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Island Russia

by Paul Robinson, April 10, 2018

Vladislav Surkov, long considered an important ideological figure within the ‘Putin regime’, has previously been described as a ‘relative Westernizer’ among Vladimir Putin’s advisors. But even he is apparently now fed up with the West. In an article published [on April 9] in Russia in Global Affairs, Surkov declares that Russia is neither of the West nor of the East. Instead it stands alone.

The events of 2014 (the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine) marked a turning point, Surkov argues,

the completion of Russia’s epic journey to the West, the end of numerous fruitless attempts to become part of Western civilization, to join the “good family” of European peoples. From 2014 onwards, a new long era, the epoch of 14+, stretches into a future in which we will experience a hundred (two  hundred? three hundred?) years of geopolitical loneliness.

Surkov states that for the past 400 years, the Russian elite have tried to Westernize their country, following whatever trend seemed to be most in fashion in the rest of Europe, be it socialism a hundred years ago or the ideology of the free market in the 1990s. None of this has led the West to accept Russia as one of its own. The problem, says Surkov, is that

Despite the external similarities of the Russian and European cultural models, their softwares are incompatible and their connectors dissimilar. You can’t make a common system out of them.

That does not mean that Russia should turn east, Surkov says. Russia has done that in the past, during the era of the Mongol ‘yoke’. That left its mark on Russia, but in the end Russia moved on. Thus, Surkov writes:

Russia moved East for 400 years, and then moved West for another 400. Neither the one nor the other took root. We have gone down both paths. Now we need the ideology of a third path, a third type of civilization, a third world, a third Rome … And yet, we can hardly be called a third civilization. Rather, we are dual one, a mixture of both East and West. Both European and Asian at the same time, and thus neither completely Asian or European. Our cultural and geopolitical identity resembles that of somebody born of a mixed marriage. He’s a relative everywhere, but nowhere is he a native. He’s one of his own among strangers, but a stranger among his own. … Russia is a western-eastern half-breed country.

It’s time to recognize this reality, Surkov argues. This doesn’t mean total isolation. Russia will continue to trade, to exchange scientific knowledge, to participate in multilateral organizations, and the like. But it should do so ‘without denying its own self.’

Surkov’s article will no doubt get a negative reception among Western commentators, and be spun to argue that Russia is bent on confrontation with the West. After all, if you’re not with us, you must be against us. But it’s worth noting that Surkov at no point condemns the West nor argues that Russia should be trying to undermine Western hegemony. He simply argues that Russia and the West are doomed to go their separate ways. This is far removed from the ambitious Eurasianist designs of the likes of Alexander Dugin, who argue that Russia should lead a grand international coalition to overturn the existing international order. In this regard, it’s noteworthy that Surkov avoids using the term ‘Eurasia’ to describe Russia and also directly denies that Russia is a ‘third civilization’, thus failing to endorse a key Eurasianist concept.

Rather than Eurasianism, with its often expansionist, anti-Western ambitions, Surkov’s view of Russia’s place in the world seems closer to that of the late Vadim Tsymbursky and his idea of ‘Island Russia’ into which Russia should retreat. That is keeping with the editorial line of Russia in Global Affairs, which in recent times has published a number of Tsymbursky-inspired pieces, such as articles by Boris Mezhuev on the idea of ‘civilizational realism’ and an essay by Nikolai Spassky, entitled ‘Island of Russia’.  These bear witness to a growing isolationist trend in Russian geopolitical thought. ‘Isolationist’ isn’t actually a very good word, because as Surkov points out, separation from the West doesn’t mean that Russia won’t still be connected with the wider world. Perhaps the word he chooses to use – ‘loneliness’ (odinochestvo) – might be better. But whatever word one uses, the point is the same. If Surkov’s article, and others in Russia in Global Affairs, are anything to go by, Russia’s elite aren’t looking for a conflict with the West, but are increasingly convinced that partnership is impossible and that Russia will have to learn to live on its own. People in the West should not find that threatening, but personally I do find it more than a little bit regrettable.


Paul Robinson is a professor of military history at the University of Ottawa.

 

30 Comments

  1. Holiday island Russia. Headline in the Saker 28/6/2018:

    100,000 Chinese going to the World Cup in Russia, with no team to cheer for

  2. Google Talpiot Program says

    What a load of nonsense propaganda. Russia has strong links to a lot of countries especially Israel (they are best friends).

  3. Alan says

    The concept of west and east is based upon what? Centuries of arrogance. These archaic and divisive notions prevent progress.

