Guerre froide 2.0: C’est la lutte finale, imbécile ! (Resisting the Antichrist: In Russian eyes, a new theological struggle pits a godless, materialistic and decadent postmodern West against the rest of the world’s defence of traditional religion and values led by a thermonuclear saber-rattling Putin regime)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Patriarch of Russia Kirill and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, visits the New Jerusalem Orthodox Monastery outside Moscow (November 15, 2017)

Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude.  G.K. Chesterton
Tout se disloque. Le centre ne peut tenir. L’anarchie se déchaîne sur le monde Comme une mer noircie de sang : partout On noie les saints élans de l’innocence …Sûrement que quelque révélation, c’est pour bientôt … Sûrement que la Seconde Venue, c’est pour bientôt. La Seconde Venue ! A peine dits ces mots, Une image, immense, du Spiritus Mundi Trouble ma vue : quelque part dans les sables du désert, Une forme avec corps de lion et tête d’homme Et l’oeil nul et impitoyable comme un soleil Se meut, à cuisses lentes, tandis qu’autour Tournoient les ombres d’une colère d’oiseaux… La ténèbre, à nouveau ; mais je sais, maintenant, Que vingt siècles d’un sommeil de pierre, exaspérés Par un bruit de berceau, tournent au cauchemar, – Et quelle bête brute, revenue l’heure, Traîne la patte vers Bethléem, pour naître enfin ? Yeats (1919)
La Raison sera remplacée par la Révélation. À la place de la Loi rationnelle et des vérités objectives perceptibles par quiconque prendra les mesures nécessaires de discipline intellectuelle, et la même pour tous, la Connaissance dégénérera en une pagaille de visions subjectives (…) Des cosmogonies complètes seront créées à partir d’un quelconque ressentiment personnel refoulé, des épopées entières écrites dans des langues privées, les barbouillages d’écoliers placés plus haut que les plus grands chefs-d’œuvre. L’Idéalisme sera remplacé par le Matérialisme. La vie après la mort sera un repas de fête éternelle où tous les invités auront 20 ans … La Justice sera remplacée par la Pitié comme vertu cardinale humaine, et toute crainte de représailles disparaîtra … La Nouvelle Aristocratie sera composée exclusivement d’ermites, clochards et invalides permanents. Le Diamant brut, la Prostituée Phtisique, le bandit qui est bon pour sa mère, la jeune fille épileptique qui a le chic avec les animaux seront les héros et héroïnes du Nouvel Age, quand le général, l’homme d’État, et le philosophe seront devenus la cible de chaque farce et satire. Hérode (Pour le temps présent, oratorio de Noël, W. H. Auden, 1944)
Just over 50 years ago, the poet W.H. Auden achieved what all writers envy: making a prophecy that would come true. It is embedded in a long work called For the Time Being, where Herod muses about the distasteful task of massacring the Innocents. He doesn’t want to, because he is at heart a liberal. But still, he predicts, if that Child is allowed to get away, « Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions . . . Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old . . . Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish . . . The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire. »What Herod saw was America in the late 1980s and early ’90s, right down to that dire phrase « New Age. »(…) Americans are obsessed with the recognition, praise and, when necessary, the manufacture of victims, whose one common feature is that they have been denied parity with that Blond Beast of the sentimental imagination, the heterosexual, middle-class white male. The range of victims available 10 years ago — blacks, Chicanos, Indians, women, homosexuals — has now expanded to include every permutation of the halt, the blind and the short, or, to put it correctly, the vertically challenged. (…) Since our newfound sensitivity decrees that only the victim shall be the hero, the white American male starts bawling for victim status too. (…) European man, once the hero of the conquest of the Americas, now becomes its demon; and the victims, who cannot be brought back to life, are sanctified. On either side of the divide between Euro and native, historians stand ready with tarbrush and gold leaf, and instead of the wicked old stereotypes, we have a whole outfit of equally misleading new ones. Our predecessors made a hero of Christopher Columbus. To Europeans and white Americans in 1892, he was Manifest Destiny in tights, whereas a current PC book like Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise makes him more like Hitler in a caravel, landing like a virus among the innocent people of the New World. Robert Hughes (24.06.2001)
La vérité biblique sur le penchant universel à la violence a été tenue à l’écart par un puissant processus de refoulement. (…) La vérité fut reportée sur les juifs, sur Adam et la génération de la fin du monde. (…) La représentation théologique de l’adoucissement de la colère de Dieu par l’acte d’expiation du Fils constituait un compromis entre les assertions du Nouveau Testament sur l’amour divin sans limites et celles sur les fantasmes présents en chacun. (…) Même si la vérité biblique a été de nouveau  obscurcie sur de nombreux points, (…) dénaturée en partie, elle n’a jamais été totalement falsifiée par les Églises. Elle a traversé l’histoire et agit comme un levain. Même l’Aufklärung critique contre le christianisme qui a pris ses armes et les prend toujours en grande partie dans le sombre arsenal de l’histoire de l’Eglise, n’a jamais pu se détacher entièrement de l’inspiration chrétienne véritable, et par des détours embrouillés et compliqués, elle a porté la critique originelle des prophètes dans les domaines sans cesse nouveaux de l’existence humaine. Les critiques d’un Kant, d’un Feuerbach, d’un Marx, d’un Nietzsche et d’un Freud – pour ne prendre que quelques uns parmi les plus importants – se situent dans une dépendance non dite par rapport à l’impulsion prophétique. Raymund Schwager
An advertent and sustained foreign policy uses a different part of the brain from the one engaged by horrifying images. If Americans had seen the battles of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor on TV screens in 1864, if they had witnessed the meat-grinding carnage of Ulysses Grant’s warmaking, then public opinion would have demanded an end to the Civil War, and the Union might well have split into two countries, one of them farmed by black slaves. (…) The Americans have ventured into Somalia in a sort of surreal confusion, first impersonating Mother Teresa and now John Wayne. it would help to clarify that self-image, for to do so would clarify the mission, and then to recast the rhetoric of the enterprise. Lance Morrow (1993
In recent years, skewering the politically correct and the political correctness of those mocking political correctness has become a thriving journalistic enterprise. One of the more interesting examples of the genre was a cover-story essay by Robert Hughes, which appeared in the February 3, 1992, edition of Time magazine. The essay was entitled “The Fraying of America.”  In it, Hughes cast a cold eye on the American social landscape, and his assessment was summarized in the article’s subtitle: “When a nation’s diversity breaks into factions, demagogues rush in, false issues cloud debate, and everybody has a grievance.” “Like others, Hughes found himself puzzling over how and why the status of ‘victim’ had become the seal of moral rectitude in American society. He began his essay by quoting a passage from W. H. Auden’s Christmas oratorio, For the Time Being. The lines he quoted were ones in which King Herod ruminates over whether the threat to civilization posed by the birth of Christ is serious enough to warrant murdering all the male children in one region of the empire. (The historical Herod may have been a vulgar and conniving Roman sycophant, but Auden’s Herod, let’s not forget, is watching the rough beast of the twentieth century slouching toward Bethlehem.) Weighing all the factors, Herod decides that the Christ child must be destroyed, even if to do so innocents must be slaughtered. For, he argues in the passage that Hughes quoted, should the Child survive: Reason will be replaced by Revelation . . . . Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish . . . . The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire. “Hughes quoted this passage from Auden in order to point out that Auden’s prophecy had come true. As Auden’s Herod had predicted, American society was awash in what Hughes termed the “all-pervasive claim to victimhood.” He noted that in virtually all the contemporary social, political, or moral debates, both sides were either claiming to be victims or claiming to speak on their behalf. It was clear to Hughes, however, that this was not a symptom of a moral victory over our scapegoating impulses. There can be no victims without victimizers. Even though virtually everyone seemed to be claiming the status of victim, the claims could be sustained only if some of the claims could be denied. (At this point, things become even murkier, for in the topsy-turvy world of victimology, a claimant denied can easily be mistaken for a victim scorned, the result being that denying someone’s claim to victim status can have the same effect as granting it.) Nevertheless, the algebraic equation of victimhood requires victimizers, and so, for purely logical reasons, some claims have to be denied. Some, in Hughes’s words, would have to remain “the butt of every farce and satire.” Hughes argued that all those who claim victim status share one thing in common, “they have been denied parity with that Blond Beast of the sentimental imagination, the heterosexual, middle-class, white male.” “Hughes realized that a hardy strain of envy and resentment toward this one, lone nonvictim continued to play an important role in the squabbles over who would be granted victim status. Those whose status as victim was secure were glaring at this last nonvictim with something of the vigilante’s narrow squint. Understandably, the culprit was anxious to remove his blemish. “Since our new found sensitivity decrees that only the victim shall be the hero,” Hughes wrote, “the white American male starts bawling for victim status too.” Gil Bailie
The gospel revelation gradually destroys the ability to sacralize and valorize violence of any kind, even for Americans in pursuit of the good. (…) At the heart of the cultural world in which we live, and into whose orbit the whole world is being gradually drawn, is a surreal confusion. The impossible Mother Teresa-John Wayne antinomy Times correspondent (Lance) Morrow discerned in America’s humanitarian 1992 Somali operation is simply a contemporary manifestation of the tension that for centuries has hounded those cultures under biblical influence. Gil Bailie
L’erreur est toujours de raisonner dans les catégories de la « différence », alors que la racine de tous les conflits, c’est plutôt la « concurrence », la rivalité mimétique entre des êtres, des pays, des cultures. La concurrence, c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter l’autre pour obtenir la même chose que lui, au besoin par la violence. Sans doute le terrorisme est-il lié à un monde « différent » du nôtre, mais ce qui suscite le terrorisme n’est pas dans cette « différence » qui l’éloigne le plus de nous et nous le rend inconcevable. Il est au contraire dans un désir exacerbé de convergence et de ressemblance. (…) Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme.Ce sentiment n’est pas vrai des masses, mais des dirigeants. Sur le plan de la fortune personnelle, on sait qu’un homme comme Ben Laden n’a rien à envier à personne. Et combien de chefs de parti ou de faction sont dans cette situation intermédiaire, identique à la sienne. Regardez un Mirabeau au début de la Révolution française : il a un pied dans un camp et un pied dans l’autre, et il n’en vit que de manière plus aiguë son ressentiment. Aux Etats-Unis, des immigrés s’intègrent avec facilité, alors que d’autres, même si leur réussite est éclatante, vivent aussi dans un déchirement et un ressentiment permanents. Parce qu’ils sont ramenés à leur enfance, à des frustrations et des humiliations héritées du passé. Cette dimension est essentielle, en particulier chez des musulmans qui ont des traditions de fierté et un style de rapports individuels encore proche de la féodalité. (…) Cette concurrence mimétique, quand elle est malheureuse, ressort toujours, à un moment donné, sous une forme violente. A cet égard, c’est l’islam qui fournit aujourd’hui le ciment qu’on trouvait autrefois dans le marxismeRené Girard
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère « post-chrétienne » est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en « radicalisant » le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. (…) Jusqu’au nazisme, le judaïsme était la victime préférentielle de ce système de bouc émissaire. Le christianisme ne venait qu’en second lieu. Depuis l’Holocauste, en revanche, on n’ose plus s’en prendre au judaïsme, et le christianisme est promu au rang de bouc émissaire numéro un. René Girard
Les événements qui se déroulent sous nos yeux sont à la fois naturels et culturels, c’est-à-dire qu’ils sont apocalyptiques. Jusqu’à présent, les textes de l’Apocalypse faisaient rire. Tout l’effort de la pensée moderne a été de séparer le culturel du naturel. La science consiste à montrer que les phénomènes culturels ne sont pas naturels et qu’on se trompe forcément si on mélange les tremblements de terre et les rumeurs de guerre, comme le fait le texte de l’Apocalypse. Mais, tout à coup, la science prend conscience que les activités de l’homme sont en train de détruire la nature. C’est la science qui revient à l’Apocalypse. René Girard
La religion doit être historicisée : elle fait des hommes des êtres qui restent toujours violents mais qui deviennent plus subtils, moins spectaculaires, moins proches de la bête et des formes sacrificielles comme le sacrifice humain. Il se pourrait qu’il y ait un christianisme historique qui soit une nécessité historique. Après deux mille ans de christianisme historique, il semble que nous soyons aujourd’hui à une période charnière – soit qui ouvre sur l’Apocalypse directement, soit qui nous prépare une période de compréhension plus grande et de trahison plus subtile du christianisme. (…) Oui, pour moi l’Apocalypse c’est la fin de l’histoire. (…) L’Apocalypse, c’est l’arrivée du royaume de Dieu. Mais on peut penser qu’il y a des « petites ou des demi-apocalypses » ou des crises c’est-à-dire des périodes intermédiaires… (…) Il faut prendre très au sérieux les textes apocalyptiques. Nous ne savons pas si nous sommes à la fin du monde, mais nous sommes dans une période-charnière. Je pense que toutes les grandes expériences chrétiennes des époques-charnières sont inévitablement apocalyptiques dans la mesure où elles rencontrent l’incompréhension des hommes et le fait que cette incompréhension d’une certaine manière est toujours fatale. Je dis qu’elle est toujours fatale, mais en même temps elle ne l’est jamais parce que Dieu reprend toujours les choses et toujours pardonne. (…) Je me souviens d’un journal dans lequel il y avait deux articles juxtaposés. Le premier se moquait de l’Apocalypse d’une certaine façon ; le second était aussi apocalyptique que possible. Le contact de ces deux textes qui se faisaient face et qui dans le même temps se donnaient comme n’ayant aucun rapport l’un avec l’autre avait quelque chose de fascinant. (…) Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. On était encore dans cette idée selon laquelle on vivait dans le même monde : on n’est plus séparé par rien de ce qui séparait les hommes auparavant donc c’est forcément le paradis. Ce que voulait la Révolution française. Après la nuit du 4 août, plus de problème ! (…) L’Amérique connaît bien cela. Il est évident que la non-différence de classe ne tarit pas les rivalités mais les excite à mort avec tout ce qu’il y a de bon et de mortel dans ce phénomène. (…)  il n’y a plus de sacrifice et donc les hommes sont exposés à la violence et il n’y a plus que deux choix : soit on préfère subir la violence soit on cherche à l’infliger à autrui. Le Christ veut nous dire entre autres choses : il vaut mieux subir la violence (c’est le sacrifice de soi) que de l’infliger à autrui. Si Dieu refuse le sacrifice, il est évident qu’il nous demande la non-violence qui empêchera l’Apocalypse. René Girard
L’avenir apocalyptique n’est pas quelque chose d’historique. C’est quelque chose de religieux sans lequel on ne peut pas vivre. C’est ce que les chrétiens actuels ne comprennent pas. Parce que, dans l’avenir apocalyptique, le bien et le mal sont mélangés de telle manière que d’un point de vue chrétien, on ne peut pas parler de pessimisme. Cela est tout simplement contenu dans le christianisme. Pour le comprendre, lisons la Première Lettre aux Corinthiens : si les puissants, c’est-à-dire les puissants de ce monde, avaient su ce qui arriverait, ils n’auraient jamais crucifié le Seigneur de la Gloire – car cela aurait signifié leur destruction (cf. 1 Co 2, 8). Car lorsque l’on crucifie le Seigneur de la Gloire, la magie des pouvoirs, qui est le mécanisme du bouc émissaire, est révélée. Montrer la crucifixion comme l’assassinat d’une victime innocente, c’est montrer le meurtre collectif et révéler ce phénomène mimétique. C’est finalement cette vérité qui entraîne les puissants à leur perte. Et toute l’histoire est simplement la réalisation de cette prophétie. Ceux qui prétendent que le christianisme est anarchiste ont un peu raison. Les chrétiens détruisent les pouvoirs de ce monde, car ils détruisent la légitimité de toute violence. Pour l’État, le christianisme est une force anarchique, surtout lorsqu’il retrouve sa puissance spirituelle d’autrefois. Ainsi, le conflit avec les musulmans est bien plus considérable que ce que croient les fondamentalistes. Les fondamentalistes pensent que l’apocalypse est la violence de Dieu. Alors qu’en lisant les chapitres apocalyptiques, on voit que l’apocalypse est la violence de l’homme déchaînée par la destruction des puissants, c’est-à-dire des États, comme nous le voyons en ce moment. Lorsque les puissances seront vaincues, la violence deviendra telle que la fin arrivera. Si l’on suit les chapitres apocalyptiques, c’est bien cela qu’ils annoncent. Il y aura des révolutions et des guerres. Les États s’élèveront contre les États, les nations contre les nations. Cela reflète la violence. Voilà le pouvoir anarchique que nous avons maintenant, avec des forces capables de détruire le monde entier. On peut donc voir l’apparition de l’apocalypse d’une manière qui n’était pas possible auparavant. Au début du christianisme, l’apocalypse semblait magique : le monde va finir ; nous irons tous au paradis, et tout sera sauvé ! L’erreur des premiers chrétiens était de croire que l’apocalypse était toute proche. Les premiers textes chronologiques chrétiens sont les Lettres aux Thessaloniciens qui répondent à la question : pourquoi le monde continue-t-il alors qu’on en a annoncé la fin ? Paul dit qu’il y a quelque chose qui retient les pouvoirs, le katochos (quelque chose qui retient). L’interprétation la plus commune est qu’il s’agit de l’Empire romain. La crucifixion n’a pas encore dissout tout l’ordre. Si l’on consulte les chapitres du christianisme, ils décrivent quelque chose comme le chaos actuel, qui n’était pas présent au début de l’Empire romain. (..) le monde actuel (…) confirme vraiment toutes les prédictions. On voit l’apocalypse s’étendre tous les jours : le pouvoir de détruire le monde, les armes de plus en plus fatales, et autres menaces qui se multiplient sous nos yeux. Nous croyons toujours que tous ces problèmes sont gérables par l’homme mais, dans une vision d’ensemble, c’est impossible. Ils ont une valeur quasi surnaturelle. Comme les fondamentalistes, beaucoup de lecteurs de l’Évangile reconnaissent la situation mondiale dans ces chapitres apocalyptiques. Mais les fondamentalistes croient que la violence ultime vient de Dieu, alors ils ne voient pas vraiment le rapport avec la situation actuelle – le rapport religieux. Cela montre combien ils sont peu chrétiens. La violence humaine, qui menace aujourd’hui le monde, est plus conforme au thème apocalyptique de l’Évangile qu’ils ne le pensent. René Girard
