המכון לחקר תקשורת המזרח התיכון
החזון של רוסיה: מעבר מאירופה לאירו-אסיה

March 23, 2016
 Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.1239

Understanding Russian Political Ideology And Vision: A Call For Eurasia, From Lisbon To Vladivostok

By: Anna Mahjar-Barducci and Giuseppe Rippa*


In a landmark treatise titled "Russia's Foreign Policy: Historical Background," published March 3, 2016 in the Russian foreign affairs journal Russia in Global Affairs, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov challenged the Western perspective on Russia with an analysis of Russian history. According to Lavrov, Russia has played an important role in shaping both European history and contemporary European policies. He writes that contrary to the belief widespread in the West that Russia is Europe's" political outsider, "it is an integral part of the European context, adding that while throughout history Russia's power has been obstructed by European countries, Europe's geography, and its historical, intrinsic interconnection with Russia, signifies that the former will always have to consider the latter. Lavrov also sketches out a bipolar world in which Russia confronts the U.S. by expanding its own realm of political influence and power from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as part of a new political entity – Eurasia. The vision of Eurasia and the resultant political goals are in essence an ideological blueprint for an ideological agenda to counter the U.S.

This report will present the Russian perspective, political ideology, and goals, as set out not only by Foreign Minister Lavrov but also by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and citing these ideas' roots in recent history. It will not, however, include an examination of the extent to which these ideas and goals can actually be implemented at this time, given the country's current economic, political, and structural situation

The five-pointed red star, symbolizing both communism and socialism. This photo accompanied the article in Russia in Global Affairs(Source: Russia in Global Affairs, March 3, 2016).

A Europe From Lisbon To Vladivostok

In his article, Lavrov notes that the concept of a "common European home" for Russia and Europe, which was supported by French president Gen. Charles de Gaulle who never questioned that Russia belongs to Europe, is the only way to build a strong and safe Europe. De Gaulle is actually quoted often by Russian politicians, because of his idea of a Europe extending from the Atlantic to the Urals.[1] In a November 23, 1959 speech in Strasbourg, he said: "Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, it is the whole of Europe that will decide the fate of the world."

It is not by chance that a Russian politician quotes a French president, as de Gaulle's France had several points in common with the Russia of today. After WWII, France was in a predicament: It felt that it could either choose submission to the new superpower, the U.S., that had saved France from the catastrophe of Nazism – and give up its dreams of grandeur – or take an anti-U.S. approach so that it could rebuild the global power that it had once had. The second option was more appealing to de Gaulle, and he looked to Russia to build a strong Europe that could counterbalance the American strength and give France an international role as a major power. In this context, de Gaulle pursued a policy of "national independence" that led him to withdraw from NATO's military integrated command, a move still appreciated today in Moscow.

Today's Russia, like de Gaulle's France, also harbors nostalgia for its own national grandeur. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Russia resented the U.S. – not only for the collapse of the Soviet Union but also for NATO's eastward expansion, that came in spite of NATO secretary-general Manfred Wörner's guarantees to Russia that there would be no such expansion.[2]

In an article on the website of the Russian think tank Valdai Discussion Club,[3] Rein Müllerson, Research Professor at Tallinn University in Estonia, noted that the nightmare of the U.S. is the prospect of the emergence of a Europe "from Lisbon to Vladivostok, or, using the vision of de Gaulle, from the Atlantic to the Urals." He states that even though European foreign policies have become "subordinated to the American interests," de Gaulle's dream is "still alive."[4] De Gaulle predicted the rise of China and concluded that this was another reason for Europe's and Russia's need for each other. In line with this thinking, Müllerson also notes that in early 2016, 20 high-level French diplomats, including former foreign ministers Hervé de Charette, Roland Dumas, and Hubert Védrene as well as prominent intellectuals from the Club des Vingt,[5] wrote that Europe should strengthen relations with Russia in order to prevent the emergence of a bipolar world led by China and the U.S. Their statement read: "A European continent without the new Russia would not be complete; a strong Franco-Russian relationship is essential for the sake of the [intra-]European balance. A Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis would be an ideal guarantee of peace in Europe and even beyond, so as to prevent the risk of the emergence of a bipolar (Sino-American) world."

In 2014, on a Paris visit, Russian State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin[6] said that de Gaulle's idea for a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals was important for Europe's security and that it "has no alternative": "We remember Gen.de Gaulle as the author of the idea of a unified Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. He, like no one else, sensed the core of global processes that were taking place in Europe at that time. His scenario of providing a safe future for Europe is relevant in our days, and has no alternative. Those who are trying to break that trend while staying thousands of kilometers away from Europe [i.e. the U.S.] are making a great historical mistake."

NATO's Expansion Eastward – A Provocation Against Russia

According to the Kremlin, the relationship between Europe and Russia cannot succeed, since the U.S. is building barriers, via NATO's expansion, to separate the two. In his treatise, Lavrov also quotes Sovietologist and architect of U.S. Cold War policy George Kennan, who had noted that NATO's expansion eastwards would be a "tragic mistake." On April 30, 1998, the U.S. Senate voted to expand NATO by including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in it. A few days later, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote[7] about a conversation he had had with Kennan, in which the latter called the Senate's move the "beginning of a new cold war" and added: ''I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country [i.e. the U.S.] turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [The NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs." Kennan also noted that the West should not be "turning our backs" on Russia: "I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime."

