January 31, 2022 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1619

The Russia-U.S. Standoff: The Ideological Dimension

January 31, 2022 | By Anna Mahjar-Barducci*
Russia | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1619


  • Introduction

  • 'The End Of History Did Not Materialize'

  • Today's World Is 'Multipolar' And Not 'Unipolar'

  • National Sovereignty

  • The West 'Betrayed' Russia

  • 'From Lisbon To Vladivostok'

  • 'The So-Called Liberal Idea… Has Outlived Its Purpose'

  • West's Identity Vs Russia's Identity

  • Russia's Eurasian Identity

  • No More The Soviet Union

  • Tradition

  • Putin On The Inflow Of Migrants In The West

  • Putin On Religion

  • Putin On Family And 'Patriarchy'

  • Putin On Queer Theory And Gender Identity

  • Putin On Greta Thunberg

  • Putin's Manifesto Against Progressive-Liberalism

  • Conclusion



It took more than 20 years for Russian President Vladimir Putin to define Russia's new ideology.[1] However, the development of this ideology has been in progress since day one of Putin's appointment as President of the Russian Federation, and it is probably not yet systematized and finalized. Russia's Constitution prohibits the establishment of a state ideology, but many Russian intellectuals – and Putin himself – have been pushing for the return of an ideology and of a "new Russian idea." In the shaping of Russia's new ideology, there are a few Putin's speeches that can be considered as milestones.

It is safe to say that the process of shaping this new ideology began with Putin's landmark 2007 Munich speech, in which he challenged the U.S.-led unipolar world order. Putin said: "What is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making... It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day, this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within... I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today's world... What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilization."[2]

The 2007 speech was Putin's first political manifesto that determined, and which continues to define, the general outline of Russia's policy, which is aimed at bringing about an end to the West's unipolar world order. It is worth analyzing four main leit motives of Russia's new ideology that derived from Putin's Munich speech:

"Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge," a 1919 poster by Russian artist El Lissitzky.

'The End Of History Did Not Materialize'

1."The end of history," in which American political scientist Francis Fukuyama predicted that liberal democracy will prevail as a permanent order, has not materialized.In his 2007 speech Putin declared: "The unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place either." From then on, this sentence became the mantra of the Russian government, and it has also been adopted also by Chinese scholars. [3]

Following Putin's line, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also stated more than once that Fukuyama was wrong. During a 2019 Paris Peace Forum, Lavrov said: "So I call for a debate during which it will be recognized that the 'end of history,' which has been proclaimed with triumph after the demise of the Soviet Union, did not take place, history is alive and well, and the eternal domination of the West predicted by Francis Fukuyama did not materialize."[4] Ahead of the opening of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Lavrov published an article titled "World At A Crossroads And A System Of International Relations For The Future." In the article, Lavrov elaborated that when the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Berlin Wall fell, the West did not look for a unifying agenda with Russia. "Instead, all we could hear were triumphant pronouncements that the 'end of history' had come and that from now on there would be only one global decision-making center," Lavrov wrote.

Lavrov stressed that the West's efforts to establish a unipolar model had failed since other centers of power are nevertheless emerging. "The transformation of the world order has become irreversible. New major players wielding a sustainable economic base seek to increase their influence on regional and global developments; they are fully entitled to claim a greater role in the decision-making process. The overwhelming majority of members of the international community reject arrogant neocolonial policies that are employed all over again to empower certain countries to impose their will on others," Lavrov stated.[5]

Renowned Russian academic Sergey Karaganov, known as the "Russian Kissinger," also stated that since the "end of history" did not take place, the competition with the West is not over, because Russia represents a new model of authoritarian semi-democratic capitalism, which can be more attractive than the liberal system, especially to the former Third World countries.[6]

Today's World Is 'Multipolar' And Not 'Unipolar'

2.Today's world is multipolar and not unipolar. In his 2007 speech, Putin stated: "The combined GDP measured in purchasing power parity of countries such as India and China is already greater than that of the United States. And a similar calculation with the GDP of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – surpasses the cumulative GDP of the EU. And according to experts, this gap will only increase in the future. There is no reason to doubt that the economic potential of the new centers of global economic growth will inevitably be converted into political influence and will strengthen multipolarity."

It is worth noting that on October 29, 2019, a monument to Russian statesman Yevgeny Primakov was unveiled in Moscow, coinciding with the 90th anniversary of his birth. During the ceremony, Putin stressed Primakov's promotion of the idea of multipolarity, which is dear to the Kremlin. Putin said: "Yevgeny Primakov knew that the world is more complicated than any cliché or stereotype. He had a strategic vision and worked hard to promote the idea of multipolarity. In fact, it was Yevgeny Primakov who clearly formulated the key principles of the modern world's development. We see that multipolarity is no longer a trend but a reality today."[7]

Monument to Yevgeny Primakov unveiled in Moscow. Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the monument to Yevgeny Primakov. (Source:, October 29, 2019)

Responding to a question on Primakov's essential contribution to Russia's foreign policy, Lavrov also underlined that the concept of a multipolar world, as promoted by Primakov, has become an objective reality that is taking shape right before our very own eyes:

"We have been often accused recently of turning away from the West and towards the East. Yevgeny Primakov was appointed foreign minister after we had turned away from everyone excluding the West in the first half of the 1990s. Moreover, we looked upon the West as petitioners asking it to give us a place in the world that was presented as the triumph of liberal democracy and the end of history.