Dans le monde actuel, beaucoup de choses correspondent au climat des grands textes apocalyptiques du Nouveau Testament, en particulier Matthieu et Marc. Il y est fait mention du phénomène principal du mimétisme, qui est la lutte des doubles : ville contre ville, province contre province… Ce sont toujours les doubles qui se battent et leur bagarre n’a aucun sens puisque c’est la même chose des deux côtés. Aujourd’hui, il ne semble rien de plus urgent à la Chine que de rattraper les Etats-Unis sur tous les plans et en particulier sur le nombre d’autoroutes ou la production de véhicules automobiles. Vous imaginez les conséquences ? Il est bien évident que la production économique et les performances des entreprises mettent en jeu la rivalité. Clausewitz le disait déjà en 1820 : il n’y a rien qui ressemble plus à la guerre que le commerce. Souvent les chrétiens s’arrêtent à une interprétation eschatologique des textes de l’Apocalypse. Il s’agirait d’un événement supranaturel… Rien n’est plus faux ! Au chapitre 16 de Matthieu, les juifs demandent à Jésus un signe. « Mais, vous savez les lire, les signes, leur répond-t-il. Vous regardez la couleur du ciel le soir et vous savez deviner le temps qu’il fera demain. » Autrement dit, l’Apocalypse, c’est naturel. L’Apocalypse n’est pas du tout divine. Ce sont les hommes qui font l’Apocalypse. René Girard
Quels sont les grands leaders du monde aujourd’hui ? Le président Xi, le président Poutine – on peut être d’accord ou pas, mais c’est un leader –, le grand prince Mohammed Ben Salman. Et que seraient aujourd’hui les Emirats sans le leadership de MBZ ? (…) Quel est le problème des démocraties ? C’est que les démocraties ont pu devenir des démocraties avec de grands leaders : de Gaulle, Churchill… Mais les démocraties détruisent tous les leaderships. C’est un grand sujet, ce n’est pas un sujet anecdotique ! Comment peut-on avoir une vision à dix, quinze ou vingt ans, et en même temps avoir un rythme électoral aux Etats-Unis tous les quatre ans ? Les démocraties sont devenues un champ de bataille, où chaque heure est utilisée par tout le monde, réseaux sociaux et autres, pour détruire celui qui est en place. Comment voulez-vous avoir une vision de long terme pour un pays ? C’est ce qui fait que, aujourd’hui, les grands leaders du monde sont issus de pays qui ne sont pas de grandes démocraties. (…) C’est une formidable bonne nouvelle que la Chine assume ses responsabilités internationales. On assiste à un changement de la politique chinoise comme jamais on n’en a connu avant. Jamais. La Chine, c’est quand même le pays qui a construit la Grande Muraille pour se protéger des barbares qui étaient de l’autre côté : nous. « One Road, One Belt »,  c’est un changement colossal ! Tout d’un coup, la Chine décomplexée dit : “Je pars à la conquête du monde.” Alors est-ce que c’est pour des raisons éducatives, politiques, économiques : peu importe.  (…) Le président Xi considère que deux mandats de cinq ans, dix ans, c’est pas assez. Il a raison ! Le mandat du président américain, en vérité c’est pas quatre ans, c’est deux ans : un an pour apprendre le job, un an pour préparer la réélection. Donc vous comparez le président chinois qui a une vision pour son pays et qui dit : “Dix ans, c’est pas assez”, au président américain qui a en vérité deux ans. Mais qui parierait beaucoup sur la réélection de Trump ? Ce matin, j’ai rencontré le prince héritier MBZ. Est-ce que vous croyez qu’on construit un pays comme ça, en deux ans ? Ici, en cinquante ans, vous avez construit un des pays les plus modernes qui soient. La question du leadership est centrale. La réussite du modèle émirien est sans doute l’exemple le plus important pour nous, pour l’ensemble du monde. J’ai été le chef de l’Etat qui a signé le contrat du Louvre à Abou Dhabi. J’y ai mis toute mon énergie. MBZ y a mis toute sa vision. On a mis dix ans ! En allant vite ! Sauf que MBZ est toujours là… Et moi ça fait six ans que je suis parti. (…) La question doit être posée comme ça : est-ce qu’on a besoin de la Russie ou pas ? Ma réponse est oui ! La Russie, c’est le pays à la plus grande superficie du monde. Qui peut dire qu’on ne doit pas parler avec eux ? Quelle est cette idée folle ? Je n’avais pas tout à fait compris dans l’administration Obama pourquoi Poutine et la Russie étaient devenus le principal adversaire. Y a-t-il un risque que la Russie envahisse d’autres pays ? Je n’y crois pas. La Russie doit perdre environ un demi-million d’habitants par an, sur le territoire le plus grand du monde. Est-ce que vous avez déjà vu des pays qui n’arrivent pas à occuper toute leur surface aller envahir des pays à côté ? Sur l’Ukraine, je pense que l’affaire n’a pas été bien gérée depuis le début et qu’il y avait moyen de faire mieux. Poutine est un homme prévisible, avec qui on peut parler et qui respecte la force. Nicolas Sarkozy
One must be blind not to see the approach of the terrible moments of history about which the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian spoke in his Revelation. Patriarch Kirill
We believe that Putin is the best and the only leader [for Russia]… He is trying to make Russia the state where Christians can live and can save their souls for eternal life. Konstantin Malofeev
Simply said, the Antichrist will not come before there will not be anymore supporters [of Orthodoxy]… What is the coming of Antichrist? It is secularism. It is modernization. Westernization. Materialism. Scientific development. The concept of progress. Putin is exactly the figure who is resisting the Antichrist on earth. Aleksandr Dugin
Thank God we live in a country where political correctness has not reached the point of absurdity. Andrei Konchalovsky
If the world were saved from demonic constructions such as the United States, it would be easier for everyone to live. And one of these days it will happen. n. Russian commander
Putin understands that there is no empire without Ukraine. The first move, I think, is Ukraine. But I don’t exclude a military attack in the Far East. They want to distract American attention, prolong the front of confrontation in order to create a favorable situation for aggression in Europe. If you look at the map, Russia is always helping the enemies of America: deep ties to North Korea, involvement in Afghanistan and Syria, backing Iran, and so on. Antoni Macierewicz (Poland’s defense minister)
Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine has two overarching goals.  First, the Russian people must believe the Kremlin version of domestic and world events (…) that Russia is a super power in a hostile world (…) Second, Kremlin propaganda must discredit Western democracy as dysfunctional and inferior to Russia’s managed “democracy.” Kremlin propaganda has largely failed in this regard. Russians consider their government corrupt, remote from the people, interested in preserving power rather than performing its duties, and lying about the true state of affairs. Nevertheless, Putin’s approval ratings remain high in the absence of rivals, who have fled the country, been indicted, or murdered. Putin, in fact, bases his legitimacy on high approval ratings. To counter the Russian people’s sense that they have no say in how they are governed, Kremlin propagandists must sell the story that Western democracies have it worse. Downtrodden Americans, they say, face poverty, hunger, racial and ethnic discrimination, unemployment, and they are governed by corrupt, inept, greedy, dysfunctional, and feuding politicians who sell out to the highest bidder on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley. This brings us to how the ballyhooed Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election has given Putin a gift that keeps on giving—a paralyzed federal government, incapable of compromise, in which a significant portion of the governing class questions the legitimacy of a new president. Russia routinely meddles in the politics of other countries. Despite denials, the Kremlin contributes to pro-Russian political parties throughout the world, gathers compromising information, hacks into email accounts, offers lucrative contracts to foreign businesses, and circulates false news. Given this history, U.S. authorities should not have been surprised by Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race. To date, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted thirteen Russian “internet trolls,” who sowed discord on social media by posting inflammatory, distorted, slanted, and false information promoting the Russian narrative of a deeply divided electorate and a discredited American electoral system. Mueller’s indictment identifies the Internet Research Agency (IRA) of St. Petersburg as the nerve center of Russia’s trolling operations. Although putatively owned by a private Russian oligarch close to Putin, there is little doubt that the IRA is a mouthpiece of the Kremlin. The existence and activities of the IRA have been known since 2014. It employs hundreds of hackers and writers divided into geographical sections. It is not the sole source of Russian trolling, but it is the most important. Those American politicians and pundits, like Congressman Jerry Nagler and columnist Thomas Friedman, who label Russian intervention an act of warfare on par with Pearl Harbor or 9/11must attribute supernatural powers to Putin’s trolls. After all, the Mueller investigation revealed that Russia spent no more than a few million dollars on its election-meddling versus the over two billion dollars spent by the presidential candidates alone. The IRA’s St. Petersburg America desk constituted some 90 persons. Their social media posts accounted for an infinitesimal portion of social media political traffic and much of this came after the election. (…) that Western democracies, American democracy especially, are rotten, corrupt, and hapless is a cornerstone of the Kremlin narrative. As the Mueller indictment concludes: The stated goal of the Russian operation was “spreading distrust towards candidates and the political system in general.” The Russian trolls, according to the Mueller indictment, used a number of techniques to achieve this end. They encouraged fringe candidates. They tried to ally with disaffected religious, ethnic, and nationalist groups. They discredited the candidate they thought most likely to win. Once the winner was known, they immediately moved to discredit him. (…) The dozen ill-informed operatives indicted by Mueller held poorly attended rallies, had to be educated about red and blue states, and spent their limited funds in uncontested states. It would be almost crazy to believe that such Russian intervention could have made a difference. Why, then, do so many Americans believe that Russia was instrumental in throwing the election to Donald Trump? It may be that some of the President’s opponents actually believe this narrative. But there’s another explanation, too: Russian intervention provides opportunistic politicians and pundits a useful excuse for paralyzing the incoming government of a gutter-fighter President from a show business and construction background with no political experience. In their view, such a person should not be allowed to govern. Hence the paralysis, dysfunction, and chaos of American democracy—long claimed by Russian propagandists—is on its way to becoming reality. What a windfall for Putin and his oligarchs. Paul R. Gregory
Ivan Ilyin, came to imagine a Russian Christian fascism. Born in 1883, he finished a dissertation on God’s worldly failure just before the Russian Revolution of 1917. Expelled from his homeland in 1922 by the Soviet power he despised, he embraced the cause of Benito Mussolini and completed an apology for political violence in 1925. In German and Swiss exile, he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s for White Russian exiles who had fled after defeat in the Russian civil war, and in the 1940s and 1950s for future Russians who would see the end of the Soviet power. (…) For the young Ilyin, writing before the Revolution, law embodied the hope that Russians would partake in a universal consciousness that would allow Russia to create a modern state. For the mature, counter-revolutionary Ilyin, a particular consciousness (“heart” or “soul,” not “mind”) permitted Russians to experience the arbitrary claims of power as law. Though he died forgotten, in 1954, Ilyin’s work was revived after collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and guides the men who rule Russia today. (…) Because Ilyin found ways to present the failure of the rule of law as Russian virtue, Russian kleptocrats use his ideas to portray economic inequality as national innocence. In the last few years, Vladimir Putin has also used some of Ilyin’s more specific ideas about geopolitics in his effort translate the task of Russian politics from the pursuit of reform at home to the export of virtue abroad. By transforming international politics into a discussion of “spiritual threats,” Ilyin’s works have helped Russian elites to portray the Ukraine, Europe, and the United States as existential dangers to Russia. (…) Ilyin used the word Spirit (Dukh) to describe the inspiration of fascists. The fascist seizure of power, he wrote, was an “act of salvation.” The fascist is the true redeemer, since he grasps that it is the enemy who must be sacrificed. Ilyin took from Mussolini the concept of a “chivalrous sacrifice” that fascists make in the blood of others. (Speaking of the Holocaust in 1943, Heinrich Himmler would praise his SS-men in just these terms.) (…) What seemed to trouble Ilyin most was that Italians and not Russians had invented fascism: “Why did the Italians succeed where we failed?” Writing of the future of Russian fascism in 1927, he tried to establish Russian primacy by considering the White resistance to the Bolsheviks as the pre-history of the fascist movement as a whole. The White movement had also been “deeper and broader” than fascism because it had preserved a connection to religion and the need for totality. Ilyin proclaimed to “my White brothers, the fascists” that a minority must seize power in Russia. The time would come. The “White Spirit” was eternal. (…) “The fact of the matter,” wrote Ilyin, “is that fascism is a redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.” Arbitrariness (proizvol), a central concept in all modern Russian political discussions, was the bugbear of all Russian reformers seeking improvement through law. Now proizvol was patriotic. The word for “redemptive” (spasytelnii), is another central Russian concept. It is the adjective Russian Orthodox Christians might apply to the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, the death of the One for the salvation of the many. Ilyin uses it to mean the murder of outsiders so that the nation could undertake a project of total politics that might later redeem a lost God. In one sentence, two universal concepts, law and Christianity, are undone. A spirit of lawlessness replaces the spirit of the law; a spirit of murder replaces a spirit of mercy. (…) Writing in Russian for Russian émigrés, Ilyin was quick to praise Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933. Hitler did well, in Ilyin’s opinion, to have the rule of law suspended after the Reichstag Fire of February 1933. Ilyin presented Hitler, like Mussolini, as a Leader from beyond history whose mission was entirely defensive. “A reaction to Bolshevism had to come,” wrote Ilyin, “and it came.” European civilization had been sentenced to death, but “so long as Mussolini is leading Italy and Hitler is leading Germany, European culture has a stay of execution.” Nazis embodied a “Spirit” (Dukh) that Russians must share. According to Ilyin, Nazis were right to boycott Jewish businesses and blame Jews as a collectivity for the evils that had befallen Germany. Above all, Ilyin wanted to persuade Russians and other Europeans that Hitler was right to treat Jews as agents of Bolshevism. This “Judeobolshevik” idea, as Ilyin understood, was the ideological connection between the Whites and the Nazis. The claim that Jews were Bolsheviks and Bolsheviks were Jews was White propaganda during the Russian Civil War. Of course, most communists were not Jews, and the overwhelming majority of Jews had nothing to do with communism. The conflation of the two groups was not an error or an exaggeration, but rather a transformation of traditional religious prejudices into instruments of national unity. Judeobolshevism appealed to the superstitious belief of Orthodox Christian peasants that Jews guarded the border between the realms of good and evil. It shifted this conviction to modern politics, portraying revolution as hell and Jews as its gatekeepers. As in Ilyin’s philosophy, God was weak, Satan was dominant, and the weapons of hell were modern ideas in the world. (…) As the 1930s passed, Ilyin began to doubt that Nazi Germany was advancing the cause of Russian fascism. This was natural, since Hitler regarded Russians as subhumans, and Germany supported European fascists only insofar as they were useful to the specific Nazi cause. Ilyin began to caution Russian Whites about Nazis, and came under suspicion from the German government. He lost his job and, in 1938, left Germany for Switzerland. He remained faithful, however, to his conviction that the White movement was anterior to Italian fascism and German National Socialism. In time, Russians would demonstrate a superior fascism. (…) World War II (…) was a confusing moment for both communists and their enemies, since the conflict began after the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany reached an agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. (…) as the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union (…) Ilyin (…) wrote of the German invasion of the USSR as a “judgment on Bolshevism.” After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in February 1943, when it became clear that Germany would likely lose the war, Ilyin changed his position again. Then, and in the years to follow, he would present the war as one of a series of Western attacks on Russian virtue. Russian innocence was becoming one of Ilyin’s great themes. As a concept, it completed Ilyin’s fascist theory: the world was corrupt; it needed redemption from a nation capable of total politics; that nation was unsoiled Russia. As he aged, Ilyin dwelled on the Russian past, not as history, but as a cyclical myth of native virtue defended from external penetration. Russia was an immaculate empire, always under attack from all sides. A small territory around Moscow became the Russian Empire, the largest country of all time, without ever attacking anyone. Even as it expanded, Russia was the victim, because Europeans did not understand the profound virtue it was defending by taking more land. In Ilyin’s words, Russia has been subject to unceasing “continental blockade,” and so its entire past was one of “self-defense.” And so, “the Russian nation, since its full conversion to Christianity, can count nearly one thousand years of historical suffering.” (…) Democratic elections institutionalized the evil notion of individuality. “The principle of democracy,” Ilyin wrote, “was the irresponsible human atom.” Counting votes was to falsely accept “the mechanical and arithmetical understanding of politics.” It followed that “we must reject blind faith in the number of votes and its political significance.” Public voting with signed ballots will allow Russians to surrender their individuality. Elections were a ritual of submission of Russians before their Leader. (…) Russia today is a media-heavy authoritarian kleptocracy, not the religious totalitarian entity that Ilyin imagined. And yet, his concepts do help lift the