  4. Ivan says

    To analyze what happens today starting from the Mongol Yoke and Peter the Great, is a mistake, though there are some similarities.

    What is important is to provide the people with basic needs, and this means practical people with moral standards, because the deficiencies there is what the west uses in its attempts to occupy Russia.

    Another important factor is using advanced technologies which may leverage people’s work. This should be overseen by the state based on meritocracy, trying to copy China’s experience.

    • Ivan says

      ” ..and this means practical people with moral standards.. ”

      as government officials at key positions

  5. Ideology is itself an idea of wielding thoughts as weapons or levers – and thus a way of seeing and identity gained thereby, as a power to remake the world in the image of one’s thought.
    As such it is in the same game as a phishing ruse, in that fears, discontent and base negative (divisive) emotion can be stirred and triggered to react in apparent unity against a perceived evil.
    All examples of manipulative capture equally partake of the idea of manipulation as power – where narrative control, identity, or accepted and acceptable ‘reality’ rules over and demands sacrifice of open communication from which outcomes arise as the result of listening to others and listening within, for the way to move together in relation to whatever situation is current.

    Beneath identities formed against hated, feared or envied ‘others’ are archetypal patterns of a broken ‘family’ or indeed a broken ‘unity of being’ in grievance, distrust and power struggle. This is as true of our family as our human world as of our self. Unifying or making alliance in fear against common threat is only as deep as the conditions of the threat. This sense of power to hold order against chaos or enemy – that actually depends on chaos and threat to persist as the ‘power of protection’, is a blind and destructive identity force that can only embody power for power’s sake instead of in service of life.

    Power in service of life must be the power in – and of life – that is one has to recognize the life in other and self and world as sharing of the qualities of life, instead of persisting in intent and attempt to wield power over life as judge of a world underfoot.

    The extension of power through collectivisation under corporate mass production and state infrastructure is of families of expertise in specialisation wielded by state or private capital – actual or borrowed. All of which moved societies from aristocratic to technocratic models of identity and thought. People management via instruments of legal, financial and narrative regulation – working in concert for the establishment of the system of control, through the agencies of its allegiance.

    The key term to end this sketched reflection is of where we give allegiance, for this is in the realm of choice. Our choice may seem locked in by the carrot and the stick of rewards and penalties of compliance to the world as we are identified or invested in seeing it. And therefore no choice at all, no real communications to invite greater perspective and only a coercive and manipulative power – veiled in self-illusion, whose identities are no more than another vector for manipulation.

    Tyranny is not freedom and the compliance of slaves is not a witness to power, but of fear given power. Let what we give to Caesar be what is truly due unto Caesar, and let what is given allegiance in the power of life to be all that it is – be given where is is truly due. Order in the world must needs serve life, not ideological identity in subjugation to blind system.

  6. Vlad the Inhaler says

    The reality is the trillion dollar western military industrial complex needs a big bad enemy like Russia to keep the military spending bandwagon rolling… that’s why the west demonises Russia if it can’t control it.

  7. avenir says

    Lots of reports on twitter last night of a coup underway in Saudia Arabia, Whether that’s the case or not you’d expect the Guardian and the BBC to report heavy gunfire outside the king’s palace. The mirror and the mail have done so but there seems to be a news blackout and some nonsense about them firing on a drone. Hmm twitter once again is there first, but it will be interesting to see how the MSM reports the situation if the coup(?) is successful or fails.

    https://twitter.com/iraqisecurity/status/987770950488862720?s=21

    • Mishko says

      I am all out of bunker-busters, sorry for the inconvenience.

  8. Was it Putin who asked recently, What has Britain got that Russia needs? Land, agriculture and forests? Mineral resources? Industry and workers? A health service? Snow? Sunshine?

    Now reverse this question: What has Russia got that the Anglo-Zio-Capitalists of London think they need? Land, agriculture and forests — lots and lots of land to rent. Mineral resources — lots of carbon and hydrocarbons, and gold. Industry and workers — 200 Million of them.

    So Russia is well equipped to be a self sufficient island — all it needs is to keep Western megalomaniacs — Napoleon, Hitler, Rothschild — at bay.

    But really, isn’t all this separatism a bit silly? If you look down at the globe from a satellite above the North Pole you will see that Russia’s nearest Eastern neighbour is America.

    “No land is an island; it is a part of the main”.