"According to Francis Fukuyama, the end of history meant that the Western world, or the collective West, has no and cannot have any rivals. Yevgeny Primakov assumed office at a time when our relations with nearly all other countries were chilled. He had to act in constrained conditions marked exclusively by pro-Western inertia. As a visionary, he knew that a policy can only be sustainable if it takes modern day realities into account. He predicted the realities of a multipolar world with new centers of economic growth, financial might and, consequently, political influence. These centers have appeared. A multipolar world has become an objective reality that is taking shape right before our very own eyes…"[8]

In his writings, Russian anti-liberal philosopher Alexander Dugin further explained what a multipolar world would look like. He maintained that a multipolar world has "completely different priorities," "other value systems" and "other structures of political governance."[9] Dugin also suggested that the unipolar system began to erode with the 9/11 attacks by Islamic terrorists on the World Trade Center and with Putin's rise to power as President of Russia: "Then it seemed that the unipolar moment was no longer a unipolar world order, that something went 'wrong' with unipolarity. 'Normally' there should not have been such a thing as the terrorist attack of 9/11, because there was no state that could attack the United States, no civilization, no political system... Russia at that moment was in a very low situation with Yeltsin, and was on the verge of collapse after the Soviet Union. But Putin began to reaffirm Russia as a sovereign country. This was a kind of challenge to the unipolar system."[10]

In parallel to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Putin's rise to power, Dugin stressed that another element started to erode unipolarity: the rise of China as a global player, which further challenges the unipolar system. Indeed, according to Dugin, we live in the end of unipolarity.

According to Dugin, the system that should replace unipolarity is multipolarity, which can be better defined by describing what it opposes: "Multipolarity is against unipolarity... Multipolarity is against hegemony on three levels – first of all strategic, i.e., against the American military domination of the world with American military bases everywhere in the world... Multipolarity is against the ideological hegemony as globalization, liberalism, and human rights..."[11]

National Sovereignty

3. National Sovereignty as a core value of Russia's policy. In Putin's 2007 speech, he connected the concept of national sovereignty to the concept of multipolarity. Putin explained that for a state to be really sovereign, the unipolar system has to disappear. Putin stated: "[A] world in which there is one master, one sovereign… is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority .Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves… One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?"

A few months after his Munich speech, Putin spoke at a meeting with members of the Valdai International Discussion Club. In that occasion, Putin further specified: "Frankly speaking, there are not so many countries in the world today that have the good fortune to say they are sovereign. You can count them on your fingers: China, India, Russia and a few other countries. All other countries are to a large extent dependent either on each other or on bloc leaders. This is not a very pleasing situation, but it is my deep conviction that this is the reality today.

"I know that, unfortunately, in some Eastern European countries, not just the candidate for the post of defense minister but even candidates for less important posts are discussed with the U.S. ambassador. Is this a good thing? I do not think it is very good for all the countries concerned because sooner or later it will provoke the same rejection that Soviet domination once provoked in these countries. Do you understand? It might seem welcome today, but tomorrow it could lead to problems. Even old Europe is obliged to take NATO's political interests into account in its policies. You know how the decision-making process works. There is probably no need to explain. Sovereignty is therefore something very precious today, something exclusive, you could even say. Russia cannot exist without defending its sovereignty. Russia will either be independent and sovereign or will most likely not exist at all."[12]

Karaganov described "sovereignty" as freedom from the United States' rules and stated that Russia will be the country that will free the world from the West's yoke in the same way that it fought against Nazi Germany in WWII: "Sovereignty, above all, for ourselves and the world. This means protecting and strengthening one's own country to ensure a comfortable, safe, and free life of its citizens. This means the freedom of choice for oneself and for the world. By the way, we have historically secured the freedom of choice for many countries by having deprived Napoleon, Hitler, and now the United States of the possibility to dominate."[13]

It is worth noting that Putin's support for national sovereignty attracted many EU skeptics. In 2014, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian party Lega Nord (a party that casts the European Union as a threat to Italy's sovereignty) even posed for photographs sporting a T-shirt with Putin's face in Moscow's Red Square. Furthermore, ahead of the 2017 French presidential election, Putin met with far-right EU skeptic National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. On that occasion, Le Pen said: "[Putin] represents a sovereign nation… I think he also represents a new vision."[14]

The concept of "sovereignty" can be mainly summarized in Dugin's words: "Sovereign is the one over whom there is no one else and nothing at all."[15] Hence, "sovereignty" means the possibly for a State to be free to choose its own form of political system, government, rules, and even its own definition of human rights. In fact, Russia defies the idea that the West should be allowed to assert a uniform and universal system of values. In this sense, Russia promotes the idea that sovereign countries should be free to adopt different political systems, other than liberal democracy that is viewed as a system that was imposed by the West to the world.[16]

It is worth noting that the 2007 Munich speech was given during the Bush administration, which was characterized by strong interventionism and support for color revolutions. Putin's speech can therefore be read as a direct response to the Bush doctrine, the core ow which had been the "export of democracy," even through military interventions.

The West 'Betrayed' Russia

4. The West, and more specifically NATO, betrayed Russia. In his 2007 speech, Putin said: "I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation 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 our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them. But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr. Wörner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: 'the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.' Where are these guarantees?"

This accusation against NATO has been uttered several times by Putin and other senior Russian diplomats and officials. As quoted previously, during Primakov's commemoration in 2019, Lavrov himself explained that it is not Russia that moved away from the West, but it the West that pushed away Russia.[17] In a landmark treatise titled "Russia's Foreign Policy: Historical Background," published on March 3, 2016 in the Russian foreign affairs journal Russia in Global Affairs, Lavrov also wrote: "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."[18]

Russian officials in fact often stress that, in 1990, NATO secretary-general Manfred Wörner promised in Brussels: "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."[19]

Hence, NATO's eastward expansion is perceived by Russia as a military provocation and as a way to obstruct Russia from reassuming its historic role as a global player. In a 2016 interview with the German newspaper Bild, Putin said that NATO members should have "followed their own interests" and not accepted central European states into the military alliance. Putin argued that the correct position for mending relations between the West and Russia would have been to follow German Social Democratic Party politician Egon Bahr's proposal to redefine a zone in Central Europe that NATO forces would not be allowed to enter.