obscurity from some of the more interesting aspects of Russian politics. Vladimir Putin, to take a very important example, is a post-Soviet politician who emerged from the realm of fiction. Since it is he who brought Ilyin’s ideas into high politics, his rise to power is part of Ilyin’s story as well. (…) In the early 2000s, Putin maintained that Russia could become some kind of rule-of-law state. Instead, he succeeded in bringing economic crime within the Russian state, transforming general corruption into official kleptocracy. Once the state became the center of crime, the rule of law became incoherent, inequality entrenched, and reform unthinkable. Another political story was needed. Because Putin’s victory over Russia’s oligarchs also meant control over their television stations, new media instruments were at hand. The Western trend towards infotainment was brought to its logical conclusion in Russia, generating an alternative reality meant to generate faith in Russian virtue but cynicism about facts. This transformation was engineered by Vladislav Surkov, the genius of Russian propaganda. He oversaw a striking move toward the world as Ilyin imagined it, a dark and confusing realm given shape only by Russian innocence. With the financial and media resources under control, Putin needed only, in the nice Russian term, to add the “spiritual resource.” And so, beginning in 2005, Putin began to rehabilitate Ilyin as a Kremlin court philosopher. (…) If Russia could not become a rule-of-law state, it would seek to destroy neighbors that had succeeded in doing so or that aspired to do so. Echoing one of the most notorious proclamations of the Nazi legal thinker Carl Schmitt, Ilyin wrote that politics “is the art of identifying and neutralizing the enemy.” In the second decade of the twenty-first century, Putin’s promises were not about law in Russia, but about the defeat of a hyper-legal neighboring entity. The European Union, the largest economy in the world and Russia’s most important economic partner, is grounded on the assumption that international legal agreements provide the basis for fruitful cooperation among rule-of-law states. (…) Putin predicted that Eurasia would overcome the European Union and bring its members into a larger entity that would extend “from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” (…) Modifying Ilyin’s views about Russian innocence ever so slightly, Russian leaders could see the Soviet Union not as a foreign imposition upon Russia, as Ilyin had, but rather as Russia itself, and so virtuous despite appearances. Any faults of the Soviet system became necessary Russian reactions to the prior hostility of the West. Questions about the influence of ideas in politics are very difficult to answer, and it would be needlessly bold to make of Ilyin’s writings the pillar of the Russian system. For one thing, Ilyin’s vast body of work admits multiple interpretations. (…) And yet, most often in the Russia of the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is Ilyin’s ideas that to seem to satisfy political needs and to fill rhetorical gaps, to provide the “spiritual resource” for the kleptocratic state machine. (…) Russia’s 2012 law on “foreign agents,” passed right after Putin’s return to the office of the presidency, well represents Ilyin’s attitude to civil society. Ilyin believed that Russia’s “White Spirit” should animate the fascists of Europe; since 2013, the Kremlin has provided financial and propaganda support to European parties of the populist and extreme right. The Russian campaign against the “decadence” of the European Union, initiated in 2013, is in accord with Ilyin’s worldview. (…) Putin first submitted to years of shirtless fur-and-feather photoshoots, then divorced his wife, then blamed the European Union for Russian homosexuality. Ilyin sexualized what he experienced as foreign threats. Jazz, for example, was a plot to induce premature ejaculation. When Ukrainians began in late 2013 to assemble in favor of a European future for their country, the Russian media raised the specter of a “homodictatorship.” (…) Putin justified Russia’s attempt to draw Ukraine towards Eurasia by Ilyin’s “organic model” that made of Russia and Ukraine “one people. » Timothy Snyder
The last two weeks have witnessed the upending of the European order and the close of the post-Cold War era. With his invasion of Crimea and the instant absorption of the strategic peninsula, Vladimir Putin has shown that he will not play by the West’s rules. The “end of history” is at an end—we’re now seeing the onset of Cold War 2.0. What’s on the Kremlin’s mind was made clear by Putin’s fire-breathing speech to the Duma announcing the annexation of Crimea, which blended retrograde Russian nationalism with a generous helping of messianism on behalf of his fellow Slavs, alongside the KGB-speak that Putin is so fond of. If you enjoy mystical references to Orthodox saints of two millennia past accompanied by warnings about a Western fifth column and “national traitors,” this was the speech for you. Putin confirmed the worst fears of Ukrainians who think they should have their own country. But his ambitions go well beyond Ukraine: By explicitly linking Russian ethnicity with membership in the Russian Federation, Putin has challenged the post-Soviet order writ large. For years, I studied Russia as a counterintelligence officer for the National Security Agency, and at times I feel like I’m seeing history in reverse. The Kremlin is a fiercely revisionist power, seeking to change the status quo by various forms of force. This will soon involve NATO members in the Baltics directly, as well as Poland and Romania indirectly. Longstanding Russian acumen in what I term Special War, an amalgam of espionage, subversion and terrorism by spies and special operatives, is already known to Russia’s neighbors and can be expected to increase. In truth, Putin set Russia on a course for Cold War 2.0 as far back as 2007, and perhaps earlier; Western counterintelligence noted major upswings in aggressive Russian espionage and subversion against NATO members as far back as 2006.The brief Georgia war of August 2008, which made clear that the Kremlin was perfectly comfortable with using force in the post-Soviet space, ought to have served as a bigger wake-up call for the West. John R. Schindler (2014)
Ever since Moscow’s Little Green Men seized Crimea in early 2014, we’ve been in a new Cold War with Russia. To the consternation of wishful-thinkers, as Vladimir Putin’s confrontation with the West has become transparent, the reality of what I termed Cold War 2.0 almost four years ago has grown difficult to deny. Since the Kremlin’s revanchism is driving this conflict, we’re in it whether we want to be or not. Europe is the central front  in Cold War 2.0, thanks to geography and history. Putin’s war on, and in, Ukraine continues on low boil, while the Russian military regularly delivers provocations—a too-close warship here, an aircraft buzz there—all along NATO’s eastern frontier, sending an aggressive message. Major military exercises like September’s Zapad mega-wargame demonstrate Putin’s seriousness about confronting the Atlantic Alliance. (…)  However, Kremlin provocations extend far beyond the former Soviet Union (…) This assessment sounds alarmist at first, particularly the mention of possible aggression in the Far East, but Western intelligence agencies that track Russian moves have been thinking along similar lines—though they seldom say so in public. Therefore, it’s worth taking a brief look at what Putin’s up to, and where. Russia’s footprint on the North Korean crisis is impossible to miss, and since that’s the world’s most dangerous strategic predicament at present, Moscow’s less-than-helpful role merits attention. Although Beijing is clearly exasperated by the unhinged antics of its semi-client regime in Pyongyang, Moscow seems perfectly pleased with the hazardous games played by North Korea. And why not? Pyongyang creates strategic confusion for the Americans, which the Kremlin always enjoys. Russian military and intelligence support to the increasingly isolated Kim regime is an open secret, while Putin’s sanctions-beating lifelines to Pyongyang are public and deeply annoying for both Beijing and Washington. Although Moscow is no more eager to see all-out war on the Korean peninsula than the Chinese or Americans, keeping the nasty Kim regime in place frustrates and distracts the Pentagon, which is Russia’s real aim here. Not to mention that backing North Korea is viewed in the Kremlin as payback for NATO’s “meddling” in Ukraine. A similar pattern can be detected in Afghanistan, where American-led forces are in their sixteenth year of a seemingly endless counterinsurgency against the Taliban—and it’s not going well. Therefore, Moscow has been giving clandestine support to the Taliban. A few months back, the U.S. military command in Afghanistan admitted that Russian arms were reaching the Taliban. That clandestine Kremlin assistance is costing lives is increasingly obvious. Russian aid has reached Taliban “special” units that launch attacks on Afghan military bases. A recent spate of Taliban assaults on Afghan forces, including nighttime raids, has inflicted unexpected casualties on American allies. Of concern to the Pentagon, Taliban fighters equipped with Russian-made night vision gear have been ambushing Afghan military and police with lethal effects. It seems only a matter of time before American troops are killed by Russian-equipped Taliban special operators. While the Kremlin is in truth no fonder of the Taliban than the West is, this spoiler strategy is inflicting pain on the Americans and our clients in Kabul, which is all the Russians seek here. Not to mention that payback against us in Afghanistan, three decades after U.S. clandestine aid killed and wounded thousands of Soviet troops in that country, must be delicious for Moscow, where revenge has always constituted a rational strategic motivation. However, the real fight is in the heart of the Middle East, where Russia and its Iranian allies are fundamentally transforming the region at high cost in blood. Together, Moscow and Tehran are challenging the American-constructed security system that’s an ailing holdover from the last Cold War. Even recent cooperation between America’s two clients, Israel and Saudi Arabia, appears insufficient to turn back the rising Russian-Iranian tide across the Middle East. We only have ourselves to blame for this. Putin has taken full advantage of the blank check written by Barack Obama in September 2013 when our president backed away from his “red line” in Syria, in effect outsourcing that country and its terrible civil war to the Kremlin. As I predicted at the time, the strategic consequences of Obama’s decision have been grave, making Putin the new Middle East power-broker—a message that was missed only in Washington think-tanks. For his part, Donald Trump has been only too willing to let his Russian counterpart and would-be buddy do whatever he likes in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. Moscow’s military intervention in the Middle East, begun under Obama, continues to flourish and shows no signs of abating. The balance of power in this vital region has shifted decisively from Washington to Moscow at appalling cost in human life, though none of that troubled President Obama very much, and it seems to trouble his successor not one bit. It would be naïve to think Putin restricts his poking to the Eastern Hemisphere. Closer to our home, the bear’s paw-prints are easily detectable. Take Venezuela, the Bolivarian dictatorship and economic basket-case that’s barely a viable country at all anymore, between currency collapse and serious food shortages. Russian money is keeping this anti-American regime afloat, and last week Moscow’s refinancing of $3.15 billion it’s owed by Caracas gives the flat-broke country a bit of financial breathing room. Without Russia, Venezuela would likely implode, and it’s worth considering whether the Bolivarian regime is actually Putin’s newest satellite state. Although sanctions and low oil prices have diminished the Kremlin’s largess toward anti-Americans all over the globe, the prospect of having a loyal (because utterly dependent) client so close to the United States seems too good for Putin to pass up. Then there’s Cuba, Moscow’s “fraternal ally” from the last Cold War, and apparently the second one too. Just 90 miles from Key West, Cuba has long served as a reliable base for Russian provocations against us, and nothing’s changed. Russian economic aid to that impoverished island is back, after falling off after 1991, and the Kremlin has begun to reopen its military and spy bases in the country, which were shuttered after the Soviet collapse. Western intelligence has detected a Kremlin hand behind the recent rash of sonic attacks on American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba. While Havana flatly denies that anything untoward has occurred, two dozen U.S. diplomats in the country have suffered serious health problems due to this mysterious problem, which remains officially unexplained. However, it’s known that the KGB experimented with sonic weapons, while an attack of this sophistication is widely considered to be beyond the technical abilities of Cuban intelligence. (….) In all, this amounts to a worldwide Russian effort to push back against what’s left of American hegemony. Since Moscow lacks the ability to directly counter NATO and the U.S. militarily, the Russians are provoking and prodding where they can with the techniques of Special War: it’s what the Kremlin does best. This should be considered a spoiler strategy, a strategy of tension—what left-wing Italians in the 1970s termed la strategia della tensione. Vladimir Putin seeks to expand Russian power on the cheap while causing problems for America and our allies wherever he can—without direct military confrontation. John Schindler
One of the more interesting aspects of Cold War 2.0 is the ideological struggle between the postmodern West and Russia—a struggle that most Westerners deny even exists. there is an undeniable ideological struggle between Vladimir Putin’s neo-traditionalist Russia and the post-modern West—one that prominent Russians talk about all the time. In the Kremlin’s imagination, this fight pits the godless, materialistic, doomed 21st century West, too lazy to even reproduce, against a tough, reborn Russia that was forged in the murderous fire of 74 years of Bolshevism. The yawning gap between Russian and Western values can be partly explained by the fact that Communism shielded the former from the West’s vast cultural shifts since the 1960s. Living under the Old Left provided protection against the New Left. As a result, Russians are living in our past and find current Western ways incomprehensible and even contemptible. Take the reaction to America’s present panic about sexual harassment, which is felling celebrities and politicians left and right. In Moscow, this looks like madness, punishing powerful men for doing what powerful men have always done. Their late-night TV uses our sex panic as a punchline, proof that Americans are weak and feminized, held hostage to radical ideology. There is an undeniable theological aspect to this Russian contempt for post-modern Western values. The Russian Orthodox Church, which isn’t exactly state-controlled but is tightly linked to the Kremlin, regularly denounces the godless West and its sins—homosexuality and feminism especially. Orthodox clerics regularly castigate our “Satanic” ways as an example of what Russia must repel if it wants to survive the 21st century. Denouncing the West as godless and decadent is a venerable tradition in Russian Orthodoxy with deep historical roots, and it’s been reborn after Communism with gusto. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the ROC, frequently breathes fire on post-modern Western ways, and a couple weeks back he shared them with John Huntsman, the newly arrived American ambassador in Moscow, in an awkward meet-and-greet that turned into a theology lecture. Simply put, Kirill explained, America today is doing to itself what the Bolsheviks did to Russia: forcing a godless, secular ideology onto society. “Christian values are being destroyed… The West is abandoning God, but Russia is not abandoning God, like the majority of people in the world. That means the distance between our values is increasing,” he stated bluntly. Kirill’s insistence that America and the West are the outliers here, with Russia and most of the world on the side of traditional religion and values, is an important point that merits pondering. The traditionalist nature of Putinism, always present, has grown more intense in recent years as the Kremlin has sought to enshrine an official ideology as confrontation with the West has grown. Whatever Vladimir Putin may actually believe, he has played the public role of an Orthodox believer quite effectively. He has cultivated senior ROC clerics, who provide regime-endorsing soundbites as needed, and the church gives Putin legitimacy in the eyes of average Russians, who aren’t especially religious in terms of church-going, yet they see an Orthodox identity as reassuring and plausible in Communism’s wake. Putin has returned the church’s affection, stating that Russia’s “spiritual shield”—meaning Orthodoxy—is as important to the country’s security as its nuclear shield. In turn, Orthodox leaders portray Putin’s as a God-given figure, divinely sent to bring the country back to faith and great-power status out of the wreckage of atheistic Bolshevism. (…) Recently, Putin has played up the Orthodox nationalist message in a series of public events. He visited Mount Athos, Greece’s famous Holy Mountain, in May 2016 in a pilgrimage of sorts. It was shown live, with great fanfare, in wall-to-wall coverage on Tsargrad TV, and Putin was treated by the monks there more like a visiting Byzantine emperor than as the Russian president. This month, Putin was present for the grand reopening of the New Jerusalem Monastery outside Moscow, a sprawling 17th century complex that was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II and was rebuilt from the ground up over the past decade at great expense. It did not go unnoticed that the monastery was originally constructed to glorify the Third Rome idea, the centuries-old religious myth that Moscow is the sole successor to Rome and Byzantium, which has long served as a driver of Russian nationalism and imperialism. Then, last week, Patriarch Kirill warned of coming Armageddon. (…) Adding that the world’s end is in the hands of humanity, and something that Russians and all nations must stop, Krill warned of Earth imminently “slipping into the abyss of the end of history.” These are the comments of a top cleric, not the Ministry of Defense, but it should be noted that the Russian military is now practicing for global thermonuclear war in a manner it hasn’t done since the last Cold War. Last month, in an apparent continuation of September’s Zapad mega-wargame, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces conducted a huge exercise that involved Putin himself. This exercise involved all three “legs” of Russia’s nuclear triad: land-based ballistic missiles, long-range bombers, and submarines with ballistic missiles. In all, several cruise missiles were fired while three ballistic missiles were launched—and Putin personally gave the launch orders. This is a rare move, not to mention a violation of our nuclear treaties with the Kremlin, and Moscow was sending a hard-to-miss message. (…) It would be a mistake to directly lump nuclear exercises in with apocalyptic messages from leading Kremlin ideologues. However, it’s hardly encouraging that the Putin regime is pushing propaganda about planetary end-times while indulging in saber-rattling nuclear wargames for the first time in decades. Whatever else this aggressive Moscow messaging means, none of it bodes well for peace. John Schindler

