Russia is driving the West crazy
Moscow’s pivot to Asia to build Greater Eurasia
has an air of historical inevitability that has
the US and EU on edge
By Pepe Escobar
February 16, 2021 "Information
Clearing House" -
Future historians may register it as the day when
usually unflappable Russian
Sergey Lavrov decided he had had enough:
We are getting used to the fact that the
European Union are trying to impose unilateral
restrictions, illegitimate restrictions and we
proceed from the assumption at this stage that
the European Union is an unreliable partner.
the EU foreign policy chief, on an official visit to
Moscow, had to take it on the chin.
Lavrov, always the perfect gentleman, added, “I
hope that the strategic review that will take place
soon will focus on the key interests of the European
Union and that these talks will help to make our
contacts more constructive.”
He was referring to the EU heads of state and
government’s summit at the European Council next
month, where they will discuss Russia. Lavrov
harbors no illusions the “unreliable partners” will
behave like adults.
Yet something immensely intriguing can be found
in Lavrov’s opening
remarks in his meeting with Borrell: “The main
problem we all face is the lack of normalcy in
relations between Russia and the European Union –
the two largest players in the Eurasian space. It is
an unhealthy situation, which does not benefit
The two largest players in the Eurasian space
(italics mine). Let that sink in. We’ll be back to
it in a moment.
As it stands, the EU seems irretrievably addicted
to worsening the “unhealthy situation”. European
Ursula von der Leyen
memorably botched the Brussels vaccine game.
Essentially, she sent Borrell to Moscow to ask for
licensing rights for European firms to produce the
Sputnik V vaccine – which will soon be approved by
And yet Eurocrats prefer to dabble in hysteria,
promoting the antics of NATO asset and convicted
fraudster Navalny – the Russian Guaido.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic,
under the cover of
“strategic deterrence”, the head of the US
Charles Richard, casually let it slip that
“there is a real possibility that a regional crisis
with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a
conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they
perceived a conventional loss would threaten the
regime or state.”
So the blame for the next – and final – war is
already apportioned to the “destabilizing” behavior
of Russia and China. It’s assumed they will be
“losing” – and then, in a fit of rage, will go
nuclear. The Pentagon will be no more than a victim;
after all, claims Mr. STRATCOM, we are not “stuck in
the Cold War”.
STRATCOM planners could do worse than read crack
military analyst Andrei Martyanov, who for years has
been on the forefront detailing how the new
hypersonic paradigm – and not nuclear weapons – has
changed the nature of warfare.
After a detailed technical discussion, Martyanov
shows how “the United States simply has no good
options currently. None. The less bad option,
however, is to talk to Russians and not in terms of
geopolitical BS and wet dreams that the United
States, somehow, can convince Russia “to abandon”
China – US has nothing, zero, to offer Russia to do
so. But at least Russians and Americans may finally
settle peacefully this “hegemony” BS between
themselves and then convince China to finally sit as
a Big Three at the table and finally decide how to
run the world. This is the only chance for the US to
stay relevant in the new world.”
The Golden Horde imprint
As much as the chances are negligible of the EU
getting a grip on the “unhealthy situation” with
Russia, there’s no evidence what Martyanov outlined
will be contemplated by the US Deep State.
The path ahead seems ineluctable: perpetual
sanctions; perpetual NATO expansion alongside
Russia’s borders; the build up of a ring of hostile
states around Russia; perpetual US interference on
Russian internal affairs – complete with an army of
fifth columnists; perpetual, full spectrum
Lavrov is increasingly making it crystal clear
that Moscow expects nothing else. Facts on the
ground, though, will keep accumulating.
Nordstream 2 will be finished – sanctions or no
sanctions – and will supply much needed natural gas
to Germany and the EU. Convicted fraudster Navalny –
1% of real “popularity” in Russia – will remain in
jail. Citizens across the EU will get Sputnik V. The
Russia-China strategic partnership will continue to
To understand how we have come to this unholy
Russophobic mess, an essential road map is provided
Russian Conservatism, an exciting, new political
philosophy study by Glenn Diesen, associate
professor at University of Southeastern Norway,
lecturer at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, and
one of my distinguished interlocutors in Moscow.
Diesen starts focusing on the essentials:
geography, topography and history. Russia is a vast
land power without enough access to the seas.
Geography, he argues, conditions the foundations of
“conservative policies defined by autocracy, an
ambiguous and complex concept of nationalism, and
the enduring role of the Orthodox Church” –
something that implies resistance to “radical
It’s always crucial to remember that Russia has
no natural defensible borders; it has been invaded
or occupied by Swedes, Poles, Lithuanians, the
Mongol Golden Horde, Crimean Tatars and Napoleon.
Not to mention the immensely bloody Nazi invasion.
