular caught me eye. It’s 17 years old, and about the concept of “Eurasianism”, one of Putin’s ideological foundations in his dangerously hodge-podge worldview.
I’m not going to comment on this from today’s point of view and whether or not it (still) is as relevant as some people make it out to be. But still, I couldn’t resist posting this. I wrote this entry in response to a former blogging buddy visiting a SAIS seminar featuring Aleksandr Dugin (!). I wish my analysis had turned out right, but my youthful self seems to have been engaged in some wishful thinking.
Whether Russia is alienating herself from the EU and the US in favour of her historical sphere of influence is also highly doubtful. Despite recent misunderstandings, the trends are fairly clear: At least the European Union is – also beyond oil – increasingly integrating with Russia in the economic hemisphere, and the Russian political class is absolutely aware of this, despite problems in defining the European entity.
Alexander Rahr, leading German Russia expert has given an interview to the German ‘Eurasisches Magazin’. [H] e makes a good comment on the influence Eurasianism has and will have in Russia’s foreign policy. Rahr holds that Russia will not be able to become a single and separate geo-political force as the Chinese influence will grow much more considerably over the coming years, putting pressure on Russia from the East. Hence, the only tangible option for Moscow is to intensify ties with Europe.
When Putin described the demise of the Soviet Union as the “biggest catastrophe of the 20th century”, he reflects the Russian historical understanding – which holds that the Soviet Union unified the core parts of a thousand-year-old Russian empire. The origin of this is located in today’s Ukraine, the Rus in Kiev. Belarus inseparably belonged to this entity as well, as – in the opinion of many Russians – did the Caucasus, Siberia and Tatarstan (the latter two still being part of Russia).
And, according to Mr. Rahr, there is still the hope that Russia will be able to regain these lost parts again, maybe in a hundred years. While this idea is still present in the thoughts of many Russian politicians (and is having a slight renaissance judging from the popularity of Dr. Dugin), this does not mean it will translate into armed conflict. Russia is not capable of doing this, and the quite derailed ideas of Dr. Dugin (e.g. the alliance with Turkey) won’t be the way forward, as most people in the Kremlin understand quite well.
It would be too simplistic trying to understand Russian foreign policy in the terms of Eurasianism.