Victory parade at Red Square in Moscow on June 24, 1945 in commemoration of Germany’s crushing defeat in World War II 1939-1945
Construct is not equal to history, it is a surrogate of history. The real history of Ukraine, being an actual history, still holds some surprises, bifurcations etc. Meanwhile ‘ukrainism’ is a construct.
Constructology is a study of constructs. Nothing fancy, no wordplay is intended with the term ‘constructology’. The naming convention stays the same for any subject of interest. The suffix ‘logy’ stands for the study of something. The subject being studied is specified in the first part of the name for a specific research field.
Zoology studies animals.
Anthropology studies humans (from the Greek anthropos – human)
Conflictology studies conflicts.
Constructology studies constructs.
But we still need to define the term “construct”. Since we are not talking about the construction of some device, no, the subject is different. What is it? Let me explain.
The history of nations and humanity boils in a pot of interpersonal, intergroup or international relations: dialogues, conflicts, alliances, isolations and a multitude of other factors. Regardless of the true nature of historical drive: be it classes as per Marx, dense groups inspired by religion as per Weber, the acutely sensitive groups — ‘narratives’ as per Toynbee, the supreme spirit as per Hegel or whoever else — the normal historical process contains a multitude of components, factors, and elements. This makes it similar to thermodynamic processes, which are driven by random collisions of immense amounts of molecules. Analogous to thermodynamic processes, normal history requires a statistical approach, which can determine just certain average characteristics. These average characteristics cannot be extracted from a colossal system of equations, where all elements, components and factors are unknown.
The cauldron of history bubbles and boils, reducing “something” down. One cannot derive this “something” from individual fates or biographies. There are too many fates, biographies, and interconnections, which are too complex, and the environment in which they are immersed is too complex as well.
There are periods, when human history simply bubbles in some kind of cauldron, heated by some mysterious fire. Then we speak of stable periods in the historical process.
But sometimes the fire blazes with tremendous force making the contents of the cauldron change, similar to phase transitions. Then we speak of revolutions.
Both stable phases (referred to as ‘normal historical development’) and revolutions (referred to as phase transitions in history) present a reaction coming from the interaction of an immense variety of factors and elements. Between those factors, elements and historical outcomes only averaged correlations can be derived, based on statistics, law of averages, and the priority of macrosocial groups over individual lives.
In addition to the normal (laminar) and revolutionary (turbulent) historical process, there are special historical outbursts or impulses, also known as historical projects. Major religious teachers, prophets, or guests from the transcendental world (Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and others) gather enormous historical energy around their teachings, and for some time the historical process begins to obey the projective will contained in these teachings. This, at least, is what Weber believed. And we have no reason to refute his approach, which is all too convincingly supported by the vast historical material.
Revolutions and implemented historical projects are not the same thing. Revolutions can be part of a historical process obeying the law of large numbers just as normal non-revolutionary historical dynamics do . On the other hand, implemented historical projects do not obey the law of large numbers. In some strange way, many things in the implementation of these projects go, so to say, spontaneously. That is, in full or almost full accordance with what is written by the projectors in their works.
Did Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed change those historical systems (primitive, slave-holding, feudal, capitalist) of whose decisive importance Marx spoke, insisting on the revolutionary transition from one system to another? It is rather difficult to answer this question. We know exactly how society passed from feudalism to capitalism. Indeed, the feudal formation was shaken by full-blown revolutions, it crumbled, and a new system arose on its debris. And how did humanity move from slavery to feudalism? Can we talk about the revolutionary processes that shook society? Or did something else take place?
In any case, true history – and only history created by great multitudes of people (laminar, turbulent, or explosive history, the history of projects) – is made by Its Majesty Life, not by some “brainiacs”. Brainiacs can help history, they can gather around their ideas, masses being set afire. But they still end up being swept away by a violent stream or an explosive wave. This is true even of the greatest men, whose contribution to history is enormous.
There are conspiracy theorists who claim that history is made by secret societies that calculate everything in their castles and dungeons. I will not argue with them. I will only say that the researchers who created this work, the preface to which you are now reading, not only do not profess this or that conspiracy theory, also known as world conspiracy theory; these researchers are against any conspiracy theories. It doesn’t matter why. At least not in the preface to stipulate all this. In the introduction we can stipulate only one thing: these researchers are against any conspiracy theories. And their attitude is quite categorical.
Yes, there is a history of elite games, also known as special history. And no one said that, in principle, history is not influenced by conspiracies. The most unquestionable thing about history is conspiracies. Whether there are classes or narratives, we do not know, but the fact that Paul I was murdered as a result of a conspiracy by such-and-such persons, who thus influenced history, we know this for a fact. The researchers who created this work are, in principle, quite engaged in special history studies, contrasting it with conspiracy theory. For special history does not deal with conspiracies in general, but with specific conspirators. And it does not talk about the omnipotence of Jews or Freemasons, but works with reliable closed data. Or with open data, which can, at the expense of a certain interpretation, called special hermeneutics, tell something about closed processes.
But this study – and it is very important to mention this! – is not related to a subject of special history. For it is not devoted to a smooth, steady historical process, revolutionary turbulence, explosive historical-project transformations, or behind-the-scenes elite games. It is devoted to a very special and rarely discussed subject called the “construct.”
Construct is not equal to history, it is a surrogate of history. The real history of Ukraine, being an actual history, still holds some surprise, bifurcations etc. Meanwhile ‘ukrainism’ is a construct.
The authors of this work explore not the history of Ukraine – the complex dynamics that determine what is boiled down in the cauldron of real Ukrainian history. This has been extensively researched by numerous other authors, to whom our team has the utmost respect. Moreover, by virtue of our specialization we would never make any respectful contribution to the study of the characteristics of the Ukrainian people, to the consideration of their real destinies, creations, sorrows, discoveries, defeats and victories.
First of all, we do not consider ourselves competent enough to really investigate it all, using the historical method or any other method.
We, secondly, believe that others have done a brilliant job in researching the real history of the real Ukrainian people. With that real history, which is complex, tragic, heroic and tangled. Honor and praise to those who untangled its intricacies, spending their lives in the relevant archives and combining real necessary competence with equally necessary real archival data.
Thirdly, we believe in the necessity of studying not the history of Ukraine, but a certain construct called “Ukrainism.” We do not study Ukraine, but “Ukrainism.” Ukrainism as a construct is our subject. The creation of this construct, its characteristics, its successive transformation, its implementation in life, and at last its perspectives – this is the area of our research, which is radically different from the normal historical or sociological study of normal Ukraine.
We do not thereby problematize the existence of the real Ukraine and the real Ukrainian people, as some do. And we do not even want to engage in a discussion about how strong the arguments are that all this reality exists. Let others debate on this subject or study this reality in different ways. We only engage with the construct because it is more important than ever. And also because, in contrast to the history of Ukraine, very few people are seriously engaged in the construct called “Ukrainism.”
At first, this construct was silenced in order not to damage relations between the fraternal nations of Russia and Ukraine. Then, when the implementation of the construct damaged these relations, an overly publicistic war of words began.
It is not that such a war of words is counterproductive. Alas, it is necessary today. But necessary does not mean sufficient. One cannot refuse to engage in fierce polemics in public. But to reduce everything to it is to fall into the trap of a kind of publicism that has exceeded its limits and therefore turns from a necessary component of the discussion into an obstacle to understanding the real content of what is happening.
The construct called “Ukrainism”, like any other construct, for example, radical Islamism (please do not confuse it with the great Islamic historical project and with Islam in general), cannot be studied by usual methods. The construct laughs at historical or sociological research. It eludes classical research tools.
This is why for the study of the construct (or constructs) it is necessary to create a new discipline, which can be conditionally called “constructology”. This discipline has always been important. But it is especially important in the current, greatly postmodern reality, when constructs both multiply rapidly and have a greater contagiousness, a greater realizability than ever before.
Ukrainism, which we consider, has all the features of a construct: far-fetchedness, a disregard for the real history, simplification and aggressiveness. This will be discussed in more detail below.