Religions de tous pays, unissez vous !

Au lendemain d’un nouveau triomphe électoral du Chaisier musical en chef  de la sainte Russie …

Dont la participation et le score rien de moins qu’africains ou même soviétiques …

En font rêver plus d’un notre Sarkozy national en tête ….

Dans un Occident ne s’étant toujours pas remis du vide stratégique et des folies migratoires laissés par l’ère Obama-Merkel…

Comment ne pas voir …

Avec l’ex-expert de la NSA John Schindler

La lutte proprement théologique qui se profile …

Derrière la convergence des revanchismes tant russe que chinois ou musulman …

Et sous la menace d’une probablement inévitable invasion démographique africaine de l’Europe …

Entre sous l’étendard d’une Amérique en proie aux pires dérives du politiquement correct …

La décadence postmoderne d’un Occident désormais livré au plus crasse du matérialisme et de la déchristianisation ….

Et sous la houlette d’un régime poutinien multipliant entre inaugurations ou visites de lieux saints orthodoxes les démonstrations de force y compris chimiques ou thermonucléaires

Un reste du monde défendant la religion et les valeurs traditionnelles abandonnées par ledit Occident ?

Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox End-Times Talk

One of the more interesting aspects of Cold War 2.0 is the ideological struggle between the postmodern West and Russia—a struggle that most Westerners deny even exists. President Barack Obama, after Moscow seized Crimea in early 2014, pronounced that there was nothing big afoot: “After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology.”

Obama’s statement was wrong then, and it’s even more wrong now. As I’ve explained, there is an undeniable ideological struggle between Vladimir Putin’s neo-traditionalist Russia and the post-modern West—one that prominent Russians talk about all the time. In the Kremlin’s imagination, this fight pits the godless, materialistic, doomed 21st century West, too lazy to even reproduce, against a tough, reborn Russia that was forged in the murderous fire of 74 years of Bolshevism.

The yawning gap between Russian and Western values can be partly explained by the fact that Communism shielded the former from the West’s vast cultural shifts since the 1960s. Living under the Old Left provided protection against the New Left. As a result, Russians are living in our past and find current Western ways incomprehensible and even contemptible.

Take the reaction to America’s present panic about sexual harassment, which is felling celebrities and politicians left and right. In Moscow, this looks like madness, punishing powerful men for doing what powerful men have always done. Their late-night TV uses our sex panic as a punchline, proof that Americans are weak and feminized, held hostage to radical ideology. Andrei Konchalovsky, one of Russia’s top film directors (including some Hollywood hits), expressed his view plainly: “Thank God we live in a country where political correctness has not reached the point of absurdity.”

There is an undeniable theological aspect to this Russian contempt for post-modern Western values. The Russian Orthodox Church, which isn’t exactly state-controlled but is tightly linked to the Kremlin, regularly denounces the godless West and its sins—homosexuality and feminism especially. Orthodox clerics regularly castigate our “Satanic” ways as an example of what Russia must repel if it wants to survive the 21st century.

Denouncing the West as godless and decadent is a venerable tradition in Russian Orthodoxy with deep historical roots, and it’s been reborn after Communism with gusto. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the ROC, frequently breathes fire on post-modern Western ways, and a couple weeks back he shared them with John Huntsman, the newly arrived American ambassador in Moscow, in an awkward meet-and-greet that turned into a theology lecture.

Simply put, Kirill explained, America today is doing to itself what the Bolsheviks did to Russia: forcing a godless, secular ideology onto society. “Christian values are being destroyed… The West is abandoning God, but Russia is not abandoning God, like the majority of people in the world. That means the distance between our values is increasing,” he stated bluntly. Kirill’s insistence that America and the West are the outliers here, with Russia and most of the world on the side of traditional religion and values, is an important point that merits pondering.

The traditionalist nature of Putinism, always present, has grown more intense in recent years as the Kremlin has sought to enshrine an official ideology as confrontation with the West has grown. Whatever Vladimir Putin may actually believe, he has played the public role of an Orthodox believer quite effectively. He has cultivated senior ROC clerics, who provide regime-endorsing soundbites as needed, and the church gives Putin legitimacy in the eyes of average Russians, who aren’t especially religious in terms of church-going, yet they see an Orthodox identity as reassuring and plausible in Communism’s wake.

Putin has returned the church’s affection, stating that Russia’s “spiritual shield”—meaning Orthodoxy—is as important to the country’s security as its nuclear shield. In turn, Orthodox leaders portray Putin’s as a God-given figure, divinely sent to bring the country back to faith and great-power status out of the wreckage of atheistic Bolshevism.

Prominent here is Konstantin Malofeev, a hedge-fund billionaire turned militant Orthodox nationalist, who created Tsargrad TV, a 24-hour cable new network, to push those values to the public. Malofeev, like the Blues Brothers, thinks he’s on a mission from God, and his network is basically the Russian Fox News, if FNC focused on theology and mystical nationalism instead of blonde newsreaders.

Malofeev’s affection for Russia’s president and his system is clear: “We believe that Putin is the best and the only leader [for Russia]… He is trying to make Russia the state where Christians can live and can save their souls for eternal life.” While the deeply Eastern nature of Orthodoxy means it has little appeal for Western Christians, there’s no doubt that Kremlin messaging is reaching some, especially American Evangelicals, whom Moscow sees as potential allies abroad.

The notorious gadfly Aleksandr Dugin goes further: “Simply said, the Antichrist will not come before there will not be anymore supporters [of Orthodoxy]… What is the coming of Antichrist? It is secularism. It is modernization. Westernization. Materialism. Scientific development. The concept of progress.” He added that Putin is “exactly” the figure who is resisting the Antichrist on earth.

Dugin, it should be noted, isn’t some random flake or religious nut, he’s a Big Idea thinker who’s taken somewhat seriously in the Kremlin, although his real role seems to be Moscow’s ambassador-at-large to the Western far-right. He is close to the Russian security services and he runs a website that pushes his hardline Orthodox nationalist message in several languages, including English. Its name comes from the Greek word for “he who resists the Antichrist.”

Recently, Putin has played up the Orthodox nationalist message in a series of public events. He visited Mount Athos, Greece’s famous Holy Mountain, in May 2016 in a pilgrimage of sorts. It was shown live, with great fanfare, in wall-to-wall coverage on Tsargrad TV, and Putin was treated by the monks there more like a visiting Byzantine emperor than as the Russian president.

This month, Putin was present for the grand reopening of the New Jerusalem Monastery outside Moscow, a sprawling 17th century complex that was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II and was rebuilt from the ground up over the past decade at great expense. It did not go unnoticed that the monastery was originally constructed to glorify the Third Rome idea, the centuries-old religious myth that Moscow is the sole successor to Rome and Byzantium, which has long served as a driver of Russian nationalism and imperialism.

Then, last week, Patriarch Kirill warned of coming Armageddon. After a service at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, he made a stunning statement: “One must be blind not to see the approach of the terrible moments of history about which the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian spoke in his Revelation.” Adding that the world’s end is in the hands of humanity, and something that Russians and all nations must stop, Krill warned of Earth imminently “slipping into the abyss of the end of history.”

These are the comments of a top cleric, not the Ministry of Defense, but it should be noted that the Russian military is now practicing for global thermonuclear war in a manner it hasn’t done since the last Cold War. Last month, in an apparent continuation of September’s Zapad mega-wargame, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces conducted a huge exercise that involved Putin himself. This exercise involved all three “legs” of Russia’s nuclear triad: land-based ballistic missiles, long-range bombers, and submarines with ballistic missiles. In all, several cruise missiles were fired while three ballistic missiles were launched—and Putin personally gave the launch orders.

This is a rare move, not to mention a violation of our nuclear treaties with the Kremlin, and Moscow was sending a hard-to-miss message. As Real Clear Defense reports, “The most striking thing about the exercise was that it was announced at all and that President Putin was characterized as ‘overseeing’ it and ordering the missile launches. This exercise was conducted in a sensitive period in U.S.-Russian relations. Russia did not have to announce the exercise. It has previously staged major strategic nuclear exercises without announcing them.”

It would be a mistake to directly lump nuclear exercises in with apocalyptic messages from leading Kremlin ideologues. However, it’s hardly encouraging that the Putin regime is pushing propaganda about planetary end-times while indulging in saber-rattling nuclear wargames for the first time in decades. Whatever else this aggressive Moscow messaging means, none of it bodes well for peace.

John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee. 

Voir aussi:

Putin’s Strategy of Global Tension

Ever since Moscow’s Little Green Men seized Crimea in early 2014, we’ve been in a new Cold War with Russia. To the consternation of wishful-thinkers, as Vladimir Putin’s confrontation with the West has become transparent, the reality of what I termed Cold War 2.0 almost four years ago has grown difficult to deny. Since the Kremlin’s revanchism is driving this conflict, we’re in it whether we want to be or not.

Europe is the central front in Cold War 2.0, thanks to geography and history. Putin’s war on, and in, Ukraine continues on low boil, while the Russian military regularly delivers provocations—a too-close warship here, an aircraft buzz there—all along NATO’s eastern frontier, sending an aggressive message. Major military exercises like September’s Zapad mega-wargame demonstrate Putin’s seriousness about confronting the Atlantic Alliance.

What Putin wants was the subject of my recent interview with Antoni Macierewicz, Poland’s plain-spoken defense minister. What the Kremlin boss seeks, he explained, is restoration of the Russian empire, to which Ukraine (or at least most of it) belonged for centuries. “Putin understands that there is no empire without Ukraine,” he added.

However, Kremlin provocations extend far beyond the former Soviet Union, as Macierewicz elaborated:

The first move, I think, is Ukraine. But I don’t exclude a military attack in the Far East. They want to distract American attention, prolong the front of confrontation in order to create a favorable situation for aggression in Europe. If you look at the map, Russia is always helping the enemies of America: deep ties to North Korea, involvement in Afghanistan and Syria, backing Iran, and so on.

This assessment sounds alarmist at first, particularly the mention of possible aggression in the Far East, but Western intelligence agencies that track Russian moves have been thinking along similar lines—though they seldom say so in public. Therefore, it’s worth taking a brief look at what Putin’s up to, and where.

Russia’s footprint on the North Korean crisis is impossible to miss, and since that’s the world’s most dangerous strategic predicament at present, Moscow’s less-than-helpful role merits attention. Although Beijing is clearly exasperated by the unhinged antics of its semi-client regime in Pyongyang, Moscow seems perfectly pleased with the hazardous games played by North Korea.

And why not? Pyongyang creates strategic confusion for the Americans, which the Kremlin always enjoys. Russian military and intelligence support to the increasingly isolated Kim regime is an open secret, while Putin’s sanctions-beating lifelines to Pyongyang are public and deeply annoying for both Beijing and Washington. Although Moscow is no more eager to see all-out war on the Korean peninsula than the Chinese or Americans, keeping the nasty Kim regime in place frustrates and distracts the Pentagon, which is Russia’s real aim here. Not to mention that backing North Korea is viewed in the Kremlin as payback for NATO’s “meddling” in Ukraine.

A similar pattern can be detected in Afghanistan, where American-led forces are in their sixteenth year of a seemingly endless counterinsurgency against the Taliban—and it’s not going well. Therefore, Moscow has been giving clandestine support to the Taliban. A few months back, the U.S. military command in Afghanistan admitted that Russian arms were reaching the Taliban. That clandestine Kremlin assistance is costing lives is increasingly obvious. Russian aid has reached Taliban “special” units that launch attacks on Afghan military bases.

A recent spate of Taliban assaults on Afghan forces, including nighttime raids, has inflicted unexpected casualties on American allies. Of concern to the Pentagon, Taliban fighters equipped with Russian-made night vision gear have been ambushing Afghan military and police with lethal effects. It seems only a matter of time before American troops are killed by Russian-equipped Taliban special operators.

While the Kremlin is in truth no fonder of the Taliban than the West is, this spoiler strategy is inflicting pain on the Americans and our clients in Kabul, which is all the Russians seek here. Not to mention that payback against us in Afghanistan, three decades after U.S. clandestine aid killed and wounded thousands of Soviet troops in that country, must be delicious for Moscow, where revenge has always constituted a rational strategic motivation.

However, the real fight is in the heart of the Middle East, where Russia and its Iranian allies are fundamentally transforming the region at high cost in blood. Together, Moscow and Tehran are challenging the American-constructed security system that’s an ailing holdover from the last Cold War. Even recent cooperation between America’s two clients, Israel and Saudi Arabia, appears insufficient to turn back the rising Russian-Iranian tide across the Middle East.

We only have ourselves to blame for this. Putin has taken full advantage of the blank check written by Barack Obama in September 2013 when our president backed away from his “red line” in Syria, in effect outsourcing that country and its terrible civil war to the Kremlin. As I predicted at the time, the strategic consequences of Obama’s decision have been grave, making Putin the new Middle East power-broker—a message that was missed only in Washington think-tanks.

For his part, Donald Trump has been only too willing to let his Russian counterpart and would-be buddy do whatever he likes in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. Moscow’s military intervention in the Middle East, begun under Obama, continues to flourish and shows no signs of abating. The balance of power in this vital region has shifted decisively from Washington to Moscow at appalling cost in human life, though none of that troubled President Obama very much, and it seems to trouble his successor not one bit.

