Lately we have been witnessing a formidable ideological and informative offensive, encouraged by the US and the globalist centers of power, against Putin’s Russia. The media sepoys keep repeating a series of mantras, in which present-day Russia seems to be some dictatorial hell, where “dissidents,” homosexuals and immigrants are persecuted. For right-wing neoliberals, Russia is still communist. For left-wing neoliberals, Putin’s Russia is a kind of reincarnation of “fascism.”
However, this aggressive attitude of Biden’s is nothing new. From time immemorial, long before the Communist Revolution, the Anglo-Empire has been at odds with Russia for geopolitical reasons. England first and the US later (its successor), as thalassocratic powers, have seen Russia as an enemy to be defeated, regardless of the political regime.
The Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between 1853 and 1856 by the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Greece against a league formed by the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sardinia. It was triggered by British policy, determined to prevent Russia’s influence over Europe, given the possibility that the Ottoman Empire might collapse, and was fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula, around the naval base of Sevastopol. It resulted in Russia’s defeat, which was embodied in the Treaty of Paris of 1856.
Since the end of the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire had been in decline and its military, political and economic structures were unable to modernize. As a result of several conflicts, it lost to Russia territories north of the Black Sea, including the Crimean Peninsula. Russia sought to undermine Ottoman authority and assume protection of the large minority of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman European provinces. France and the United Kingdom feared that the Ottoman Empire would become a Russian vassal, which then might upset the political balance between the European powers.
British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston was a decisive player in the development of this anti-Russian strategy, which would become a constant in British foreign policy, and continued later in the 20th century by Halford John Mackinder, one of the creators of geopolitical science, and ideologue of the Treaty of Versailles and of British support for the White Russians.
The Russian Civil War (1917-1923)
Although this civil war was an internal conflict, geopolitics and conflicting links with foreign powers played a considerable role. The Reds (Bolsheviks) fought against the Whites. The Bolshevik bloc had a clear ideological, political and geopolitical identity. They were Marxists; they were committed to the dictatorship of the proletariat; and geopolitically they were oriented towards Germany and against the Entente (England, France, USA).
In contrast, the White bloc was not uniform, neither ideologically nor politically, ranging from revolutionary socialists to tsarist monarchists; but from the geopolitical point of view, the Whites tended to favor an alliance with France and England. Only small segments of this movement maintained a pro-German orientation, as was the case of the Cossack leader Krasnov and the Northern Army.
Mackinder, the main ideologist of British support for the Whites, was convinced that, because of the disparity of this bloc, in case of victory, it would lead to a segmentation of Russia into small states, since each general or “war-lord” would end up becoming the founder of a new state. The British strategy for the dismemberment of Russia followed, step by step, that employed in Latin America after independence from Spain. There it succeeded, and what could have been a great continental bloc was dismembered into innumerable small states at odds with each other.
In Russia, this was not the case. The victory of the Bolsheviks frustrated English pretensions. Mackinder was perfectly aware that, after this victory, the USSR was going to be a great power, as happened.
After World War II, the USA took over from England as the vanguard of the Anglo-Empire. The Cold War was not only (but also) a confrontation between liberal-capitalism, represented by the USA (and its allies/vassals, England, France and Germany), and Marxist socialism or real communism, represented by the USSR. The geopolitical component was also very important.
Collapse of the USSR
The changes in the USSR began with Gorbachev’s ascension to the post of General Secretary of the CPSU. The situation he found was not good at all. The defeat and humiliation in Afghanistan hung over Soviet society. The social, economic and ideological engine was starting to grind to a halt. The economy was suffering from military expenditures and the ineffectiveness of absolute statehood. The Marxist worldview had lost all its appeal, and even the Western communist parties were dissociating themselves (at least in the eyes of the public) from the USSR and proclaiming their “Eurocommunism.”
