Russia: in search of the lost Power


We meet the scholar Alessandro Fanetti, author of the book “Russia: in search of the lost power” (Edizioni Eiffel, 2021) [1], to face the reality of a country that seems far away, but which is very close, however kept at a distance from the West while never moving it away from the viewfinder.

It is certainly no mystery that the secret dream of every conqueror who wants to go really far has always been what Sir Halford John Mackinder called “Heartland”: the Heart of the Earth.

Whoever manages to take it will take the world. From the time of the Sword Knights to Charles XII, from Napoleon to Hitler. Many have tried.

Today more than ever, Russia is back. And it is a crucial geopolitical player with whom we must really deal: this also concerns those who want a global reset. And it is not said that it is on that same shore, quite the contrary.

This is much more than an interview. And very soon, you will find out why.

1) Why did you decide to study the Russian Federation?

A) This text deals with both internal and external issues of Russia. By internal issues I mean, first of all, the work of reconstructing an identity of the “third millennium” as all-encompassing as possible after the dissolution of the USSR and the very difficult years of Yeltsin, through a strong rediscovery of orthodoxy, of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, of a certain militarism, of Eurasianism and of Pan-Slavism, just to mention a few fundamental points. Reconstruction strongly desired by the strongman for more than 20 years, Vladimir Putin. Former KGB agent who came to the fore publicly thanks to the Second Chechen War, devastating from the humanitarian point of view but substantially decisive from the political one. Reconstruction that is also based on the new Constitution definitively approved in the current year, opposed by practically all the “varied” oppositions but the real pillar of Russia in the New Millennium.

With regard to external issues, however, starting from the last “Concept of Foreign Policy” drawn from the renewed commitment of Russia in the New Millennium both towards “Near Abroad” and “Far Abroad”, after the substantial abandonment of the latter by Yeltsin. A commitment that sees Moscow at work obviously in Asia, but also in Africa and Latin America. Renewed commitment which, together with the “incredible and lightning fast” projection of the People's Republic of China, is disrupting the post-dissolution unipolar world of the USSR.

A world that sees a great clash between the proponents of multipolarism and those of globalism.

A world characterized by what I define in the book as “War at alternating temperatures”, which in my opinion will also last in the medium - long term, fluctuating between the various gradations enclosed between the Cold War and the Hot War. Comparisons between powers that are played out on old and new battlefields, with the Arctic and Space that will have more and more weight. Finally, I do not forget to discuss the role that Europe plays (and what it could play instead) and that of Italy, as well as the new battle front: the “geopolitics of vaccines”.

I thought it useful to offer the reader a piece of writing that encompasses all these characteristics and news, precisely by virtue of the very recent changes we have seen and are experiencing, also reporting various high-level sources for those wishing to further investigate the individual issues.

2) "How is Russia" right now and what role is it playing in the global geopolitical landscape?

A) The Russian Federation has experienced, and is partly still experiencing, a moment of internal transition after the last 10 years of the 20th century. The painful economic and social situation in which that ultraliberal ruling class had left it forced Putin to change pace, in my opinion too weak compared to real needs. Many oligarchs of that period were ousted from the control room and Yeltsin himself, who had also been decisive for the rise to power of the current tenant of the Kremlin, criticized him several times. I consider the adoption of the new Constitution to be one of the most important moves of Putin's twenty years, as it seeks to establish what Russia has become in the New Millennium.

As for the role of Moscow in the world, it is absolutely more proactive and slender than in the last decade of the twentieth century. The external projection in defense of the strategic interests of the country and for the conquest of new "slices" of the world to advocate its idea of ​​development and undermine US-led unipolarity is bearing significant fruit. The return to Latin America with the overflight of strategic bombers over Venezuela is a striking example of this. As well as activism in Africa and strengthened harmony with China.

3) Speaking of China, what are the Moscow - Beijing relations?

