May 4, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6410

Renowned Russian Political Analyst Sergey Karaganov On The New Russia-West Ideological Struggle

May 4, 2016
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 6410

On April 21, 2016, the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia published an article by Russian political analyst Sergey Karaganov;[1] in it, Karaganov states that the disintegration of the Soviet Union created the illusion that the era of "ideologies and ideological struggle was over." However, he adds, the end of the Cold War marked a further deterioration of relations between Russia and the West.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Karaganov writes, Russians were attracted by Western ideals: "Most of the Soviet elite and people, weary of the scarcity and lack of freedom of the era of real socialism, yearned to be in Europe." He adds that Russians were eager to join Europe, its thinkers, Christianity, and traditional values, from which they had been separated for 70 years under the Soviet regime. However, the post-Cold War Europe gradually lost its attraction for the Russian political class, as it started to support NATO's expansion eastwards and European Union policies that did not involve Moscow as an equal partner; additionally, the EU never seriously considered Russia's project to create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.[2]

On Europe's part, there was a definite fear that Russia was too big an entity to be truly integrated - a fear supported by the belief that integrating Russia into Europe would lead to the disintegration of Europe. However, according to Karaganov, the idea that eventually prevailed was that "the West was using Russia's weakness to eradicate its centuries-old gains and make it even weaker."

Karaganov explains that at this stage, Russia wants to "reclaim its own self" and adds that it could offer the world more attractive values than the West can. He notes that in the Lisbon Treaty, on reform in European integration and cooperation, which came into force on December 1, 2009, the EU included "only" the values of pragmatism, consumerism, democracy, human rights, and law, and added: "Essentially, these values are quite attractive, but may provoke a degradation of both humans and their values if detached from a person's customary devotion to some higher purpose." In contrast, Russia, he says, emphasizes as main values "national dignity" and "courage" - which, he adds, are no longer part of Europe's ideals because they are "perceived as part of [Europe's] dangerous past - from the wars [it] unleashed and lost." Thus, he says, fear of its own past has attracted Europe to concepts such as "nonviolence" and "pacifism," which he considers completely inadequate for facing the challenges of the modern world. Pursing ideals such as pacifism will lead Europe into trouble, he says, as one result of it, mass migration, can deeply damage the West. Therefore, Karaganov suggests, Europe must, in order to survive, begin to pursue "a harsher and more right-wing policy" and "give up some of its democratic freedoms for the sake of order and security."

Russia is different from Europe and proud of it, Karaganov explains. He notes, for example, that Russia is ready to use force to protect its sovereignty and values, while Europe is not. Russia supports Christianity and is ready to defend Christians around the world, while the EU has lost its faith and failed to even mention its Christian roots in the Lisbon Treaty. This is ironic, because the Soviet Union was criticized by the West for its "godless and amoral communism," he says, and asks, "Can one trust those [i.e. the West] who espouse godless 'democratism' and liberalism?" Russia does not need to "export" its ideology, he notes, since this is already "happening de facto" as the Russian approach to the world is becoming more attractive to public opinion. The West, he says, has tried to export "democratism" in an "aggressive manner," so there is now a need for the "non-Western" Russian policy, in order to stop the West's geopolitical expansion.

This view of Europe and the West is shared by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, during his annual live Q&A session on the Direct Line program on April 14, 2016, criticized European liberalism and freedom of movement in the 26-nation border-free European Schengen Area.[3] He said: "Europe is facing serious challenges, and you probably feel safer in Siberia than, say, in Paris or Brussels. I say this without any irony, on the contrary, I am totally serious, giving due credit to our colleagues, who are making attempts to effectively tackle terrorism amidst the complicated conditions of European liberalism. The freedom of movement, the Schengen Area, and many other things related to today's freedoms are used effectively by terrorists, and it is quite difficult to combat this under [European] present laws."[4]

The following are excerpts from an English translation of Karaganov's article published on the website of the Russian foreign affairs journal Russia in Global Affairs:[5]

Image source:, March 1, 2016

"The Disintegration Of The Soviet Union Created A[n]... Illusion That The Era Of... Ideological Struggle Was Over"