In the Bild interview, Putin further stated: "NATO and the U.S. wanted a complete victory over the Soviet Union. They wanted to sit on the throne in Europe alone. But now they are sitting there, and we are talking about all these crises we would otherwise not have."[20] Russian statesman Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, published in 2016 an article in the Russian independent biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta, making similar claims: "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], which now thinks that 'everything is permitted.' This is the root from which today's global unrest has sprung."[21]

It is worth noting that in December 2021, echoing Bahr's proposal, Russia published a draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States on security guarantees and an agreement on measures to "ensure the security" of Russia and NATO member states. Renowned Russian political analyst and economist Vladislav Inozemtsev explained: "The two documents, also known as the 'Putin's ultimatum,' revealed Russia's radically new approach toward the West and the rest of the world. In the draft, Moscow openly argued that several countries that spent some time being a part of either the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire cannot be considered fully sovereign … and so have no right to join any other military alliances except those of which Russia itself is a part. The Kremlin also openly insisted that the West refrain from setting up military bases or installations in post-Soviet nations and even to withdraw all foreign (i.e., American) forces from the nations that joined NATO in or after 1997." Inozemtsev then added: " This move made Russia the most profound challenger to the existing world order, since even China (which the United States considers its main strategic contender) never articulated its formal aim of subjugating neighboring countries to Beijing's will (in fact, China is trying to achieve this task using economic levers but does not make it the center of its foreign policy)."[22]

'From Lisbon To Vladivostok'

Russia's ideology seems to shape itself through a continuous ideological confrontation with the West, and most specifically with the different U.S. administrations. If under the Bush administration Putin focused on challenging the concept of "exporting democracy," new topics emerged under the Obama administration (which even tried to "reset" relations with Russia).[23]

Yet, the Obama administration was mainly characterized by a strong opposition to the Kremlin and high tensions between NATO and Russia that echo what is happening today with the crisis in Ukraine.

In fact, during the July 2016 NATO-Russia Council meeting, NATO accused Russia of conducting "provocative" military activities in the periphery of NATO territory, and of destabilizing European security through aggressive actions such as the annexation of Crimea and large-scale snap exercises. Russia in return accused NATO of "confrontational" actions close to the Russian border, since the Alliance started to consider the deployment of NATO battalions in Poland and in the Baltic countries, and a brigade in Romania. Moscow was also concerned about the U.S./NATO missile defense system deployed in Eastern Europe. NATO claimed that it was directed at Iran and not against Russia, but Moscow considered it to be a direct threat to its nuclear arsenal.[24]

It is also during the Obama administration that Russia further strengthened the concept of an integration project for Eurasia, "from Lisbon to Vladivostok," as a way to counter NATO. The concept, which echoed French president Gen. Charles de Gaulle's idea of a Europe stretching "from the Atlantic to the Urals," was launched by Putin in 2011, during his term as Russia's prime minister, in an article titled "A New Integration Project For Eurasia: The Future In The Making." In the article, Putin explained that Russia proposes "setting up a harmonized community of economies stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok."[25]

In his 2016 landmark article mentioned above, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrovnoted that the concept of a "common European home"[26] for Russia and Europe, which was supported by de Gaulle (who never questioned that Russia belonged to Europe), was the only way to build a strong and safe Europe (and not the building up of NATO). In a November 23, 1959 speech in Strasbourg, De Gaulle actually stated: "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."[27]

However, according to the Kremlin, the relationship between Europe and Russia is being hindered because the U.S. is building barriers via NATO's expansion. Already in 2014, on a Paris visit, Russian State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said that de Gaulle's idea of a Europe from "the Atlantic to the Urals" was important for Europe's security and that it had "no alternative": "We remember General 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."[28]

'The So-Called Liberal Idea… Has Outlived Its Purpose'

Donald Trump's election in 2016 marked a new phase in the Kremlin's ideology, which continuously tries to shape itself following the trends of times. In fact, the rise of Trumpism was seen as the people's rejection of interventionism, globalism, and progressive liberalism, which the Kremlin has stood against since Putin's rise to power. Russian anti-liberal philosopher Dugin explained at the time: "People rejected Clinton's globalism and accepted Trump without even knowing what he specifically stands for. He didn't say anything in particular, simply 'I am not liberalism, not globalism,' and the people said 'let him be president, tell us more."[29] The Kremlin then thought that it was the right time to strengthen its anti-liberal positions, capitalizing on the fact that the political and ideological divide inside the U.S. became more and more polarized after Trump's election. In fact, the more the progressive liberal camp gained a foothold in the West, the more the Kremlin defined an anti-liberal ideology to counter it and become an alternative to Trump himself, who was defined by Dugin as an "unpredictable eccentric novice and an outsider in American politics with a shaky position under the threat of impeachment."[30]

Hence, on June 27, 2019, Putin gave a landmark interview to Financial Times that further shaped Russia's new conservative ideology. In the interview, Putin stressed: "The so-called liberal idea… has outlived its purpose." He then added: "The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population." And then underlined: "The liberal idea cannot be destroyed either; it has the right to exist and it should even be supported in some things. But you should not think that it has the right to be the absolute dominating factor. That is the point."[31]

From that moment on, Russia's new conservative ideology started to become more clearly defined and detailed.

The West's Identity Vs Russia's Identity

On August 19, 2019, a few months after the interview with Financial Times, Putin visited French President Emmanuel Macron in the south of France. At their joint press conference, Putin seemed to have modified a few stances of Russia's in-progress ideology vis-à-vis its relations with the West, blaming it on Europe's loss of identity.

At the meeting, Macron proudly quoted de Gaulle: "I am thinking about everything that has happened over the past few decades, what has managed to drive us apart. I know that Russia is a European country in its heart of hearts. And we believe in a Europe that spreads from Lisbon to Vladivostok."