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild,[8] which Lavrov also quoted in his treatise, President Putin argues that the correct position for mending relations between the West and Russia would be that of German Social Democratic Party politician Egon Bahr, who had suggested redefining a zone in Central Europe that NATO forces would not be allowed to enter. In it, Putin acknowledges that the Central European states themselves wanted to join NATO, but adds that he believes that the NATO member states "could also have followed their own interests... abstain[ing] from an expansion to the east." Putin also stresses, "Nowhere is it written that NATO had to accept certain countries" even if they requested it. Therefore, all that NATO would have needed in order to refrain from expanding eastward would have been "political will" on the part of its members. He explained this lack of political will as follows: "NATO and the U.S. wanted a complete victory over the Soviet Union. They wanted to sit alone on the throne of Europe." He adds that NATO's expansion can also be seen as an "absolute triumph" for the U.S. missile defense plans: "A deployment in Romania is being prepared; the same will happen in Poland in 2018; and in Turkey, a radar unit is being installed. What is the point of this?"[9]

In 2007, at the Munich Conference on Security Policy,[10] Putin stressed, both in his speech and in the debate that followed, that NATO's expansion was a provocation against Russia, because NATO, unlike the UN, is a military and political alliance and "not a universal organization": "I think it is obvious that NATO expansion has nothing to do with the modernization of the alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary – it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: Against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances given by our Western partners [referring to NATO secretary-general Wörner's 1990 speech[11] ] after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them."

Moving From Europe To Eurasia

In his treatise, Lavrov further reiterates that Russia's history, culture, and geography make it a natural bridge between Europe and Asia. It will never be wholly European because of its Mongolian past and its natural expansion eastwards, he says, but its natural Eurasian identity will lead it to expand its political influence across both Europe and Asia.

The concept of a Russian Eurasian identity, which is rooted in the intellectual movements of 1910-20, has been politically developed by Putin, who sponsored the 2015 creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU),[12] an international organization of regional economic integration originally proposed in 1994.[13] In 2011, as Russian prime minister, Putin wrote an article titled "A New Integration Project For Eurasia: The Future In The Making," in which he stated that a Eurasian Union does not entail a "revival of the Soviet Union,"[14] because "it would be naïve to try to revive or emulate something that has been consigned to history."[15] Proposing instead "a powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world and serving as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region," Putin specified that the Eurasian Union "will be based on universal integration principles" as an essential part of a "Greater Europe." Echoing de Gaulle's idea of a Europe stretching "from the Atlantic to the Urals," Putin explained that, in line with the idea of a Eurasian Union, Russia proposes "setting up a harmonized community of economies stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok." According to Putin, a partnership between the Eurasian Union and the EU would "prompt changes in the geopolitical and geo-economic setup of the continent as a whole with a guaranteed global effect."

However, in an article published January 27, 2016 on the website of the Valdai Discussion Club, Timofei Bordachev, director of the Valdai Club Eurasian Program, writes that the EU rejects the possibility of recognizing the existing EAEU, which had just celebrated its first anniversary, and of establishing contractual relations with it:[16] "The [EU's] arguments are fairly simple: the EAEU is ostensibly too weak institutionally; its supranational bodies have fairly limited powers; and trade between its member-states is underdeveloped."

Russia also needs China to implement the Eurasian integration project. Russian political analyst Sergey Karaganov explains, in a February 13, 2016 article in the Russian journal Russia in Global Affairs,[17] that Russia and China now find themselves moving towards each other. Having met growing resistance in the Pacific from the U.S.,[18] China has been obliged to move westward, towards Central Asia and Europe – and therefore also towards Russia. At the same time, NATO's expansion eastwards obliged Russia to move east, towards China. Karaganov explains that most experts predicted an "almost inevitable clash between Russia and China in Central Asia," but, he added, "Moscow and Beijing had the wisdom to avoid confrontation by converting their potential differences into a potential for cooperation. In 2015 they reached an agreement to integrate or 'pair' the Silk Road Economic Belt project[19] and the Eurasian Economic Union. "This agreement took shape in the joint statement by Russia and China on the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union with the Silk Road Economic Belt,[20] a Chinese project that focuses on integrating trade and investment in Eurasia. Thus, China, Central Asia, Russia, and Europe's Baltic region were brought together, and the agreement was adopted at the May 8, 2015 Putin-Xi summit in Moscow.

However, in a February 13, 2016 article in Russia in Global Affairs,[21] Wan Qingsong, research fellow at the Center for Russian Studies of the Shanghai-based East China Normal University, mentions that Russia and China had agreed in the joint statement to launch talks on an economic and trade cooperation deal, and "mentioned the establishment of a free trade area between the EAEU and China as a long-term objective." He continued: "In other words, the statement reflected the parties' readiness to postpone the discussion of the sensitive issue of a free trade area for the future. There are no favorable conditions in Eurasia now for the creation of a free trade area between developed and developing countries."


As noted in the introduction, the aim of this paper is to present the Russian political ideology, vision and goals, not critique them. However, several analytical points must be made.

The Internal Scene

Russia's current economic, political, and structural situation renders the vision of an integrated Eurasia inapplicable at this time. Russia has also an identity problem. Karaganov explains, in the preface of a 2015 monograph,[22] that since the fall of the Berlin wall, the Russian people have drifted away from their Soviet identity without finding a new one, and Eurasianism cannot be a new identity. Present-day "Eurasianists," Karaganov clarifies, "have never known modern Asia, or Europe, or their new achievements, or their new problems." Therefore, Russia has, for the time being, returned to its "initial main national ideas – defense and sovereignty at all costs," he says, adding, "It may be a good interim solution, but could be dangerous if it turns to be the final solution to Russia's identity problem, since no country in the modern world can succeed or win by solely defending its own identity."