    • BigB says

      Vexarb: you hit the nail on the head, again. The AZC’s of the City (synecdoche for the supra-national kleptocratic superclass plutocracy) don’t think they need Russia’s resources …they DO need them. The West is an Empire of Debt that survives by gambling with the sustainable future of humanity: turning it into acquirable assets to be hoarded today. The only way to collateralise the debt and extend the Empire is stealing other peoples assets: aka. humaitarian market expansion; aka. neo-colonialism and imperialism. The central bank collu$ion and “money printing” (QE) is unsustainable and seems to have run its course. They need to turn Russian resources into $$$$ trade.

      Failing that, the amoral superclass will abandon the West and leach off RMB and ruble trade. Even RIT Capital Partners (Rothschilds) have been “diversifying” into gold and “other currencies”. Other currencies are unlikely to include the Icelandic krona or Jamaican dollar – their ‘basket’ undoubtedly includes the RMB and ruble. Even they know the West is finished by QE.

      The point is that there has to be a connection between the fictitious and material economies. The much vaunted “decoupling” of the financial and material is a fallacy. The economy is fundamentally an energy economy. Apart from the Middle east which we all know about: who has got the energy? Russia and their strategic partner Iran would be the two major hydrocarbon reserves that are not in the Western sphere. And Venezuela. Geopolitics in a nutshell!

  9. wardropper says

    Behind all this, however, is the realization that in 2018 we all have no more than one planet to live on, and all of us, including our representatives, have a solemn responsibility to look after it and allocate it a higher priority than any nationalism.
    National character, philosophy and tradition are, of course, realities to be lived with and worked with, but nationalism, as such, is now obsolete and always potentially harmful.

    • Francis Lee says

      More nuanced than that. Nationalism can be progressive or reactionary. It rather depends on who is oppressing and who is oppressed. The term in general is generally regarded as the all-weather bête noire by the orthodox left. To be sure ‘nationalism’ can be and often is aggressive, racist, imperialistic, and so forth. But this is only half the story and there are ample reasons to believe that this view is both simplistic and narrowly focussed; ‘nationalism’ can be either a reactionary or a radical/progressive force, depending on the local and political circumstances. This is simply an historical fact. The latter phenomenon is particularly true of those nations which struggled and those who continue to struggle, under the yoke of imperialism – from Vietnam to Algeria – and who actively engaged in national repeat, national, liberation struggles.

      At the present conjuncture the globalist project is predicated on three legs of the stool. 1. Free movement of labour, 2. free movement of capital, 3. free movement of commodities. But there is also a cultural dimension to this phenomenon. The entails a set of ideological precepts as follows. Multiculturalism, identity politics, and human rights (the last being a catch-all, that nobody could disagree with, but of course it shouldn’t be taken literally since the practice diverges from the stated policy quite markedly). That’s the menu, and globalism ensures that you’ll have it and like it!

      But for every action there is a reaction. The neo-nationalism of the systemic anti-globalist, upsurge i.e., the struggle for self-determination in Europe, is gaining considerable momentum across Europe. This neo-nationalist struggle has taken place quite simply because Europe is an occupied zone made up vassal states; foreign policy and to a considerable degree economic policy as well as tradition and unique national cultures, is formulated and controlled by the United States, principally through NATO and to a lesser degree through institutions such as the IMF, WTO and World Bank. These institutions are effectively controlled by the US. If Europe is to regain its democracy, it must first of all regain its sovereignty. A national liberation movement is perforce made up of various political strands from hard-left, to hard-right, this is inevitable. But such differences must be sorted out after the principal goal of national self-determination is achieved. Anything short of this national struggle will mean that the globalists will win.

    • Ivan says

      I don’t think that objecting to certain models of behaviour propagandized by the west is “nationalism”.

      As long as the countries agree on issues which may affect others (such as climate change, explotation of natural resources, acceptable levels of industrial pollution), each country should be basically free to live as it chooses to.
      Also the principle of non interference in other country affairs should be observed, as it is known where the violation of this principle brings: Iraq, Libya, Syria..

      The only kind of interference which should be allowed is a humanitarian aid to all parties involved when there is a shortage of basic goods, such as the most acute ones in Syria or Venezuela.

