Discussing Russia and the World

Russia has a strong intellectual tradition, and the current debate in Russia is very much alive. What is Russia? What is the future of Russia? I find the discussions in Russia encouraging. I juxtapose Russian discussions with those in the U.S., and I find Russian discussions more interesting, more open. Most U.S. discussions about the U.S. and the world are sterile and infertile—an automated echo chamber.

Russia in the face of U.S. Expansionism

Until and during WWII, the United States was never a global power. However, already after winning WWI, U.S. élites, seeing that the country had overtaken the UK as the world’s biggest economy, having achieved primacy on both of the Americas, and started a Pacific Empire (Hawaii, Philippines), U.S. élites became envious of the global British Empire. Already after 1918 and Versailles, these élites started to regret that they had not used the occasion of winning a world war (WWI) to overthrow the British Empire to install themselves as the biggest empire in the world. Already in the early stages of WWII, these same élites had decided that this time (WWII), they would use the occasion of winning another world war to overtake the British Empire and establish themselves as a true global American Empire. Of course, not with de-jure colonies, but with de-facto exertion of internal-external control on other states, which the U.S. had learned in Central America. And so they did. They strived to expand it to all the planet ever since.

This American self-identification with hegemony and expansion at the expense of others, and with occasional genocidal war on “lesser races” like the Red Indians, the Black Slaves, and the Filipinos, later Vietnamese, and Arabs (in Fallujah) was lifted to the power of two in 1990. Post-1990s was a U.S. hegemony “squared”—a continued U.S. expansionism, though, coupled with dwindling socio-military-economic capacity to push it forward. Now, since 2021, Biden—not Trump— has brought U.S. expansionism to the power of three.

After 2021, we face U.S. strive toward hegemony “cubed”. The very global weakening of the United States, the dissolution of the U.S. unipolar world order has triggered a hegemonic reaction in the U.S. This reaction, with Biden as a protagonist and stronger Neocon imperialists in the shadowy U.S. circles of power, has set the American striving for power into hyperdrive.

It is not about “democracy”. It is not about “equality”. These are just pretexts for luring useful fools in U.S. elections and U.S. diplomacy. This thirst for global dominance, already born in 1918, will never be stopped by the United States on their own. It will also not be stopped by the UK, the EU or Japan, which are complicit as U.S. vassals. It is set to continue until the World outside the West—of which Russia is a key part—sets a stop for it. This, and not any particular Russian leader or anything else Russian, is the reason why Russia is a key target of Biden’s “liberal”, but in reality Neocon, USA.

In spite of a few hotspots like Korea, Vietnam and Angola (Cuba, not USSR), the sphere of USSR and Communist China pre-1990 never managed to set a stop for U.S. expansionism for world hegemony. After 1945, the U.S. achieved an enormous expansion and control into West-Europe, Japan, Africa, and East Asia, while the USSR and China took the rest, so to speak. During Cold War I (1947-1989), U.S. expansionism carried on with the efforts to overtake the USSR. Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 was a continuation of this expansion, directed at the USSR. After the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. continued its expansion further, with the obsequious Boris Yeltsin even into Russia and Central Asia.

Russia turning a Longue-Durée

Looking at this longue-durée of the continuous U.S. expansion since the founding of the USA, the U.S. overtaking of the Spanish Empire 1898, U.S. victory in 1918, another U.S. victory in 1945, U.S. Cold War I and containment since 1947, it seems logical and even a given that the U.S. did NOT stop its further expansion after the end of Cold War I in 1989 (Fall of the Berlin Wall).

Right after the end of Cold War I, U.S. élites (Neocons) started to plot how to control all the resources of the planet. In hindsight, it even seems foolish to believe the U.S. after 1990 would have stopped its striving for total global domination. It is like assuming that an alcoholic should suddenly stop drinking after having received a big bottle of spirit or that a junkie stops taking drugs after receiving a kilo of heroin. It can happen, but 99% sure it doesn’t.