It would be naïve to think Putin restricts his poking to the Eastern Hemisphere. Closer to our home, the bear’s paw-prints are easily detectable. Take Venezuela, the Bolivarian dictatorship and economic basket-case that’s barely a viable country at all anymore, between currency collapse and serious food shortages. Russian money is keeping this anti-American regime afloat, and last week Moscow’s refinancing of $3.15 billion it’s owed by Caracas gives the flat-broke country a bit of financial breathing room. Without Russia, Venezuela would likely implode, and it’s worth considering whether the Bolivarian regime is actually Putin’s newest satellite state. Although sanctions and low oil prices have diminished the Kremlin’s largess toward anti-Americans all over the globe, the prospect of having a loyal (because utterly dependent) client so close to the United States seems too good for Putin to pass up.

Then there’s Cuba, Moscow’s “fraternal ally” from the last Cold War, and apparently the second one too. Just 90 miles from Key West, Cuba has long served as a reliable base for Russian provocations against us, and nothing’s changed. Russian economic aid to that impoverished island is back, after falling off after 1991, and the Kremlin has begun to reopen its military and spy bases in the country, which were shuttered after the Soviet collapse.

Western intelligence has detected a Kremlin hand behind the recent rash of sonic attacks on American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba. While Havana flatly denies that anything untoward has occurred, two dozen U.S. diplomats in the country have suffered serious health problems due to this mysterious problem, which remains officially unexplained. However, it’s known that the KGB experimented with sonic weapons, while an attack of this sophistication is widely considered to be beyond the technical abilities of Cuban intelligence. “Of course it was the Russians,” explained a senior NATO security official to me recently about this strange case. “We have no real doubt of that.”

In all, this amounts to a worldwide Russian effort to push back against what’s left of American hegemony. Since Moscow lacks the ability to directly counter NATO and the U.S. militarily, the Russians are provoking and prodding where they can with the techniques of Special War: it’s what the Kremlin does best. This should be considered a spoiler strategy, a strategy of tension—what left-wing Italians in the 1970s termed la strategia della tensione.

Vladimir Putin seeks to expand Russian power on the cheap while causing problems for America and our allies wherever he can—without direct military confrontation. So far, the Kremlin seems to be playing its rather poor hand well at the tables of global power, and Putin’s strategy of tension shows no signs of abating. Although the Trump White House is paying no attention to this new reality, the Pentagon and our Intelligence Community certainly are.

John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee. 

Voir également:

How to Win Cold War 2.0

To beat Vladimir Putin, we’re going to have to be a little more like him.

The last two weeks have witnessed the upending of the European order and the close of the post-Cold War era. With his invasion of Crimea and the instant absorption of the strategic peninsula, Vladimir Putin has shown that he will not play by the West’s rules. The “end of history” is at an end—we’re now seeing the onset of Cold War 2.0.

What’s on the Kremlin’s mind was made clear by Putin’s fire-breathing speech to the Duma announcing the annexation of Crimea, which blended retrograde Russian nationalism with a generous helping of messianism on behalf of his fellow Slavs, alongside the KGB-speak that Putin is so fond of. If you enjoy mystical references to Orthodox saints of two millennia past accompanied by warnings about a Western fifth column and “national traitors,” this was the speech for you.

Putin confirmed the worst fears of Ukrainians who think they should have their own country. But his ambitions go well beyond Ukraine: By explicitly linking Russian ethnicity with membership in the Russian Federation, Putin has challenged the post-Soviet order writ large.

For years, I studied Russia as a counterintelligence officer for the National Security Agency, and at times I feel like I’m seeing history in reverse. The Kremlin is a fiercely revisionist power, seeking to change the status quo by various forms of force. This will soon involve NATO members in the Baltics directly, as well as Poland and Romania indirectly. Longstanding Russian acumen in what I term Special War, an amalgam of espionage, subversion and terrorism by spies and special operatives, is already known to Russia’s neighbors and can be expected to increase.

In truth, Putin set Russia on a course for Cold War 2.0 as far back as 2007, and perhaps earlier; Western counterintelligence noted major upswings in aggressive Russian espionage and subversion against NATO members as far back as 2006.The brief Georgia war of August 2008, which made clear that the Kremlin was perfectly comfortable with using force in the post-Soviet space, ought to have served as a bigger wake-up call for the West.

John R. Schindler is professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and a former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer. The views expressed here are his own.
Voir de même:

Avec Zapad 2017, la Russie se prépare « pour une grande guerre », dit un responsable militaire de l’Otan

Le général tchèque Petr Pavel, le président du comité militaire de l’Otan, ne passe pour être alarmiste. Ainsi, en juin 2016, lors d’une audition devant la commission sénatoriale des Affaires étrangères et des Forces armées, il avait estimé que la Russie « ne présentait pas une menace imminente » tout n’écartant pas la volonté de son président, Vladimir Poutine, de défier l’Alliance atlantique.

« Des intérêts communs existent entre l’Alliance, l’Union européenne, nos propres pays et la Russie. Nous devons accepter que la Russie puisse être un concurrent, un compétiteur, un adversaire, un pair ou un partenaire – voire tout cela en même temps. […] Cette complexité est une réalité de notre environnement stratégique contemporain » et cela « demande une approche pratique et sophistiquée qui prend en compte le fait que la Russie veut devenir un partenaire mondial et acquérir un pouvoir mondial », avait ainsi expliqué le général Pavel aux sénateurs français.

Cela étant, l’exercice Zapad 2017 qui, mené conjointement par les forces russes et biélorusses, vient de débuter, préoccupe depuis plusieurs mois les responsables de l’Otan, dans la mesure où ces manoeuvres se déroulent dans l’enclave russe de Kaliningrad et en Biélorussie, à deux pas du passage dit de Suwalki qui est le seul accès terrestre reliant les pays baltes aux autres pays de l’Alliance et de l’Union européenne.

Or, il est reproché à la Russie de manquer de transparence au sujet de cet exercice, qui vise à simuler l’infiltration de « groupes extrémistes » en Biélorussie et à Kaliningrad pour y commettre des actes terroristes à des fins de déstabilisation.

Officiellement, Zapad 2017 mobilise environ 13.000 soldats. Mais selon le secrétaire général de l’Otan, Jens Stoltenberg, il y a « toutes les raisons de croire que le nombre de troupes sera substantiellement plus élevé que ce qui a été annoncé ». En outre, certains estiment qu’il servira de prétexte aux forces russes pour laisser des matériels en Biélorussie en vue d’une utilisation future.

Les manoeuvres Zapad-2017 « sont désignées pour nous provoquer, pour tester nos défenses et c’est pour cela que nous devons être forts », a ainsi affirmé, le 10 septembre, Michael Fallon, le ministre britannique de la Défense.

« La Russie est capable de manipuler les chiffres avec une grande aisance, c’est pourquoi elle ne veut pas d’observateurs étrangers. Mais 12.700 soldats annoncés pour des manoeuvres stratégiques, c’est ridicule », a commenté Alexandre Golts, un expert militaire russe indépendant, cité par l’AFP.

Ce manque de transparence de la Russie, qui ne s’inscrit pas dans l’esprit du Document de Vienne de l’OSCE [Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe, ndlr], est un sujet de préoccupation pour le général Pavel, même s’il a rencontré, il y a deux semaines, le chef d’état-major des armées russes, le général Valery Gerasimov, pour évoquer cet exercice.

« Ce que nous voyons est une préparation sérieuse pour une grande guerre », a en effet dit le général tchèque lors d’un entretien donné le 16 septembre à l’Associated Press, en marge d’une réunion du comité militaire de l’Otan en Albanie. « Lorsque nous regardons uniquement l’exercice qui est présenté par la Russie, il ne devrait pas y avoir d’inquiétude. Mais quand on regarde la situation dans son ensemble, nous devons nous inquiéter parce que la Russie n’est pas transparente », a-t-il ajouté.

Le premier sujet de préoccupation du général Pavel porte sur le niveau des effectifs engagés dans l’exercice Zapad 2017. Selon lui, ils pourraient atteindre 70.000 soldats, voire 100.000.

« Nous avons une forte concentration de troupes dans les pays baltes. Nous avons une forte concentration de troupes en mer Noire. E le risque d’un incident peut être assez élevé en raison d’une erreur humaine ou d’une panne technologique », a souligné le général Pavel. « Nous devons être sûrs qu’un tel incident involontaire n’entraînera pas de conflit », a-t-il insisté.

Cela étant, la Biélorussie a annoncé, le 16 septembre, avoir invité des représentants de 7 pays (Lettonie, Lituanie, Estonie, Pologne, Suède, Norvège et d’Ukraine) pour observer les exercices de Zapad 2017 qui auront lieu sur son territoire. Il s’agit ainsi de répondre au « désir de développer la coopération et la bonne entente entre voisins, ainsi que les principes de réciprocité, d’ouverture et de transparence », a fait valoir le ministère biélorusse de la Défense. Jusqu’à présent, Moscou n’avait autorisé la venue que de trois oberservateurs de l’Otan, uniquement lors de la journée organisée pour les « visiteurs ».

Voir de plus:

Paul R. Gregory
Hoover
March 21, 2018

Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine has two overarching goals.

First, the Russian people must believe the Kremlin version of domestic and world events. In this regard, the agents of Russian “information technology” have succeeded. Polls show that Russians believe that Russia is a super power in a hostile world; that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine; that Crimea voluntarily joined Russia; and that a Ukrainian fighter shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Second, Kremlin propaganda must discredit Western democracy as dysfunctional and inferior to Russia’s managed “democracy.” Kremlin propaganda has largely failed in this regard. Russians consider their government corrupt, remote from the people, interested in preserving power rather than performing its duties, and lying about the true state of affairs. Nevertheless, Putin’s approval ratings remain high in the absence of rivals, who have fled the country, been indicted, or murdered.

Putin, in fact, bases his legitimacy on high approval ratings. To counter the Russian people’s sense that they have no say in how they are governed, Kremlin propagandists must sell the story that Western democracies have it worse. Downtrodden Americans, they say, face poverty, hunger, racial and ethnic discrimination, unemployment, and they are governed by corrupt, inept, greedy, dysfunctional, and feuding politicians who sell out to the highest bidder on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley.

This brings us to how the ballyhooed Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election has given Putin a gift that keeps on giving—a paralyzed federal government, incapable of compromise, in which a significant portion of the governing class questions the legitimacy of a new president.

Russia routinely meddles in the politics of other countries. Despite denials, the Kremlin contributes to pro-Russian political parties throughout the world, gathers compromising information, hacks into email accounts, offers lucrative contracts to foreign businesses, and circulates false news. Given this history, U.S. authorities should not have been surprised by Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

To date, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted thirteen Russian “internet trolls,” who sowed discord on social media by posting inflammatory, distorted, slanted, and false information promoting the Russian narrative of a deeply divided electorate and a discredited American electoral system. Mueller’s indictment identifies the Internet Research Agency (IRA) of St. Petersburg as the nerve center of Russia’s trolling operations. Although putatively owned by a private Russian oligarch close to Putin, there is little doubt that the IRA is a mouthpiece of the Kremlin. The existence and activities of the IRA have been known since 2014. It employs hundreds of hackers and writers divided into geographical sections. It is not the sole source of Russian trolling, but it is the most important.

Those American politicians and pundits, like Congressman Jerry Nagler and columnist Thomas Friedman, who label Russian intervention an act of warfare on par with Pearl Harbor or 9/11must attribute supernatural powers to Putin’s trolls. After all, the Mueller investigation revealed that Russia spent no more than a few million dollars on its election-meddling versus the over two billion dollars spent by the presidential candidates alone. The IRA’s St. Petersburg America desk constituted some 90 persons. Their social media posts accounted for an infinitesimal portion of social media political traffic and much of this came after the election.

Despite such evidence, Gerald F. Seib, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, declares himself “frightened” by Russia’s “sophisticated and sustained effort to use technology, social media manipulation, and traditional covert measures to disrupt America’s political system.”

But a closer look at such trolls reveals a different picture. Over the past five years, Russian trolls have regularly attacked my articles at Forbes.com. Given the number of attacks and their organized nature, I suspect most came directly from the IRA.  The Kremlin clearly has not liked my posts on Russian domestic politics, the country’s faltering petro-economy, political assassinations, and foreign military intervention. What I encountered in the comments section of my pieces was an army of scripted trolls engaging in primitive invective and heavy doses of ad hominem blasts. These amateurs did not seem up to the monumental task for which they are now credited—of changing the course of American political history.

My trolls used the same clandestine social media techniques as those identified by Mueller in his indictments. They posted through leased servers with moving IP addresses. They assumed Anglo-Saxon (Jeff, RussM, Dave, John), exotic (Sadr Ewr, Er Ren), and computer generated (Hweits, Aij) monikers. Those with Anglo-Saxon names asserted they were Americans, even ex-Marines. They used provably false identities: One “Stanley Ford,” identifying himself as a graduate student at Stanford, expressed his dismay at my “shallow” Stanford economics seminar. But there is no such graduate student at Stanford and I had given no such seminar.

Other trolls, such as “Andrey,” wrote sometimes incomprehensible English: “Dear PAUL, can we badly know English language, but only one thing I want to say, YOU understand—Fack You.” (Russians have no English “u” sound in their alphabet.) Such “Andreys” were subsequently replaced by experienced trolls, such as “Jeff” and “RussM,” with an occasional guest rant by “Aij,” whose favorite topic was “filthy Jewish bankers.” My most prolific troll, “Jeff,” posted at times almost fifty comments per column. One troll appeared in person to pester me at a panel discussion in the Bay area. One volunteered that I am a fictional person. Another offered to drop by my office for a personal chat. For obvious reasons, I did not accept.

Troll “John’s” tirade is a classic ad hominem smear: “Gregory’s inane, badly written propaganda articles never had one original thought, just parroting what he could grab on the Internet. Gregory is a pitiful Nazi moron.”

My trolls made heavy use of moral equivalence. Did the U.S. not attack Iraq and did its police not gun down black teenagers in Missouri? Yes, Russia may be aiding the rebels in Syria and Ukraine, but are not American troops and CIA operatives swarming all over Ukraine? Yes, the shooting down of MH17 was a tragedy, but did not the United States down an Iranian passenger jet in 1988?

The “denying the obvious” technique is illustrated by three videos circulated by Russian trolls on the Internet and Russian TV. Each featured a wounded man lying in an east Ukrainian hospital bed. In one video, he claimed to be a heroic surgeon. In the second, he was a disillusioned neo-fascist financier. In the third video, the bandaged man declared himself an innocent bystander. The problem, I pointed out, was that each video featured the same Russian actor but in different roles. Unfazed, my trolls “saw no contradictions” until one of Russia’s main TV channels (NTV) declared that the versatile actor was mentally ill. When it comes to Ukraine, the official IRA line has been that the Russian tanks, radar, missile launchers, and the like were purchased at used weapon shops by the “patriots” fighting the neo-Nazis and extremists sent from Kiev. When I pointed out the inanity of this proposition, one troll’s unedited response read: “everything he (Gregory) says at the beginning is nothing BUT LIES! russia did not give the east ANYTHING.”

In a botched false-flag operation, trolls claimed that “Ukrainian” extremists fled in panic after firing on a separatist checkpoint, conveniently leaving behind a vast cache of Nazi regalia (plus “snipers’ diapers”). The video of the Nazi cache, however, is dated to the day before the alleged attack, according to the camera time code. My expose of the snipers’ diapers incident brought forth reinforcement from new trolls, who wanted to debate time zones and now to impute the time of day from the length of shadows.

My clashes with IRA trolls over Ukraine can seem at times comical, but they are dead serious. The trolls are pushing a strictly coordinated narrative both to the Russian people and to foreign audiences that Ukraine is an illegitimate state and that the United States and NATO are the aggressors.

Indeed, that Western democracies, American democracy especially, are rotten, corrupt, and hapless is a cornerstone of the Kremlin narrative. As the Mueller indictment concludes: The stated goal of the Russian operation was “spreading distrust towards candidates and the political system in general.” The Russian trolls, according to the Mueller indictment, used a number of techniques to achieve this end. They encouraged fringe candidates. They tried to ally with disaffected religious, ethnic, and nationalist groups. They discredited the candidate they thought most likely to win. Once the winner was known, they immediately moved to discredit him.

As noted above, the Russian people are largely on board with the IRA’s narrative. Why? The average Russian family gets its news from the major state networks, which offer topflight entertainment before and after news of the day. Russia’s trolls stand ready to swat down any unfavorable social media. Alternative messages have little hope of penetrating the Russian heartland.