Ukrainism is a long-standing construct. This construct is extremely dangerous, destructive and powerful. Stating all this has nothing to do with demonizing Ukrainian history or the Ukrainian people. I repeat once again: we are studying not the real history of Ukraine, not the fate of the real Ukrainian people. We are engaged in the study of only the construct called “Ukrainism”.
Such a study cannot help but be transdisciplinary, differ by the means used in other types of research, and have its own methodological basis. And, finally, it cannot help but rely on a certain school and certain groups of researchers orbiting around certain schools.
Created thirty years ago, the Experimental Creative Centre (ECC) has formed both a school and a research team that uses the constructological method. This method was refined in the study of other constructs. Now it is applied to the study of the most dangerous construct called “Ukrainism”. At the present stage of the ECC’s life, its researchers have succeeded in building a school called the School of Higher Meanings (SHM), and pass on their method to those who study at this school. Now we can talk about the joint work of researchers from the ECC and the youth from the SHM trained by these researchers.
The proposed study is carried out by some of these young people who have created the Aleksandrovskoye Commune. The members of the Aleksandrovskoye commune have nothing to do with sectarianism or escapism. They firmly aim to absorb the experience of the most brilliant thinkers, to build up a real broad cultural, scientific competence, to combine breadth and depth, which is categorically necessary when conducting transdisciplinary research, which cannot but create a basis of constructology.
Transdisciplinary research is carried out all over the world. Different forms of it are taught in various educational institutions. I personally discussed in detail the fate of this research with Professor Uriel Reichman, who is very dear to me and who heads the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. I also discussed this with researchers from other countries – with Chinese, Indians, and Europeans.
The Aleksandrovskoye commune members are determined to give their commune an intellectual character. In this way they differ even from the Israeli kibbutzniks, who are more focused on production than on the humanities.
Undoubtedly, the fate of transdisciplinary research in the future, in the face of a growing colossal information surplus, depends on very closely-knit teams combining competence and unity of method. Otherwise, there will be no adequate response to the challenge of the information surplus.
However, the future will show what the Aleksandrovskoye Commune and the SHM are capable of in general. For now, I present to the public the first research work of the Aleksandrovskoye team, which is part of the SHM and is supported by my colleagues from the ECC. The reader will see from reading this study that it is, first, an integrated collective monograph, not a collection of articles. And, secondly, that this monograph demonstrates the unity of a non-classical transdisciplinary method and a non-classical subject – a construct called “Ukrainism”.
Accordingly, this preface is not classical, either. If it were classical, I would have ended it on the previous phrase. But now, when the Russians are increasingly accused of presenting some kind of challenge, a challenge that threatens almost all of humanity, I think it is important to show that the Russian intellectual youth, and the Russians in general, do not present any challenge to anyone. That they are responding to a certain challenge. Specifically, they are responding to a specific ominous deed that is presented to them in the form of “Ukrainism”. And also to something more general and ominous – to the proclaimed end of history, that is the proclaimed end of the creative development of humanity. The proclaimed end of the project of “Man”. The proclaimed end of the project of “Humanism”.
The Russians defend humanism, they defend the further ascent of man as the creator of history, they defend this history. And in doing so, they are responding not only to the challenge posed to them by the sinister and bloody construct called “Ukrainism,” but also to the challenge posed to them and to all of humanity by presenting everything at once: the end of Man, the end of History, and, last but not least a very, dark political postmodernism. The Russians respond to all this as a challenge. I believe that this is precisely the positive universal role of Russians today. Who can assume it, if not the Russians? And it is not the first time that Russians have assumed this role, saving humanity from the counter-historical, anti-humanist forces from which they saved humanity by hoisting the flag over the Reichstag.
I would like to discuss in detail another Russian response to some large-scale challenge that is closely related to the challenge that is posed to Russians and humanity by the implementation of the construct called “Ukrainism.” I mean the response to the challenge called “you lost the Cold War.” In order to make the connection between this challenge and the challenge associated with the implementation of the project “Ukrainism” clear, I will have to enter in this non-classical preface into a polemic with a very authoritative intellectual center that created the report entitled The Russian Challenge.
This foreword is titled The Russian challenge or the Russian response? precisely because a polemic with such an intellectual center as Chatham House, the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, and its report The Russian Challenge, published in 2015, seems essential to me.
In this polemic I will resolutely avoid scandalism, bickering, and even publicistic mordancy. If only because one of the historians of the twentieth century whom I most respect, Arnold Toynbee, is among the founders and key members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. I admire Toynbee’s depth as a human, psychological and existential depth, his attitude to his destiny, to his indebtedness to his peers who died in the wars, his special, passionate and deep attitude to antiquity, and the combination in one man of adoration for antiquity, which most often generates apoliticism, with the highest degree of strong-willed political pragmatism.
Moreover, Toynbee’s theory of narrative has always been of particular interest to me, since I saw it as a supplement rather than a negation of the class approach. Marx and Toynbee assess the historical driving forces and vector of history differently. But there is something in common in their attitude to history. History as a set of challenges that require answers – this is what Marx and Toynbee have in common. To whom these challenges are presented and who should give the answer – here these thinkers have radically different opinions. But the very vision of history as the answers to the challenges unites these two spiritual and political antipodes.
Trying to understand what this group of young people is who responded to this sophisticated text of mine called Essence of Time [a book by Sergey Kurginyan based on a collection of video lectures of the same name – translator’s note] and founded the eponymous movement, a group that has shown and continues to show high spirituality, selflessness, passionate love for the Fatherland, a group, all members of which seek out complex answers to the “accursed questions” of the post-Soviet stage of Russian historical existence, I, strangely enough, turned more to a rather foreign figure to me, that of Toynbee, than to a closer one such as Marx. This was exacerbated by the fact that today’s leading classes: the creative class, the cognitariat, were compromised by the “Swampy” youth [protestors that took part in the pro-Western pseudo-liberal protests in 2011-2012. Bolotnaya Square was the main gathering point for such protests and means “Swamp Square” in Russian – translator’s note], who for some reason called themselves the creative class.
What Toynbee referred to as the narrative (there should be no confusion: the postmodern narrative is the ideology, while Toynbee’s narrative is a certain group within the population) is what Marx called the leading class. But Toynbee did not mention social parameters that usually define a class. He said that the narrative is a group that is particularly sensitive to great challenges, those challenges, which lead to the death of peoples if they are left without responses. Toynbee believed that in every nation there is such a group most sensitive to challenges. This group does not have to be the most educated or the most exploited. For one reason or another, it is in a situation where it is impossible not to show sensitivity. And it manifests this sensitivity by responding to challenges. Others follow this group.
“What if the Essence of Time movement has anything to do with Toynbee’s narrative?” I asked myself, risking conjugating not only Weber but also Toynbee with Marx.
This attitude towards Toynbee significantly determines my attitude towards the organization called Chatham House. Because Toynbee worked in this organization for 33 years and devoted a separate chapter in his memoirs Experiences to the description of this work. The chapter is entitled: Thirty-three Years at Chatham House.
Toynbee describes how in 1919 in Paris, at the Majestic Hotel, under the chairmanship of Lionel Curtis, who, according to Toynbee, had a genius of foresight, e gathered together selected people in order to organize a kind of Anglo-American society for the scientific understanding of international affairs.
Toynbee writes, “Later on, the original Anglo-American society was divided into two—the Council on Foreign Relations, with its headquarters in New York, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), with its headquarters in London. The reason for this change was not any divergence of opinion as between the American and the British members of the original society; it was simply a question of what was practically feasible; experience had soon shown the difficulty of administering, as a single unit, an organization whose membership was divided between two continents. The two sister- institutions, the Council and the Institute, have always maintained the closest and most cordial relations with each other”.
Upon the foundation of Chatham House, the most important thing was, according to Toynbee, the provision of some kind of mixture between secrecy and publicity — the principles, he points out, that are antagonistic to each other. Chatham House managed to walk a thin line between security and publicity, despite the ‘allergy’ of Foreign Office.
Toynbee writes, “Five years after the foundation of Chatham House, I found myself joining its staff. (The job that I had been commissioned to do was to launch a Chatham House Survey of International Affairs.) I stayed at Chatham House till I reached retiring age thirty-three years later”.