What’s in a word? Everything: “security”, in
Russian, is byezopasnost. That happens to
be a negative, as byez means “without” and
opasnost means “danger”.
Russia’s complex, unique historical make-up
always presented serious problems. Yes, there was
close affinity with the Byzantine empire. But if
Russia “claimed transfer of imperial authority from
Constantinople it would be forced to conquer it.”
And to claim the successor, role and heritage of the
Golden Horde would relegate Russia to the status of
an Asiatic power only.
On the Russian path to modernization, the Mongol
invasion provoked not only a geographical schism,
but left its imprint on politics: “Autocracy became
a necessity following the Mongol legacy and the
establishment of Russia as an Eurasian empire with a
vast and poorly connected geographical expanse”.
“A colossal East West”
Russia is all about East meets West. Diesen
reminds us how Nikolai Berdyaev, one of the leading
20th century conservatives, already
nailed it in 1947: “The inconsistency and complexity
of the Russian soul may be due to the fact that in
Russia two streams of world history – East and West
– jostle and influence one another (…) Russia is a
complete section of the world – a colossal East
The Trans-Siberian railroad, built to solidify
the internal cohesion of the Russian empire and to
project power in Asia, was a major game-changer:
“With Russian agricultural settlements expanding to
the east, Russia was increasingly replacing the
ancient roads who had previously controlled and
It’s fascinating to watch how the development of
Russian economics ended up on Mackinder’s Heartland
theory – according to which control of the world
required control of the Eurasian supercontinent.
What terrified Mackinder is that Russian railways
connecting Eurasia would undermine the whole power
structure of Britain as a maritime empire.
Diesen also shows how Eurasianism – emerging in
the 1920s among émigrés in response to 1917 – was in
fact an evolution of Russian conservatism.
Eurasianism, for a number of reasons, never
became a unified political movement. The core of
Eurasianism is the notion that Russia was not a mere
Eastern European state. After the 13th
century Mongol invasion and the 16th
century conquest of Tatar kingdoms, Russia’s history
and geography could not be only European. The future
would require a more balanced approach – and
engagement with Asia.
Dostoyevsky had brilliantly framed it ahead of
anyone, in 1881:
Russians are as much Asiatics as
European. The mistake of our policy for the past
two centuries has been to make the people of
Europe believe that we are true Europeans. We
have served Europe too well, we have taken too
great a part in her domestic quarrels (…) We
have bowed ourselves like slaves before the
Europeans and have only gained their hatred and
contempt. It is time to turn away from
ungrateful Europe. Our future is in Asia.
Lev Gumilev was arguably the superstar among a
new generation of Eurasianists. He argued that
Russia had been founded on a natural coalition
between Slavs, Mongols and Turks. The Ancient
Rus and the Great Steppe, published in 1989,
had an immense impact in Russia after the fall of
the USSR – as I learned first hand from my Russian
hosts when I arrived in Moscow via the
Trans-Siberian in the winter of 1992.
As Diesen frames it, Gumilev was offering a sort
of third way, beyond European nationalism and
utopian internationalism. A Lev Gumilev University
has been established in Kazakhstan. Putin has
referred to Gumilev as “the great Eurasian of our
Diesen reminds us that even George Kennan, in
1994, recognized the conservative struggle for “this
tragically injured and spiritually diminished
country”. Putin, in 2005, was way sharper. He
the collapse of the Soviet Union was the
greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the
century. And for the Russian people, it was a
real drama (…) The old ideals were destroyed.
Many institutions were disbanded or simply
hastily reformed…With unrestricted control over
information flows, groups of oligarchs served
exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass
poverty started to be accepted as the norm. All
this evolved against a background of the most
severe economic recession, unstable finances and
paralysis in the social sphere.
Applying “sovereign democracy”
And so we reach the crucial European question.
In the 1990s, led by Atlanticists, Russian
foreign policy was focused on Greater Europe, a
concept based on Gorbachev’s Common European Home.
And yet post-Cold War Europe, in practice, ended
up configured as the non-stop expansion of NATO and
the birth – and expansion – of the EU. All sorts of
liberal contortionisms were deployed to include all
of Europe while excluding Russia.
Diesen has the merit of summarizing the whole
process in a single sentence: “The new liberal
Europe represented a British-American continuity in
terms of the rule of maritime powers, and
Mackinder’s objective to organize the German-Russian
relationship in a zero-sum format to prevent the
alignment of interests”.
No wonder Putin, subsequently, had to be erected
as the Supreme Scarecrow, or “the new Hitler”. Putin
rejected outright the role for Russia of mere
apprentice to Western civilization – and its
corollary, (neo) liberal hegemony.