Perhaps, the first sign of roll-back for U.S. expansion was actually in 2000, when Vladimir Putin succeeded the U.S.-compliant Boris Yeltsin, who was constantly abused by the USA. Vladimir Putin, back in the early 2000, was more like a turn of conditions—but since then Russia evolved steadily into more strength outside of U.S. domination. Also, it must be added that China’s steady rise—until and after Obama’s presidency not evident to many—started a slowdown and a gradual containment (sic!) of U.S. expansionism, and the first undercurrent of roll-back of U.S. power monopolism, especially in the economic power sphere, but also in the South China Sea, and gradually in military strength and technology. These developments since 2000 were gradual. These views may be controversial for some, and for others not. What I state here are facts.

The first hard stop for U.S. expansion was achieved through the hard fights of people in the Middle East, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan over the long period of 2003-2021. If Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan were the first hard stops for the U.S. striving for expansionist hegemony, the events in Ukraine of 2022 are then the first hard pushback.

For the first time ever in world history, U.S. expansionist striving for world hegemony is being pushed back really hard. In 2022. By Russia.

In 2022, Russia is turning a longue-durée of more than 200 years of American expansion.

Now—next

Resorting to military means is never pretty. And though Russia really does the best possible to minimize losses on both sides, military action in Ukraine may still become ugly. Although alternative futures are always counterfactual, this looks, however, as a natural consequence of the fact that U.S. hegemonic expansion is NOT benign and will NOT stop by itself. Or stop shedding blood. No power can become a world hegemon. Especially not a declining power, like the United States.

Such an unhinged expansionism will always be stopped somewhere, sometime, somehow. The later, the more costly. American hegemonic expansion has to stop and can only to be stopped by others than the USA itself. As mentioned, few alcoholics stop drinking without a serious warning, especially after having just received a new bottle. U.S. expansionism for global dominance must at sometime, somewhere, somehow be stopped by the outside world, of which, as mentioned, Russia is a key part. Ukraine 2022 is a key event in that.

Now, it is already clear that Russia will win the conflict in Ukraine, and together successfully resist and thrive in face of the pressure of the West. As well as that U.S. global expansionism is being crushed forever. This opens a whole new world. Not a blank slate, but still a slate with a lot of marvelous blank space to fill out, to paint new pictures on. To create new colors and vibrations.

New Discussion of Russia and the World

Clearly, Russia is moving the planet into a territory in world history, which is unique. Precisely because there is too much blank space to fill out, the discussion will have fewer fixed points.

If 1990 was a watershed, 2022 is something far bigger. Past and recent events should not become the sole basis for Russian self-identification. There is a need to look and connect with the past as well as current events, but without being constrained or defined by them. This is crucially more important, because were facing the turn of a longue-durée, where many previous trends or “givens” cannot be projected into the future without extreme care and reflection. An earthquake. And a self-identification should not be the antithesis of somebody else’s vanity, identity, or mistakes, because then it cannot be a positive force centered in the true self, and thus not genuine and productive for humanity.

Fortunately, I see no sign of Russia starting to identify herself as “anti-America”. Russian President Putin keeps referring to the West as “partners”, and that is good. Instead of Russia using stereotypes, I see lots of good and relevant intellectual efforts from many Russians having a variety of constructive opinions. Putin as president, of course, participates in this, but Russia’s intellectual environment is rich and diverse, with such very different capacities as Lukyanov, Kortunov, Akopov, Timofeev, Karaganov, and many others. They do exactly what is needed—starting this discussion from inside-out and from a view of the whole world. And they are not alone—but joined by international thinkers like Jayatilleka from Sri Lanka.

This constructive discussion both involves how to see Russia and how to view and understand the World at large. And thus, how these two—Russia and the World—can be optimally combined for the best of this Planet.

It is stimulating that this discussion will have a moving objective. As the discussion progresses, things develop, influencing the discourse. And the discourse inside Russia influences how things develop. A continuous dialectic.

From our partner RIAC

Karsten Riise
Karsten Riise
Master of Science (Econ) from Copenhagen Business School, University degree in Spanish Culture and Languages from University of Copenhagen