Former Vice President Joe Biden stated in no uncertain terms in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Russia is seeking to destroy the rights-based international order. He’s right, and it’s something that every freedom-loving American must be on guard against. Here’s what he means…
In Russia, there is a man named Aleksandr Dugin. Mr. Dugin is a political theorist and “philosopher,” and rather unusual man, with some very unusual ideas, influenced by weird myths and fascist philosophers from the early 1900s. For example, he believes in a mythology that tens of thousands of years ago there were two ancient civilizations, one called Atlantis, and one called Hyperborea. (Scientifically, these never existed, they are just myths.)
Mr. Dugin believes that the values of Atlantis were individualism, human rights, reason, science, cooperation, and order, and ultimately, things fundamentally grounded in an earthly existence, whereas the Hyperboreans had access to divine knowledge and a mysticism beyond the limits of this mere planet. Dugin believes that Atlantis and Hyperborea were engaged in an ancient war over their totally different value sets and that this war continues to this day. In today’s geography, Dugin associates the modern day Atlantean societies as the United States and those countries under its influence, and he associates Hyperborean society as being led today by Russia, and including Asian countries in touch with spiritualism, like Iran and India.
Dugin believes that it is the ultimate theological destiny of Russia to lead modern day Hyperborean societies — including not only Russia, but all of Eurasia, from Korea to India to Portugal — away from a corrupt earthly existence and back to the pure, divine spiritual knowledge of the original Hyperboreans, resulting in the end of our world and the transformation of humanity to a divine existence. (Yes, you read that right -- he wants Russia to bring about the end of the world, in pursuit of the spiritual transformation of all of society).
Now, this would all be crazy talk, except that Mr. Dugin’s books, including Foundations of Geopolitics and the neo-fascist Fourth Political Theory, have become required reading at Russia’s military and political science academies. And Mr. Dugin, at one point recently, was a trusted confidante and advisor to Vladimir Putin – some refer to him as “Putin’s Brain.” As such, Dugin’s philosophy of “Eurasianism” — the gradual takeover of so-called Hyperborean societies under Moscow’s leadership — is perhaps one of the single-most influential philosophies driving Russian political and foreign affairs activities today, though experts are divided about the extent of Dugin’s influence at this point in time.
By the looks of it, Mr. Putin has been all too happy to actually implement Dugin’s lunatic beliefs into practice — the invasion of Ukraine, according to some experts, is an ongoing attempt to secure a crucial part of Eurasia for the more widespread implementation of Eurasianism. And his eyes are increasingly on the Baltic countries and parts of Asia.
(Now, there's a strong strategic argument for the annexation of Crimea: Putin may buy into Dugin’s mysticism, or he may, instead, be harnessing parts of Dugin’s ideology to gain support for the acquisition of a warm water port with historical ties to Moscow. Similar strategic calculations may also undergird Putin’s relationship with Bashar al Assad in Syria. Putin may also see the “Novorossiya” territory in Eastern Ukraine in the same way that China sees the South China Sea — as a historic claim — and as such, he may be willing to cherry pick or tolerate Dugin’s ideology to support this belief.)
Similarly, even if Dugin's goal of bringing down the U.S. through racial infighting isn't fully realized, the mainstreaming of nationalism almost guarantees the U.S. will lessen its influence abroad, something Putin would definitely benefit from.
So what does this all mean? Well, for one, it means plainly that Putin’s Russia, under Dugin’s influence, is actively working to undermine people’s faith in their governments in the Europe and in the United States, in order to bring about their destabilization. Russia is doing this by encouraging far-right and nationalist political groups in the EU and in the U.S., including potentially through Dugin’s Russian fascist party Eurasian Youth Union and its analogues and strategic allies in Europe and the U.S., like the Eurasian Observatory in Brussels and Paris and French far-right “identitarian” group Generation Identity and the related U.S.-based group Identity Evropa in the U.S., which seeks to recruit disillusioned college-educated whites to advance its cause of a white ethnostate, both of whom were present at the recent battle in Charlottesville, Virginia. (No evidence that the Eurasianist movement is funding far-right groups in America directly has yet been uncovered, but it’s apparent they share mutual goals and likely support one another — even without the conscious knowledge of U.S. groups’ leadership — through information warfare via Twitter bot-spamming and fake news on social media). Thanks to a slower-than-hoped-for economic recovery from the 2008 crash, populist tendencies like this were already on the rise in the United States, but through propaganda and media (and fake news and trolling), Russia is boosting the popularity of far-right groups in the Western world and undermining the credibility of Western institutions.
When Donald Trump was announced the victor in the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, Russian lawmakers reportedly shouted with joy. As American media outlets and The Donald himself have stated, Trump intends to use chaos to “keep the world guessing,” and sees chaos as a tool for exerting a change in a yet unknown direction.
Though Donald is most likely unaware of it, this is a practice in lock step with the Eurasianist philosophy of sewing chaos in the West in order for Russia to consolidate its influence in Eurasia and lead to the ultimate spiritual transformation (read: war, and the destruction of the United States and Western values.) It’s no wonder, then, that Russian leaders steeped in Eurasianist philosophy are cheering a U.S. president that will help them achieve their goal of destroying the United States.
There are many factors driving Russia’s behavior at the moment, including Western sanctions, depressed oil prices, Putin’s relative unpopularity beyond Russia’s urban centers (which he needs to compensate for by promoting himself as a strong leader through military action abroad), and China’s increasing influence in the Far East. Given all of these, the influence of Dugin and his Eurasianism serves as a convenient tool for Putin to consolidate his influence and project uncertainty into the hearts of traditional adversaries, like Western Europe and the United States. Whether Putin is using Dugin or Dugin is using Putin more is a matter for debate, but by the looks of it, at the moment it is a symbiotic relationship that is destabilizing our society and culture.
“Okay, so a weird mystical guru is using Vladimir Putin as a puppet to implement his spiritual goal to destroy the West and end the world, in order to bring about the spiritual transformation of society. What can I do about it?”
Understanding the threat that America and the West face helps us to organize against it. We must unite against a foreign attempt to destroy our country by sowing chaos in our system by promoting neo-fascist causes. We must reject the appeals of the far right and of the nationalists in all of our societies, recognizing them as a foreign influence, and expel them from our system as a body rejects an infection.
United in our resolve to ensure the survival of the Republic and the freedoms for which it stands, we will get involved in local politics by joining a school or planning board, or running for town council or county commission, to safeguard the integrity of the system at the ground level. We will call our Senators and Representatives and tell them we stand with our European allies, the EU, NATO, and Russian sanctions, and against Trump’s fondness for Putin and against Dugin, Eurasianism, and Russian aggression.
And it is always a good idea to re-read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the writings of John Locke, Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and other Enlightenment thinkers, to remember the values this country was built on.
Enemies of the United States are trying to make today’s conflict with Russia merely the latest manifestation of the ancient conflict between rationality and romanticism, science and belief, knowledge and superstition, order and chaos, and freedom and slavery. Whether driven by mystical neo-fascist philosophies or more realpolitik considerations like shoring up Putin’s domestic popularity, the other side has a clear objective — destroy us. We won’t let that happen.
James Carli is a writer in New York, on Twitter @JimCarli. Emily Fox contributed to this story. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Seton Hall University Journal of Diplomacy. You can follow Emily on Twitter at @EmilyEFox.
Note: This piece was updated on August 31, 2017 to add deeper nuance to the relationship between Duginist and Eurasianist groups in Russia and Europe, and their U.S. analogues.