Still, he remained quite accommodating. In 2005,
Putin stressed, “above all else Russia was, is and
will, of course, be a major European power”. What he
wanted was to decouple liberalism from power
politics – by rejecting the fundamentals of liberal
Putin was saying there’s no single democratic
model. That was eventually conceptualized as
“sovereign democracy”. Democracy cannot exist
without sovereignty; so that discards Western
“supervision” to make it work.
Diesen sharply observes that if the USSR was a
“radical, left-wing Eurasianism, some of its
Eurasian characteristics could be transferred to
conservative Eurasianism.” Diesen notes how Sergey
Karaganov, sometimes referred to as the “Russian
Kissinger”, has shown “that the Soviet Union was
central to decolonization and it mid-wifed the rise
of Asia by depriving the West of the ability to
impose its will on the world through military force,
which the West had done from the 16th
century until the 1940s”.
This is largely acknowledged across vast
stretches of the Global South – from Latin America
and Africa to Southeast Asia.
Eurasia’s western peninsula
So after the end of the Cold War and the failure
of Greater Europe, Moscow’s pivot to Asia to build
Greater Eurasia could not but have an air of
The logic is impeccable. The two geoeconomic hubs
of Eurasia are Europe and East Asia. Moscow wants to
connect them economically into a supercontinent:
that’s where Greater Eurasia joins China’s Belt and
Road Initiative (BRI). But then there’s the extra
Russian dimension, as Diesen notes: the “transition
away from the usual periphery of these centers of
power and towards the center of a new regional
From a conservative perspective, emphasizes
Diesen, “the political economy of Greater Eurasia
enables Russia to overcome its historical obsession
with the West and establish an organic Russian path
That implies the development of strategic
industries; connectivity corridors; financial
instruments; infrastructure projects to connect
European Russia with Siberia and Pacific Russia. All
that under a new concept: an industrialized,
conservative political economy.
The Russia-China strategic partnership happens to
be active in all these three geoeconomic sectors:
strategic industries/techno platforms, connectivity
corridors and financial instruments.
That propels the discussion, once again, to the
supreme categorical imperative: the confrontation
between the Heartland and a maritime power.
The three great Eurasian powers, historically,
were the Scythians, the Huns and the Mongols. The
key reason for their fragmentation and decadence is
that they were not able to reach – and control –
Eurasia’s maritime borders.
The fourth great Eurasian power was the Russian
empire – and its successor, the USSR. A key reason
the USSR collapsed is because, once gain, it was not
able to reach – and control – Eurasia’s maritime
The US prevented it by applying a composite of
Mackinder, Mahan and Spykman. The US strategy even
became known as the Spykman-Kennan containment
mechanism – all these “forward deployments” in the
maritime periphery of Eurasia, in Western Europe,
East Asia and the Middle East.
We all know by now how the overall US offshore
strategy – as well as the primary reason for the US
to enter both WWI and WWII – was to prevent the
emergence of a Eurasian hegemon by all means
As for the US as hegemon, that would be crudely
conceptualized – with requisite imperial arrogance –
by Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski in 1997:
“To prevent collusion and maintain security
dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries
pliant and protected, and keep the barbarians from
coming together”. Good old Divide and Rule, applied
It’s this system that is now tumbling down – much
to the despair of the usual suspects. Diesen notes
how, “in the past, pushing Russia into Asia would
relegate Russia to economic obscurity and eliminate
its status as a European power.” But now, with the
center of geoeconomic gravity shifting to China and
East Asia, it’s a whole new ball game.
The 24/7 US
demonization of Russia-China, coupled with the
“unhealthy situation” mentality of the EU minions,
only helps to drive Russia closer and closer to
China exactly at the juncture where the
West’s two centuries-only world dominance, as
Andre Gunder Frank conclusively proved, is
coming to an end.
Diesen, perhaps too diplomatically, expects that
“relations between Russia and the West will also
ultimately change with the rise of Eurasia. The
West’s hostile strategy to Russia is conditioned on
the idea that Russia has nowhere else to go, and
must accept whatever the West offers in terms of
“partnership”. The rise of the East fundamentally
alters Moscow’s relationship with the West by
enabling Russia to diversify its partnerships”.
We may be fast approaching the point where Great
Eurasia’s Russia will present Germany with a take it
or leave it offer. Either we build the Heartland
together, or we will build it with China – and you
will be just a historical bystander. Of course
there’s always the inter-galaxy distant possibility
of a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis. Stranger things
Meanwhile, Diesen is confident that “the Eurasian
land powers will eventually incorporate Europe and
other states on the inner periphery of Eurasia.
Political loyalties will incrementally shift as
economic interests turn to the East, and Europe is
gradually becoming the western peninsula of Greater
Talk about food for thought for the peninsular
peddlers of the “unhealthy situation”.
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