The European/NATO Scene

Putin's analysis, according to which the EU plays a role in setting a new geopolitical order, is questionable. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe did not move itself into a central role mediating between the U.S. and Russia, and thus the EU missed an historic opportunity to prevent the isolation of Russia and avoid a situation in which Moscow's resentment towards the West turn into radicalization and unrealistic hegemonic dreams.

Over the years, Russia has proposed that it join Western organizations. For example, Russian president Boris Yeltsin,[23] as well as Putin himself in the first years of his presidency, both spoke about NATO membership for Russia.[24] However, the West has always considered Russia to large an entity to be truly integrated. In NATO, the U.S. position prevailed – i.e. that Russia should not be allowed a global role. However, potential Russian membership in NATO is somewhat moot, because Russia would likely not have been willing to give up part of its military sovereignty, as it would need to do if it did join NATO.

As relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated following NATO's expansion eastward, Russia's willingness to engage with NATO is now limited to the level of cooperation only. NATO's eastward expansion is perceived by Russia as a military provocation and as a way to obstruct Russia from reassuming her historic role as a global player. In 2014, President Barack Obama even called Russia a "regional power"[25] that had seized part of Ukraine – creating further anger on Russia's part.[26] Following the Ukrainian crisis, Russia's ambitions were further curbed by economic sanctions and by exclusion from the G-8. It is worth noting that Russia is also irritated by the U.S. role in supporting color revolutions in what Russia perceives as its own backyard (e.g. those in Georgia and Ukraine) as well as its backing of the ascendance of pro-U.S. leaders who aspire to join NATO.

The China Scene

Russia is now looking eastwards, towards China. However, some political strategists believe that the world of G-8 and G-7 will be replaced by a G-2, comprising only the U.S. and China. Russia is worried about the emergence of a bipolar Sino-American world, and is pushing for the creation of a Eurasian entity in which it feels it can play a global role. China is a bigger economy than Russia, but in a Eurasia, Russia may have a cultural advantage over China, given its dual European and Eastern heritage. However, as long as the U.S. continues its policy of containing China in the Pacific, China will need Russia as an ally.

A Note On Russia's Policies Vis-à-Vis The Middle East Crises

In view of Russia's political ideology, vision, and goals as presented above, its Middle East policy – for example, its intervention in and recent withdrawal from Syria, and the positive role it played in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, where the U.S. recognized Russia as a global player– is both clear and unsurprising. For Russia, whose vision is a Eurasia and a global role, the Middle East is merely a platform for promoting itself; therefore, any move in this region is no more than a tactical tool to enhance its global standing.

APPENDIX: "Russia's Foreign Policy: Historical Background" – By Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

The following are excerpts of Lavrov's treatise, originally published in Russian on March 3, 2016 in the Russian foreign affairs journal Russia in Global Affairs.[27] The following are excerpts from the article's English translation on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry:[28]

"International relations have entered a very difficult period, and Russia once again finds itself at the crossroads of key trends that determine the vector of future global development.

"Many different opinions have been expressed in this connection, including the fear that we have a distorted view of the international situation and Russia's international standing. I perceive this as an echo of the eternal dispute between pro-Western liberals and the advocates of Russia's unique path. There are also those, both in Russia and outside of it, who believe that Russia is doomed to drag behind, trying to catch up with the West and forced to bend to other players' rules, and hence will be unable to claim its rightful place in international affairs. I'd like to use this opportunity to express some of my views and to back them with examples from history and historical parallels.

"It is an established fact that a substantiated policy is impossible without reliance on history...History doesn't confirm the widespread belief that Russia has always camped in Europe's backyard and has been Europe's political outsider. I’d like to remind you that the adoption of Christianity in Russia in 988... boosted the development of state institutions, social relations and culture and eventually made Kievan Rus[29] [a powerful East Slavic state, shaped in the 9th century] a full member of the European community...Many prominent Western thinkers recognized that Rus [the region of Kievan Rus] was part of the European context. At the same time, Russian people possessed a cultural matrix of their own and an original type of spirituality and never merged with the West. It is instructive to recall in this connection what was for my people a tragic and in many respects critical epoch of the Mongolian invasion...

"It is clear that said period was extremely important for the assertion of the Russian State's independent role in Eurasia. Let us recall in this connection the policy pursued by Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky [regarded as a key figure of medieval Kievan Rus], who opted to temporarily submit to Golden Horde [a Mongol state established in present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan] rulers, who were tolerant of Christianity, in order to uphold the Russians' right to have a faith of their own and to decide their fate, despite the European West's attempts to put Russian lands under full control and to deprive Russians of their identity. I am confident that this wise and forward-looking policy is in our genes.

"Rus bent beneath, but was not broken by, the heavy Mongolian yoke, and managed to emerge from this dire trial as a single state, which was later regarded by both the West and the East as the successor to the Byzantine Empire that ceased to exist in 1453. An imposing country stretching along what was practically the entire eastern perimeter of Europe, Russia began a natural expansion towards the Urals and Siberia, absorbing their huge territories. Already then it was a powerful balancing factor in European political combinations...