"The disintegration of the Soviet Union created a decade-long illusion that the era of ideologies and ideological struggle was over and that the world was moving towards a single system of values based on Western liberal democracy and capitalism. Europe and America fascinated the world with their freedom and [their] winning political system. The perception of the final victory of Western values was backed up by America's massive military supremacy, but, most importantly, by the Western countries' affluence that everyone, including the Soviet and Russian people, desired. This desire was sustained by a widely spread and [widely] cultivated view that wealth and prosperity were a result of democracy, not vice versa. Western ideology prevailed in international relations as well. But new realities came into view in the 2000s.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Russian political analyst Sergey Karaganov (Source:

"Flush with victory, the West started to impose its political positions and values even with the use of military force (in Afghanistan, Iran, and Libya) and lost. Its support for the Arab Spring further destabilized the Middle East and made democracy less attractive. The success of a new (actually very old) model of capitalism, which leaned in politics on authoritarian and non-liberal leader's democracy regime regimes of varying degrees, became obvious. The economic model based on the Washington Consensus lost its appeal after the crisis of 2008-2009, while the Chinese-style model profited.[6] It also turned out that most of the new successful countries had not followed the Washington Consensus recipes.

"Europe, and to a lesser extent the United States, began to drift away from the values they had always offered to the world, at least the Christian world, and started imposing values that were unacceptable for the majority of countries - multiculturalism, excessive tolerance, and unusual sexual and family relations. The ages-long drift [away] from Christianity and Christian values in Europe accelerated dramatically over the past 25 years, and was codified when the European Union did not mention its Christian roots in the draft EU Constitution that was never adopted, and in the Lisbon Treaty, which replaced it. It only left pragmatism, consumerism, democracy, human rights, and law. Essentially, these values are quite attractive but may provoke a degradation of both humans and their values if detached from a person's customary devotion to some higher purpose. When the Soviet Union was criticized for godless and amoral communism, it was offen[sive] but essentially true, and many people in the country knew it. The communist practice rejected traditional moral values. Now, ironically, it is the other way round: Can one trust those who espouse godless 'democratism' and liberalism? [Russian author Fyodor] Dostoevsky's well-known... [statement by] Ivan Karamazov [in The Brothers Karamazov],'If there is no God, everything is permitted,' still sounds relevant.

"The approach towards international relations, proposed by the Europeans quite sincerely... and more duplicitously by the Americans - i.e. the rejection of the use of force and spheres of influence and the appeal to the supremacy of international law - began to falter, too. It first failed when Germany and eventually the EU unlawfully recognized Croatia's and Slovenia's secession from Yugoslavia, triggering a civil war in that country, followed by barbaric bombings by NATO of what remained of it in 1999. Then there were acts of aggression against Iraq and Libya. Besides, the new emerging countries had no intention to follow the EU's example and give up their sovereignty.

"There is yet another core value in Western Europe that is rendered inadequate in a new, harsher, and less predictable world: non-violence and pacifism. The Europeans, who had over[reached] in two horrible world wars, not only eagerly and successfully cultivated this value among themselves, but also tried to offer it to the rest of the world. But the world chose another path, and, worse still, began to intrude into the European world through the mass migration of people belonging to other cultures, which started quite a few years ago. Europe will have to adapt and pursue a harsher and more right-wing policy, and give up some of its democratic freedoms for the sake of order and security. This process is extremely painful, and, predictably, provokes a defensive ideological reaction..."

"Most Of The Soviet Elite And People, Weary Of The Scarcity And Lack Of Freedom Of The Era Of Real Socialism, Yearned To Be In Europe"

"The Russian alternative appeared particularly remarkable and challenging against this Western background. Most of the Soviet elite and people, weary of the scarcity and lack of freedom of the era of real socialism, yearned to be in Europe, while being quite unaware of what democracy and capitalism were really like. Private ownership was promptly introduced, without protection by law. This led to the emergence of oligarchic capitalism and large private holdings, morally illegitimate and not defended and legitimized by law - which [in turn] became the main cause of systemic corruption. Democracy was introduced from above, slowing down reforms and precipitating the near disintegration of the country by the end of 1990s. And yet, even unsuccessful economic and political reforms gave the majority of Russian people what they generally associated with 'Europe'- an abundance of goods in shops, and personal freedom.

