Those trying to understand the goals of Russian expansion in their former Soviet sphere of influence and it’s recent alliances with a wide swathe of fringe European parties on both sides of the political spectrum should examine the ideology and teachings of Russian political philosopher Dr. Aleksandr Dugin. Dr. Aleksandr Gel’evich Dugin is a former professor of sociology & international relations at Moscow State University, a Duma advisor and ,allegedly, a one-time member of Putin’s inner circle.
Dugin is the most well-known and ideologically influential member of the Izborskij Club, founded in late 2012, a think tank created by former Soviet journalist-cum-ultranationalist pundit Aleksandr Prohanov to promote nationalist and traditionalist views to the Russian government and public at large, and it would not be off the mark to describe their geo-political views as irredentist and aggressively anti-Western. Though Dugin and the “Izborskij Club” are fairly obscure in the West, Dugin’s political philosophy is becoming more and more well known in his native Russia.
With his long hair and beard and piercing blue eyes, Dr. Dugin certainly looks the part of “Putin’s Rasputin.” Dr. Dugin, one of the founding members of the National Bolshevik Party, a neo-Stalinist group, is also the creator of the “Fourth Political Theory,” which is an attempt to unite anti-classical liberal political ideologies into a common front under a new political theory, much like the National Bolshevik Party sought to synthesize Stalinism with fascism. Aleksandr Dugin is also a major proponent of the geopolitical idea of Eurasianism, and is the founder of Russia’s Eurasia Party. Dugin’s Eurasian Youth Union, founded in the wake of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004, promotes an anti-Western, pro-Russian Weltanschauung throughout Russia, Ukraine (until being banned for vandalism), other areas of the former USSR, and Turkey.
Eurasianism, an ideology arising from Slavophilism and in opposition to Western influences in Russian culture and religion, posits Russia as a “Eurasian” nation that stands culturally apart from Europe. Dr. Dugin and his followers believe that Russia, as a Eurasian civilization representing tradition, is in conflict with “Atlantic” civilization, currently championed by the United States, which represents economic, political, and cultural liberalism. To this end, Aleksandr Dugin calls for an alliance with nations opposed to American interests in order to create a multipolar world dominated by anti-Western power blocs, chief of those power blocs being a traditionalist Russian nation.
Some have noted recent increasing relations between Russia and Iran, in particular towards Iran’s nuclear program and the recent intelligence sharing agreement. It should be of no surprise that Aleksandr Dugin has repeatedly called for an alliance between Russia and Iran:
“Iran plays a key role in Eurasianism theory which sees the world as a multipolar system. After the Islamic Revolution and given the country’s strategic position, Iran has been included in equations that aim to create an independent atmosphere of Eurasianism. If there were conflicts between Iran and Russia in past centuries and they tried to solve their problems through war, today, they only look for peaceful and strategic alliance as a solution to their problems. I mean, Moscow and Tehran are now solving problems which they previously could not solve even by recourse to military force. Our interests totally overlap from a strategic viewpoint. This trend can only be realized through strategic alliance, not simple convergence. Iran is not included in Eurasian convergence model because only former republics of the Soviet Union are included in it. Iran has its own special civilization and is a powerful and independent country which should be respected. That alliance should be protected. We must not simply think about convergence with Iran. Iran does not fit into convergence model of Eurasianism, but it is a partner for Russia in a multipolar world. Our strategic interests in the Central Asia and, on the whole, in the entire region overlap. Therefore, Iran enjoys a pivotal role in the model of multipolar Eurasianism and, in this model Tehran is the closest ally of Moscow. Of course, the model also envisages partnership with Turkey, China, and India.”
Dugin sees Iran as Russia’s prime ally in an Eurasian strategy, and makes reference to a “Moscow-Tehran” axis, as well as “Moscow-Berlin” and “Moscow-Tokyo” axes. Furthermore, Dugin is strongly opposed to Wahhabism, believing it to be an equal threat to traditional Islam and Russia alike. Dugin accuses the United States of funding Wahhabism in order to weaken Eurasian civilizations, and accuses the Sunni nations of the Middle East of selling out to the United States. In contrast, Dugin praises Iran for its Shia traditionalism.
Both Russia and Iran share common goals in keeping Sunni extremists (and the United States) weak and out of Central Asia as well as maintaining control over the Caspian Sea. With the current pressure over dropping oil prices, both Russia and Iran have another common issue; perhaps forestalling the P5+1 negotiations scheduled to take place at the end of February would serve to buy time for the “Turk Stream” pipeline from Russia to be completed.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has notably increased political connections with Russia since the US support for the Kurds during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent occupation. This sudden change of heart between the two nations makes little sense at first glance; Russia saw Turkey, a member of NATO, as a proxy of the United States and uncomfortably close and sympathetic to Turkic and Muslim minority groups (some with separatist goals) in the southern areas of Russia.