Gorbachev had to take a position on the future strategy of the USSR, and he did so by adopting the theories of convergence, as a foundation, and starting rapprochement with the Western world through unilateral concessions. [Convergence: theories emerging between 1950 and 1960, according to which, as technological development progressed, capitalist and socialist systems would form an increasingly close group, i.e., they would tend to converge].This policy, which was called perestroika, was based on the assumption that the West should respond to every concession with analogous moves in favor of the USSR. This was clearly not the case.
Perestroika was a chain of steps aimed at the adoption of parliamentary democracy, the market economy, glasnost (transparency) and the expansion of area of civic freedom. But in the Eastern bloc countries and in the periphery of the USSR itself these changes were perceived as manifestations of weakness and unilateral concessions to the West. Secessionist movements began in the Baltic republics, Georgia and Armenia.
After the failed coup attempt of 1991, led by the most conservative sectors of the CPSU, the rise of Boris Yeltsin was unstoppable. On December 8, 1991, he met with the presidents of Belarus and Ukraine in the Bialowieza Forest, where an agreement was signed for the creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States, which meant, de facto, the end of the existence of the USSR. However, from this point on, a process was set in motion that threatened not the existence of the USSR, which was already extinct, but of Russia itself.
It seemed that Mackinder’s dream would indeed be put into practice. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Yugorussia and Dagestan began their independence processes. Yeltsin’s declaration, made in Ufa on August 6, 1990, went down in history: “Take as much sovereignty as you can swallow.” The new republics appealed (of course!) to the right to self-determination of the peoples. Thus, for example, the constitution of the Republic of Sakha, adopted on April 27, 1992, declared “A sovereign, democratic and legal government, based on the right of the people to self-determination.”
The national policy of the Russian Federation itself was established by Ramzan Abdulatipov [President of the Chamber of Nationalities] and Valery Tishkov [Chairman of the State Committee of the Russian Federation on Nationalities], both of whom openly advocated the conversion of the Federation into a confederation, with complete separation of the national republics.
The conflict in Chechnya had a special impact. Since 1990, and thanks to self-destructive tendencies operating in Russia, various nationalist movements had arisen, most notably the National Congress of the Chechen People, led by Dzhondar Dudayev, a former general of the Soviet air force. On June 8, 1991, Dudayev proclaimed the independence of Chechnya, initiating an protracted armed conflict, which was complicated by the intervention of Islamic fundamentalism.
In the face of all these events, broad sectors of Russian public opinion began to see that Yeltsin’s policies were leading to the destruction of Russia. And to make matters worse, there was the problem of tremendous economic chaos, which had plunged the majority of the population into misery, while a few oligarchs enriched themselves with savage privatizations. In September and October 1993, a revolt broke out, with the Supreme Soviet (the parliament) itself at the center. On October 4, military units loyal to Yeltsin put an end to the revolt by bombing the Supreme Soviet.
The political forces that united against Yeltsin were very diverse: communists, nationalists and supporters of the orthodox tsarist monarchy. But they all had one thing in common—the defense of Russian sovereignty and Eurasianism. It was this coalition of forces that would support the emergence of Vladimir Putin and the rebirth of Russia.
Vladimir Putin and Russian Sovereignty
As we mentioned, Boris Yeltsin’s period of government in Russia led the country into unprecedented economic chaos and a real danger of fragmentation. The savage privatization of companies and infrastructures gave birth to the emergence of the so-called “oligarchs,” former officials and politicians of the communist regime who accumulated a great deal of power and wealth with these privatizations, wealth that contrasted with the growing misery of the majority of the Russian population.
In September and October 1993, the discontent of a large part of the population against Yeltsin’s policies led to the uprising of the Duma (parliament) against the president. The previous elections had given a majority to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a populist and nationalist leader, but the very presidential-structure of Russian politics meant that in reality the Duma had very little power. In this uprising converged the patriotic and anti-liberal forces that would form the basis of the patriotic movement that would be led by Vladimir Putin, namely, Zhirinovsky’s nationalists, the Russian communist party (actually national-communist) of Gennady Zyuganov, and tsarist and orthodox religious groups. Despite their ideological differences, these groups had in common their opposition to liberalism and Westernism, and their defense of the integrity and sovereignty of Russia.