Questioning his short career in London University or other privileged educational centers, which gave him formidable status of a fellow, Toynbee emphasizes the boredom and abstract character of educator’s career — contrasted to the real feel of his Chatham House job.
I could have continued quoting the verbose description of Chatham House work by Toynbee, but it would lead us away from the matter. Thus I will indulge one last quotation from Toynbee, “We had decided to begin by producing a history of the peace conference in which the founding members of the society had been participants; and Mr. Thomas Lamont, a partner in the New York banking firm J. P. Morgan and Company, had undertaken to finance the production of this. Thanks to Mr. Lamont’s princely act, The History of the Peace Conference of Paris had been produced, under Chatham House’s auspices, in six volumes.”
The reader will likely not need my help in making himself familiar with the background of Mr. Lamont as well as the meaning of the intrinsic unity between Council on Foreign Relations with New York headquarters and Royal Institute of International Affairs with headquarters in London. He is also capable of assessing Toynbee’s speculations on the controversial symbiosis of Lionel Curtis and the other substantial figure in Chatham House — James Headlam-Morley. Nevertheless, Toynbee explains something by informing us that Headlam-Morley was one of his senior colleagues in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office.
Looking at the text by Toynbee, where he gives the highest credit to Royal Institute of International Affairs, paying it’s due to the data that Toynbee shares, I am obliged to respect the other products by the same intellectual center. I also have to consider the political impact of these products.
More than forty years have passed since Toynbee’s death. Time has changed everything since then — Chatham House and its works included. I recognize the role of some Russian and Ukrainian nationals, who are familiar to me, in the release of The Russian Challenge report, produced by the Chatham House team. Not all of the works by Royal Institute of International Affairs meet the quality standard established by Toynbee, Curtis and Headlam-Morley. Finally, I certainly understand that the Royal Institute of International Affairs serves the intellectual needs of secret services and elites, who cultivate no affection towards my beloved Fatherland. Moreover, I am informed about a certain special attitude of this Institute to the Essence of Time movement in general and especially to The Red March [The Essence of Time movement’s march in support of Crimea’s reunification with the Russian Federation held on on March 15, 2014 – translator’s note].
There is no obligation to respect only those who sympathize with your country. The most important thing for understanding is to have some kind of calibration. Which is the ability to assess the significance of certain products or statements as well as the authors of those products and statements without the conspirological aspiration as well as political snobbery. The Royal Institute of International Affairs has a real impact on a great variety of subjects. If you want to understand the strategy of your opponent — make yourself acquainted with this institute’s works.
In the book to which this reflection is a preface, both the Chatham House and its activities in Ukraine are described in great detail. I would like to discuss only one of Chatham House’s reports, The Russian Challenge. This report contains, at the level of recommendation, a certain pragmatics and ideology that lies the basis of this pragmatics. The pragmatics is to increase the hostility of the West toward my country, the ideology is to justify the need to increase this hostility. This kind of report never describes pragmatics openly. What is published under the guise of open pragmatics is always softened and blurred to the extreme. But they always talk openly about ideology. Because otherwise one cannot wage ideological war.
I think that The Russian Challenge report discusses for the first time the new ideology of the new Cold War. And in that sense, this report is a new version of Kennan’s notorious “Long Telegram” or Churchill’s Fulton speech. In fact, it is not so important whether Kennan or Churchill declared the Cold War. What matters is that its ideological basis was laid out in their texts.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs rejects the term “Cold War” itself and proposes instead other terms addressing, among others, Toynbee’s clash of civilizations. But is it so important whether it is “clash of civilizations”, “clash of two Europes”, “clash of values” or “Cold War”? The important thing is that in The Russian Challenge report, both Putin and the Russian majority that supported him act as the absolute enemies of a certain good entity, which, for Chatham House, is certainly the Western world.
As it turns out, this enemy of the “good entity,” has his own ideology – “authoritarian nationalism.” I wonder what the Iron Chancellor Bismarck, who obviously professed authoritarian nationalism, or Oliver Cromwell, or the quite authoritarian leaders of the British Empire, who fought to the death against Napoleon and the French Revolution (William Pitt, for example) are for this “good entity”? What was Chiang Kai-shek?
However, it is hardly worth ruffling polemical feathers here. The absolute enemy of the “good entity” must have an ideology alternative to the ideology of the “good entity,” be a bearer of values alternative to the values of the “good entity”. And no matter how much Putin and his associates declare their adherence to Western values, the Western way of life, their non-ideological practicalism of the Western model, – this will not change anything. They will find what they need to find. And if they find it, they will use it.
So Russia should once again appear as the ideological, value-based, and in many other senses, the absolute enemy of the West, the source of “Putinist absolute evil.” And the main beachhead on which it must be defeated must be Ukraine, whose leaders, who officially worship Bandera of course, “have nothing to do” with authoritarianism, nationalism, or other viruses of some kind of absolute evil.
This book is entitled Ukrainism. As mentioned above, Ukrainism is not Ukraine. Our research group deliberately and consciously rejected using the approach in which one has to discuss Ukraine, Ukrainians, Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian economy, Ukrainian history, and so on.
First of all, all of this has been discussed repeatedly.
Second, this is not what is crucial today. Before our eyes, the natural macrosociety, which has the above-mentioned characteristics, is being replaced by a kind of superconstruct. This cannot be dismissed. And it cannot be discussed only in a “blitz” style. We need a systemic, in-depth discussion, not of Ukraine as such, but of this superconstruct.
It would seem that its discussion today [in 2017 – translator’s note] is no longer as intense as it was three years ago. After all, everything eventually gets boring.
Maybe the “wise sages” who determine our agenda are ready to reduce the intensity, and more importantly, to leave only the blitz style of presenting it to society. I think that they are not ready either. But anything is possible. Except that the Western enemies – not only these “wise sages” but our entire homeland, these real, ruthless enemies, sometimes half-ironically called partners – are not going to reduce the intensity, they are only stirring it up. And they will stir it up in order to solve the “Russian question” not in the same way as in 1991, but much more ruthlessly.
One can understand this by reading The Russian Challenge report . And that is why I discuss this report in the preface. It is necessary to understand the scale of the challenge. What is at stake is not a regional bargaining chip, but something crucial, both for us and for the world. This is how they define the scale. What about us?
In order to ensure that such an assessment of the Ukrainian problem does not seem exaggerated, in this preface I will discuss in detail a report that sets a new vector of relations with Russia and world politics, while calling this vector “new” is possible only by forgetting history and reducing it to a brief and very insincere post-Soviet embrace of defeated Russia, thanking the West for this defeat and calling it “good”, “holy” and so on. What was behind this false facade and now emerges from under its debris is very vividly described in The Russian Challenge report.
This Chatham House report was published in June 2015, but is still relevant today. In the introduction to the report, the authors refer to a previous report, “Putin Again. Implications for Russia and the West,” published in 2012. The new report is a successor to the previous one, both in the composition of the authors and in its content. In the previous report, the authors noted that “The West will feel Russia’s pain,” which “takes drastic steps without regard to the situation inside the country.”
The new report examines the extent to which this prediction has materialized, the extent to which there is, as the authors of the 2015 report put it, both this pain and the absence of “regard to the situation inside the country.” Both concepts, “pain” and absence of “regard to the situation inside the country” require at least minimal explanation. From what does Russia suffer pain, what situations does it neglect? The reference to the previous report suggests that Russia neglects some of its internal circumstances, the situation inside the country. But what kind of pain are we talking about?
The authors of the new report point out that previous forecasts were not just confirmed, but turned out to be excessively moderate. And that none of the authors of the previous report “foresaw just how radically and rapidly Russia would move to challenge the post-Cold War security order…”
The authors consider the “seizing Crimea” and the “dismemberment of eastern Ukraine” to be such a challenge to the established order. But that is not what the authors consider most significant (such an assessment is almost generally accepted in the West). The essential thing for them is that Russia is challenging the “post-Cold War security order,” which is what the authors emphasize. There is a new order, established in the world after the Cold War, and Russia is challenging it.