However, if Macron expected an enthusiastic reaction from Putin, he probably ended up disappointed. Commenting on Macron's statement, Putin said: "Regarding the prospects for creating a common Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok… I believe that, if we think about this today, and if we set such goals, which are very important for Europe, in the strategic long-term context (if it wants to preserve itself as the center of civilization), and also for Russia, and if we work on this together, then, sooner or later, we will come close to achieving this. It is important to choose a way in one form or another (it does not matter how) and to move slowly in the right direction, in line with the present-day conditions…"[32]

In that speech, Putin stressed that he would be still interested in creating a "common Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok" only under one condition: that Europe "preserve[s] itself as a center of civilization."

In order to understand the meaning of Putin's quote, it is worth noting that anti-liberal Russian philosopher Dugin, interviewed by The Economist in 2017, underscored the importance of identity in Russian society and the difference between Russian and European identity today.

Dugin said: "First of all, in order to understand what the difference is between Russian and European identity, we need to understand what European identity is, because it is not so easy to understand. There are two reasons for that. First of all, now, European identity consists, as far as I understand, of ultimate destruction. So the concept of identity is judged by the liberal or progressive agenda as something which we should overcome.

"Liberal European identity consists of denying any identity, as some kind of transgression. To be European today means not to be European, but to be on the side of immigrants, Muslims, and everybody except Europeans. When or if you affirm yourself as an Englishman rooted in English culture or a Frenchman, 'Français de souche', it is almost or it sounds like you are not only a conservative, but a Nazi. You are something completely labeled as extremist, marginal. Today, European identity is negation, denial of any kind of identity. This was obviously not always so, but that is the liberal agenda."

Dugin then added: "Precisely the difference with Russian identity is that we deny this denial. With Russian identity, we have no shame in being Russian. We have no guilt for being Russian. We have no remorse for being Russian. That is the difference, because, precisely to be German, that is to be ashamed of what Germany did. To be British today is to have remorse for everything the British Empire did in the past. To be American is to be ashamed of the Southern part of history, of the slave trade.

"We have no remorse, so we are judged immediately for having an identity - that is a crime compared to the liberal agenda. That was not always the case. Before, the West blamed the East or Catholics blamed the Orthodox for different reasons. The same geopolitical tensions existed before but were formulated in other terms. Today it is clear that we defend our identity as something that has value."[33]

Russia therefore is not interested any longer in a Europe that is losing its own Western and European identity and questions where Europe's traditional values and identity are going.

As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained a few days after Putin's statement at the joint press conference with Macron: "Russia's future as part of Europe largely depends on Europe's willingness to preserve the civilizational identity of this area."[34]

Russia's Eurasian Identity

It should be noted that Russia feels that it should defend its own identity. This identity is rooted in its "Eurasian" history, as Russia is and has been a natural bridge between Europe and Asia. The concept of a Russian Eurasian identity, which is rooted in the intellectual movements of 1910-20, has been further politically developed by Putin, who sponsored the 2015 creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The EAEU is an international organization for the regional economic integration of post-Soviet states located in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Central Asia, and it constitutes a step towards the creation of a "Greater Eurasia" – the Russian path for Eurasia integration.

Yet, many Russian and non-Russian scholars noted that in order to build a real "Greater Eurasia," Russia needs China and Ukraine on its side.

In a 2021 interview, Russian academic Sergey Karaganov stressed the importance of China for a Greater Eurasia: "[A Greater Eurasia] will definitely be built one way or another, unless China chooses the path of imperialist policy… In this case, it will take time to build a more or less unified Greater Eurasia. But the movement will continue." However, the relations between Russia and China are not so idyllic, as Moscow does not accept being subordinate to Beijing, which is a main economic power opposing Russia. Furthermore, in a 2019 article, military historian Ilya Polonsky wrote in the Russian periodical Military Review that while the U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region is effectively impelling China and Russia towards the creation of a full-fledged military alliance, Russia should not forget its own interests, since Moscow's interests in Central Asia and in the Far East are antithetical to and conflicting with China's.[35]

Another important element about Russia's Eurasian identity is Ukraine. In an article about the "Near Abroad" concept (a term used to describe the post-Soviet space in contrast to the "far abroad," which is comprised of nations that were independent actors during the Soviet era), Inozemtsev quoted Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, who once observed that "without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire."[36] This quote perfectly summarizes the meaning of Ukraine's importance to Russia and its Eurasian identity. Furthermore, the quote also explains Russia's aversion to NATO's expansion eastward, which is also perceived as an obstacle to Russian identity.

In this sense, Canadian scholar Michael Millerman, the leading translator of the philosopher Dugin's work from Russian to English, explained that according to Dugin, who is the founder of the International Eurasian Movement, the Eurasian path for Russia is "a civilizational empire" based on "history, culture, the Russian language, a common fate [and] a similar ethical and religious structure" that unites the "Eurasian great space." Millerman then explained that before the 2008 Russo-Georgia war, Russia's Eurasian imperial project was virtual, but, after Georgia, the path was open to establish a Eurasian "civilizational empire for real." In 2008, in fact, Dugin visited South Ossetia and made the following prediction: "Our troops will occupy the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the entire country, and perhaps even Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which is historically part of Russia, anyway."[37]

Nevertheless, it seems that over the years Russia had to reappraise its Eurasian project. In 2016, Lavrov wrote about a Eurasian partnership stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, but Moscow soon had to abandon the idea, especially due to NATO members' political and military positions that conflicted with the Kremlin. Furthermore, it also seems that the idea of a Greater Eurasia with China in it is also not feasible, as the two countries have divergent interests (like in Kazakhstan, for example) and it is even possible that Moscow and Beijing will clash in the future. Karaganov wrote: "It may so happen that China will become dizzy with success and will want to expand the circle of… vassal states. But if this happens, it will face a group of states that will put up resistance. These include not only the United States, which is now struggling to contain [China's] rise, but also India, Iran, Turkey, and Russia."[38]

In a 2018 article, Vladislav Surkov, once an influential advisor to the Kremlin, wrote an article titled "The Loneliness of the Half-Breed," explaining how Russia tried unsuccessfully throughout history to find allies in the West and the East, both of which it belongs to:

"To cut a long story short, Russia had spent four centuries moving East and then another four centuries moving West. Attempts to take root failed in either case… Our cultural and geopolitical identity is reminiscent of a volatile identity of the one born into a mixed-race family. He is everybody's relative and non-native at the same time wherever he goes. He is at home among strangers and a stranger at home. He understands everybody and is understood by no one. A half-blood, a cross-breed, a weird-looking guy.