  10. bevin says

    The ‘westernisers’ In Russian history always looked with envy at the ease with which their western european counterparts-the ruling aristocracies and oligarchs- had separated the peasantry from their lands.
    In Russia the traditions of communalism, of village self rule, outlasted serfdom and, until the Revolution, persisted.
    It is one of the features of Russian history, in the C19th and early C20th, that aristocrats sought at every stage to replace their village mirs with tenant farmers, Mennonites and Germans, Jews like Lev Bronstein’s hard working father and other imports willing to compromise and agree, as the serf never would, that the aristocrats, the squirearchy owned the land. In fact it is said that the serf would not dispute the squire’s right to command his labour with anything like the vigour with which he would assert the peasant’s ownership of the land.
    And, of course, by ownership, was meant something very different from what the ‘westernisers’ learned about property in their long journeys abroad.
    The Russian Revolution was essentially an assertion by the peasants of their right not only to own the land but to rule it by the traditional methods- re-allocating it according to the changing needs and requirements of the households in the community, administering the common lands, pastures, and woods, regulating game etc.
    In fact Russia kept alive many of the most cherished and lost rights of the western european peasantry, refusing to give up what in England had long since been lost and in most of western europe had been more or less eroded.
    It is no coincidence that religious traditions, of the sort which in England, for example, had delayed the arrival of plantation slave labour regimes until after the Reformation and deep into the C19th when the last of the rural sports and festivals-the delight of an idle poor- were erased by an unholy alliance of evangelicals, political economists and liberals.
    In short the Westeners in Russia, modernisers and fifth columns of capitalism have always been opposed to the sensible and time hallowed traditions of the peasantry whose last bastions included Russia. They were stalking horses for the capitalist empire which saw (and sees yet) both the labour and resources of that land as another America to be conquered and enslaved.
    Russia is the Old World, revived after the Fabian inspired experiments of the Soviet era with its contemptuous disregard of both nature and popular opinion, and capable of offering an alternative path to the rendezvous with doom implicit in the west’s obsession with private property-every inch of which is stolen from the community.

  11. summitflyer says

    I do so love the way that the author of this article has put it .Essentially not Western nor Eastern .So very well said and I feel very sympathetic to this train of thought.

  12. There are still those nations which desire to interrelate with Russia, on both an economic and a political basis. One of these will soon be the largest economy in the World. There are also many smaller nations that at least, hope to have a friendly trading and peaceful interaction wit Russia to the benefit of all such parties. Russia does not need the West but the West is throwing away a very important and valuable possibility by ostracizing Russia.

  13. Hmmm... says

    Look south Russia. All the way to India. They love Russians there. And don’t hope for reconciliation with the West. You accepting Yuan for oil is the final straw for the West.

  14. a significant weakness of Russia is that an element wishes to be “accepted” by the West. Why? .. who knows. I suppose there is an element of any nation that’s willing to sell out its own for the sake of being petted by the Anglo-Zionist Uber Elite. Most nations recognize this as the inherent treason of the Elite. But, one gets the feeling that the treason of the Russian Elite wishing to sell out (in any way that can be named) to the West is somehow natural.

    Identifying categories of “East” and “West” is entirely a figment of the mind. It could be just as easy to identify Russia as the core nation about which the East and West are in orbit. So .. why not? Place Russia in the Center and identify other nations by how much they deviate from the standard (Russia).

  15. Paul Carline says

    I think it’s both realistic and positive. It would mean that Russia could more easily guard its special culture against the western tsunami of decadence that is producing people who no longer know what it means to be a human being – and who seem oblivious to the fate the ‘Big Brothers’ have in store for them. A Russia which nurtures its special qualities can be at the heart of the next age of social/cultural/spiritual development. I would want to move there.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Russia and China are great civilizations. They will not willingly submit to serfdom and rule from Thanatopolis DC and Tel Aviv, like the invertebrates of Europe. The Latin Americans have no choice, as the USA always destroys any attempts to break free of the Yankee yoke, and Africa is being turned into an expanding charnel-house by Africom and Thanatopia’s jihadist creatures. Russia and China must stand together-any delusion of standing alone will see them picked off, one after the other.

      • BigB says

        Mulga: Russia and China are standing together, to engineer a more equitable inclusion in the WTO “rules based international order”; a G9, as opposed to G7 dominance and making of the rules (now being referred to as “norms” by FUKUSA to denote ownership and alteration rights: i.e. WE make the rules – you obey); commitment to a “global economic governance architecture”; the UN; SDG’s; PPPs; complimentary development to the IMF/World Bank …included in the endgame is highly likely to be singlepoint reserve currency analogous or actually the Special Drawing Rights of the IMF. In short, the endgame is the total global domination by capital and the concomitant perpetual debt peonage of humanity.