What does ‘post-Cold War’ mean exactly? Does this mean that the USSR and the West waged this Cold War for some time, and then mutually decided to discontinue? Quite the contrary! Only Gorbachev assumed (or pretended to assume) that you can just decide and stop the Cold War. There are many people in Russia who still don’t get that this is basically impossible to do. Every war has its result. The result of a war is evident. The Russia/USSR was ruthlessly crushed in the Cold War. It endured overwhelming defeat, it lost immense territories, it capitulated ideologically, and the West dictated the crushing of its economy, under the name of “transition to a market economy”.
This assessment of the result of the Cold War is generally accepted in the West. It is not always presented to the Russians clearly and unceremoniously. But it is always presented to them. Everyone who, instead of this assessment (“the Russians were defeated in the Cold War and capitulated”), offers a different interpretation of the Belovezhye Accords and the “turbulent nineties”, is considered in the West either to be a liar or an idiot. Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke most radically and frankly about the defeat of the USSR/Russia in the Cold War. In his 1992 article, “The Cold War and Its Aftermath,” published in Foreign Affairs, Brzezinski stated that as a result of the Cold War victory, the United States had managed to impose the “Versailles order” first on the Soviet Union and then on Russia, and that the signing of the German reunification treaty on US terms in Paris on November 19, 1990 was (direct quote) “the functional equivalent to the acts of surrender in the railroad car at Compiègne in November 1918.”
Before we remind the reader of what exactly happened in Compiègne in 1918, here is another statement of Brzezinski. In an interview to the Moscow newspaper Segodnya (№ 157, 1994) he said, “The US partnership with Russia does not exist and cannot exist. Russia is not a partner of the United States, Russia is a client of the United States. Russia cannot claim to be a superpower, it was defeated by the United States. When we use the expression ‘partnership’, we mean equality. Russia is now a defeated country… After 70 years of communism, it was defeated in a titanic battle, and to say that it was the Soviet Union that was defeated, not Russia, is nothing but a flight from political reality. The Soviet Union was the historical Russia called the Soviet Union. Russia challenged the United States and was defeated. Now Russia can exist only as a client of the United States. To claim anything else is a groundless illusion”.
Now let me talk about the Armistice of Compiègne. The Armistice of Compiègne, which ended World War I, was signed on November 11, 1918. The signing took place in a railway carriage of French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander of the Entente troops. The railway carriage stood in the Compiègne forest, near the town of Compiègne in the French province of Picardy. In this railway carriage Foch and British Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss received a German delegation led by Major General Detlof von Winterfeldt. The Armistice of Compiègne, of which Brzezinski speaks, sealed Germany’s capitulation in 1918.
But there was also the Second Compiègne Armistice, diametrically different to the first. It was signed by France, which capitulated to Nazi Germany in 1940. And it was no accident that Hitler connected this surrender with Compiègne: what happened in Compiègne in 1918 was too humiliating for the Germans. Here is what the American journalist William Shirer wrote in his memoirs about Hitler’s revenge for Compiègne-1918, “And so it was that on the afternoon of June 21 stood by the edge of the forest at Compiegne to observe the latest and greatest of Hitler’s triumphs, of which, in the course of my work, I had seen so many over the last turbulent years. <…> At 3:15 p.m. precisely, Hitler arrived in his big Mercedes, accompanied by Goering, Brauchitsch, Keitel, Raeder, Ribbentrop and Hess… They alighted from their automobiles some two hundred yards away, in front of the Alsace-Lorraine statue, which was draped with German war flags so that the Fuehrer could not see (though I remembered from previous visits in happier days) the large sword, the sword of the victorious Allies of 1918, sticking through a limp eagle representing the German Empire of the Hohenzollerns. Hitler glanced at the monument and strode on. <…>
Hitler and his party then entered the armistice railway car, the Fuehrer seating himself in the chair occupied by Foch in 1918. Five minutes later the French delegation arrived… They looked shattered, but retained a tragic dignity. They had not been told that they would be led to this proud French shrine to undergo such a humiliation, and the shock was no doubt just what Hitler had calculated. As Haider wrote in his diary that evening after being given an eyewitness account by Brauchitsch, ‘The French had no warning that they would be handed the terms at the very site of the negotiations in 1918. They were apparently shaken by this arrangement and at first inclined to be sullen’.
Of course, the French were dazed, and it was apparent. Nevertheless, contrary to the reports that were published in those days, they tried, as is now known from the official minutes of this meeting discovered among Nazi secret documents, to soften the harshest clauses of the terms put forward by the Führer and to eliminate those of them which, in their opinion, were dishonorable. Their efforts, however, were in vain.
Hitler and his entourage left the railway car as soon as General Keitel read to the French the preamble to the cease-fire terms, leaving the negotiations to the Chief of Staff of the OKW, but not allowing him to deviate even an inch from the terms he himself had drawn up.
The USSR and Russia have never built relations with anyone, not even with the defeated Nazi Reich, in the way the Germans and the French at Compiègne built relations with each other. First, in 1918, the French humiliated the Germans as much as they could and gave them a defeated-country complex. Then in 1940, the same thing was repeated by the Germans at the same Compiègne. It was repeated at Compiègne because it was necessary to erase the humiliation the Germans had experienced at that time. And this could only be done by humiliating the French.
The Armistice of Compiègne is a symbol of utter humiliation. This symbol has been reproduced in millions of postcards, commemorative medals, and all kinds of memorial signs. All of Europe and the West understand this very well. It is only the Russians who do not understand it yet. Brzezinski has only stated frankly what others have stated in various more cautious ways.
It is true that later Brzezinski praised Putin’s Russia, rather unconvincingly and hypocritically. But it is not about Brzezinski, it is about the fact that the Russians still do not understand four aspects of what happened to them in connection with the collapse of the USSR.
Aspect #1 — The defeat in the Cold War is considered by the West as a defeat in any other war. It does not matter whether the war is hot or not.
Aspect #2 — this defeat in war humiliated the Russians in the same way as the defeat in World War I humiliated the Germans at first, and as later the Germans, having defeated France, humiliated the French. The main thing here is humiliation. It is a Western style that is in principle not fully realized by the Russians.
Aspect #3 — the fact that the Russians lost Ukraine is considered by the West to be the main ingredient of the Russian humiliating defeat in the Cold War. This is the main point of the West’s triumph and Russian humiliation. Once again, it should be emphasized that reveling in the humiliation of the enemy is a purely Western trait, very characteristic and essential.
Aspect #4 — all the talk about how the Russians merely liberated themselves from communism, rather than humiliating themselves by being defeated, is either idle talk by unintelligent people, or psychotherapy for domestic use, which has nothing to do with an international assessment of what happened.
This long digression is necessary in order to properly read the key phrase of the opening section of Chatham House’s report about the Russians’ experience of pain. “Why, in fact, should they feel pain?” a zealot for the psychotherapeutic version of Russian liberation from communism would ask. “They should experience happiness because they have liberated themselves.”
The answer to such a question in the West is, “Sell the happiness of liberation to your idiots. But both we and you know that you were defeated, and in a humiliating way”
In its report, Chatham House does not consider it necessary to explain in detail what kind of pain is being referred to. But it is clear that it is the pain of Russian humiliation. Without understanding this, it is difficult to read Chatham House’s report appropriately.
In the introduction to The Russian Challenge report it is asserted that Russia must: a) feel pain over its humiliating defeat in the Cold War, and b) challenge the order resulting from its defeat. That is the challenge, according to the authors. So what should be an effective response to this challenge?
The authors of the report write, “It will take greater imagination than has been shown to date to develop an effective response to Moscow’s manoeuvres, supported as they are by both traditional and unconventional methods and means.”
Greater imagination is what the authors call for, believing that without it there will be no adequate response. Why do they call for greater imagination? In order to understand, first, what caused Russia’s actions, second, what course Russia is taking, third, what will be the geopolitical consequences of this course, and fourth, how to respond to the Russian challenge.
“The authors of this report believe that the major Western actors have yet to absorb the full implications of Russia’s descent into authoritarian nationalism.”