"At this point, we are approaching a dilemma that has been evident for several centuries. While the rapidly developing Moscow state naturally played an increasing role in European affairs, the European countries had apprehensions about the nascent giant in the East and tried to isolate it whenever possible and prevent it from taking part in Europe's most important affairs.

"The seeming contradiction between the traditional social order and a striving for modernization based on the most advanced experience also dates back centuries. In reality, a rapidly developing state is bound to try and make a leap forward, relying on modern technology, which does not necessarily imply the renunciation of its 'cultural code.' There are many examples of Eastern societies modernizing without the radical breakdown of their traditions. This is all the more typical of Russia that is essentially a branch of European civilization.

"Incidentally, the need for modernization based on European achievements was clearly manifested in Russian society under Tsar Alexis,[30] while talented and ambitious Peter the Great[31] gave it a strong boost. Relying on tough domestic measures and resolute, and successful, foreign policy, Peter the Great managed to put Russia into the category of Europe's leading countries in a little over two decades. Since that time Russia's position could no longer be ignored. Not a single European issue can be resolved without Russia's opinion."

All Attempts To Unite Europe Without Russia, And Against It, Have Inevitably Led To Grim Tragedies

"It would be inaccurate to assume that everyone was happy about this state of affairs. There were repeated attempts to bring this country back to the pre-Peter times over subsequent centuries, but they failed. In the mid-18th century, Russia played a key role in a pan-European conflict – the Seven Years' War.[32] At that time, Russian troops made a triumphal entry into Berlin, the capital of Prussia under Frederick II,[33] who had a reputation for invincibility. Prussia was saved from an inevitable rout only because [Russia's] Empress Elizabeth[34] died suddenly and was succeeded by Peter III,[35] who sympathized with [Prussian King] Frederick II. This turn in German history is still referred to as the Miracle of the House of Brandenburg. Russia's size, power, and influence grew substantially under [Russian Empress] Catherine the Great,[36] [who succeeded Peter III] when, as then-chancellor [of Russia] Alexander Bezborodko put it, 'Not a single cannon in Europe could be fired without our consent'...I would like to quote the opinion of a reputable researcher of Russian history, Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, the permanent secretary of the French Academy... Following Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyayev,[37] she insists that history has imbued Russia with the mission of linking the East and the West.

"During at least the past two centuries any attempts to unite Europe without Russia and against it have inevitably led to grim tragedies, the consequences of which were always overcome with the decisive participation of our country. I'm referring, in part, to the Napoleonic wars upon the completion of which Russia rescued the system of international relations that was based on the balance of forces and mutual consideration for national interests and ruled out the total dominance of one state in Europe. We remember that [the Russian] Emperor Alexander I[38] took an active role in the drafting of decisions of the 1815 Vienna Congress[39] that ensured the development of Europe without serious armed clashes during the subsequent 40 years.

"Incidentally, to a certain extent, the ideas of Alexander I could be described as a prototype of the concept of subordinating national interests to common goals, primarily, the maintenance of peace and order in Europe. As the Russian emperor said, 'there can be no more English, French, Russian, or Austrian policy. There can be only one policy – a common policy that must be accepted by both peoples and sovereigns for common happiness.'

"By the same token, the Vienna system was destroyed in the wake of the desire to marginalize Russia in European affairs. Paris was obsessed with this idea during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III. In his attempt to forge an anti-Russian alliance, the French monarch was willing, as a hapless chess grandmaster, to sacrifice all the other figures. How did it play out? Indeed, Russia was defeated in the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the consequences of which it managed to overcome soon due to a consistent and far-sighted policy pursued by [Russian] Chancellor Alexander Gorchakov.[40] As for Napoleon III, he ended his rule in German captivity, and the nightmare of the Franco-German confrontation loomed over Western Europe for decades..."

Serious Researchers See Soviet Reforms' Impact On The Formation Of The So-Called Welfare State In Post-WWII Western Europe

"It is appropriate to recall the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution [which will be marked in 2017]. Today we are faced with the need to develop a balanced and objective assessment of those events, especially in an environment where, particularly in the West, many seek to use this date to mount even more information attacks on Russia, and to portray the 1917 Revolution as a barbaric coup that dragged down all of European history. Even worse, they want to equate the Soviet regime to Nazism, and partially blame it for starting WWII.

"Without a doubt, the Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Civil War were a terrible tragedy for our nation. However, all other revolutions were tragic as well. This does not prevent our French colleagues from extolling their upheaval, which, in addition to the slogans of liberty, equality, and fraternity, also involved the use of the guillotine, and rivers of blood.

"Undoubtedly, the Russian Revolution was a major event which impacted world history in many controversial ways. It has become regarded as a kind of experiment in implementing socialist ideas, which were at that time widely spread across Europe. The people supported them, because broad masses gravitated towards social organization that relied on the collective and on community principles.

"Serious researchers clearly see the impact of reforms in the Soviet Union on the formation of the so-called welfare state in Western Europe in the post-WWII period. European governments decided to introduce unprecedented measures of social protection under the influence of the example of the Soviet Union in an effort to cut the ground from under the feet of the left-wing political forces.

"One can say that the 40 years following World War II were a surprisingly good time for Western Europe, which was spared the need to make its own major decisions under the umbrella of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation and enjoyed unique opportunities for steady development.

