Staunton, August 12 – Russia’s misfortune lies not in that it is defending what it perceives as its interests, but that “it is doing so by attempting to realize the latest Russian utopia,” one directed not toward the future as in 1917 but toward the past, something that makes “a rational exit” from the current crisis “impossible,” Vladimir Pastukhov says.
In the second part of an interview on the occasion of the release of his new book – for a summary of the first part, click here – Pastukhov says Moscow’s goals are creating a global problem in which “Ukraine is only a particular case.”
Were it otherwise, were Russia in fact focusing on Ukraine as some think, it would have been possible to “unite with Europe and find a means for building a common space of the Christian world” and thus draw Europe toward it rather than as now repelling it, the St. Antony’s scholar continues. That is something both Western elites and Russians need to recognize.
Until very recently, he continues, “many quite intelligent people” in Western elites felt that “Putin is the ideal dictator for Russia.” He was viewed as someone who will keep under relative control a dangerous and unpredictable empire situated across a civilizational divide” and would keep its nuclear arsenal “under lock and key.”
Putin talked a lot about “a Russian rebirth,” such people felt, “but on the whole he was oriented toward the West and is a classic type of a compradore ruler,” someone who would keep the oil and gas flowing and continue to look westward while managing what at least some of these people felt was an enormous but “failed state.” In short, Pastukhov says, he wouldn’t make Russia a competitor.
According to the St. Antony’s scholar, “Russia very much overestimates the role and importance of money in world politics and world economics.” Money matters, but intellectual production matters much more. Russia isn’t a competitor there, and it can’t become one by turning to Asia as some in Moscow think.
That idea, Pastukhov says, is “a very dangerous utopia.” By turning eastward, Russia would simply become a vassal of China because China doesn’t need Russia for anything except “as a source of raw materials in the broad sense of this word.” Moreover, if Russia did turn eastward, he continues, it would have to admit to itself that this would be “the final turn” away from the Christian West, a turn which it can not come back from.
Unfortunately, the analyst continues, Russian political elites do not understand this because they are not thinking strategically but rather responding to particular events and treating “symptoms” rather than the disease itself, much as is the case with Western elites regarding Ukraine as well.
Pastukhov argues that at the end of 2013, the Putin regime was almost certainly discussing what it should to after its failure to solve the problem of popular discontent. Crimea and Novorossiya were only some of the options, he suggests. But after Crimea worked out so well with regard to Russian domestic affairs, the Kremlin miscalculated and decided to continue to go down this road.
Its miscalculations, the St. Antony’s scholar says, have been paralleled and made worse by the miscalculations of Ukraine and the West. Now, each side feels it is right or at least feels that it cannot do otherwise. That does not promise a good or easy outcome from the current crisis.