The rebel deputies made a strong stand in the Duma building, which was shelled by military units loyal to Yeltsin. The uprising was crushed—but from that point on Yeltsin’s political course began to waver. Yeltsin’s eight years in power had been a truly dark period in Russian history, with an anti-national government allied to the interests of foreign powers. His policy of change towards a Western-style liberal society was based on Western foreign investment and large loans from international financial institutions. However, none of this materialized in reality—the loans from the International Monetary Fund came in dribs and drabs, immensely smaller than promised and served only to pay the interest on the foreign debt.
In a way, a certain parallel can be drawn between the Russian and Spanish transitions: Governments that respond to foreign interests by dismantling industry, privatizing companies face the danger of fragmentation due to growing nationalism. The only difference is that in Spain there has not been the patriotic reaction that took place in Russia.
Although the uprising in the Duma was crushed by force, it showed the failure of the Yeltsin project. The oligarchs, enriched by savage privatizations, and who supported liberal and pro-Western policies, withdrew their support for the president and promoted an unknown Vladimir Putin, thinking that he would carry out a policy more in line with their interests. Yeltsin resigned on December 31, 1999. Thus, the year 2000 was the beginning of a new era in Russia.
Vladimir Putin was an Apparatchik. He had nothing to do with the patriotic and sovereigntist forces that had led the 1993 uprising. But Putin came from the Security Services (the former KGB) and was educated in the idea that these services, together with military might, were meant to defend the national interest.
From the beginning of his mandate, Putin suggested a more assertive and nationalistic foreign policy, which would not be subordinated to the interests of the Western powers, which gave him the support of the Russian military elite. But, at the same time, he skillfully enlisted the support of Boris Berezovsky, the leading oligarch of the Yeltsin era, who thought, wrongly, that Putin would further his interests.
Putin forced the oligarch Vlaadimir Guzinsky into exile. He also brought about the fall of Roman Abramovich and Alexander Voloshin, other powerful oligarchs. Subsequently, the new leaders of these oligarchs helped him to drive Berezovsky out.
In fact, from the very beginning, Putin initiated a battle for control of the economy, which led to a confrontation with the oligarchs. He succeeded in exiling Berezovsky and Abramovich. Later, in July 2000, he arrested Vladimir Gussinsky, the largest media owner, accusing him of having stolen ten million dollars from the state-owned Russian Video company.
In late 2003, at the end of his first term, Putin arrested the powerful oil industry millionaire, Mikhail Kodorkovsky, accusing him of tax evasion and corruption. At this time, and using these arrests as an excuse, the West began to accuse Putin of “authoritarianism” and of returning to the police methods of the Stalinist era. This campaign was joined by the media (New York Times, 2003, Washington Post, 2003) and the U.S. State Department itself claimed that the basic freedom of Russians was in danger. As we can see, the Western (more specifically US) animosity towards Putin goes back a long way—from the moment he refused to be a puppet like his predecessor, Yeltsin, had been.
Kodorkovsky perfectly represented the former functionary of the communist apparatus, enriched by the savage privatizations of the Yeltsin era. He tried to use his immense fortune to finance his campaign for the Russian presidency, emboldened by Western support, which presented him as a representative of “liberal and democratic” values.
The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few oligarchs had caused some 31 million Russians (more than 20% of the population) to subsist on the equivalent, or less, of 50 dollars a month. According to a UN study, half of the Russian population lived in poverty, and according to figures from the Russian State Statistics Committee, in 2002, more than forty million Russians suffered from malnutrition. In such circumstances, it no longer seemed so strange that many Russians longed for the Soviet era.
Along with this data concerning the quality of life, the destruction of the state health care system should be noted. All this led to a drop in life expectancy from 70 years for men in the Soviet era to 57 years.