"Under these circumstances, Western European countries implemented several ideas regarding conversion of the capitalist and socialist models, which, as a preferred form of socioeconomic progress, were promoted by [Russian-American sociologist and opponent of the Bolshevik regime] Pitirim Sorokin and other outstanding thinkers of the 20th century. Over the past 20 years, we have been witnessing the reverse process in Europe and the United States: the reduction of the middle class, increased social inequality, and the dismantling of controls over big business.

"The role played by the Soviet Union in decolonization and in promoting principles of international relations, such as nations' independent development and right to self-determination, is undeniable.

"I will not dwell on the points related to Europe's slipping into WWII. Clearly, the anti-Russia aspirations of the European elites, and their desire to unleash Hitler's war machine on the Soviet Union, played their fateful part here. Redressing the situation after this terrible disaster involved the participation of our country as a key partner in determining the parameters of the European and world order.

"In this context, the notion of the 'clash of two totalitarianisms,' which is now actively inculcated in European minds, including in schools, is groundless and immoral. The Soviet Union, for all its evils, never aimed to destroy entire nations. Winston Churchill, who all his life was a principled opponent of the Soviet Union and played a major role in going from the WWII alliance to a new confrontation with the Soviet Union, said that graciousness, i.e. life in accordance with conscience, is the Russian way of doing things..."

According To Western Propaganda, Russia Is Revisionist – But This Is Based On Assumption That Only Washington Can Set The Tone For World Affairs

"It seems that, in the context of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it is important for us to understand the continuity of Russian history. This should include all of its eras without exception, and [stress] the importance of the synthesis of all Russia's positive traditions and historical experience, and should serve asa basis for dynamic advances and for upholding our country's rightful role as a leading center of the modern world, and as a provider of the values of sustainable development, security, and stability.

"The post-war world order relied on confrontation between two world systems and was far from ideal, yet it was sufficient to preserve international peace and to avoid the worst possible temptation – the use of weapons of mass destruction, primarily nuclear weapons. There is no substance behind the popular belief that the Soviet Union's dissolution signified a Western victory in the Cold War. It was the result of our people's will for change, plus an unlucky chain of events.[41]

"These developments resulted in a truly tectonic shift in the international landscape. In fact, they changed global politics altogether, considering that the end of the Cold War and related ideological confrontations offered a unique opportunity to change European architecture, along the principles of indivisible and equal security and broad cooperation without dividing lines.

"We had a practical chance to mend Europe's divide and to implement the dream of a common European home[42] , which was embraced wholeheartedly by many European thinkers and politicians, including President Charles de Gaulle of France. Russia was fully open to this option, and advanced many proposals and initiatives in this connection. Logically, we should have created a new foundation for European security by strengthening the military and political components of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).[43] [Russian President] Vladimir Putin told the German newspaper Bild[44] in a recent interview that German politician Egon Bahr [Social Democratic Party politician and secretary of the chancellor's office under Chancellor Willy Brandt, 1969-1972] had proposed similar approaches.

"Unfortunately, our Western partners chose differently. They opted to expand NATO eastward, and to advance the geopolitical space they controlled closer to the Russian border. This is the essence of the systemic problems that have soured Russia's relations with the U.S. and the E.U. It is notable that George Kennan, the architect of the U.S. policy of containment of the Soviet Union, said in his winter years that the ratification of NATO expansion was 'a tragic mistake.'

"The underlying problem of this Western policy is that it disregarded the global context. The current globalized world is based on an unprecedented interconnection between countries, and so it is impossible to develop relations between Russia and the EU as if they [Russia and the EU] remained at the core of global politics as during the Cold War. We must take note of the powerful processes now underway in the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

"Rapid changes in all areas of international life is the main sign of the current stage. Indicatively, they often take an unexpected turn. Thus, the concept of 'the end of history' developed by well-known U.S. sociologist and political researcher Francis Fukuyama, that was popular in the 1990s, has become clearly inconsistent [with the reality of] today. According to this concept, rapid globalization signals the ultimate victory of the liberal capitalist model, whereas all other models should adapt to it under the guidance of the wise Western teachers...

"There has been a relative reduction in the influence of the so-called 'historical West' that was accustomed to seeing itself, for nearly five centuries, as the master of the destiny of the human race. The competition to shape the world order in the 21st century has toughened. The transition from the Cold War to a new international system proved to be much longer and more painful than it seemed 20 or 25 years ago.

"Against this backdrop, one of the basic issues in international affairs is the form being taken by this overall natural competition among the world's leading powers. We see how the U.S. and the U.S.-led Western alliance are trying to preserve their dominant positions by any available method or, to use the American lexicon, to ensure their 'global leadership.' Many diverse ways of exerting pressure, economic sanctions, and even direct armed intervention are being used. Large-scale information wars are being waged... Importantly, democratic revolutions appear to be destructive for the nations targeted by such actions. Our country... firmly proceeds with its preference of evolutionary changes that should be carried out in the ways, and at a pace, that conform to the traditions of a society and its level of development.

"Western propaganda habitually accuses Russia of 'revisionism,' and of harboring a desire to destroy the established international system – as if it were we who bombed Yugoslavia in 1999 in violation of the UN Charter[45] and the Helsinki Final Act,[46] and as if it were Russia that ignored international law by invading Iraq in 2003 and distorted UN Security Council resolutions by overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi's regime by force in Libya in 2011. There are many examples.