"But things did not go any further. Deep-rooted values and habits of Russian society came into play: almost unconditional striving for independence and security, consolidated by Vladimir Putin as 'patriotism,' and the aspiration for justice with disrespect for formal rules and laws; as well as the sense of belonging to a great power that followed the reforms and military successes of the 18th and 19th centuries. Add to this the drive for centralization of power, induced by centuries of fierce struggle for survival. This fear was amplified immensely by the 1990,s which became a time of losses for everyone except the new bourgeoisie and a small part of the intelligentsia. Most groups of Russia's population and elites, including the meritocrats- scientists, engineers, teachers, military officers - lost everything. And yet, further movement towards European democracy and some of its values would still have been possible, had it not been for two major circumstances.

"Patriotism in Russia is...responsibility for our country and our people", undated.

"First, the West saw itself as a victor and started...pushing Russia off the political, security and economic stage. The enlargement of the Schengen Area even reduced visa-free travel opportunities for Russians. The interests and objections of the temporarily enfeebled great power [i.e. Russia] were ignored. NATO's expansion was a symbol of that policy. But eventually it became clear that the EU's enlargement did not benefit Russia either, as it was not, as had been promised and expected, accompanied by efforts to create a common and equal human and economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. The Western geopolitical expansion reduced the possibility of gains for the Russian people from relations with Europe, and weakened pro-European sentiment in the [Russian] political class. The idea that eventually prevailed was that the West was using Russia's weakness to eradicate its centuries-old gains and make it even weaker. The defense reflex prevailed.

"The second circumstance was even more unexpected. Russians were eager to join the Europe of nation states, Christianity, and traditional values, from which they had been separated for 70years - the Europe of [UK prime minister Winston] Churchill and [French president Charles] de Gaulle, of [GFR chancellor Konrad] Adenauer, of knights and of great persons and ideas. The Russian people were arduously reclaiming the religious values and faith that had been eradicated for decades. But Europe had changed. Most importantly, since the 1980s and 1990s, it had taken one more giant leap from old values to new values, and had stubbornly imposed them.

"The majority of Russian society and elite and most of the European elites simply diverged in their cultural development, and until recently they did not even want to discuss their differences; they only began to trade recriminations when these differences came to the surface. In addition, unsuccessful reforms in Russia required an external enemy. From the start of the multidimensional crisis of the European project in the early 2010s, European elites, too, began to look for an enemy, in a bid to consolidate member countries and turn their energy inwards. Judging from the intensity of anti-Russia propaganda [in the West] - that had not been seen since the 1950s - it seems that Europe needed an enemy even more than Russia does. Before long, it went further and nearly demonized Putin.

"At first, Russia's ruling elite did not retaliate geopolitically, and responded with counterpropaganda against Western values being imposed. But then used its muscle."

Anti-Europe cartoon., undated.

"The Conspicuous 'Non-Western' Russian Policy May Be Temporary - Necessary To Stop The West's Geopolitical Expansion"

"What makes the Russian challenge so strong for European elites is probably that Russia, which is currently seeking its identity and desiring to reclaim its own self, might be offering an attractive model of behavior and set of values to the rest of the world. In international relations, this means all-round support for state sovereignty, cultural identity and political pluralism, which objectively comes into conflict with the policy of Western universalism and single ideology that has been imposed over the last couple of decades.

"Russia emphasizes such notions as national dignity and courage. To many Europeans, these values seem obsolete, as they are perceived as part of their dangerous past - from the wars they unleashed and lost. But Russia won them at an enormous cost, and is ready to use force to protect its sovereignty and values. In 'the Putin world,' it would be unthinkable for most men not to defend women, as was the case in Cologne during the assaults by migrants.[7] But Europeans are apparently afraid of this harsh new world, which is largely represented by today's Russia.

"Tolerance in Europe is...when migrants can do everything.", undated.