The key words – authoritarian nationalism – are spoken. And this is very important. What do the authors see as a “descent into authoritarian nationalism”? Why is Putinism authoritarianism, what is the nationalism of Putinism? Once again, a kind of key word is spoken and stamped on top-quality metal, rendering them unable to be edited – “authoritarian nationalism.” After that, you can hold forth as long as you like about having democracy, giving air time to all supporters of the West, almost giving affection to the supporters of Navalny and Khodorkovsky (or at least, you treat them softer than US or European policemen treat their “dissenters”) – it makes no difference to the Western world. You have a descent into authoritarian nationalism, period!
This is despite the fact that for both the authors of the report and the Western elite as a whole there is no difference between Hitlerism as German authoritarian nationalism and Putinism as Russian authoritarian nationalism. That is at best – there is no difference. At worst, Russian authoritarian nationalism is worse than German, i.e. Hitlerian. This means that Putin is worse than Hitler. Because Russian authoritarian nationalism cannot fit in any way into the system that emerged as a result of the victory of the Cold War. The authors put it this way, “Moscow and the West have competing, conflicting and entirely incompatible agendas.”
Think about these words, “entirely incompatible agendas.” The existence of entirely incompatible agendas means that only the bearer of one of these agendas can win, that there is not an ordinary contradiction, but a fundamental and antagonistic contradiction. There are many people in Russia who say there is no contradiction now, since there is no communism. And for them it is put down in the tablets of Western analytical and political thought that they now have authoritarian nationalism. Russians make a helpless gesture: there are many parties, discussions, competition, rallies, cursing nationalism as evil… And they are told, “Stop playing the fool! You have authoritarian nationalism, which is worse than communism.”
In Russia, many people say, “We cannot have a cold war because we have no conflict of ideologies. We and the West are now like twin brothers. Do we not have a democracy and a market economy?”
And they are told, “You have an ideology – authoritarian nationalism, which is worse than communism. You are trying to take revenge for your defeat in the Cold War. You want to put us, for the second time, in the Compiègne railway car with the opposite result. Your agenda and our agenda are incompatible. You support all authoritarian nationalist regimes. Putin is worse than Hitler.”
Chatham House does not say “worse than Hitler”? Yes, literally it doesn’t say those words. Literally it says the following, “Putin is a fundamentally anti-Western leader whose serial disregard for the truth has destroyed his credibility as a negotiating partner. Consequently, it is unwise to expect that any compromise with Putin will produce long-term stable outcomes in Europe.”
Yes, in Russia they cannot read Western texts, wading through seemingly polite expressions. But what is polite about those expressions? It reads here that Putin, who himself keeps beating his chest wholeheartedly and saying that he is a Westerner, is – be attentive! – a fundamentally anti-Western leader.
Could there be a more ruthless, ferocious, categorical formulation? There cannot. To everyone in the West, a fundamentally anti-Western leader with nuclear weapons is an absolute evil. Yes, yes, exactly absolute, incorrigible, and ultimate. That is, Putin is worse than Hitler. He deserves no credibility whatsoever. He cannot be negotiated with. He shows serial disregard for the truth …
One has to be completely ignorant of the meaning of Western rhetoric and semantics not to feel the meaning of the words “serial disregard for the truth.” But even those who do not understand this should at least realize that next to these ruthless and dreadful words are also the words that Putin destroyed his credibility as a negotiating partner. You cannot negotiate at all, he cannot be negotiated with! He cannot be trusted. Negotiations were conducted with Stalin. And they negotiated with Hitler. But Putin cannot be negotiated with. And what do you want to do with a leader in a nuclear country with whom you cannot negotiate? It says it all. And for those who still hesitate, it says, “it is unwise to expect that any compromise with Putin will produce long-term stable outcomes in Europe.”
Think about it – it says “any compromise.” That is, it says that no compromise will get us anywhere. Have we signed the Minsk agreements? This produces nothing. Will you sign any others? Again nothing!
Just below it is formulated literally, “The West would dearly like Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko to patch up some sort of an accommodation with Putin, so that attention can be turned to other pressing global problems. This report warns how short-sighted and futile such an arrangement would be.”
So there is no need to negotiate in the Minsk format, it is short-sighted and futile. And any other format of negotiation is unnecessary. What should be done? If you can’t negotiate, you have to wage war. Therefore, the Chatham House document may well be called a document of the new Cold War. It is a declaration of the new Cold War on Russia. Yes, not on behalf of the United Kingdom or a coalition of Western countries, but on behalf of the most authoritative, as if British, but in fact Anglo-American, political-intellectual think tank. All the talk of “Bilderberg meetings” and “Trilateral Commissions” is at least in part conspiracy. But the Chatham House is more than the “Bilderberg meetings” and the “Trilateral Commissions”. And most importantly, it is real. And without it, there would be no Bilderberg group or Trilateral Commission. So we can say that the highest elite of the Anglo-Saxon world have reached its verdict.
In addition to the verdict, it says that Putin’s model of authoritarian nationalism is unviable in every sense of the word. That Putin, on the basis of this model, cannot deal with the long-term structural factors that lay the basis of Russia’s current economic problems. That Putin must be defeated in Ukraine, otherwise the West risks losing Ukraine. That Russia is holding the so-called periphery under its control by all means, old and new. That such a retention is unacceptable to the West. And finally, that the West should immediately “consider how it will deal proactively with the risks of Russia after Putin.”
Why is the Putin model unviable? Because, as the authors of the report say, “Vladimir Putin has chosen the strategic approach of rebuilding ‘Fortress Russia’.” In other words, this is autarky, and not just economic, but also institutional. According to the report’s authors, the chosen strategic approach: “risks both figurative and literal bankruptcy for Russia, and potentially the premature departure of its current leader. The timing of this departure and the nature of what may follow cannot be predicted. The West’s key players must plan for all eventualities, at the same time as resisting Russia’s illegitimate and illegal activities today.”
How is this not like a new version of Kennan’s “Long Telegram” about the Cold War?
The “Russia’s Changed Outlook on the West: From Convergence to Confrontation” chapter of the report (author – Roderic Lyne) reads that during Putin’s first presidential term, there were sharp disagreements between Russia and the West, “but the across-the-board hostility of the Cold War appeared to be a thing of the past.”
It goes on to say that “from the middle of 2003, it became increasingly apparent that the mood in the Kremlin was changing. Russia was becoming richer. The urge to restore its historical role as an independent Great Power and to reverse the perceived humiliation of the years of weakness since 1991 was strongly felt.” In other words, the subject of the pain from humiliation, which, considering the words of Brzezinski we already cited, can be called “Compiègne”, is repeated more than once in the report.
In July 2003, when Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky were arrested, it marking a turning point.
In December 2003, according to the author of this chapter, a manipulative, Kremlin-organized collapse of the liberal parties (Yabloko and SPS (in English: Union of Right Forces)) during the Duma elections occurred.
The next milestones are the resignation of ostensibly liberal Prime Minister Kasyanov in February 2004 and Putin’s election for a second term one month after that resignation. The author calls these new elections nothing more than a cosmetic procedure.
And then, according to the author, there was a curtailment of market reforms. The author speaks of the unhealed wounds inflicted on Russia’s self-esteem. He quotes Putin, “We appeared weak. And the weak are beaten. Some want to tear away the fattest possible piece, while others help these aspirants in so doing. They still believe that Russia poses a threat to them as a nuclear power. That is why this threat must be eliminated, and terrorism is just another instrument in implementing their designs.”
It goes on to say that the conflict of interests between Russia and the West was gradually developing, and that this “conflict of interests remained latent until late 2003.” But that the failures in Moldova, where the Memorandum [a plan for a settlement of conflict between Moldova and Transnistria on Russian terms – translator’s note] presented by Putin’s aide Dmitry Kozak was not adopted, and in Georgia, where Shevardnadze was overthrown, as well as the accession of the Baltic States to NATO, and the first “orange revolution” in Ukraine, which led to the victory of Yushchenko, brought this conflict of interests out of its latent phase. The author points out that it was the Ukrainian events that played a decisive role in bringing the conflict out of the latent phase.