Although the trolls are succeeding at home, Russian propaganda has had little effect on foreign audiences. Public opinion worldwide shows a negative opinion of Russia and Putin, according to Pew Research. But if Russian trolls cannot sway Western public opinion, how could they have influenced the outcome of the biggest game of all—a U.S. presidential election? The dozen ill-informed operatives indicted by Mueller held poorly attended rallies, had to be educated about red and blue states, and spent their limited funds in uncontested states. It would be almost crazy to believe that such Russian intervention could have made a difference.

Why, then, do so many Americans believe that Russia was instrumental in throwing the election to Donald Trump? It may be that some of the President’s opponents actually believe this narrative. But there’s another explanation, too: Russian intervention provides opportunistic politicians and pundits a useful excuse for paralyzing the incoming government of a gutter-fighter President from a show business and construction background with no political experience. In their view, such a person should not be allowed to govern. Hence the paralysis, dysfunction, and chaos of American democracy—long claimed by Russian propagandists—is on its way to becoming reality. What a windfall for Putin and his oligarchs.

Voir encore:

A Abou Dhabi, Sarkozy fait l’éloge des hommes forts

L’ancien président français regrette que « les démocraties détruisent tous les leaderships ».

Le Monde

Ces confidences peuvent paraître étonnantes de la part d’un ancien président français. Samedi 3 mars, lors du forum « Ideas Week-end » organisée à Abou Dhabi, la capitale des Emirats arabes unis, Nicolas Sarkozy a livré ses jugements sur l’état du monde, en maniant la provocation. A l’instar du site d’information Buzzfeed, Le Monde s’est procuré l’enregistrement de son intervention. Morceaux choisis.

  • Leadership et démocratie

« Quels sont les grands leaders du monde aujourd’hui ? Le président Xi, le président Poutine – on peut être d’accord ou pas, mais c’est un leader –, le grand prince Mohammed Ben Salman [d’Arabie saoudite]. Et que seraient aujourd’hui les Emirats sans le leadership de MBZ [Mohammed Ben Zayed] ?

Quel est le problème des démocraties ? C’est que les démocraties ont pu devenir des démocraties avec de grands leaders : de Gaulle, Churchill… Mais les démocraties détruisent tous les leaderships. C’est un grand sujet, ce n’est pas un sujet anecdotique ! Comment peut-on avoir une vision à dix, quinze ou vingt ans, et en même temps avoir un rythme électoral aux Etats-Unis tous les quatre ans ? Les démocraties sont devenues un champ de bataille, où chaque heure est utilisée par tout le monde, réseaux sociaux et autres, pour détruire celui qui est en place. Comment voulez-vous avoir une vision de long terme pour un pays ? C’est ce qui fait que, aujourd’hui, les grands leaders du monde sont issus de pays qui ne sont pas de grandes démocraties. »

  • La Chine

« C’est une formidable bonne nouvelle que la Chine assume ses responsabilités internationales. On assiste à un changement de la politique chinoise comme jamais on n’en a connu avant. Jamais. La Chine, c’est quand même le pays qui a construit la Grande Muraille pour se protéger des barbares qui étaient de l’autre côté : nous. « One Road, One Belt » [le projet de « nouvelles routes de la soie » du pouvoir chinois] : c’est un changement colossal ! Tout d’un coup, la Chine décomplexée dit : “Je pars à la conquête du monde.” Alors est-ce que c’est pour des raisons éducatives, politiques, économiques : peu importe. »

  • Xi président à vie

« Le président Xi considère que deux mandats de cinq ans, dix ans, c’est pas assez. Il a raison ! Le mandat du président américain, en vérité c’est pas quatre ans, c’est deux ans : un an pour apprendre le job, un an pour préparer la réélection. Donc vous comparez le président chinois qui a une vision pour son pays et qui dit : “Dix ans, c’est pas assez”, au président américain qui a en vérité deux ans. Mais qui parierait beaucoup sur la réélection de Trump ? Ce matin, j’ai rencontré le prince héritier MBZ. Est-ce que vous croyez qu’on construit un pays comme ça, en deux ans ? Ici, en cinquante ans, vous avez construit un des pays les plus modernes qui soient. La question du leadership est centrale. La réussite du modèle émirien est sans doute l’exemple le plus important pour nous, pour l’ensemble du monde. J’ai été le chef de l’Etat qui a signé le contrat du Louvre à Abou Dhabi. J’y ai mis toute mon énergie. MBZ y a mis toute sa vision. On a mis dix ans ! En allant vite ! Sauf que MBZ est toujours là… Et moi ça fait six ans que je suis parti. »

  • Comment traiter avec la Russie ?

« La question doit être posée comme ça : est-ce qu’on a besoin de la Russie ou pas ? Ma réponse est oui ! La Russie, c’est le pays à la plus grande superficie du monde. Qui peut dire qu’on ne doit pas parler avec eux ? Quelle est cette idée folle ? Je n’avais pas tout à fait compris dans l’administration Obama pourquoi Poutine et la Russie étaient devenus le principal adversaire. Y a-t-il un risque que la Russie envahisse d’autres pays ? Je n’y crois pas. La Russie doit perdre environ un demi-million d’habitants par an, sur le territoire le plus grand du monde. Est-ce que vous avez déjà vu des pays qui n’arrivent pas à occuper toute leur surface aller envahir des pays à côté ? Sur l’Ukraine, je pense que l’affaire n’a pas été bien gérée depuis le début et qu’il y avait moyen de faire mieux. Poutine est un homme prévisible, avec qui on peut parler et qui respecte la force. »

  • Le défi du populisme

« D’abord pour moi, M. Orban en Hongrie [le premier ministre], c’est pas un populiste. Mais là où il y a un grand leader, il n’y a pas de populisme ! Où est le populisme en Chine ? Où est le populisme ici ? Où est le populisme en Russie ? Où est le populisme en Arabie saoudite ? Si le grand leader quitte la table, les leaders populistes prennent la place. Parce que la polémique ne détruit pas le leader populiste, la polémique détruit le leader démocratique.

La seule solution, ce n’est pas de combattre le populisme, ça n’a pas de sens, c’est d’écouter ce que dit le peuple. Que dit le peuple ? L’Europe est à 12 kilomètres de l’Afrique par le détroit de Gibraltar. En trente ans, l’Afrique va passer d’un milliard d’habitants à 2,3 milliards. Le seul Nigeria, vous m’entendez, le Nigeria, dans trente ans, aura plus d’habitants que les Etats-Unis. Le peuple dit : “On ne peut pas accueillir toute l’immigration qui vient d’Afrique.” Et c’est vrai.

Il ne s’agit pas de supprimer l’immigration. Mais dans trente ans, il y aura 500 millions d’Européens, et 2,3 milliards d’Africains. Si l’Afrique ne se développe pas, l’Europe explosera. Ce n’est pas un sujet populiste, c’est un sujet tout court. »

Voir enfin:
Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s Philosopher of Russian Fascism

Timothy Snyder
The NY Reviw of books
March 16, 2018

This is an expanded version of Timothy Snyder’s essay “God Is a Russian” in the April 5, 2018 issue of The New York Review.


“The fact of the matter is that fascism is a redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.”

—Ivan Ilyin, 1927

“My prayer is like a sword. And my sword is like a prayer.”

—Ivan Ilyin, 1927

“Politics is the art of identifying and neutralizing the enemy.”

—Ivan Ilyin, 1948

The Russian looked Satan in the eye, put God on the psychoanalyst’s couch, and understood that his nation could redeem the world. An agonized God told the Russian a story of failure. In the beginning was the Word, purity and perfection, and the Word was God. But then God made a youthful mistake. He created the world to complete himself, but instead soiled himself, and hid in shame. God’s, not Adam’s, was the original sin, the release of the imperfect. Once people were in the world, they apprehended facts and experienced feelings that could not be reassembled to what had been God’s mind. Each individual thought or passion deepened the hold of Satan on the world.

And so the Russian, a philosopher, understood history as a disgrace. Nothing that had happened since creation was of significance. The world was a meaningless farrago of fragments. The more humans sought to understand it, the more sinful it became. Modern society, with its pluralism and its civil society, deepened the flaws of the world and kept God in his exile. God’s one hope was that a righteous nation would follow a Leader into political totality, and thereby begin a repair of the world that might in turn redeem the divine. Because the unifying principle of the Word was the only good in the universe, any means that might bring about its return were justified.

Thus this Russian philosopher, whose name was Ivan Ilyin, came to imagine a Russian Christian fascism. Born in 1883, he finished a dissertation on God’s worldly failure just before the Russian Revolution of 1917. Expelled from his homeland in 1922 by the Soviet power he despised, he embraced the cause of Benito Mussolini and completed an apology for political violence in 1925. In German and Swiss exile, he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s for White Russian exiles who had fled after defeat in the Russian civil war, and in the 1940s and 1950s for future Russians who would see the end of the Soviet power.

A tireless worker, Ilyin produced about twenty books in Russian, and another twenty in German. Some of his work has a rambling and commonsensical character, and it is easy to find tensions and contradictions. One current of thought that is coherent over the decades, however, is his metaphysical and moral justification for political totalitarianism, which he expressed in practical outlines for a fascist state. A crucial concept was “law” or “legal consciousness” (pravosoznanie). For the young Ilyin, writing before the Revolution, law embodied the hope that Russians would partake in a universal consciousness that would allow Russia to create a modern state. For the mature, counter-revolutionary Ilyin, a particular consciousness (“heart” or “soul,” not “mind”) permitted Russians to experience the arbitrary claims of power as law. Though he died forgotten, in 1954, Ilyin’s work was revived after collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and guides the men who rule Russia today.

The Russian Federation of the early twenty-first century is a new country, formed in 1991 from the territory of the Russian republic of the Soviet Union. It is smaller than the old Russian Empire, and separated from it in time by the intervening seven decades of Soviet history. Yet the Russian Federation of today does resemble the Russian Empire of Ilyin’s youth in one crucial respect: it has not established the rule of law as the principle of government. The trajectory in Ilyin’s understanding of law, from hopeful universalism to arbitrary nationalism, was followed in the discourse of Russian politicians, including Vladimir Putin. Because Ilyin found ways to present the failure of the rule of law as Russian virtue, Russian kleptocrats use his ideas to portray economic inequality as national innocence. In the last few years, Vladimir Putin has also used some of Ilyin’s more specific ideas about geopolitics in his effort translate the task of Russian politics from the pursuit of reform at home to the export of virtue abroad. By transforming international politics into a discussion of “spiritual threats,” Ilyin’s works have helped Russian elites to portray the Ukraine, Europe, and the United States as existential dangers to Russia.

*

Ivan Ilyin was a philosopher who confronted Russian problems with German thinkers. This was typical of the time and place. He was child of the Silver Age, the late empire of the Romanov dynasty. His father was a Russian nobleman, his mother a German Protestant who had converted to Orthodoxy. As a student at Moscow between 1901 and 1906, Ilyin’s real subject was philosophy, which meant the ethical thought of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). For the neo-Kantians, who then held sway in universities across Europe as well as in Russia, humans differed from the rest of creation by a capacity for reason that permitted meaningful choices. Humans could then freely submit to law, since they could grasp and accept its spirit.

Law was then the great object of desire of the Russian thinking classes. Russian students of law, perhaps more than their European colleagues, could see it as a source of political transformation. Law seemed to offer the antidote to the ancient Russian problem of proizvol, of arbitrary rule by autocratic tsars. Even as a hopeful young man, however, Ilyin struggled to see the Russian people as the creatures of reason Kant imagined. He waited expectantly for a grand revolt that would hasten the education of the Russian masses. When the Russo-Japanese War created conditions for a revolution in 1905, Ilyin defended the right to free assembly. With his girlfriend, Natalia Vokach, he translated a German anarchist pamphlet into Russian. The tsar was forced to concede a new constitution in 1906, which created a new Russian parliament. Though chosen in a way that guaranteed the power of the empire’s landed classes, the parliament had the authority to legislate. The tsar dismissed parliament twice, and then illegally changed the electoral system to ensure that it was even more conservative. It was impossible to see the new constitution as having brought the rule of law to Russia.

Employed to teach law by the university in 1909, Ilyin published a beautiful article in both Russian (1910) and German (1912) on the conceptual differences between law and power. Yet how to make law functional in practice and resonant in life? Kant seemed to leave open a gap between the spirit of law and the reality of autocracy. G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831), however, offered hope by proposing that this and other painful tensions would be resolved by time. History, as a hopeful Ilyin read Hegel, was the gradual penetration of Spirit (Geist) into the world. Each age transcended the previous one and brought a crisis that promised the next one. The beastly masses will come to resemble the enlightened friends, ardors of daily life will yield to political order.

The philosopher who understands this message becomes the vehicle of Spirit, always a tempting prospect. Like other Russian intellectuals of his own and previous generations, the young Ilyin was drawn to Hegel, and in 1912 proclaimed a “Hegelian renaissance.” Yet, just as the immense Russian peasantry had given him second thoughts about the ease of communicating law to Russian society, so his experience of modern urban life left him doubtful that historical change was only a matter of Spirit. He found Russians, even those of his own class and milieu in Moscow, to be disgustingly corporeal. In arguments about philosophy and politics in the 1910s, he accused his opponents of “sexual perversion.”

In 1913, Ilyin worried that perversion was a national Russian syndrome, and proposed Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) as Russia’s savior. In Ilyin’s reading of Freud, civilization arose from a collective agreement to suppress basic drives. The individual paid a psychological price for sacrifice of his nature to culture. Only through long consultations on the couch of the psychoanalyst could unconscious experience surface into awareness. Psychoanalysis therefore offered a very different portrait of thought than did the Hegelian philosophy that Ilyin was then studying. Even as Ilyin was preparing his dissertation on Hegel, he offered himself as the pioneer of Russia’s national psychotherapy, travelling with Natalia to Vienna in May 1914 for sessions with Freud. Thus the outbreak of World War I found Ilyin in Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg monarchy, now one of Russia’s enemies.

“My inner Germans,” Ilyin wrote to a friend in 1915, “trouble me more than the outer Germans,” the German and Habsburg realms making war against the Russian Empire. The “inner German” who helped Ilyin to master the others was the philosopher Edmund Husserl, with whom he had studied in Göttingen in 1911. Husserl (1859–1938), the founder of the school of thought known as phenomenology, tried to describe the method by which the philosopher thinks himself into the world. The philosopher sought to forget his own personality and prior assumptions, and tried to experience a subject on its own terms. As Ilyin put it, the philosopher must mentally possess (perezhit’) the object of inquiry until he attains self-evident and exhaustive clarity (ochevidnost).

Husserl’s method was simplified by Ilyin into a “philosophical act” whereby the philosopher can still the universe and anything in it—other philosophers, the world, God— by stilling his own mind. Like an Orthodox believer contemplating an icon, Ilyin believed (in contrast to Husserl) that he could see a metaphysical reality through a physical one. As he wrote his dissertation about Hegel, he perceived the divine subject in a philosophical text, and fixed it in place. Hegel meant God when he wrote Spirit, concluded Ilyin, and Hegel was wrong to see motion in history. God could not realize himself in the world, since the substance of God was irreconcilably different from the substance of the world. Hegel could not show that every fact was connected to a principle, that every accident was part of a design, that every detail was part of a whole, and so on. God had initiated history and then been blocked from further influence.

Ilyin was quite typical of Russian intellectuals in his rapid and enthusiastic embrace of contradictory German ideas. In his dissertation he was able, thanks to his own very specific understanding of Husserl, to bring some order to his “inner Germans.” Kant had suggested the initial problem for a Russian political thinker: how to establish the rule of law. Hegel had seemed to provide a solution, a Spirit advancing through history. Freud had redefined Russia’s problem as sexual rather than spiritual. Husserl allowed Ilyin to transfer the responsibility for political failure and sexual unease to God. Philosophy meant the contemplation that allowed contact with God and began God’s cure. The philosopher had taken control and all was in view: other philosophers, the world, God. Yet, even after contact was made with the divine, history continued, “the current of events” continued to flow.