"Russia is a Western-Eastern half-breed nation. With its double-headed statehood, hybrid mentality, intercontinental territory and bipolar history, it is charismatic, talented, beautiful and lonely. Just as a half-breed should be".

Surkov then concluded that Russia's only choice is to be its own ally: "The wonderful phrase Emperor Alexander III uttered - 'Russia has only two allies: its army and navy'—is possibly the best-worded description of geopolitical loneliness which should have long been accepted as our fate. Of course, the list of the allies can be expanded to taste to include: factory workers and teachers, oil and gas, the creative class and patriotically-minded Internet bots, General Frost and Archangel Michael… The meaning will remain the same—we are our own allies…"[39]

For this reason, for Russia, it is vital to keep its influence on the post-Soviet countries, which culturally and historically have been part of Russia's "civilizational empire" and identity. Hence, NATO's eastward expansion is not just a threat to Russia's interests, but to the survival of Russia's identity itself.

No More USSR

Russia's goal to keep its own influence on the post-Soviet space does not mean a revival of the Soviet Union. Putin has made this clear more than once. In his 2011 article "A New Integration Project For Eurasia: The Future In The Making," Putin wrote: "None of this entails any kind of revival of the Soviet Union. It would be naïve to try to revive or emulate something that has been consigned to history." He recognized, though, that Russia received "a great inheritance" from the Soviet Union. "We inherited an infrastructure, specialized production facilities, and a common linguistic, scientific and cultural space. It is in our joint interests to use this resource for our development," he wrote. In the article, Putin then stressed that Eurasian integration should be based "on new values" and "a new political and economic foundation," hinting that these new values should oppose the Western hegemony and be different from the ones of the Soviet Union.[40]

Nevertheless, according to Putin, the collapse of the Soviet Union was a "humanitarian tragedy," as the Russian people became after 1991 the "world's biggest divided nation."[41] As a result of the Soviet Union's collapse, Russia lost an important part of the territory, population, and global influence. The Kremlin thinks that it can rebuild part of that influence if it can stand firm against the West, which is seen as the main obstacle for Russia's political ambitions. However, with its shrinking economy, Russia knows that it can confront the West only in the ideological camp.

In order to do so, the Kremlin had to shape, as Dugin would say, a "Fourth Political Theory." Dugin classified three political theories in order of appearance that characterized the 20th century: liberalism (the first theory), communism (the second theory), and fascism (the third theory). Fascism emerged later than the other major political theories and disappeared before them. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the victory of liberalism over communism. Thus, by the end of the 20th century, liberalism remained the only theory standing.[42] However, as Putin said, the "liberal idea starts destroying itself"[43] and a new ideology can be shaped. "The liberal model has no right to claim domination and to believe that it is the only correct model in the world," Putin stated at the 2019 Russian Energy Week Forum.[44]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disastrous pro-Western Yeltsin-era, Putin's Russia started to search for its own identity, looking for its Eurasian roots and looking into its own past and traditions that were erased under communism. Hence, as Dugin noted, one of the first steps towards a "Fourth Political Theory" is the "rehabilitation of tradition."


As Canadian scholar Millerman wrote: "[Russia] positions itself as a defender of traditional morality against the West's postmodern opposition to Christian values. And it declaims the excesses of Western political correctness in such areas as gender politics, concluding that liberalism is 'obsolete.' This ideological orientation reflects a conservative, traditionalist stance, as distinct from postmodern, progressive liberal individualism."[45]

In fact, according to Putin, "tradition" is the respect of Russia's "traditional spiritual culture," [46] which has at its core the nation, religion, and traditional family, and which opposes progressive values such as open borders, unrestricted immigration, globalism,[47] queer theory, gender theory,[48] critical race theory, identity politics, cancel culture, and so forth.

Dugin explained: "After the failed attempt to integrate into the global community in the 1990s, thanks to the failure of liberal reforms, Russian society became even more convinced of the extent to which globalism and individualistic attitudes and principles are alien to Russians. This is what determines the general support for Putin's conservative and sovereign course."[49]

From 2019 until 2020, the year of the U.S. presidential elections, Putin further strengthened Russia's political stances based on "tradition," trying to capitalize on the dichotomy between conservative Trumpism and progressive liberalism and on the rise of progressive movements like Black Lives Matter that aimed at disrupting tradition (such as the concept of "nuclear family"[50]). In this period of time, Putin touched on every topic that animated the ideological debate in the West, while affirming Russia's commitment to tradition and conservative views, with the goal of taking the lead of conservativism not only in Russia, but in the West and in the world.

Below is an overview of Putin's position that he expressed between 2019 and 2020 on the progressive liberal agenda.

"Cautiously! Liberalism!" (Source: Twitter)

Putin On The Inflow Of Migrants In The West

'When The Migration Problem Came To A Head, Many People Admitted That The Policy Of Multiculturalism Is Not Effective'

In the famous Financial Times interview in 2019, Putin dealt with the topic of immigration and sovereignty, challenging progressive views on open borders and multiculturalism:

"When the migration problem came to a head, many people admitted that the policy of multiculturalism is not effective and that the interests of the core population should be considered… One can criticize Trump for his intention to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. It could be going too far. Yes, maybe so. I am not arguing about this point. But he had to do something about the huge inflow of migrants and narcotics.

