Russia’s New—and Frightening—“Ism”

Friday, July 30, 2004

Few books published in Russia during the post-communist period have exerted such an influence on Russian military, police, and foreign policy elites as Aleksandr Dugin’s 1997 neo-fascist treatise Osnovy geopolitiki: Geopoliticheskoe budushchee Rossii (Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geo-political Future of Russia). The impact of this intended “Eurasianist” textbook on key Russian elites testifies to the worrisome rise of fascist ideas and sentiments during the late Yeltsin and the Putin periods.

Five years before President George W. Bush announced his “axis of evil,” Dugin had introduced three key neo-Eurasian axes: Moscow-Berlin, Moscow-Tokyo, and Moscow-Tehran. The basic principle underlying these three axes was said to be “a common enemy,” by which he meant the United States.

 

The Moscow-Berlin Axis

According to Dugin, as a result of a grand alliance to be concluded between Russia and Germany, the two countries will divide up into spheres of influence all the territories lying between them, with no “sanitary cordon.” Dugin proposes that Germany be offered political dominance over most Protestant and Catholic states located within Central and Eastern Europe and that Kaliningrad be returned to Germany as part of this bargain. The “unstable” state of Finland, which “historically enters into the geopolitical space of Russia,” is seen as an exception. Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania are also to be allocated to the Russian-Eurasian sphere of dominance, as is “the north of the Balkan peninsula from Serbia to Bulgaria,” which is described as part of the “Russian South.”

At one point in his textbook, Dugin confides that all arrangements with “the Eurasian bloc of the continental West,” headed by Germany, will be merely temporary and provisional in nature. “The maximum task [for the future],” he underscores, “is the ‘Finlandization’ of all of Europe.”

As for the former Soviet Union republics situated within Europe, all—with the single exception of Estonia—are to be absorbed by Eurasia-Russia. Belarus, Dugin pronounces, “should be seen as part of Russia.” In a similar vein, Moldova is assigned to what Dugin terms the “Russian South.” On Ukraine, Dugin stipulates that, with the exception of its three westernmost regions—Volhynia, Galicia, and Transcarpathia—Ukraine, like Belarus, constitutes an integral part of Russia-Eurasia.

 

The Moscow-Tokyo Axis

The cornerstone of Dugin’s approach to the Far East lies in the creation of a Moscow-Tokyo axis. In Russia’s relations with Japan, he emphasizes that the principle of a common enemy “will prove decisive.” Dugin recommends that the Kuriles be restored to Japan, just as Kaliningrad should be returned to Germany.

Dugin sees the People’s Republic of China, like the United States, as an enormous danger to Russia-Eurasia. “China,” he warns, “is the most dangerous geopolitical neighbor of Russia to the south” and verges on being an American factotum. At several points in his book, Dugin expresses a fear that China might “undertake a desperate thrust into the north—into Kazakhstan and Eastern Siberia.”

Because of the threat that it represents to Russia’s perceived vital geopolitical interests, China must, to the maximum degree possible, Dugin asserts, be dismantled. “Tibet-Xinjiang-Mongolia-Manchuria,” he writes, “taken together comprise a security belt of Russia.” “Without Xinjiang and Tibet,” he concludes, “the geopolitical breakthrough of China into Kazakhstan and Siberia becomes impossible.” As “geopolitical compensation” for the loss of its northern regions, China should be offered development “in a southern direction—Indochina (except Vietnam), the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia.”

 

The Moscow-Tehran Axis

The most ambitious and complex part of Dugin’s program concerns the South, where the focal point is a Moscow-Tehran axis. “The idea of a continental Russia-Islamic alliance,” he writes, “lies at the foundation of anti-Atlanticist strategy. . . . This alliance is based on the traditional character of Russian and Islamic civilizations.” As the result of a broad Grand Alliance to be concluded with Iran, Russia-Eurasia will eventually enjoy realizing a centuries-old Russian dream of reaching the “warm seas” of the Indian Ocean. Russia is to enjoy “geopolitical access—in the first place, naval bases—on the Iranian shores.”

As the result of such an alliance, Dugin argues, Russia-Eurasia should be prepared to divide up the imperial spoils with “the Islamic Empire [of Iran] to the south.” Which part of the South should come under Russia? “What is the Russian South?” Dugin asks at one point in his book. He answers that it includes “the Caucasus [all of it],” “the eastern and northern shores of the Caspian,” “Central Asia [that is, all of the former Soviet republics],” plus Mongolia. Even these regions, he adds, should be seen “as zones of further geopolitical expansion to the south and not as ‘eternal borders of Russia.’” Turkey is seen as being almost as dangerous to Russia-Eurasia as are the United States and China. Turkish minorities must be provoked into rebellion, and there is a need, he stresses, to create “geopolitical shocks” within Turkey.

 


Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics represents a harsh and cynical repudiation of the architecture of international relations that was laboriously erected following the Second World War and the emergence of nuclear weapons. Dugin and his “system” want to return us, it seems, to the combustible interwar period and something akin to the rise of fascism in Europe, with the lurid imperial fantasies of Il Duce, the führer, and other demagogues. Could, one wonders, a reversion to a destructive past be the “dividend” that Russia and the West are to receive for having with enormous effort put an end to the Cold War?