Indeed, even as Ilyin contemplated God, men were killing and dying by the millions on battlefields across Europe. Ilyin was writing his dissertation as the Russian Empire gained and then lost territory on the Eastern Front of World War I. In February 1917, the tsarist regime was replaced by a new constitutional order. The new government tottered as it continued a costly war. That April, Germany sent Vladimir Lenin to Russia in a sealed train, and his Bolsheviks carried out a second revolution in November, promising land to peasants and peace to all. Ilyin was meanwhile trying to assemble the committee so he could defend his dissertation. By the time he did so, in 1918, the Bolsheviks were in power, their Red Army was fighting a civil war, and the Cheka was defending revolution through terror.

World War I gave revolutionaries their chance, and so opened the way for counter-revolutionaries as well. Throughout Europe, men of the far right saw the Bolshevik Revolution as a certain kind of opportunity; and the drama of revolution and counter-revolution was played out, with different outcomes, in Germany, Hungary, and Italy. Nowhere was the conflict so long, bloody, and passionate as in the lands of the former Russian Empire, where civil war lasted for years, brought famine and pogroms, and cost about as many lives as World War I itself. In Europe in general, but in Russia in particular, the terrible loss of life, the seemingly endless strife, and the fall of empire brought a certain plausibility to ideas that might otherwise have remained unknown or seemed irrelevant. Without the war, Leninism would likely be a footnote in the history of Marxist thought; without Lenin’s revolution, Ilyin might not have drawn right-wing political conclusions from his dissertation.

Lenin and Ilyin did not know each other, but their encounter in revolution and counter-revolution was nevertheless uncanny. Lenin’s patronymic was “Ilyich” and he wrote under the pseudonym “Ilyin,” and the real Ilyin reviewed some of that pseudonymous work. When Ilyin was arrested by the Cheka as an opponent of the revolution, Lenin intervened on his behalf as a gesture of respect for Ilyin’s philosophical work. The intellectual interaction between the two men, which began in 1917 and continues in Russia today, began from a common appreciation of Hegel’s promise of totality. Both men interpreted Hegel in radical ways, agreeing with one another on important points such as the need to destroy the middle classes, disagreeing about the final form of the classless community.

Lenin accepted with Hegel that history was a story of progress through conflict. As a Marxist, he believed that the conflict was between social classes: the bourgeoisie that owned property and the proletariat that enabled profits. Lenin added to Marxism the proposal that the working class, though formed by capitalism and destined to seize its achievements, needed guidance from a disciplined party that understood the rules of history. In 1917, Lenin went so far as to claim that the people who knew the rules of history also knew when to break them— by beginning a socialist revolution in the Russian Empire, where capitalism was weak and the working class tiny. Yet Lenin never doubted that there was a good human nature, trapped by historical conditions, and therefore subject to release by historical action.

Marxists such as Lenin were atheists. They thought that by Spirit, Hegel meant God or some other theological notion, and replaced Spirit with society. Ilyin was not a typical Christian, but he believed in God. Ilyin agreed with Marxists that Hegel meant God, and argued that Hegel’s God had created a ruined world. For Marxists, private property served the function of an original sin, and its dissolution would release the good in man. For Ilyin, God’s act of creation was itself the original sin. There was never a good moment in history, and no intrinsic good in humans. The Marxists were right to hate the middle classes, and indeed did not hate them enough. Middle-class “civil society” entrenches plural interests that confound hopes for an “overpowering national organization” that God needs. Because the middle classes block God, they must be swept away by a classless national community. But there is no historical tendency, no historical group, that will perform this labor. The grand transformation from Satanic individuality to divine totality must begin somewhere beyond history.

According to Ilyin, liberation would arise not from understanding history, but from eliminating it. Since the earthly was corrupt and the divine unattainable, political rescue would come from the realm of fiction. In 1917, Ilyin was still hopeful that Russia might become a state ruled by law. Lenin’s revolution ensured that Ilyin henceforth regarded his own philosophical ideas as political. Bolshevism had proven that God’s world was as flawed as Ilyin had maintained. What Ilyin would call “the abyss of atheism” of the new regime was the final confirmation of the flaws of world, and of the power of modern ideas to reinforce them.

After he departed Russia, Ilyin would maintain that humanity needed heroes, outsized characters from beyond history, capable of willing themselves to power. In his dissertation, this politics was implicit in the longing for a missing totality and the suggestion that the nation might begin its restoration. It was an ideology awaiting a form and a name.

*

Ilyin left Russia in 1922, the year the Soviet Union was founded. His imagination was soon captured by Benito Mussolini’s March on Rome, the coup d’état that brought the world’s first fascist regime. Ilyin was convinced that bold gestures by bold men could begin to undo the flawed character of existence. He visited Italy and published admiring articles about Il Duce while he was writing his book, On the Use of Violence to Resist Evil (1925). If Ilyin’s dissertation had laid groundwork for a metaphysical defense of fascism, this book was a justification of an emerging system. The dissertation described the lost totality unleashed by an unwitting God; second book explained the limits of the teachings of God’s Son. Having understood the trauma of God, Ilyin now “looked Satan in the eye.”

Thus famous teachings of Jesus, as rendered in the Gospel of Mark, take on unexpected meanings in Ilyin’s interpretations. “Judge not,” says Jesus, “that ye not be judged.” That famous appeal to reflection continues:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

For Ilyin, these were the words of a failed God with a doomed Son. In fact, a righteous man did not reflect upon his own deeds or attempt to see the perspective of another; he contemplated, recognized absolute good and evil, and named the enemies to be destroyed. The proper interpretation of the “judge not” passage was that every day was judgment day, and that men would be judged for not killing God’s enemies when they had the chance. In God’s absence, Ilyin determined who those enemies were.

Perhaps Jesus’ most remembered commandment is to love one’s enemy, from the Gospel of Matthew: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Ilyin maintained that the opposite was meant. Properly understood, love meant totality. It did not matter whether one individual tries to love another individual. The individual only loved if he was totally subsumed in the community. To be immersed in such love was to struggle “against the enemies of the divine order on earth.” Christianity actually meant the call of the right-seeing philosopher to apply decisive violence in the name of love. Anyone who failed to accept this logic was himself an agent of Satan: “He who opposes the chivalrous struggle against the devil is himself the devil.”

Thus theology becomes politics. The democracies did not oppose Bolshevism, but enabled it, and must be destroyed. The only way to prevent the spread of evil was to crush middle classes, eradicate their civil society, and transform their individualist and universalist understanding of law into a consciousness of national submission. Bolshevism was no antidote to the disease of the middle classes, but rather the full irruption of their disease. Soviet and European governments must be swept away by violent coups d’état.

Ilyin used the word Spirit (Dukh) to describe the inspiration of fascists. The fascist seizure of power, he wrote, was an “act of salvation.” The fascist is the true redeemer, since he grasps that it is the enemy who must be sacrificed. Ilyin took from Mussolini the concept of a “chivalrous sacrifice” that fascists make in the blood of others. (Speaking of the Holocaust in 1943, Heinrich Himmler would praise his SS-men in just these terms.)

Ilyin understood his role as a Russian intellectual as the propagation of fascist ideas in a particular Russian idiom. In a poem in the first number of a journal he edited between 1927 and 1930, he provided the appropriate lapidary motto: “My prayer is like a sword. And my sword is like a prayer.” Ilyin dedicated his huge 1925 book On the Use of Violence to Resist Evil to the Whites, the men who had resisted the Bolshevik Revolution. It was meant as a guide to their future.

What seemed to trouble Ilyin most was that Italians and not Russians had invented fascism: “Why did the Italians succeed where we failed?” Writing of the future of Russian fascism in 1927, he tried to establish Russian primacy by considering the White resistance to the Bolsheviks as the pre-history of the fascist movement as a whole. The White movement had also been “deeper and broader” than fascism because it had preserved a connection to religion and the need for totality. Ilyin proclaimed to “my White brothers, the fascists” that a minority must seize power in Russia. The time would come. The “White Spirit” was eternal.

Ilyin’s proclamation of a fascist future for Russia in the 1920s was the absolute negation of his hopes in the 1910s that Russia might become a rule-of-law state. “The fact of the matter,” wrote Ilyin, “is that fascism is a redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.” Arbitrariness (proizvol), a central concept in all modern Russian political discussions, was the bugbear of all Russian reformers seeking improvement through law. Now proizvol was patriotic. The word for “redemptive” (spasytelnii), is another central Russian concept. It is the adjective Russian Orthodox Christians might apply to the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, the death of the One for the salvation of the many. Ilyin uses it to mean the murder of outsiders so that the nation could undertake a project of total politics that might later redeem a lost God.

In one sentence, two universal concepts, law and Christianity, are undone. A spirit of lawlessness replaces the spirit of the law; a spirit of murder replaces a spirit of mercy.

*

Although Ilyin was inspired by fascist Italy, his home as a political refugee between 1922 and 1938 was Germany. As an employee of the Russian Scholarly Institute (Russisches Wissenschaftliches Institut), he was an academic civil servant. It was from Berlin that he observed the succession struggle after Lenin’s death that brought Joseph Stalin to power. He then followed Stalin’s attempt to transform the political victory of the Bolsheviks into a social revolution. In 1933, Ilyin published a long book, in German, on the famine brought by the collectivization of Soviet agriculture.

Writing in Russian for Russian émigrés, Ilyin was quick to praise Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933. Hitler did well, in Ilyin’s opinion, to have the rule of law suspended after the Reichstag Fire of February 1933. Ilyin presented Hitler, like Mussolini, as a Leader from beyond history whose mission was entirely defensive. “A reaction to Bolshevism had to come,” wrote Ilyin, “and it came.” European civilization had been sentenced to death, but “so long as Mussolini is leading Italy and Hitler is leading Germany, European culture has a stay of execution.” Nazis embodied a “Spirit” (Dukh) that Russians must share.

According to Ilyin, Nazis were right to boycott Jewish businesses and blame Jews as a collectivity for the evils that had befallen Germany. Above all, Ilyin wanted to persuade Russians and other Europeans that Hitler was right to treat Jews as agents of Bolshevism. This “Judeobolshevik” idea, as Ilyin understood, was the ideological connection between the Whites and the Nazis. The claim that Jews were Bolsheviks and Bolsheviks were Jews was White propaganda during the Russian Civil War. Of course, most communists were not Jews, and the overwhelming majority of Jews had nothing to do with communism. The conflation of the two groups was not an error or an exaggeration, but rather a transformation of traditional religious prejudices into instruments of national unity. Judeobolshevism appealed to the superstitious belief of Orthodox Christian peasants that Jews guarded the border between the realms of good and evil. It shifted this conviction to modern politics, portraying revolution as hell and Jews as its gatekeepers. As in Ilyin’s philosophy, God was weak, Satan was dominant, and the weapons of hell were modern ideas in the world.

During and after the Russian Civil War, some of the Whites had fled to Germany as refugees. Some brought with them the foundational text of modern antisemitism, the fictional “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and many others the conviction that a global Jewish conspiracy was responsible for their defeat. White Judeobolshevism, arriving in Germany in 1919 and 1920, completed the education of Adolf Hitler as an antisemite. Until that moment, Hitler had presented the enemy of Germany as Jewish capitalism. Once convinced that Jews were responsible for both capitalism and communism, Hitler could take the final step and conclude, as he did in Mein Kampf, that Jews were the source of all ideas that threatened the German people. In this important respect, Hitler was indeed a pupil of the Russian White movement. Ilyin, the main White ideologist, wanted the world to know that Hitler was right.

As the 1930s passed, Ilyin began to doubt that Nazi Germany was advancing the cause of Russian fascism. This was natural, since Hitler regarded Russians as subhumans, and Germany supported European fascists only insofar as they were useful to the specific Nazi cause. Ilyin began to caution Russian Whites about Nazis, and came under suspicion from the German government. He lost his job and, in 1938, left Germany for Switzerland. He remained faithful, however, to his conviction that the White movement was anterior to Italian fascism and German National Socialism. In time, Russians would demonstrate a superior fascism.

*

From a safe Swiss vantage point near Zurich, Ilyin observed the outbreak of World War II. It was a confusing moment for both communists and their enemies, since the conflict began after the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany reached an agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Its secret protocol, which divided East European territories between the two powers, was an alliance in all but name. In September 1939, both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, their armies meeting in the middle. Ilyin believed that the Nazi-Soviet alliance would not last, since Stalin would betray Hitler. In 1941, the reverse took place, as the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union. Though Ilyin harbored reservations about the Nazis, he wrote of the German invasion of the USSR as a “judgment on Bolshevism.” After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in February 1943, when it became clear that Germany would likely lose the war, Ilyin changed his position again. Then, and in the years to follow, he would present the war as one of a series of Western attacks on Russian virtue.

Russian innocence was becoming one of Ilyin’s great themes. As a concept, it completed Ilyin’s fascist theory: the world was corrupt; it needed redemption from a nation capable of total politics; that nation was unsoiled Russia. As he aged, Ilyin dwelled on the Russian past, not as history, but as a cyclical myth of native virtue defended from external penetration. Russia was an immaculate empire, always under attack from all sides. A small territory around Moscow became the Russian Empire, the largest country of all time, without ever attacking anyone. Even as it expanded, Russia was the victim, because Europeans did not understand the profound virtue it was defending by taking more land. In Ilyin’s words, Russia has been subject to unceasing “continental blockade,” and so its entire past was one of “self-defense.” And so, “the Russian nation, since its full conversion to Christianity, can count nearly one thousand years of historical suffering.”

Although Ilyin wrote hundreds of tedious pages along these lines, he also made clear that it did not matter what had actually happened or what Russians actually did. That was meaningless history, those were mere facts. The truth about a nation, wrote Ilyin, was “pure and objective” regardless of the evidence, and the Russian truth was invisible and ineffable Godliness. Russia was not a country with individuals and institutions, even should it so appear, but an immortal living creature. “Russia is an organism of nature and the soul,” it was a “living organism,” a “living organic unity,” and so on. Ilyin wrote of “Ukrainians” within quotation marks, since in his view they were a part of the Russian organism. Ilyin was obsessed by the fear that people in the West would not understand this, and saw any mention of Ukraine as an attack on Russia. Because Russia is an organism, it “cannot be divided, only dissected.”

Ilyin’s conception of Russia’s political return to God required the abandonment not only of individuality and plurality, but also of humanity. The fascist language of organic unity, discredited by the war, remained central to Ilyin. In general, his thinking was not really altered by the war. He did not reject fascism, as did most of its prewar advocates, although he now did distinguish between what he regarded as better and worse forms of fascism. He did not partake in the general shift of European politics to the left, nor in the rehabilitation of democracy. Perhaps most importantly, he did not recognize that the age of European colonialism was passing. He saw Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal, then far-flung empires ruled by right-wing authoritarian regimes, as exemplary.

World War II was not a “judgment on Bolshevism,” as Ilyin had imagined in 1941. Instead, the Red Army had emerged triumphant in 1945, Soviet borders had been extended west, and a new outer empire of replicate regimes had been established in Eastern Europe. The simple passage of time made it impossible to imagine in the 1940s, as Ilyin had in the 1920s, the members of the White emigration might someday return to power in Russia. Now he was writing their eulogies rather than their ideologies. What was needed instead was a blueprint for a post-Soviet Russia that would be legible in the future. Ilyin set about composing a number of constitutional proposals, as well as a shorter set of political essays. These last, published as Our tasks (Nashi zadachi), began his intellectual revival in post-Soviet Russia.

These postwar recommendations bear an unmistakable resemblance to prewar fascist systems, and are consistent with the metaphysical and ethical legitimations of fascism present in Ilyin’s major works. The “national dictator,” predicted Ilyin, would spring from somewhere beyond history, from some fictional realm. This Leader (Gosudar’) must be “sufficiently manly,” like Mussolini. The note of fragile masculinity is hard to overlook. “Power comes all by itself,” declared Ilyin, “to the strong man.” People would bow before “the living organ of Russia.” The Leader “hardens himself in just and manly service.”

In Ilyin’s scheme, this Leader would be personally and totally responsible for every aspect of political life, as chief executive, chief legislator, chief justice, and commander of the military. His executive power is unlimited. Any “political selection” should take place “on a formally undemocratic basis.” Democratic elections institutionalized the evil notion of individuality. “The principle of democracy,” Ilyin wrote, “was the irresponsible human atom.” Counting votes was to falsely accept “the mechanical and arithmetical understanding of politics.” It followed that “we must reject blind faith in the number of votes and its political significance.” Public voting with signed ballots will allow Russians to surrender their individuality. Elections were a ritual of submission of Russians before their Leader.