"Nobody is doing anything. They say this is bad and that is bad as well. Tell me, what is good, then? What should be done? Nobody has proposed anything. I do not mean that a wall must be built or tariffs raised by 5 percent annually in the economic relations with Mexico. This is not what I am saying, yet something must be done. He is at least looking for a solution.

"What am I driving at? Those who are concerned about this, ordinary Americans, they look at this and say, 'Good for him, at least he is doing something, suggesting ideas and looking for a solution.'

"As for the liberal idea, its proponents are not doing anything. They say that all is well, that everything is as it should be. But is it? They are sitting in their cozy offices, while those who are facing the problem every day in Texas or Florida are not happy, they will soon have problems of their own. Does anyone think about them?

"The same is happening in Europe. I discussed this with many of my colleagues, but nobody has the answer. They say they cannot pursue a hardline policy for various reasons. Why exactly? Just because. We have the law, they say. Well, then change the law!

"We have quite a few problems of our own in this sphere as well. We have open borders with the former Soviet republics, but their people at least speak Russian. Do you see what I mean? And besides, we in Russia have taken steps to streamline the situation in this sphere. We are now working in the countries from which the migrants come, teaching Russian at their schools, and we are also working with them here. We have toughened the legislation to show that migrants must respect the laws, customs and culture of the country.

"In other words, the situation is not simple in Russia either, but we have started working to improve it. Whereas the liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected. What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment."[51]

'The Migration Crisis Is A Result Of This Liberal Model'

A few days after the publication of the interview, while at the G20 summit in Osaka, Putin criticized multiculturalism as an obstacle for integration. Putin said: "But look at the migration… You see, how can one imagine that in some European countries parents are told that 'Girls should not wear skirts to school for safety reasons.' What is that? Listen, people are living in their own country in their own culture. What is that? How did it get so far?" [52]

A few months later, at the October 2019 Russian Energy Week Forum, Putin added: "Take some European countries. Why are they talking about the migration crisis all the time? The migration crisis is a result of this liberal model. They simply take everything too far. It would be better to invest in the developing economies, so as to cut short the growth of poverty. Let us advocate this process in the World Trade Organization. Let us stop subsidizing agriculture in the West and open up our markets to agricultural products from the developing countries. Let us invest the necessary funds in them, giving the people an opportunity to work and live in their home countries, making a living for their families. You do not want to do this? Then you will have migrants. The liberal model does not allow for stopping the inflow of migrants. And the result is discontent among the people and a growth of extreme views and far-right movements."[53]

Putin On Religion

'Liberal Circles Are Beginning To Use Certain Elements And Problems Of The Catholic Church As A Tool For Destroying The Church Itself'

In the Financial Times interview, talking about the decline of religion and traditional values in the West, Putin stressed:

"Sometimes I get the feeling that these liberal circles are beginning to use certain elements and problems of the Catholic Church as a tool for destroying the Church itself. This is what I consider to be incorrect and dangerous.

"Alright, have we forgotten that all of us live in a world based on biblical values? Even atheists and everyone else live in this world. We do not have to think about this every day, attend church and pray, thereby showing that we are devout Christians or Muslims or Jews. However, deep inside, there must be some fundamental human rules and moral values. In this sense, traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist."[54]

Putin On Family And 'Patriarchy'

'The Father Community… Is Taking Concrete Action To Contribute To Solving Pressing Issues In The Sphere Of Family'

It is worth noting that, going against the progressive camp's criticism of the "patriarchy," in 2019 Russia created the Fathers' Council. At the opening of the first Russian Fathers' Forum, Putin stated:

"The government prioritizes supporting families and improving the demographic situation… In this regard, I would like to commend the large-scale, multifaceted activities of the Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights office, which created the Fathers' Council in Russia. Today, the father community is expanding its working forms and methods, actively participating in implementing social projects and programs, and is taking concrete action to contribute to solving pressing issues in the sphere of family and child protection."[55]

Putin On Queer Theory And Gender Identity

'Things Do Appear Excessive To Us. They Claim Now That Children Can Play Five Or Six Gender Roles'

In the interview with Financial Times, Putin also discussed Russia's position on queer theory and gender identity:

"I am not trying to insult anyone, because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia as it is. But we have no problems with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish. But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. I cannot even say exactly what genders these are, I have no notion. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population."[56]

'Let A Person Grow Up, Become An Adult And Then Decide Who He Or She Is'

At the 2019 G20 summit in Osaka, Putin added:

"We have a law that everybody has been kicking us for – a law prohibiting homosexual propaganda among minors. But listen, let a person grow up, become an adult and then to decide who he or she is. Leave children in peace. There are so many inventions nowadays. I also said in the [Financial Times] interview that they invented five or six genders, transformers, trans…

"You see, I do not even understand what it is…

"The problem is that this part of society is aggressively imposing their view on the majority. We have to be more loyal to each other, more open and transparent. I did not say anything unusual. We have to respect everyone, that is true, but we must not impose our points of view on others. Meanwhile, representatives of the so-called liberal idea are simply forcing their ideas on others. They dictate the need for the so-called sex education. Parents are against it, and they are practically imprisoned for that."[57]

Putin On Greta Thunberg

'I Do Not Share The General Enthusiasm About Greta Thunberg's Action'

In 2019, Putin also discussed his views on Greta Thunberg, who launched the Fridays for Future strikes on climate change and soon became one of the major figures celebrated by the progressive camp:

"I may disappoint you, but I do not share the general enthusiasm about Greta Thunberg's action. You know, it is a good thing when young people and teenagers focus on today's serious problems, including environmental issues, and they certainly need to be supported. But when others use children and adolescents for their own purposes, it is a practice that deserves condemnation. It is especially wrong to try to make money like this. I am not claiming that this is the case, but it certainly should be monitored.

"No one seems to have explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and diverse and rapidly developing, and people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same level of prosperity as in Sweden. But how can this be achieved? By making them use solar energy because Africa gets so much sun? Has anyone explained to her how much this would cost?