"This discourse about 'revisionism' does not hold water. It is based on the simple and even primitive logic that only Washington can set the tone in world affairs. In line with this logic, the principle once formulated by George Orwell that has moved to the international level sounds like the following: All states are equal, but some are more equal than others.

"However, today international relations are too sophisticated a mechanism to be controlled from a single center. This is obvious, given the results of U.S. interference: [Today,] there is virtually no state in Libya; Iraq is balancing on the brink of disintegration; and so on and so forth."

We Continue To Believe That The Best Way To Ensure The Interests Of The Peoples In Europe Is Forming A Common Economic And Humanitarian Space, From Atlantic To Pacific

"A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation among the leading states and their associations, in order to address common challenges. Such an interaction should include all the colors of the modern world, and be based on its cultural and civilization diversity; it must also reflect the interests of the international community's key components.

"We know from experience that when these principles are applied, it is possible to achieve specific and tangible results, such as the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons, the agreement on stopping hostilities in Syria, and the development of the basic parameters of the global climate agreement. This reflects the need for a revival of the culture of compromise, and of reliance on diplomacy, which can be difficult and even exhausting but which remains, in essence, the only way to ensure that a mutually acceptable solution to problems is arrived at by peaceful means.

"Our approaches are shared by most countries of the world, including our Chinese partners, other BRICS[47] and SCO[48] nations, and our friends in the EAEU, the CSTO,[49] and the CIS.[50] In other words, we can say that Russia is not fighting against anyone, but for the resolution of all issues on an equal and mutually respectful basis; this alone can serve as a reliable foundation for a long-term improvement of international relations.

"Our most important task is to join efforts, not against far-fetched challenges, but for very real challenges, the most pressing of which is the terrorist aggression. The extremists from ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and the like have for the first time succeeded in establishing control over large territories in Syria and Iraq. They are trying to extend their influence to other countries and regions, and are committing acts of terrorism around the world. Underestimating this risk is nothing short of criminal shortsightedness.

"The Russian president has called for the formation of a broad-based front in order to defeat the terrorists militarily. The Russian Aerospace Forces are making an important contribution to this effort. At the same time, we are working hard to establish collective actions regarding the political settlement of the conflicts in this crisis-ridden region...

"I repeat, we are not seeking confrontation with the U.S., or with the E.U., or with NATO. On the contrary: Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union [EAEU] could be an integrative link between Europe and the Asia Pacific. We strive to do our best to overcome obstacles in this way, including the settlement of the Ukraine crisis[51] caused by the February 2014 coup in Kiev, on the basis of the Minsk Agreements.[52]

"I'd like to quote the wise and politically experienced Henry Kissinger, who said recently in Moscow, 'Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium, not primarily as a threat to the United States... I am here to argue for the possibility of a dialogue that seeks to merge our futures rather than elaborate our conflicts. This requires respect by both sides of the vital values and interest of the other.' We share such an approach. And we will continue to defend the principles of law and justice in international affairs.

"Speaking about Russia's role in the world as a great power, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin[53] said that the greatness of a country is determined not by the size of its territory or by the number of its inhabitants, but by its people's and its government's capacity to take on the burden of great world problems and to deal with these problems creatively. A great power is one which, in asserting its existence and its interest... introduces a creative and meaningful legal idea to the entire assembly of nations, the entire 'concert' of the peoples and states..."

*Anna Mahjar Barducci, journalist and author, is Director of the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project. Giuseppe Rippa is a former Italian MP and secretary-general of the Italian Radical Party, and editor in chief of the journal Quaderni Radicali and the Agenzia Radicale news agency.


[1] Following WWII, French president Charles De Gaulle was angry with the "Anglo-Saxons" who, in his view, had treated him contemptuously during the war and had subsequently attempted to elbow France out of its holdings, for example in Lebanon and Syria. He had visited Russia in 1944 to show Roosevelt and Churchill that he had other options; at that time, he sought to show Germany that he could negotiate on its behalf with Russia to secure German unity. However, when in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, de Gaulle sided with the U.S. He angered Russia when he refused to sign the 1963 Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and effectively sided with China. His vision of Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic was also de Gaulle's way of challenging the U.S.; his 1963 and 1967 vetoes of British membership in the European Economic Community (EEC), on the grounds that Britain was perceived by France as an American Trojan horse, was part of the same strategy.

[2] NATO secretary-general Manfred Wörner, said in Brussels on May 17, 1990: "This will also be true of a united Germany in NATO. The very fact that we are ready not to deploy NATO troops beyond the territory of the Federal Republic gives the Soviet Union firm security guarantees. Moreover, we could conceive of a transitional period during which a reduced number of Soviet forces could remain stationed in the present-day GDR. This will meet Soviet concerns about not changing the overall East-West strategic balance. Soviet politicians are wrong to claim that German membership of NATO will lead to instability. The opposite is true. Europe including the Soviet Union would gain stability. It would also gain a genuine partner in the West ready to cooperate." Nato.int/docu/speech/1990/s900517a_e.htm

[3] Valdaiclub.com, March 1, 2016.

[4] The concept of a common European home was espoused by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who tried to divide Europe and the U.S., when the issue of stationing U.S. missiles in Eastern Europe was discussed. However, Gorbachev's approach did not convince U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher, German chancellor Helmut Kohl, and French president François Mitterrand. In a July 6, 1989 speech to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, Gorbachev stated: "The philosophy of the concept of a common European home rules out the probability of an armed clash and the very possibility of the use or threat of force, above all military force, by an alliance against another alliance, inside alliances or wherever it may be." He added: "As far as the economic content of the common European home is concerned, we regard as a realistic prospect – though not a close one – the emergence of a vast economic space from the Atlantic to the Urals [as per de Gaulle] where Eastern and Western parts would be strongly interlocked."