Putin’s Munich speech and his sharp reaction to NATO expansion and the new quality of the US missile defense system advancing eastward into Europe are further examined. It is argued that the events in Kosovo in 2008 finally brought the conflict out of its latent phase. And that this conflict moved to the hot phase after the events of 2008 in Georgia.
The author writes that by 2011 the conflict between the West and Russia had already formed in its final shape. That in 2012 Putin began his third presidential term by refusing to participate in the G8 meeting. And that it was precisely at that time, in September 2012, that the West began to recognize the irreversibility and danger of what was happening in Russia. Exactly in September 2012 when US presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Russia the major geopolitical adversary.
But geopolitics is not everything. From geopolitics, the author moves on to values and argues that Russian values in the period examined became definitively irreconcilable with those of the West: “A conflict of values does not stop interaction between countries if it is in their interests (it may be commercial interaction, response to a common threat, cultural relations or human relations); but the format of the strategic partnership with post-communist Russia Western Europe and the United States understood it implied an agreement on a wide range of values.”
The author states explicitly that the values of the Western world proved unacceptable to Russia, that “the Kremlin has moved very far away from these values“. For the author, such a withdrawal is determined by the Kremlin’s position on the inadmissibility of interference in Russia’s internal affairs. The author is especially outraged by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s words that the Westphalian system “has removed value differences from the framework of inter-state relations“.
As a reminder, the Westphalian system was established in Europe on the basis of the Peace of Westphalia, which in 1648 concluded the Thirty Years’ War, which unfolded mainly on the territory of modern-day Germany. This war was born out of contradictions between Catholics and Protestants, conditioned by the conflict for the hegemony in the Holy Roman Empire. Under the terms of the peace, the Habsburgs kept all the eastern lands, including the Czech Kingdom, but were forced to cede Alsace to France. Additionally, France and Sweden received certain territories. There was a territorial redistribution in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Bavaria, Saxony, the Palatinate, and Hesse-Kassel. The United Provinces of the Netherlands and the Swiss Confederation were recognized as independent states and seceded from the Holy Roman Empire. Calvinism was recognized as equal to Lutheranism. The principle of religious tolerance and the right of the princes of the Holy Roman Empire to choose the religion in their dominions was proclaimed.
During the Thirty Years’ War, human losses ranged from 5 to 8 million, a monstrous number for that time. Many regions of the empire lost 20 to 45 percent of their populations. And in some areas the losses reached 70%. The Swedes alone, as one of the parties to the Thirty Years’ War, destroyed nearly two thousand castles, eighteen thousand villages, and more than fifteen hundred towns in the Holy Roman Empire. Terrible diseases ran rampant. The Swedes took control of the Baltic, turning it into a “Swedish lake.” In Europe, hegemony passed to France. The Habsburgs suffered a monstrous loss. Protestants gained equal rights with Catholics.
And now we come to the main point: the Peace of Westphalia drastically weakened the influence of religious factors on the life of the state. Foreign policy began to be based on national state sovereignty, the equality of states, and the inviolability of borders. It became determined not by religion, but by economic, dynastic and geopolitical interests.
It is therefore quite understandable why the Russian foreign minister says that the Westphalian system “has removed value differences from the framework of inter-state relations.” This statement is as true as “two times two is four” or “the Volga flows into the Caspian Sea.” But the author of the report says that this blatant thesis of Sergey Lavrov is “an argument that would have been approved by
his Soviet predecessor Anatoliy Gromyko (the author means Andrei Gromyko – S.E.) would have supported.” The author thus discards the principles of the Westphalian system, replacing them with some new European value principles, which are in fact, by virtue of this logic, neither ideological nor religious, but some other value foundations that allow for the resurrection of pre-Westphalian conflicts of a new – post-religious and simultaneously neoreligious type (value-based, so to speak).
If in this situation Russians reject the values of the West, then, in the absence of the super-value factor determined by the Westphalian system, they declare to the West the same essentially value-based war that Protestants declared on Catholics in the era of the Thirty Years’ War. The only difference is that there were no nuclear weapons then.
Setting this approach, the author of the “Russia’s Changed Outlook on the West: From Convergence to Confrontation” further discusses the new model of Russia, in other words “Putinism in 2015”. In the section devoted to this model, he stated, “It is now beyond question that the values espoused by the Putin regime and the methods by which it pursues its interests abroad cannot be reconciled with partnership.”
This rejects the very principle of the Peace of Westphalia, according to which the values of a nation-state cannot create any insurmountable obstacles in relations between states, which is what Sergey Lavrov actually said. It turns out that values can be an obstacle in interstate relations. But this promises much to the world. There are differences in values between China and the West, between the Gulf countries and the West. Will these differences in values create a complete impossibility of cooperation with the West? Will the West apply this approach at least to Iran, given that so far the West has been very active in cooperating with Iran, achieving certain treaty benefits? The assertion that it is with Putin’s Russia that cooperation is impossible, and that this is determined, among other things, by the incompatibility of Putin’s values with those of the West, promises the world a great deal if, of course, this approach, asserted, we repeat, by a very authoritative think tank, is implemented.
Next, all the outrageous facts are presented on which the new model is based, leaving no chance for a dialogue between Russia and the West. These “outrageous” facts are literally being savored. It is offered to evaluate, for example, the following statement of Putin, “Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy.”
You ask what’s so special about it. Well, it depends on the point of view. If Russia was defeated in the Cold War and entered into capitulation, then what is the sovereign policy?
Equally “sacrilegious” are Putin’s words about sovereignty, “Russia will either be independent and sovereign or will most likely not exist at all.” As well as Putin’s words that “For Russia ‘true sovereignty … is absolutely necessary for survival’.”
The author of the chapter resents this very appeal to sovereignty, as well as the fact that Russia, in his opinion, in the realization of this sovereignty relies “on a triad: renewed economic strength (stemming from natural resources); the armed forces (in which the administration is now investing heavily, after a long period of decline); and an ideology of nationalism and patriotism, infused by history and the Orthodox Church (intertwined with the state as it was in Tsarist times).”
As for the growth of economic power and the strengthening of the Armed Forces, it would seem that this should not arouse any emotions at all, since these are the basic irrevocable conditions of life in any state. But is it so for any state? For a power that has not been defeated, it is. But for a power that has surrendered, it is not so.
As for ‘an ideology of nationalism and patriotism, infused by history and the Orthodox Church,’ again, it is unclear what is so outrageous in this statement. Patriotism is dominant in all sovereign states. No one persecutes churches. Putin, by the way, has repeatedly said that Russia is a secular state. But if Russia, as a sovereign country, were to choose the non-secular nature of the state, like Saudi Arabia, for example, could this cause any special claims from its neighbors? There would be nothing of the sort, of course. But, we repeat, if it were, so what?
The author goes on to speak about authoritarianism, the fact that the disabled and orphans do not enjoy the full range of freedoms and privileges, the alleged persecution of homosexuality, some kind of flourishing racism, and the fact that “adherents of minority religions (including Russia’s large Muslim population) are vulnerable.” The author is also outraged by the authorities’ calls to preserve “the historical military memory of the Fatherland.”
After listing the far-fetched claims about ideology, necessary only to talk about the conflict of values, the authors of the report begin to discuss economics.
Philip Hanson’s chapter “An Enfeebled Economy” discusses the lack of growth in living standards of the general population, allowing the author to hope that broad social protests could be used to fight Russia as an absolute enemy. The author writes, “It is time to start looking at the problems that underlie the Russian economy’s weak performance and, apparently, still weaker prospects.” Performing such a self-assignment, he points out that the main causes of this weakness are structural problems, conjunctural problems and geopolitical problems.
Structural problems are scarcely discussed. There is a not very clear assumption that Russia will face a crisis of fixed assets, which by definition cannot be overcome in the framework of the market economy. And that such a structural crisis will reduce the efficiency of investment and innovation. It is also written that Russia will face a decline in its working-age population.
In discussing the conjunctural points, emphasis is placed on the various causes of the drop in demand for energy resources.