"A colleague was just talking about oil. Everyone probably knows that oil is the number one source in the global energy balance, and it will retain its advantages as such over the next 25 years. This is what international experts say. True, its role will gradually diminish; true, renewable energy will grow faster. This is all true, and we must strive for this. But is this technology affordable for emerging economies and developing countries right now? Barely, but people want to live there just like in Sweden, and this cannot be stopped. Explain to them that they still have to live in poverty for 20–30 more years and their children will be living in poverty – explain this to them.

"These things do require a professional approach. Of course, emotions are inevitable, but still, if we want to be effective, we must be professional. I am sure that Greta is a kind and very sincere girl, but it is up to adults to try to avoid leading teenagers and children into extreme situations; it is up to adults to protect them from unnecessary emotions that can destroy a personality – this is what I wanted to say.

"Overall, of course, we should definitely support these ideas concerning the development of renewable energy sources, only we need to rely on reality… Again, using children and adolescents to achieve even such noble goals, exerting such strong emotional pressure – I consider it wrong."[58]

Putin's Manifesto Against Progressive Liberalism

In 2021, Democrat Joe Biden became the U.S. President. Once Trump was no longer President, Putin could claim the position of undisputed leader of the conservative ideology against progressive liberalism, with the goal of challenging the unipolar order.

Dugin himself stressed: "The rejection of liberalism and globalization has become particularly acute in recent years, as liberalism itself has revealed its deeply repulsive features to Russian consciousness. This justified a certain sympathy among Russians for Trump and a parallel deep disgust for his liberal opponents.

"On Biden's side, the attitude towards Russia is quite symmetrical. He and the globalist elites in general view Russia as the main civilizational opponent, stubbornly refusing to accept the vector of liberal progressivism and fiercely defending its political sovereignty and its identity."[59]

Hence, with the goal of becoming America's major ideological competitor, Putin took the opportunity at the October 2021 Valdai Forum to present his more complete manifesto on Russia's new "conservative" ideology, in which he not only he declared that the "end of history" did not materialize, but compared progressive liberalism to Communism, describing them as both failed ideologies. In contrast, Putin promoted what he called a "healthy conservativism." Quoting one of his favorite philosophers Nikolai Berdyayev, who was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1922, Putin said: "Conservatism is not something preventing upward, forward movement, but something preventing you from sliding back into chaos." He then added: "If we treat conservatism this way, it provides an effective foundation for further progress."[60]

In his speech-manifesto at the Valdai Forum, Putin criticized cancel culture, gender theory and critical race theory, which are at the core of progressive liberalism, and described these theories as a déjà vu of the times of Bolshevism:

"Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? … What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? … Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, 'reverse discrimination' against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

"Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society – it would be more correct to put it this way – has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition, and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

"The advocates of so-called 'social progress' believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags, as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs, and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion, and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs [Here, Putin seems to make an indirect quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's book "The Idiot:" "I have found from many observations that our liberals are incapable of allowing anyone to have his own convictions and immediately answer their opponent with abuse or something worse"].

"This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices - which we, fortunately, have left, I hope - in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood, memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what color or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

"Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new 'cancel culture' has turned it into 'reverse discrimination' – that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin color. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: 'I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their character.' This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the color of a person's skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

"In a number of Western countries, the debate over men's and women's rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go – not only communalizing chickens, but also communalizing women. One more step and you will be there."

Putin then added:

"Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risks being ostracized. 'Parent number one' and 'parent number two,' 'birthing parent' instead of 'mother,' and 'human milk' replacing 'breastmilk' because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

"Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists – is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

"Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us."[61]

At the December 2021 annual news conference, Putin concluded the year by reiterating Russia's support for traditional and conservative values, defying once more the West and its progressive liberalism:

"If someone thinks that a man and a woman is the same, let it be. However, there is still some common sense in the world.

"I may be wrong although it is unlikely… I think in the U.S. – and if I am wrong do not be annoyed with me, – a prisoner convicted of rape declared himself a woman and demanded to be transferred to a women's prison. So, they did. And he promptly raped his female cellmate. But there should be some semblance of common sense in everything.

"Or take athletes. A man declares himself a woman and competes, say, in weightlifting or some other sport. Women's sport will cease to exist completely. There must be some common sense. I uphold the traditional approach that a woman is a woman, a man is a man, a mother is a mother, and a father is a father. I hope that our society has an inner moral protection dictated by the traditional faiths of the Russian Federation."

He then stressed: "All the peoples of the Russian Federation – I want to stress 'all' – have a certain inner moral protection against the obscurantism [i.e., progressive liberalism] … I hope that our peoples, Russia's ethnicities have enough deep immunity and protection systems against this obscurantism… And it should be countered not by direct instructions, slapdowns or accusations but rather by upholding our traditional values, which I always keep saying."[62]


According to Dugin, Russia has not succeeded yet in shaping "a complete and coherent ideology" that could pose a serious challenge to the ideas of progressive liberalism. "The liberal elites entrenched at the top of society are still strong and influential in Russia, and liberal ideas, theories and methods still dominate the economy, education, culture and science. All of this weakens Russia's potential, disorients society, and sets the stage for growing internal contradictions," Dugin stated. Nevertheless, Dugin opined that Russia represents "the most important - if not the main! - pole of the Great Awakening." For Dugin, the "Great Awakening" means having "figured out the essence of that fatal, both murderous and suicidal strategy of 'progress' as the globalist liberal elites understand it." "And if we understand it, then we are capable of explaining it to others. The awakened can and must awaken everyone else," Dugin stated.[63]

Renowned Russian academic Alexander Lukin suggested that it is Moscow's mission to awake and alert the world from the "dangers" of progressive liberalism, which he defines with the popular term "woke," because in the 1920s Russia already experienced a "similar period" with Bolshevism. Hence, Russia understands more than any other country the "destructive nature of the new ideology," and "its unacceptability." "Outside the Western world, many are in no hurry to criticize the new ideology, fearing to look 'non-progressive' or to be ostracized by 'developed countries.' However, a critical discussion on the new ideology is extremely necessary; a silent majority of people in various parts of the world is clearly waiting for it, and if Russian scholars initiate it, this can boost their intellectual position in the world," Lukin stated.