[5] Club des Vingt members are former French foreign ministers, diplomats, and other figures.

[6] Tass.ru, September 1, 2014.

[7] The New York Times, "Now a Word From X," May 2, 1998. In 2014, Friedman recalled his interview with Kennan, following the Ukrainian crisis and the threat perceived by Russia from the NATO expansion eastward, in which Friedman called for a strategy "to undermine Putinism today – and to reintegrate Russia tomorrow." The New York Times, "Playing hockey with Putin," April 8, 2014.

[8] "For me, it is not borders that matter," Bild.de, January 11, 2016.

[9] The U.S. missile defense complex European Interceptor Site (EIS) was cancelled in 2009, and was replaced with a phased plan: the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which includes SM-3 Block IIA interceptors to be positioned in Poland from 2018.

[10] Kremlin.ru, February 10, 2007.

[11] See Endnote No. 2 above.

[12] The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is an economic union comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Republic, and Russia. See Eaeunion.org/?lang=en.

[13] President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev on the Eurasian integration. Moscow, March 29, 1994. Eaeunion.org/upload/iblock/006/1994_1_1.jpg

[14] Izvestia, October 3, 2011; Russianmission.eu, October 3, 2011.

[15] Concerning the Soviet Union, it is worth noting that during a meeting of the Russian Popular Front (ONF) interregional forum, Putin criticized Vladimir Lenin, accusing him of planting a "time bomb" under the state, referring to the discussion between Joseph Stalin and Lenin regarding the creation of the Soviet Union. Putin said: "If you are a historian, you should know that back then Stalin came up with the idea of the autonomization of the future Soviet Union. Pursuant to this idea, all the different subjects of the future state were to join the USSR as autonomies with broad authority. Lenin criticized Stalin’s views, saying it was an untimely and wrong idea. Moreover, he promoted the idea of uniting the future entities, and there were four then – Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and, as a matter of fact, the south of Russia, the North Caucasus Federation, as it was called... Say, cultural autonomy is one thing, an autonomy with broad state authority is another, while the right to secede is something else altogether. Eventually, this, along with an inefficient economic and social policy, led to the collapse of the state. This was the time bomb. What was it if not a time bomb? That is exactly what it was. We simply need to carefully analyze what happened in the past using the opportunities we have today. However, we cannot paint everything in the past black, or present a rosy picture of everything that is happening now. We need to make a careful objective analysis to avoid the mistakes that were made and develop our statehood." En.kremlin.ru, January 25, 2016.

[16] Valdaiclub.com, January 27, 2016.

[17] Eng.globalaffairs.ru, February 13, 2016.

[18] Cntv.cn,"China hits back at US criticism of militarizing South China Sea," February 26, 2016.

[19] The Silk Road Economic Belt is the land-based component that, together with the oceanic Maritime Silk Road, forms One Belt, One Road, a Chinese government economic initiative. English.gov.cn, March 28, 2015.

[20] Besides the EAEU, another Eurasian organization is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded in 2001 in Shanghai, by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In addition to the six founding states, the SCO now includes six observer countries – Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan – and six dialogue partners – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka. Vitaly Vorobyov, senior research fellow at the Center for East Asia and SCO Studies at the Institute of International Relations, wrote in Russia In Global Affairs that the Silk Road Economic Belt philosophy is consonant with the SCO's original ideas and practices. Eng.globalaffairs.ru, February 13, 2016.

[21] Globalaffairs.ru, February 13, 2016.

[22] Preface to the monograph "A Turn to the East: Development of Siberia and the Far East in the Context of Strengthening the Eastern Vector of Russia's Foreign Policy" published in Russian by Mezhdunarodnye Otnoshenia Publishers, Moscow, 2015.

[23] The New York Times, "Soviet Disarray; Yeltsin says Russia seeks to Join NATO," December 21, 1991.

[24] Associated Press, NATO to let Russia join, July 18, 2001.

[25] Whitehouse.gov, March 25, 2014.

[26] Bild.de, January 12, 2016.

[27] Globalaffairs.ru, March 3, 2016.

[28] Mid.ru, March 3, 2016. The English is lightly edited for clarity.

[29] Kievan Rus was a powerful East Slavic state, shaped in the 9th century, dominated by the city of Kiev, located in today's Ukraine. This empire continued for the next 300 years, and is considered the beginning of Russia and the ancestor of Belarus and Ukraine.

[30] Tsar Alexis of Russia reigned in the mid-17th century.

[31] Peter the Great ruled as Tsar of All Russia from 1682 to 1721 and as Emperor of All Russia from 1721-1725. He is best known for transforming Russia from an agricultural society into an empire, rivaling the European powers of the time.

[32] The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) involved all the great powers of the time in Europe. Roughly, France, Austria, Saxony, Sweden, and Russia were aligned against Prussia, Hanover, and Great Britain.

[33] Frederick II was King of Prussia from 1740 until 1786. He is known for his military achievements, especially for the military success in the Seven Years' War.

[34] Elizabeth was Empress of Russia from 1741 until her death in 1762. She led Russia into two main wars, the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War.