As for geopolitical problems, in the author’s opinion, one should consider measures provoked by sanctions and the response to these sanctions. As well as the measures that the author calls the rejection of liberal economic reforms.
The following is a detailed discussion of demographic changes, the extent to which the economy is dependent on: oil prices, the fall in the exchange rate of the ruble to dollar, corruption, and the destructive actions of the bureaucracy.
Hanson then proceeds to the discussion of Russia’s military expenditures and other expenditures for the great power Russia is persistently accused of. The author writes, “Other means of influence, and military power in particular, have high costs that are significant at a national level. Is the enfeebled Russian economy capable of supporting them? It should be borne in mind that military strength, though most conspicuously exemplified by the United States, is not the prerogative of rich nations. The Soviet Union, though much poorer than the US and its allies and lagging behind in technology, was able to maintain some sort of military balance with them up to its demise. It did this, moreover, with very little help from its Warsaw Pact allies. So Russia is not necessarily debarred by its moderate level of per capita GDP from pursuing what appear to be substantial military ambitions.”
This directly raises the question of whether the burden of defense spending would overstretch Russia in the same way as it has happened to the USSR, in the author’s view. It should be remembered that the issue of such overstretch has always been one of the main issues of the former Cold War. And that its return to the agenda is clear evidence of the accelerated formation of a new Cold War doctrine. After all, the question is not how prices will change, but how prices can be influenced. It is also not a question of what defense spending will be, but how policy can dictate its increase. These are the questions the author addresses, stating, “The weak state of the Russian economy will at some stage set limits to the scale and pace of the Russian state armaments programme. Exactly how the conflict over that programme between (broadly) the economic bloc of the government and the military will be resolved remains to be seen. It does not follow that the leadership will give up on its pursuit of regional hegemony and its stance of antagonism towards the West.”
When discussing sanctions against Russia, Hanson emphasizes their de facto non-economic nature. The sanctions are seen as a signal: the lifting of sanctions means that the West is giving up, which cannot be allowed, because one cannot surrender to an absolute enemy whom one must not negotiate with. Overall, the economic part of the report is by no means one of the strongest.
The report focuses on the war of ideas or, as James Sherr, author of the corresponding chapter “A War of Narratives and Arms”, writes, “a war of perception (narratives).”
Sherr is well aware that the battle for minds will ultimately decide everything. He admits that, unlike in 1914 (the comparison itself is quite revealing, isn’t it?), there is no war or pre-war state of affairs between the West and Russia. The author divides the Western world into the most anti-Russian parts, such as Poland and the Baltics, and the relatively less anti-Russian parts, in which he includes Greece, Hungary, the French and British opposition parties. Sherr deplores the conciliatory sentiments in centrist Western circles and the Russian state’s attempt to influence these circles by bringing “Leninist traditions of ‘ideological struggle’ into the post-modern world.” Sherr speaks of the Russians’ crucial reliance on “ideological struggle,” on “active measures” and “reflexive control”. In accusing Russia of activating these components, the author actually calls on the Western world to respond appropriately to this Russian challenge, that is, to intensify the impact of the media on Russia.
Sherr warns that the outcome of the conflict will be determined as much by intelligence and psychology as by material factors. And that the conflict in Ukraine is as much a conflict of ideologies as it is a conflict of force.
The author assigns crucial importance to the war in Ukraine, analyzes the dynamics of the intra-Ukrainian conflict, gives recommendations for repelling Russian ideological influence in Ukraine, and looks in detail at the various actors involved in the intra-Ukrainian conflict. He quotes Strelkov-Girkin [one of the major leaders of DPR militia in summer 2014, who used his authority to withdraw troops and to surrender half of the DPR’s territory to the Ukrainian military without a fight – translator’s note], talks about the deplorable futility of the first Minsk agreements, the defeats at Ilovaysk and Debaltsevo. About the fact that if “Minsk II stabilizes the situation, Russia will create the conditions for ‘Minsk III’.” About the role of parallel civilian structures (as the report calls Banderites). He demands a drastic change in the Ukrainian situation, without which Ukraine cannot defeat Russia. And, of course, he discredits the Minsk agreements by all means, claiming, for example, that the Minsk agreements have cast the residents of eastern Ukraine “into a void, and the authorities in Kyiv behave increasingly as if they no longer exist.”
The most revealing part of the chapter is the “Through the Kremlin looking glass”. It reads that “Russia had become a proud, resentful, apprehensive and ambitious power” years before the events in Ukraine. And that (be attentive!) “fifteen years of Western dominance have instilled an abiding sense of grievance” in Russians.
Once again we are faced with the core theme of the report: the defeat of the Russians in the Cold War and the assertion of Western domination.
It is also said that the victors of the Cold War established an order for the Russians, which many see as a dictate of the West born by the Russian capitulation. That there is an analogy between Russia’s current situation of losing the Cold War and that of the Peace of Versailles (which, as we remember, formalized the Truce of Compiègne and unequivocally humiliated Germany).
The Kremlin, according to Sherr, relies on such a perception, on such a complex of humiliation, and therefore the author insists that the Kremlin has a strategic goal, which is to revise the world order, created by the victory of the West in the Cold War. It is thereby argued that the world order is not the Yalta order, as it is politely assumed to be until now in order not to hurt the Russians’ self-esteem. That it is quite different, reflecting a new situation of Western domination, which has nothing to do with Yalta.
When such claims, which permeate the report, begin to intertwine with complaints that crazy Russians think that Americans and Europeans want to weaken them, one has a heavy feeling. If the report’s authors believe that what is happening is a Russian reaction to the humiliation of defeat in the Cold War, then by default they should have combined that assessment with a demand to keep the Russians humiliated, that is, weakened. In fact, this is what they demand, combining such demands with exclamations about Russia’s insane suspicions about the West’s intention to weaken Russia.
James Sherr, author of the chapter “A War of Narratives and Arms” (part “Through the Kremlin looking glass”), writes: “The Kremlin’s cognitive framework (it would be good to know what it is, but the wording is on the conscience of the author – S.K.) contains some hard truths for Western policy-makers: an existential faith in Russia’s greatness, a willingness to accept risk, damage and opprobrium in the service of enduring state interests“.
Once again, there is an approach from the standpoint of victory in the Cold War. Otherwise, it is unclear why the US can maintain an existential belief in its greatness, while Russia cannot. It is the same with the eternal interests of the state. But that’s the point: what Jupiter is allowed cannot be permitted to the bull. The US defeated and humiliated Russia, so it is entitled to an existential belief in its greatness (world mission, a City upon a Hill, American exceptionalism, and so on), while Russia is not.
Why do we need this maxim about an existential belief in the greatness of Russia and everything else? In order to call upon the West to finally mobilize against Russia. This is what the next part of the same chapter “A War of Narratives and Arms”, “Clarity and Purpose,” is devoted to. It says: “Against one benchmark of assessment, its own burdens and priorities, the West’s response to events since February 2014 has been impressive. Against a second, Russian tenacity, the adequacy of this response is far from certain“.
That is, the response should be more severe. The leitmotif of this part is the need for a tougher response, the need for a long-term struggle with Russia, the need to ensure the victory of Ukraine (unclear by what methods), the need to be prepared for the fact that Russia will begin to extend its expansion and spread it to Moldova, the Baltics, and maybe even Poland.
It describes in great detail how important it is to increase support for Ukraine… In fact, sometimes it seems as if all this is written by Poroshenko himself or at his dictation.
Sherr urges, “It is time to abandon the notion that the Kremlin is concerned about anybody’s welfare other than its own“. This phrase, taking into account the rest of the text, does not mean that the Kremlin is indifferent to its own people, but that it is indifferent to everything outside of Russia. It is unclear why there should not be such indifference in the current situation. Who on earth does not demonstrate it? Or should Russia alone become altruistic – unilaterally and against its own interests?
The report expressed hope for a new perestroika and new thinking, and called on Western governments that they “should be alert to any signs of ‘new thinking’” in Russia. But new thinking and perestroika are yet to come. And until it happens, no treaties with Russia can be made. Because these treaties will not be a solution to the situation, but its aggravation (“the opposite of a solution,” as stated in the report). And any break obtained at the expense of agreements with Russia, as the authors insist, will be “very short”.