The problem with prewar fascism, according to Ilyin, had been the one-party state. That was one party too many. Russia should be a zero-party state, in that no party should control the state or exercise any influence on the course of events. A party represents only a segment of society, and segmentation is what is to be avoided. Parties can exist, but only as traps for the ambitious or as elements of the ritual of electoral subservience. (Members of Putin’s party were sent the article that makes this point in 2014.) The same goes for civil society: it should exist as a simulacrum. Russians should be allowed to pursue hobbies and the like, but only within the framework of a total corporate structure that included all social organizations. The middle classes must be at the very bottom of the corporate structure, bearing the weight of the entire system. They are the producers and consumers of facts and feelings in a system where the purpose is to overcome factuality and sensuality.

“Freedom for Russia,” as Ilyin understood it (in a text selectively quoted by Putin in 2014), would not mean freedom for Russians as individuals, but rather freedom for Russians to understand themselves as parts of a whole. The political system must generate, as Ilyin clarified, “the organic-spiritual unity of the government with the people, and the people with the government.” The first step back toward the Word would be “the metaphysical identity of all people of the same nation.” The “the evil nature of the ‘sensual’” could be banished, and “the empirical variety of human beings” itself could be overcome.

*

Russia today is a media-heavy authoritarian kleptocracy, not the religious totalitarian entity that Ilyin imagined. And yet, his concepts do help lift the obscurity from some of the more interesting aspects of Russian politics. Vladimir Putin, to take a very important example, is a post-Soviet politician who emerged from the realm of fiction. Since it is he who brought Ilyin’s ideas into high politics, his rise to power is part of Ilyin’s story as well.

Putin was an unknown when he was selected by post-Soviet Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, to be prime minister in 1999. Putin was chosen by political casting call. Yeltsin’s intimates, carrying out what they called “Operation Successor,” asked themselves who the most popular character in Russian television was. Polling showed that this was the hero of a 1970s program, a Soviet spy who spoke German. This fit Putin, a former KGB officer who had served in East Germany. Right after he was appointed prime minister by Yeltsin in September 1999, Putin gained his reputation through a bloodier fiction. When apartment buildings in Russian cities began to explode, Putin blamed Muslims and began a war in Chechnya. Contemporary evidence suggests that the bombs might have been planted by Russia’s own security organization, the FSB. Putin was elected president in 2000, and served until 2008.

In the early 2000s, Putin maintained that Russia could become some kind of rule-of-law state. Instead, he succeeded in bringing economic crime within the Russian state, transforming general corruption into official kleptocracy. Once the state became the center of crime, the rule of law became incoherent, inequality entrenched, and reform unthinkable. Another political story was needed. Because Putin’s victory over Russia’s oligarchs also meant control over their television stations, new media instruments were at hand. The Western trend towards infotainment was brought to its logical conclusion in Russia, generating an alternative reality meant to generate faith in Russian virtue but cynicism about facts. This transformation was engineered by Vladislav Surkov, the genius of Russian propaganda. He oversaw a striking move toward the world as Ilyin imagined it, a dark and confusing realm given shape only by Russian innocence. With the financial and media resources under control, Putin needed only, in the nice Russian term, to add the “spiritual resource.” And so, beginning in 2005, Putin began to rehabilitate Ilyin as a Kremlin court philosopher.

That year, Putin began to cite Ilyin in his addresses to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, and arranged for the reinterment of Ilyin’s remains in Russia. Then Surkov began to cite Ilyin. The propagandist accepted Ilyin’s idea that “Russian culture is the contemplation of the whole,” and summarizes his own work as the creation of a narrative of an innocent Russia surrounded by permanent hostility. Surkov’s enmity toward factuality is as deep as Ilyin’s, and like Ilyin, he tends to find theological grounds for it. Dmitry Medvedev, the leader of Putin’s political party, recommended Ilyin’s books to Russia’s youth. Ilyin began to figure in the speeches of the leaders of Russia’s tame opposition parties, the communists and the (confusingly-named, extreme-right) Liberal Democrats. These last few years, Ilyin has been cited by the head of the constitutional court, by the foreign minister, and by patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After a four-year intermission between 2008 and 2012, during which Putin served as prime minister and allowed Medvedev to be president, Putin returned to the highest office. If Putin came to power in 2000 as hero from the realm of fiction, he returned in 2012 as the destroyer of the rule of law. In a minor key, the Russia of Putin’s time had repeated the drama of the Russia of Ilyin’s time. The hopes of Russian liberals for a rule-of-law state were again disappointed. Ilyin, who had transformed that failure into fascism the first time around, now had his moment. His arguments helped Putin transform the failure of his first period in office, the inability to introduce of the rule of law, into the promise for a second period in office, the confirmation of Russian virtue. If Russia could not become a rule-of-law state, it would seek to destroy neighbors that had succeeded in doing so or that aspired to do so. Echoing one of the most notorious proclamations of the Nazi legal thinker Carl Schmitt, Ilyin wrote that politics “is the art of identifying and neutralizing the enemy.” In the second decade of the twenty-first century, Putin’s promises were not about law in Russia, but about the defeat of a hyper-legal neighboring entity.

The European Union, the largest economy in the world and Russia’s most important economic partner, is grounded on the assumption that international legal agreements provide the basis for fruitful cooperation among rule-of-law states. In late 2011 and early 2012, Putin made public a new ideology, based in Ilyin, defining Russia in opposition to this model of Europe. In an article in Izvestiia on October 3, 2011, Putin announced a rival Eurasian Union that would unite states that had failed to establish the rule of law. In Nezavisimaia Gazeta on January 23, 2012, Putin, citing Ilyin, presented integration among states as a matter of virtue rather than achievement. The rule of law was not a universal aspiration, but part of an alien Western civilization; Russian culture, meanwhile, united Russia with post-Soviet states such as Ukraine. In a third article, in Moskovskie Novosti on February 27, 2012, Putin drew the political conclusions. Ilyin had imagined that “Russia as a spiritual organism served not only all the Orthodox nations and not only all of the nations of the Eurasian landmass, but all the nations of the world.” Putin predicted that Eurasia would overcome the European Union and bring its members into a larger entity that would extend “from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

Putin’s offensive against the rule of law began with the manner of his reaccession to the office of president of the Russian Federation. The foundation of any rule-of-law state is a principle of succession, the set of rules that allow one person to succeed another in office in a manner that confirms rather than destroys the system. The way that Putin returned to power in 2012 destroyed any possibility that such a principle could function in Russia in any foreseeable future. He assumed the office of president, with a parliamentary majority, thanks to presidential and parliamentary elections that were ostentatiously faked, during protests whose participants he condemned as foreign agents.

In depriving Russia of any accepted means by which he might be succeeded by someone else and the Russian parliament controlled by another party but his, Putin was following Ilyin’s recommendation. Elections had become a ritual, and those who thought otherwise were portrayed by a formidable state media as traitors. Sitting in a radio station with the fascist writer Alexander Prokhanov as Russians protested electoral fraud, Putin mused about what Ivan Ilyin would have to say about the state of Russia. “Can we say,” asked Putin rhetorically, “that our country has fully recovered and healed after the dramatic events that have occurred to us after the Soviet Union collapsed, and that we now have a strong, healthy state? No, of course she is still quite ill; but here we must recall Ivan Ilyin: ‘Yes, our country is still sick, but we did not flee from the bed of our sick mother.’”

The fact that Putin cited Ilyin in this setting is very suggestive, and that he knew this phrase suggests extensive reading. Be that as it may, the way that he cited it seems strange. Ilyin was expelled from the Soviet Union by the Cheka—the institution that was the predecessor of Putin’s employer, the KGB. For Ilyin, it was the foundation of the USSR, not its dissolution, that was the Russian sickness. As Ilyin told his Cheka interrogator at the time: “I consider Soviet power to be an inevitable historical outcome of the great social and spiritual disease which has been growing in Russia for several centuries.” Ilyin thought that KGB officers (of whom Putin was one) should be forbidden from entering politics after the end of the Soviet Union. Ilyin dreamed his whole life of a Soviet collapse.

Putin’s reinterment of Ilyin’s remains was a mystical release from this contradiction. Ilyin had been expelled from Russia by the Soviet security service; his corpse was reburied alongside the remains of its victims. Putin had Ilyin’s corpse interred at a monastery where the NKVD, the heir to the Cheka and the predecessor of the KGB, had interred the ashes of thousands of Soviet citizens executed in the Great Terror. When Putin later visited the site to lay flowers on Ilyin’s grave, he was in the company of an Orthodox monk who saw the NKVD executioners as Russian patriots and therefore good men. At the time of the reburial, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was a man who had previously served the KGB as an agent. After all, Ilyin’s justification for mass murder was the same as that of the Bolsheviks: the defense of an absolute good. As critics of his second book in the 1920s put it, Ilyin was a “Chekist for God.” He was reburied as such, with all possible honors conferred by the Chekists and by the men of God—and by the men of God who were Chekists, and by the Chekists who were men of God.

Ilyin was returned, body and soul, to the Russia he had been forced to leave. And that very return, in its inattention to contradiction, in its disregard of fact, was the purest expression of respect for his legacy. To be sure, Ilyin opposed the Soviet system. Yet, once the USSR ceased to exist in 1991, it was history—and the past, for Ilyin, was nothing but cognitive raw material for a literature of eternal virtue. Modifying Ilyin’s views about Russian innocence ever so slightly, Russian leaders could see the Soviet Union not as a foreign imposition upon Russia, as Ilyin had, but rather as Russia itself, and so virtuous despite appearances. Any faults of the Soviet system became necessary Russian reactions to the prior hostility of the West.

*

Questions about the influence of ideas in politics are very difficult to answer, and it would be needlessly bold to make of Ilyin’s writings the pillar of the Russian system. For one thing, Ilyin’s vast body of work admits multiple interpretations. As with Martin Heidegger, another student of Husserl who supported Hitler, it is reasonable to ask how closely a man’s political support of fascism relates to a philosopher’s work. Within Russia itself, Ilyin is not the only native source of fascist ideas to be cited with approval by Vladimir Putin; Lev Gumilev is another. Contemporary Russian fascists who now rove through the public space, such as Aleksander Prokhanov and Aleksander Dugin, represent distinct traditions. It is Dugin, for example, who made the idea of “Eurasia” popular in Russia, and his references are German Nazis and postwar West European fascists. And yet, most often in the Russia of the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is Ilyin’s ideas that to seem to satisfy political needs and to fill rhetorical gaps, to provide the “spiritual resource” for the kleptocratic state machine. In 2017, when the Russian state had so much difficulty commemorating the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ilyin was advanced as its heroic opponent. In a television drama about the revolution, he decried the evil of promising social advancement to Russians.

Russian policies certainly recall Ilyin’s recommendations. Russia’s 2012 law on “foreign agents,” passed right after Putin’s return to the office of the presidency, well represents Ilyin’s attitude to civil society. Ilyin believed that Russia’s “White Spirit” should animate the fascists of Europe; since 2013, the Kremlin has provided financial and propaganda support to European parties of the populist and extreme right. The Russian campaign against the “decadence” of the European Union, initiated in 2013, is in accord with Ilyin’s worldview. Ilyin’s scholarly effort followed his personal projection of sexual anxiety to others. First, Ilyin called Russia homosexual, then underwent therapy with his girlfriend, then blamed God. Putin first submitted to years of shirtless fur-and-feather photoshoots, then divorced his wife, then blamed the European Union for Russian homosexuality. Ilyin sexualized what he experienced as foreign threats. Jazz, for example, was a plot to induce premature ejaculation. When Ukrainians began in late 2013 to assemble in favor of a European future for their country, the Russian media raised the specter of a “homodictatorship.”

The case for Ilyin’s influence is perhaps easiest to make with respect to Russia’s new orientation toward Ukraine. Ukraine, like the Russian Federation, is a new country, formed from the territory of a Soviet republic in 1991. After Russia, it was the second-most populous republic of the Soviet Union, and it has a long border with Russia to the east and north as well as with European Union members to the west. For the first two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian-Ukrainian relations were defined by both sides according to international law, with Russian lawyers always insistent on very traditional concepts such as sovereignty and territorial integrity. When Putin returned to power in 2012, legalism gave way to colonialism. Since 2012, Russian policy toward Ukraine has been made on the basis of first principles, and those principles have been Ilyin’s. Putin’s Eurasian Union, a plan he announced with the help of Ilyin’s ideas, presupposed that Ukraine would join. Putin justified Russia’s attempt to draw Ukraine towards Eurasia by Ilyin’s “organic model” that made of Russia and Ukraine “one people.”

Ilyin’s idea of a Russian organism including Ukraine clashed with the more prosaic Ukrainian notion of reforming the Ukrainian state. In Ukraine in 2013, the European Union was a subject of domestic political debate, and was generally popular. An association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union was seen as a way to address the major local problem, the weakness of the rule of law. Through threats and promises, Putin was able in November 2013 to induce the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, not to sign the association agreement, which had already been negotiated. This brought young Ukrainians to the street to demonstrate in favor the agreement. When the Ukrainian government (urged on and assisted by Russia) used violence, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens assembled in Kyiv’s Independence Square. Their main postulate, as surveys showed at the time, was the rule of law. After a sniper massacre that left more than one hundred Ukrainians dead, Yanukovych fled to Russia. His main adviser, Paul Manafort, was next seen working as Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

By the time Yanukovych fled to Russia, Russian troops had already been mobilized for the invasion of Ukraine. As Russian troops entered Ukraine in February 2014, Russian civilizational rhetoric (of which Ilyin was a major source) captured the imagination of many Western observers. In the first half of 2014, the issues debated were whether or not Ukraine was or was not part of Russian culture, or whether Russian myths about the past were somehow a reason to invade a neighboring sovereign state. In accepting the way that Ilyin put the question, as a matter of civilization rather than law, Western observers missed the stakes of the conflict for Europe and the United States. Considering the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a clash of cultures was to render it distant and colorful and obscure; seeing it as an element of a larger assault on the rule of law would have been to realize that Western institutions were in peril. To accept the civilizational framing was also to overlook the basic issue of inequality. What pro-European Ukrainians wanted was to avoid Russian-style kleptocracy. What Putin needed was to demonstrate that such efforts were fruitless.

Ilyin’s arguments were everywhere as Russian troops entered Ukraine multiple times in 2014. As soldiers received their mobilization orders for the invasion of the Ukraine’s Crimean province in January 2014, all of Russia’s high-ranking bureaucrats and regional governors were sent a copy of Ilyin’s Our Tasks. After Russian troops occupied Crimea and the Russian parliament voted for annexation, Putin cited Ilyin again as justification. The Russian commander sent to oversee the second major movement of Russian troops into Ukraine, to the southeastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in summer 2014, described the war’s final goal in terms that Ilyin would have understood: “If the world were saved from demonic constructions such as the United States, it would be easier for everyone to live. And one of these days it will happen.”

Anyone following Russian politics could see in early 2016 that the Russian elite preferred Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee for president and then to defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election. In the spring of that year, Russian military intelligence was boasting of an effort to help Trump win. In the Russian assault on American democracy that followed, the main weapon was falsehood. Donald Trump is another masculinity-challenged kleptocrat from the realm of fiction, in his case that of reality television. His campaign was helped by the elaborate untruths that Russia distributed about his opponent. In office, Trump imitates Putin in his pursuit of political post-truth: first filling the public sphere with lies, then blaming the institutions whose purpose is to seek facts, and finally rejoicing in the resulting confusion. Russian assistance to Trump weakened American trust in the institutions that Russia has been unable to build. Such trust was already in decline, thanks to America’s own media culture and growing inequality.

Ilyin meant to be the prophet of our age, the post-Soviet age, and perhaps he is. His disbelief in this world allows politics to take place in a fictional one. He made of lawlessness a virtue so pure as to be invisible, and so absolute as to demand the destruction of the West. He shows us how fragile masculinity generates enemies, how perverted Christianity rejects Jesus, how economic inequality imitates innocence, and how fascist ideas flow into the postmodern. This is no longer just Russian philosophy. It is now American life.

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