Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Foreign Affairs identifies Dugin as "Putin's brain"

Alexander Dugin has been becoming more famous in the West since the Russian re-conquest of the Ukraine, as the Western media searches for ideological explanations for Russian actions.

Now Dugin has been identified as "Putin's brain" by Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn, writing in the very influential US journal Foreign Affairs.

In "Putin's Brain: Alexander Dugin and the Philosophy Behind Putin's Invasion of Crimea," Barbashin and Thoburn write about Russia's post-Soviet need for a new strategy, about the history of Eurasianism, and about neo-Eurasianism and Dugin's career and views. They conclude:
Dugin’s ideology has influenced a whole generation of conservative and radical activists and politicians, who, if given the chance, would fight to adapt its core principles as state policy. Considering the shabby state of Russian democracy, and the country’s continued move away from Western ideas and ideals, one might argue that the chances of seeing neo-Eurasianism conquer new ground are increasing. Although Dugin’s form of it is highly theoretical and deeply mystical, it is proving to be a strong contender for the role of Russia’s chief ideology. Whether Putin can control it as he has controlled so many others is a question that may determine his longevity.
I am not so sure. Yes, post-Soviet Russia did need a new narrative, and yes, today's Russia has found a new narrative, and yes, Dugin's geopolitical views and neo-Eurasianism coincide with that narrative. But I am not convinced that philosophy produces invasions. Vladimir Putin has a brain of his own, and Russia has interests of her own, and geography has a logic of its own. Catherine the Great did not need neo-Eurasianism to conquer the Crimea in 1774. As a historian, I generally find that ideology contributes to events of this kind, but does not drive them.


ai said...

Mark - The authors have provided a reasonable case (though it's mostly circumstantial) for Dugin's influence within Russian political circles. You disagree, on the basis (I'm paraphrasing here, so correct me if I've misunderstood) that coincidents don't prove causality. You're also not convinced that "that philosophy" (Dugin's?) "produces invasions." Yet both Dugin's writings and his recently leaked Skype call with a prominent members of Ukraine's southeastern separatists show that he is interested in Russia's pursuit of an expansionist strategy in Ukraine -- which is precisely what Ukrainians call an invasion. (See for links to other articles on that.) What doesn't convince you? How do you defend Dugin against claims that he is precisely interested in producing an invasion, and that he is influential in Putin's circle of advisors?

Mark Sedgwick said...

In response to AI: I'm not trying to defend Dugin, and I don't disagree with the proposition that he is influential. It's no secret that he'd like to see an awful lot more than the Crimea come under Moscow's control, and I'm sure he is doing what he can to help achieve that. What I'm disagreeing with is the idea that neo-Eurasianism is a major cause of Putin's actions.

Hrvoje Juvančić said...

As a históriája you know better than I that one single cause started any war quite rare in the history. But ideologies and philosophies are always in the background. Like Hegel said, ideas are like thunder before the lightning..

Mark Sedgwick said...

Or the lightning before the thunder? Either way, both result from the same event. So the invasion of the Ukraine and the popularity of neo-Eurasianism both result from the course of Russian-Western relations since the dissolution of the Soviet Union? Perhaps.