However, Eurasianism has also found supporters in the Turkish government and military. Both Russia and Turkey have become more economically intertwined, as Turkey now counts Russia as its second largest trading partner after Germany and obtains 70% of its natural gas via a trans-Black Sea pipeline from Russia. Both Russia and Turkey have found common ground in dealing with their respective separatist movements from Chechens and Kurds. Furthermore, interest in Eurasianism and opposition to the EU & NATO have returned to the mainstream in Turkish political discourse since the collapse of the Soviet Union, just as Eurasianism has become more prevalent in Russian political circles. Both nations have become increasingly anti-Western and aggressively nationalist since the 1990s, and both share a conflicted history as nations between the Western and Eastern worlds. As of today, Turkey and Russia enjoy increasingly closer economic, political, and even military and scientific cooperation, including the construction of a Russian designed and funded nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Turkey’s first nuclear reactor.
Although Dugin identified Turkey as a member of the NATO-Atlanticist bloc in Foundations of Geopolitics, recent changes in the political landscape in Turkey has led him and the Russian government to revise their geopolitical strategy towards the nation. Dugin has been a supporter of an assertive Russian foreign policy towards the Middle East and the Islamic world as a whole, and particularly towards improving Russian-Turkish relations. To this end, Dugin built networks with like-minded organizations inside Turkey and former Soviet Turkic nations with the foundation of the International Eurasianist Movement in 2003. Dugin began visiting Turkey on a regular basis and referred to a “Moscow-Ankara” axis starting in 2006. It has also been suggested that Dugin has close ties with the ultranationalist Ergenekon movement, which has been accused of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.
Earlier on the Free Fire blog, we discussed Russian expansionism in Ukraine. It should not be surprising at this point to learn that Dugin has spoken at length about the need for Russia to regain their formerly held Soviet territory. In July 2008, a month before the Russian invasion of Georgia, Aleksandr Dugin visited pro-Russian fighters in South Ossetia and made this statement:
“Here is the border in the battle of civilizations…I think Americans are great. But we want to put an end to America’s hegemony…Our troops will occupy the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the entire country, and perhaps even Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula”
Dugin has publicly stated his belief that Georgia was being used by NATO as an anti-Russian tool and exhorted Russians to do whatever they could to support the Ossetian fighters, described by him as the direct descendants of the Alans and the progenitors of Russian and Indo-European civilization. He supported the partition of Ukraine in the past in order to return the ethnically Russian east and Crimea to Russia, and has referred to war between Russia and Ukraine as “inevitable.” In a letter to the American people regarding the Ukraine conflict, Dugin described the Orange Revolution of 2004 as an illegitimate movement that unjustly deposed the democratically elected Viktor Yanukovich in order to establish a pro-NATO regime, oppress ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and limit Russian access to the Black Sea.
With this in mind, Aleksandr Dugin has undoubtedly been extremely influential in the Russian military and foreign policy establishment. Back in 1997, Aleksandr Dugin published his treatise Foundations of Geopolitics, a book that has been stated to be used as a textbook by the Russian General Staff Academy, as well as being coauthored by General Nikolai Klokotov of the General Staff Academy, and with Col. General Leonid Ivashov of the International Department of the Russian Ministry of Defense as an advisor. Here Dugin lays out his strategy for Russia in the 21st century. As mentioned earlier, Foundations of Geopolitics has as its strategic plan building of alliances with other Eurasian powers such as Iran in order to build up a counter-Atlanticist front.
However, the strategy just starts from there. Dugin states that defeating the United States and limiting their power in the Eastern Hemisphere is a necessary task, referring to the United States as “a necessary scapegoat.” Russia can and should use their natural resources to turn former American allies into Russian allies, and Dugin advises fomenting instability and separatism within the United States itself:
“It is especially important to introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics…(p. 367)”
Dugin also promotes aiding anti-American regimes in Latin America, and leading Japan and Germany away from the United States into an alliance with Russia, citing German New Right sentiments about withdrawal from NATO and neutrality with Russia. Such a move, Dugin believes, will lead France and other continental European nations to follow Germany’s example. Eastern and Central Europe will be divided up between Russia and Germany, with most Catholic nations and Kaliningrad being granted to Germany while Russia takes the Orthodox nations and the Baltic nations of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Finland.
The influence of Dugin on Russian geopolitics and military strategy is self-evident, even though it is debatable exactly how much Putin buys in to the underlying theories behind Dugin’s ideology. Regardless, we will likely be hearing more about Dugin’s geopolitical theories in the not too distant future, and it is clear that the Russian government has taken his Foundations of Geopolitics as a blueprint for their foreign policy.