        “32. We emphasize the importance of an open and inclusive world economy enabling all countries and peoples to share in the benefits of globalization. We remain firmly committed to a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO. We reaffirm our commitments to ensure full implementation and enforcement of existing WTO rules and are determined to work together to further strengthen the WTO.” [From the “Global Economic Governance” section of the recent BRICS declaration]

        https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/brics-leaders-xiamen-declaration-full-text/articleshow/60359120.cms

        The internet conspiracy theory of ‘bad’ Western capital and ‘good’ Eastern capital has blinded many progressive thinkers to the evils of global capital domination. Sure Russia-China are seeking to provide an ‘alternative’ to dollar hegemony: but very, few it seems to me, are willing to contemplate that the alternative may be far worse: essentially the death knell of any form of socialist alternative. Unless anyone calls Democratic Socialism (State Capitalism) a real alternative? Progressives have become the archetypal “turkeys that vote for Christmas”, IMO.

        • bevin says

          The problem with your pessimistic analysis is that it excludes the working class, indeed the ‘people’ as political agents.
          The warning that change might be for the worse is reactionary.
          The reality is that when the dollar regime is overthrown one of the causes for its defeat will be the metropolitan working class’s opposition to imperialist government and its priorities.
          Equally the weaknesses of the Empire’s rivals, and this is particularly true of Iran, lie in the refusal of their governments to address the rifts and divisions produced by capitalism and exacerbated by neo-liberal ‘reforms.’
          So far as your equation of Democratic Socialism (a tautology) with State Capitalism is concerned this too suggests that ‘nationalisation’ without workers’ control or decentralised communal management is inevitable.
          In all these cases the basis of your gloomy predictions would appear to be your assumption that the common people do not make their own history.
          You might, so far as the future is concerned, be correct but I doubt it. Progress is a very untidy process it lurches forward, then stumbles, giving it a moment for reflection.
          Absent-inshallah!- the all seeing vanguard party and its cult of cadres, the people will do the best that they can to attain the objectives they can agree upon, learning through trial and error, as the British people have learned that, for example, Morrisonian/Fabian state capitalism is unsatisfactory and that, in broad terms, the alternatives to capitalist management are very limited. Which means that….
          It is always stimulating to read the thoughts of the philosophical but, as Marx concluded the point is to change things.

          • Stuff and nonsense, Bevin …stuff and nonsense. What is gloomy and pessimistic is continuing the valorisational capitalist growth paradigm to the point of civilisational collapse …which is not nearly as inevitable now as it will be if we continue full throttle toward globalised capitalism. You are obviously erudite and informed about socialism: but do you read Tainter, or more recently Diamond? Increased investment in complexity (globalisation) is a law of diminishing return that leads to civilisational collapse. But the point is not to revel in neo-Malthusian doom and gloom: the point is TO AVERT THIS. Or at least try. I fully advocate the sovereignty of the people in a community of equals: without status or state heirarchies …which is a viable community for tommorow we could build for today. It is now that we need to choose what resources we will prioritise for what: survival being the key. Or we could just squander them on war and dissonance: converting the future into material and immaterial wealth for the few. I wonder what an empowered and informed sovereign people would choose: the false promise of a fake sense of prosperity now …or a future for their children? What would you say? Because a multi-polar globalised, centralised, urbanised, usury capitalist “global economic governance” will DEFINITIVELY NOT give us that future. Or do you think it will?

          • BigB says

            BTW: democratic socialism or socialist democracy; whatever they claim to be, is not a tautology, it is a mutually exclusive pairing in the hands of Lansman and Corbyn. A new kinf of politics: same as the old kind of politics – top down. The very antithesis of a true socialism of a sovereign people? Or perhaps you are a secret authoritarian! (That’s a joke, BTW.)

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says

          The difference is that, inside the G8 kleptocracies, the parasitic rulers of society, through their political stooges, are working unceasingly to increase mass poverty, elite wealth, and inequality, which are all rapidly worsening amidst real social decay, whereas in China and Russia, the general social welfare and well-being of the populace is being increased, and, in China’s case, the Government is intent on raising everyone out of poverty, while creating an ‘Ecological Civilization’ ie one that can survive in the long-term, not destroy itself through pollution. Here in Austfailure, and plainly so, also, in the USA, the ruling hard Right regimes are FANATICALLY determined to worsen ecological collapse to the point of self-destruction, and that is both insane and Evil almost beyond belief.

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