Lukin then added: "We can look at today's Western society in the same way it looked at Bolshevik Russia a century ago: a bizarre horde of savages who, under the slogan of universal justice, have ruined their own country and established a brutal ideological dictatorship on its remains."[64]

Russia deeply understands the West (after all Russia is undeniably culturally part of the West) and its weaknesses. For a long time, Western scholars reduced "Putinism" to "cronyism," "populism" and "fascism."[65] However, the West did not yet realize that Putin's Russia is becoming the West's major ideological competitor. It has managed to latch on to a major debate in the West over the limits and contradictions of progressive liberalism and has taken over the reins of leadership of conservative thinking. Russia is building a new "conservative" ideology by taking advantage of the U.S.' political polarization and its ideological weakness - Columbia Research Fellow Richard Hanania recently mentioned that the U.S. "promotes ideals [that] few are willing to fight and die for."[66] Becoming the leader of a countering progressive liberal ideology is part of Russia's foreign policy to remain relevant in the global political scene.

It is worth noting that China is not yet the West's ideological competitor. China challenges the West's unipolarity politically, economically and militarily, but not yet ideologically. China has an ideology for its own people, "socialism with Chinese characteristics," but not for the world. Furthermore, it must be noticed – as Dugin mentioned – that there is not yet a Chinese International Relations (IR) theory, even though there are "some fruitful approaches."[67] Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang has maybe developed a philosophical theory of international relations that had the most impact among Chinese scholars. In his books, Zhao revisited the ancient Tianxia (All-Under-Heaven) concept into a modern theory of governance and world order. In a 2018 article published in the Washington Post, Zhao wrote that "the concept of tianxia defines an all-inclusive world with harmony for all."[68] Zhao's concepts, however, have been better deciphered by Dugin: "China is an empire, not only in the traditional sense, but also in the idea of unifying national, political units. An empire is not one political state, but something more – a system. Tianxia (天下) can be mentioned here. It is something that unites more than one political subject and can expand its influence over greater space… China is much more than a state, and that is where Zhao Tingyang's concept is of radical importance: affirming China as Tianxia. The growth of this Tianxia should be in harmony. You could say: let's not start with the global, but start with our region, let's install practically now the Belt and Road project, let's install it here, demonstrate how it works, and if humanity will be seduced by this Tianxia moment, maybe others will accept it. The importance is to start with China within your possible capacities to introduce this inclusive concept based on relations, justice, ethics, and hegemony. China should be recognized as a pole in all senses. There you have already the basic aspects of a Chinese version of multipolar world theory."[69]

Tianxia therefore is a long-term project that may or may not succeed. Russia, however, is ready to challenge the West right now, and it can do so by using clear and appealing concepts that already exist in the West and that have been a part of the West's Weltanschauung for centuries. For these reasons, Russia is becoming and maybe already is "the" West's present ideological competitor.

*Anna Mahjar Barducci is Director of the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project.


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1616, Russia's New 'Conservative' Ideology To Counter Liberalism, by Anna Mahjar-Barducci, January 11, 2022

[2], February 10, 2007.

[4], November 12, 2019

[5], September 20, 2019.

[6], accessed November 30, 2020.

[7], October 29, 2019;, October 29, 2019.

[8], October 29, 2019;, October 29, 2019.


[10], January 22, 2019.

[11], January 22, 2019.

[12], September 14, 2007.

[13], November 8, 2021.

[14], March 24, 2007.

[15], May 31, 2016.

[17], October 29, 2019.

[18] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1239, Understanding Russian Political Ideology And Vision: A Call For Eurasia, From Lisbon To Vladivostok, March 23, by Anna Mahjar-Barducci and Giuseppe Rippa, March 23, 2016.


[20], January 11, 2016.

[21], February 29, 2016.

[22] See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 355, What To Expect From Russia-U.S. Relations In 2022, by Vladislav Inozemtsev, January 19, 2022

[23] On March 6, 2009, in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov a red button with the English word "reset."

[24], July 15, 2016.

[25], October 4, 2011.

[26] 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 the U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and France's 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."

[27] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1239, Understanding Russian Political Ideology And Vision: A Call For Eurasia, From Lisbon To Vladivostok, March 23, by Anna Mahjar-Barducci and Giuseppe Rippa, March 23, 2016.

[28], September 1, 2014.

[29], January 17, 2017.

[30] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6940, Anti-Liberal Russian Philosopher Dugin: 'Who Are You Mr. Trump?', May 23, 2017.

[31], June 27, 2019.

[32], August 19, 2019.

[34] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8263, Russia This Week – Focus On Bilateral Relations – September 6, 2019, September 6, 2019.

[35] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8245, Russia This Week – Focus On Defense – August 27, 2019, August 27, 2019.

[36] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1545, The 'Near Abroad' – A Key Explanatory Concept In Russian Foreign Policy, January 7, 2021.

[38], November 9, 2021.

[39], May 28, 2018.

[40], October 4, 2011.

[41], October 22, 2015.

[43], June 29, 2019.

[44], October 2, 2019.

[46], December 23, 2021.



[51], June 27, 2019.

[52], June 19, 2019.

[53], October 2, 2019.

[54], June 27, 2019.

[55], February 19, 2019.

[56], June 27, 2019.

[57], June 19, 2019.

[58], October 2, 2019.


[60], October 21, 2021.

[61], October 21, 2021.

[62], December 23, 2021.


[64], December 28, 2021.

[66], January 26, 2022.

[67], February 5, 2019.

[68], February 7, 2018.

[69] January 22, 2019;, February 5, 2019.

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