"Russia's second ideological message to the world, which is at odds with many Russian realities but which is becoming increasingly obvious, is that consumption is not a goal in itself. Human and national dignity and a commitment to fulfilling some purpose higher than one's own are more important. Internal, not external, success matters. Hence the broad support for religions, especially Orthodoxy, and readiness to defend Christians.

"The third message is readiness to follow traditional foreign-policy principles, including protection of national interests by force, especially if it is morally justified. This set of messages and values provides Russia with potentially strong 'soft power' even though the country is relatively poor and 'unfree.'

"Information war is...  when 'barbaric' Russia refuses to preach the values of the 'civilized' West.", undated.

"The current ideological clash may become even fiercer. It involves the West, which won at first but is now beginning to lose, and Russia, which has taken on the burden of symbolizing non-Western policy and which appeals to the majority of people, including perhaps those in the West. This fight is raging not only between countries, but inside them as well. Russia also has a minority that shares new European values.

"The intensity of this confrontation is implicitly but strongly amplified by the mounting feeling that the current model of development based on growing consumption, inequality, and declining morals is pernicious for the planet. There is a moral vacuum and it is expanding. The purpose of the fight is to either fill this vacuum or to prevent others from doing so.

"The conspicuous 'non-Western' Russian policy and ideology may be temporary - necessary to stop the West's geopolitical expansion and its attempt to export 'democratism' in such an aggressive manner. (Remarkably, such policy was practiced by the Soviet Union which exported its model to the controlled and subsidized socialist camp, countries of 'socialist orientation' and other states through communist parties.)

"Russia does not seem to be making plans for the purposeful export of its ideology. But it is happening de facto. Meanwhile, messianism is strong in some Western countries, and they feel defeated after their victory and want to take revenge. Russia's alternative, that I have outlined, is not final. It clearly comes out of the past, out of modernity, and out of the Westphalian or Vienna inter-state systems. Yet it appeals to the majority, while the European and Western post-modernity, though it appears to be more humane and progressive, is losing. This is probably because its model leads nowhere, or because the majority of countries are not prepared to accept it.

"Following Russia's forceful actions against Western expansion in Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to have accused the Russian leader of living in an unreal world. It seems, however, that the German chancellor is the one living in such a world, and that she has now received a harsh wakeup call. It would probably be better for everyone to live in a world of post-modernist, humane, nonviolent, and tolerant unreality. But it seems that it has failed to materialize.

"History does not go along linear paths; it twists and turns. It will, at any rate, keep moving, barring thermonuclear catastrophe. Values evolve and change, and there are many more turns ahead. With regard to relations between Russia and Europe, this means that we have unfortunately but predictably missed each other.

"We have missed the chance to create a common space from Vladivostok to Lisbon. Mutual resentment is quite strong right now, but we must keep it at bay and build good neighborly relations while understanding that we are different. And we should certainly try hard to avoid the new systemic military-political confrontation that is desired by many forces that are possessed either by the demons of the past or by the old geopolitical fears of the emergence of a truly united and peaceful Europe or Eurasia.

"Our societies may change again a decade from now, with Europeans becoming more nationalistic and realistic, and Russians more tolerant. And if we try to learn more about each other in a respectful way, we may get a chance for a new rapprochement."



[1], April 21, 2016.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6391, Annual Q&A Televised Marathon: A Direct Line To Vladimir Putin, April 19, 2016.

[4], April 14, 2016.

[5] The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[6]  The Washington Consensus is a set of 10 policies that the U.S. government and Washington-based international financial institutions (such as the IMF and the World Bank) believed were necessary elements of "first stage policy reform' that all countries should adopt to increase economic growth.

[7]  During the 2016New Year's Eve celebrations, hundreds of sexual assaults, numerous thefts, and rapes were reported across Germany, mainly in downtown Cologne; the perpetrators were mainly migrants. On January 2016, Russian television reported that a young girl of Russian-German descent was raped by immigrants in Berlin. However, the police have denied the claim. According to the German media, Russia is using the refugee crisis as propaganda to destabilize Germany., January 19, 2016.

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