A) The attempt made by Yeltsin to make Russia a country substantially inserted in the post-1989 liberal international context failed and after a moment (lasting a few years) of strategic reflection made by the new ruling class, Moscow decided to rediscover the Eurasian vision and to create a renewed and closer relationship with China. The keystone can be traced back to 2014, when the coup d'état in Ukraine definitively convinced the already dubious Russian elites that the West was not a reliable partner. China looks favorably on all this, thus being able to take advantage of Russia’s huge natural resources, having at its side an ally capable of picking up Washington’s dominance in the world (from a multipolar point of view) and collaborating for the stabilization of Asia.

The West has lost the great opportunity to keep Russia close and “quiet” and is now paying the consequences.

In this sense, Italy has a clear conscience since 2002 when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi worked hard for this result and the Pratica di Mare Agreement really guaranteed a point of great detente USA (NATO) – Russia.

4) We touched on various themes and many countries. However, the European Union is missing from the appeal. What role does it play in all of this?

A) The European Union, being a very vaporous entity in foreign policy (and not only), basically leaves the member States alone to decide what to do and how to do it internationally. Finding a common position has always been the “Achilles' heel” of this entity and I really believe it will be in the future as well. Also because the interests of individual member countries are often opposed.

The war in Libya in 2011 was a shining example of this, with France cynically having everything to gain and Italy having everything to lose.

The position and the strike force of NATO is different, of which many European countries are part even if Washington manages the real reins. The latter really tries to manage European geopolitical issues, in the vast majority of cases succeeding, but sometimes also failing the objective.

The case of the North Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany without passing through other countries is a prime example of this. Strongly desired by Berlin and objectively very useful for guaranteeing safe and rapid supplies, it was opposed by the USA in every way because, on the one hand, it could be envisaged as a piece of that European strategic autonomy, and of a renewed Berlin - Moscow relationship - Brussels on the other (both seen as the devil himself by Washington).

5) Let's talk about “Covid-19”. It was, and still is, a global geopolitical cataclysm…

A) Covid has shown all the weaknesses and precariousness of the current international situation, first of all by making clear the inequalities between countries and once again showing all the weakness of international bodies such as the UN. Each country has done substantially on its own and the Russian Federation, by registering a vaccine in record time, has acquired a strategic geopolitical advantage vis-à-vis the West. Many countries have turned to Moscow for quick doses (even some of those of the “Western bloc”) and the Kremlin has used this weapon to strengthen itself in the eyes of the world.

China has also tried to do the same and in part succeeded, but the shame of having seen the virus born in “its own home” has nevertheless created inconveniences that are hard to be erased.

6) What does “globalism vs multipolarism” mean?

A) The vision of the world that emerged triumphant with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union was that defined by Francis Fukuyama as the “end of history”: liberal democracy and the free market had triumphed forever, with all due respect to all other experiences and models. Politically, the West saw this as the concrete possibility of creating a "single world”, of globalizing its vision by exporting it even where it was inapplicable or frowned upon.

This justified the tragic wars to “export democracy", eradicate Islamic fundamentalism, etc. The results are there for all to see and the look bad of Washington in Afghanistan has shown all the theoretical and practical weakness of this vision.

Therefore, if some forces still think that their values ​​(and their interests) are universal and must be imposed on the whole world, others aim at the creation of a multipolar world where every pole can live and manage itself as it sees fit, without dangerous external interference even for global stability and security.

This is, in my opinion, the great geopolitical (and I would say existential) challenge of our time.

6) What do you think of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Russia and Putin's future?

A) I don't believe that the parliamentary elections will change Russian politics much in recent years. Certainly, they will be a significant test for United Russia, also because there is also a vote for the renewal of some territorial offices, but in substance I do not think there are upheavals. As for Putin's future, no one can know exactly when and how he will leave the country's government, but one thing is certain: everything he has done and is doing is to ensure continuity. No upheavals, no radical changes. This is his mantra.

[1] Italian only:


Original column by Jacopo Brogi:

Costantino Ceoldo