The Putin government’s political offensive against Kodorkovsky was central to President Putin’s second election in 2003. He projected an image of fighting the oligarchs that made him very popular among a population that, in the words of political scientist Yuri Tziganov, wanted to see all Russian gangsters prosecuted and punished for the social destruction they had wrought in Russia.
Kodorkovsky had been characterized, not only by the accumulation of great wealth, but by his intention to use it politically. He had made large contributions of money to what he called “democratic opposition parties,” and had tried to exploit social discontent to instigate a change of regime.
In view of all this, the Western propaganda that keeps talking about “Putin’s oligarchs” is pathetic, when precisely what has characterized Putin’s domestic policy has been the persecution and economic and political neutralization of these oligarchs, enriched during the Yeltsin period, and who had been characterized by their support for liberal and Western ideas in Russia.
Towards the end of his second term, in 2007, Putin gave an important speech at the Munich Conference on security policy. In this speech he set out a whole doctrine of international relations based on multipolarity, a doctrine that is essential to know in order to understand the deep roots of the current conflict with Ukraine.
This doctrine can be summarized in the following points:
- The unipolar model of the world is not only unacceptable, it is impossible.
- The USA has overstepped its national borders in every sense, imposing its economic, political, cultural and educational policies on other nations.
- Decision making on the use of military force should be within the UN.
- NATO is advancing its border forces to Russia’s borders.
- Whatever happened to those promises given by our Western partners after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?
- With one hand “charitable aid” is given, with the other hand economic backwardness is preserved and profits are collected.
- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has become an instrument for securing the interests of some states against others.
- Russia, in its millennia-long history, has always had an independent foreign policy. We will not change this tradition.
With these eight points Putin clearly laid down the basic lines of his international policy. The mere fact of maintaining the unity of Russia against the policies of balkanization and disintegration of the Yeltsin era readily implied a confrontation with the unipolar “New World Order,” cherished by the USA ever since the collapse of the USSR. Maintaining Russian national pride, its refusal to ask for forgiveness, the uninhibited assumption of its own history (from Tsarism to the USSR) constituted a provocation against the ideology of this “New World Order,” which consists of nothing more than exporting and imposing the values of American society on the entire globe.
To all this must be added the low permeability of Russian society as a whole to the ideological project of Agenda 2030, with all its tentacles: neo-feminism, climate hysteria, gender ideology, immigrationism and multiculturalism. Russia has become a problem for the “New World Order,” a “problem” with a vast expanse, reserve of raw materials and nuclear weapons.
During the Trump period the globalist rubber never met the road. This president proved to be the least globalist of all US presidents (he did not initiate any war), more concerned with domestic issues of the American nation, and whose moves in international politics did not clash (at least head-on) with Russia.
With the arrival to power of Biden everything changed. This character, who is nothing more than a puppet of the neo-con sectors of the Democratic Party, made it very clear in his electoral campaign that his policy would be aimed at making the USA once again the world LEADER. This meant that the USA would return to the policy of Unipolarity (disguised as “multilateralism”) and, therefore, the confrontation with any power that opposed it.
Let us recall that the neocons are the spokesmen of a messianic vision of America as a nation united only by a creed that can be extended to all mankind. In the neocon theory, the USA is a “universal nation” that has “human rights” as its foreign policy axis, in the same way as the Soviets had Marxism-Leninism. Biden’s America is thus once again the expansive epicenter of “liberal democracy.”
For the neocons, that is, for Biden, liberal democracy and the market economy can be built anywhere in the world, with the help, if necessary, of American fighter-bombers and missiles; or, better still, a puppet state, as in the case of Ukraine. Any opposition is “tribalism,” Nazism, Stalinism or all of them at once. Naturally, the arms lobby smiles complacently.
José Alsina Calvés is a historian and philosopher who specializes in political biography, the history of science and the history of ideas and edits the journal Nihil Obstat. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.
Featured: Cover of the magazine, Chasovoy (The Watchman), 1932. Inscription on the shield reads, “God with us. Russia will rise again.” The title below, “Christ is risen.”