In the chapter “Russian Foreign Policy Towards the West and Western Responses,” author James Nixey insists that the Kremlin chose the path of hostility toward the West long ago. Even before the war with Georgia. And that the West was not prepared for this. Later, according to the author, the rate of hostility increase has changed, but not the vector of hostility itself. Nixey writes: “According to the Kremlin, it is the West that has destroyed the rules, so Russia must act in its own interests.”
What system of rules are we talking about? The point is that the West deceitfully demonstrates loyalty to Yalta and the system of Yalta rules. In fact, it defines itself a system of post-Yalta rules, based on the victory in the Cold War. But since this system is implicit and unspoken, it essentially comes down to the fact that the wish of the victor is the law for the vanquished. That is, it is not a question of rules, but of the right to arbitrariness.
The author of this part of the report we are discussing is convinced that the Kremlin is growing ready to act by force, overcoming the situation of defeat in the Cold War. But this willingness will only grow if the Kremlin meets minimal resistance from the West.
In his analysis of Russia’s relations with the so called ‘Russian world’ the author presents the struggle of bilateral influences apparent in the post-Soviet region (either Russian or Western) as a struggle by Russians, who demand the acknowledgement of their influence on the Russian world, which is aimed against the West. Meanwhile the West itself doesn’t promote any kind of agenda, and is also reluctant to assert any kind of influence based on the highest existential instinct of freedom allegedly inherent to the West. The entire world witnesses the way this instinct presents itself outside the West. But Nixey doesn’t care. He seeks to prove that Russia resides on the wrong side of history (Obama’s term). What does it mean to reside on the wrong side of history? It is the same as withdrawing from history, belonging to a dead end, spiraling out of control. The Russians are condemned here as stubborn adversaries to not only some individual states, such as the USA, but to the higher historical truth.
Quite an apparent position is presented here, it allows the arrangement of the New Cold War, even more brutal than the previous one.
Special anxiety is aroused by the consolidation of Russian positions around the Black Sea. This anxiety best illustrates that the Black Sea is not some insignificant kind of inner sea, but a strategic foothold of the 21st century.
In the conclusion of the chapter the author postulates: “Western resolve is being tested”. This is a call to arms for the New Cold War. The call made previously by George F. Kennan was presented basically in the same terms: it talked about a test of resolve. The author stipulates that both the progress on a predominantly anti-Western course by Putin and the change of that course might lead to the overthrow of Putin, which is what the Chatham House researchers are betting on.
Nixey insists on the preservation of what he calls “the post-Cold War environment”. The report started with this theme as we remember.
The new world order for defense of which the creators of the report are rallying — is the world order of indignant de-facto defeat of Russia by the West in the Cold War. Without the acknowledgement of this condition Russia is unable to confront the Western strategy, due to the fact that the essence of this strategy will lurk in mystery under the seven seals. Genuine pathos of the report is the critique of the timid and unconvincing reaction of the West against the malicious plots of Moscow.
Chapter 6 ‘Russia’s Toolkit’ by Keir Giles contains amazing pearls of intrigue. One example: “A 2011 private briefing by Russia’s former chief of general staff on ‘Threats to the Military Security of the Russian Federation’ included a wide range of border disputes, including some that the rest of the world believes were resolved long ago. Karelia and Kaliningrad, in particular, were noted in the briefing as disputed territories, even though Russia’s seizure of them has been recognized as an established fact for 70 years. But by categorizing these non-problems as military threats, Russia prepares the ground for justification for a possible military response to them, regardless of whether the rationale for any such response is perceptible outside Moscow”.
The underlying thesis here is pretty obvious. We will face the demand to give up Karelia and Kaliningrad — that’s what it is about. Another pearl here: “A further threat that in the Russian view merits a military response is ‘discrimination and the suppression of rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of Russian Federation citizens in foreign countries’. The Russian Federal Law ‘On Defence’ was amended in 2009 to legitimize this kind of intervention in Russian law, despite its highly questionable nature in international law. Protection of ‘compatriots’ is a well-worn narrative in Russia’s motivations for aggressive action against its neighbours”.
So if Banderite Nazis would initiate a genocide in Crimea or continue it on the East (they were clearly to do so, this is the axis of their ideology — cleansing the Ukraine of ‘omoskalenny’ [Ukrainians whom the Banderites consider contaminated by Russian cultural influence – translator note], and ‘moskals’ [derogatory term for Russians – translator note]), Russia should relax and wait for millions of refugees to come pouring onto its territory. It should also patiently tolerate racial discrimination, segregation, and other such policies against its compatriots. Would the authors offer this attitude to any other nation of the world, or other nations that don’t rest on the ‘wrong side of history’?
Meanwhile, in condemning Russia’s allegedly criminal approach to protecting its compatriots Giles calls our compatriots (i.e. the Russian diaspora) a criminal instrument for pursuing criminal policy. He writes: “Russia is not the only country that seeks to exploit the role of diasporas for political ends, but in a European context it is hard to find other examples where the aim is overtly hostile to the host nation”.
As soon as Chatham House announced this egregious claim, we heard voices appealing for the profound discrimination of Russian diasporas, for special control over those diasporas, enforcement of special requirements regarding not just their political, but also cultural, lingual and other froms of loyalty to the country of residence.
We are not discussing the world’s classical diasporas – Jewish, Chinese, Indian, and the like. For terminal clarity, let’s discuss the Ukrainian diaspora. It represents a formidable factor which is exploited by the government, but it exploits the government as well, doesn’t it? The Ukrainian diaspora is much more active than the Russian diaspora. So if exploitation of diasporas as a tool for direct political influence should be banned (which is basically impossible), then the influence of the Ukrainian diaspora on Ukraine’s policy should also be banned, as well as exploitation of Ukrainian diaspora by the Banderite Nazi political system to influence the politics in countries where it resides. No one seems to suggest that! Quite the contrary, it is blessed and empowered. We thus have a situation where there is only one nation in the world that is to be restricted from utilizing its diasporas. Could this be possible if this country and this nation do not have a specific fate in store for them?
Special attention in the report is paid to a supposed Russian willingness to use military arms against all the free world. This final stroke transforms the image created by Chatham House into something worthy of our most focused attention. Russians are presented as a nation, defeated in the Cold War, but still manifesting some outrageous unbrokenness. This unbrokenness is a threat to the West and all humanity. It could be overcome by such a response that will break the Russians completely.
This is it — the picture of the New Cold War, for the sake of which The Russian challenge was written. Whether it will become an actual instruction is not evident at the moment. It was written two years ago. We have enough data showing how Chatham House doctrine develops into the doctrine of what is referred to as the ‘emerging Global State’, which implies quasi- and simultaneously metastate doctrine. Chatham House status allows for the consideration of this kind of possibility. Though there is no inevitability in transformation of this specific approach into the general approach of the West. But it still doesn’t suggest that the materials presented below aren’t worth considering.
Familiarize yourself with The Russian Challenge report, feel the scale of the challenge to all of us and mobilize for the response. This is the kind of an attitude that allows us to correctly perceive the outwardly regional, but effectively global and fatal matter of the Ukrainian topic.
This is the translation of the foreword to the multi-authored monograph “Ukrainism: Who constructed it and why” first published in 2017 and re-published on the Rossa Primavera News Agency‘s web-site on March 5, 2022. This research work was written by the members of Aleksandrovskoye commune, which is part of the School of Higher Meanings of the Essence of Time movement and is supported by the members of the Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation.
Dr. Sergey Kurginyan is a political and social leader of the Essence of Time movement, theater director, philosopher, political scientist, and head of the Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation.
Speaking about the topic of the monograph “Ukrainism: Who constructed it and why”, Sergey Kurginyan explained, “We are studying Ukrainism, not Ukraine. Our subject is Ukrainism as a construct. The creation of this construct, its characteristics, its consecutive transformation, its implementation, and finally its outlook―this is the focus of our study, which is thus fundamentally different from a normal historical or sociological study of a normal Ukraine”.