[35] Peter III was emperor of Russia for six months, from January 5, 1762 to July 9, 1762. He was known to be pro-Prussian. He was overthrown by his wife, Empress Catherine the Great.

[36] Catherine the Great (1762-1796) expanded the Russian Empire's borders to the Black Sea and into central Europe.

[37] Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) was a Russian philosopher. As a student, Berdyaev was close to Marxism. However, he eventually began to see Marxism as a materialistic ideology, and moved on to faith as part of his philosophy, and dedicated his works to the ethical and spiritual values of the Russian national idea. Followers of Berdyaev's school of thought advocated Christian values, in contrast to the atheism of Marxists. When the Bolsheviks came to power, after the Russian 1917 revolution, Berdyaev welcomed the fall of Tsarism. However, he soon became as well an opponent of the new Bolshevik regime. In 1922, Berdyaev was exiled from the Soviet Union for dissidence. Putin has quoted Berdyaev in his public speeches. In 2013, in the presidential address to the Federal Assembly, Putin quoted Berdyaev, in order to underline the importance of moral conservatism, saying: "As Nikolai Berdyaev said, the meaning of conservatism is not to prevent moving forward and upward, but to prevent moving backwards and downward, into chaotic darkness, back to the primitive state." An article published by the Russian news agency Pravda about Putin's speech stressed that "the evil that spread from Russia in 1917 [the Bolshevik regime] to the West will be destroyed by Russia's renewed faith that will heal the world." Pravda.ru, December 13, 2013. According to a January 20, 2014 article in the Russian daily Kommersant, the Kremlin sent, as a New Year's gift to leaders of the ruling United Russia, the following books: Philosophy of Inequality by Berdyaev, The Justification of the Good by Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, and Our Tasks by Ivan Ilyin (see Endnote 52). Kommersant.ru, January 20, 2014.

[38] Alexander I, Emperor of Russia (1801-1825) participated in the Napoleonic Wars and helped form the coalition that defeated the French Emperor Napoleon I.

[39] The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) aimed to reorganize Europe and institute a long-term peace following the Napoleonic Wars.

[40] Russian diplomat Chancellor Alexander Gorchakov (1798-1883) was the first politician to introduce the notion of Russia's national interests into the foreign policy debate.

[41] On February 29, 2016, Russian statesman Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, published in the Russian independent biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta an article titled "I'm Certain: All Is Not Lost." In it, he too stressed that the West wrongly declared that it had triumphed in the Cold War: "This all began when 'the victory of the West' in the Cold War was proclaimed. Our shared victory in the Cold War was declared a triumph of one side only [i.e. the West]," he wrote. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6343, Mikhail Gorbachev: Russia Must Return To A Path Of Real Democracy, March 9, 2016.

[42] See Endnote 4.

[43] The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)is the largest regional security organization in the world. Russia is a participating state.

[44] Bild.de, January 11, 2016

[45] See Un.org/en/charter-united-nations/.

[46] Helsinki Final Act, 1975, is an agreement signed by 35 nations that concluded the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), held in Helsinki, Finland. The Act reaffirmed the inviolability of frontiers; in so doing, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries celebrated the recognition of their national boundaries, and served as the groundwork for the later OSCE. See Osce.org/mc/39501?download=true.

[47] BRICS – the group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, whose creation was initiated by Russia. See: En.brics2015.ru/.

[48] See Endnote 17.

[49] The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance. In 1992, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed the Collective Security Treaty. See Odkb-csto.org/.

[50] The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional organization formed in 1991, comprises Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

[51] "Situation around Ukraine" section on the Russian Foreign Ministry website,Mid.ru/en/themes/-/asset_publisher/p12AYJypFaxg/content/id/706117.

[52] The Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements was aimed at easing the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

[53] Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin (1883-1854) was an outspoken critic of Communism and one of the ideologue of the Russian All-Military Union, a Russian émigré organization with the goal of removing from power the Bolshevik regime. Ilyin was expelled from Soviet Russia in 1922 as an enemy of the Bolshevik regime. He fled to Germany, but afterwards moved to Switzerland to escape the Nazi regime. Ilyin died in Switzerland in 1954 and was buried there. In 2005, under Putin's presidency, Ilyin's remains were brought to Moscow. The Russian news agency Pravda reported that Putin personally financed his tombstone; as a Russian nationalist, Ilyin is thought to be among Putin's favorite philosophers. In a 1948 essay titled "Against Russia," on how the West perceives Russia, Ilyin wrote: "Wherever we Russian national émigrés are dispersed, we should remember that other peoples do not know us and do not understand us, that they fear Russia, do not sympathize with it and are happy to seek it weakened it every way." According to Pravda, Ilyin's main works, "The Foundations of the Struggle for a National Russia" and "The Way of Spiritual Renovation" are on Putin's bookshelf. In recent years, Putin has quoted Ilyin on a number of occasions. In 2012, the website of the Russia-owned TV channel Russia Today reported that Putin had quoted Ilyin in reference to pursuing his own plan of uniting the multi-ethnic Russian nation: "Not to eliminate, not to suppress, not to enslave other people’s blood, not to stifle the life of different tribes and religions – but to give everyone breath and ... to honor all, to reconcile all, to allow all to pray in their own way, work in their own way, and engage best in public and cultural development." Pravda.ru, February 3, 2007, September 24, 2010, October 3, 2005; Russia-insider.com, January 11, 2015; Rt.com, January 23, 2012.