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The Political Philosophy of Vladimir Putin that Could Explain His Imperialist Goals

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Regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s motives, we have seen in the media everything from non-sense that begins with ignoring the differences between the collapsed Soviet empire and post-Soviet Russia, to reasonable analyses of the reality of the interests of the authoritarian kleptocracy headed by Putin versus the national interests of a Russia that is a secondary and declining power under a corrupt and authoritarian government.

But little has been said about the Kremlin’s current ideology. And to attempt to explain Moscow’s actions by ignoring the current ideology of the Kremlin elites is as foolish as it would have been to attempt to explain the actions of Soviet power by ignoring Marxism-Leninism. Putin associates his power with a glorious imperial ideology and a great national myth that justifies his authoritarianism and internal repression by a great imperial mission of global importance.

Putin’s national myth depends on a manipulated and mythologized version of Russian culture and history that, while rejecting communism, still claims as Russian “living space” all former Soviet republics and satellites. It is a Russian supremacist nationalism with which I first came into contact decades ago, when a year before the Soviet collapse a diplomat from that ethnically Russian country told me “off the record” that “no matter how Gorbachev’s reforms of Soviet socialism changed, Russians, just because they were Russians, had a historical right to all Soviet territory and resources.”

The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. (Image: EFE)

It was a way of feeling rather than thinking, which had little or nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism and which sounded close to the historical myths that had legitimized the dynasties of the Czars and their empire. Therein lies the key to the philosophy and worldview they have adopted, from the rank and file and Putin’s party apparatus to the elite of corrupt oligarchs associated with the Kremlin. And on that emotional claim anchored in national myths, an academic articulated an authoritarian pseudo-traditionalist philosophy that passes for “conservative.” This is Aleksandr Dugin, the Russian philosopher who rose as the “bedside ideologue” of Putin’s Kremlin elites.

Dugin is a Heideggerian philosopher who defends an authoritarian and transcendent political-cultural worldview opposed to the West and its liberal values. He started from a deeply manipulated version of the historical myth of Holy Mother Russia, a national myth that he remade based on a peculiar prophetic-heretical eschatology that is really impressive for many Russian Orthodox Christians.

Dugin rejects everything from political democracy, republican division of powers and parliamentarism to equality before the law and freedom of speech and religion. He opposes postmodern gender ideology not because it violates equality before the law, but because it does the opposite of what he advocates in his own fallacious proposal of inequality before the law. Otherwise, Dugin invokes an authoritarian alliance of traditionalist and hierarchical societies against the hegemony of Western values.

Dugin dreams of Russia as a hegemonic force in an anti-Western Eurasian civilization with its center in a nation-continent encompassing the entire former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A nation-continent capable of separating itself culturally and commercially from the Western world in order to fight it. That is why he claims a “historical right” to Moscow’s political control over the fallen Soviet empire and the imposition of that authoritarian Russian political and cultural hegemony over most of Eurasia.

In his book Fundamentals of Geopolitics, Dugin says about Ukraine that: “… as a state has no geopolitical meaning. It has no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness (…) represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia (…) without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics”, while of Finland he affirmed that it should be absorbed by Russia, the south of Finland should be united with Karelia and the north with Murmansk.

That is the authoritarian philosophy of Putin and his party, without knowing it one cannot explain the internal logic of his actions nor the tragic paradox of the growing dependence on Beijing to which Putin mortgaged Russia’s future.

Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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