By engaging in direct confrontation with the West during the SMO, even though the West itself participates through its Ukrainian proxy structure, which cannot be called a 'country', Russia is forced to defend its sovereignty on all levels. In terms of military, economic and formal policy, this is quite obvious, but the West is much more than a political-military-economic structure: it is a civilization with a fundamental program code. Everything else is derived from this code: weapons, economy, politics, culture, education, science, media, etc. Russia is now forced to confront the whole spectrum and, in general, the Western code itself.
The Russian authorities do not yet fully understand this and even the most ardent opponents of the ruling West think in terms of military-strategic, political-diplomatic and informational confrontation, but the transition to a new level of understanding by the authorities and society of what a sovereign civilization is is inevitable. It can be postponed, it cannot be avoided.
What national sovereignty is in the Westphalian system of international relations and in the theory of International Relations Realism is understandable: it means that a nation-state, recognised (by itself and others) as sovereign, can by definition have no authority that can necessarily dictate what that state should or should not do. Sovereignty lies here: any sovereign nation-state can do what it wants, as long as it is able to do it - because other nation-states may not like it. In extreme critical cases, war decides everything. This is what national sovereignty represents in realist theory in the countries of the Middle East.
This theory is countered by liberalism in IR (international relations), which insists:
- on the limitation of sovereignty,
- on its relativity,
- on the gradual transfer of power from nation states to world government.
In this theory, sovereignty is not a value, much less a supreme value. It is simply a transitional state on the road to the integration of humanity.
Putin is clearly on the side of realism, which is what ultimately led us to SMO. It is significant that liberalism continues to dominate at MGIMO. [N.o.T.: MGIMO is the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, Московский государственный институт международных отношений МИД Российской Федерации, МГИМО, transliterated Moskovskij gosudarstvennyj institut meždunarodnych otnošenij MID Rossijskoj Federacii], as well as among international experts, contrary to Putin's apparent orientation. This is an absolute anomaly, but it is the result of the deep penetration of the Western code into the very foundations of the Russian educational system and expert environment.
Putin understands sovereignty in the spirit of realism, above all:
- in the military-strategic
- then political,
- thirdly, in economic terms.
Russia, under his leadership, is therefore reacting very acutely
- to NATO enlargement,
- to attempts at foreign interference in domestic politics (up to and including regime change, which the West is not reluctant to do, obstinately supporting the radical opposition)
- and to a lesser extent, on the direct dependence of the Russian economy on global institutions and global Western monopolies.
This is more or less how the hierarchy of sovereignty and the school of realism in IRs presents itself. If we limit ourselves to this scale, the topics of science, culture, technology, education, mass communications, art and, finally, the everyday behaviour and psychology of the population are reduced not to the second, but to the tenth floor. One gets the impression that they have nothing to do with sovereignty and, if they do, it is very far away.
This would be true if we consciously accepted the basic attitude that we are within modern Western civilization, we share its reference points and values, we agree with its rules and norms, i.e. we accept its fundamental code, its operating system. After all, the school of realism in IR was created in the West and has remained influential and authoritative there to this day (despite the strong rise of liberalism in RI - especially in the last 40 years). In other words, for Putin, the question of Russian sovereignty is part of a widely understood Western paradigm. Russia accepts the Western code, but struggles fiercely to maintain sovereignty within this paradigm, claiming its place under the sun - but under the setting Western sun.
This is where the most important part comes in. The Russian-initiated SMO is perceived by the West itself as a civilization challenge. Francis Fukuyama wrote a characteristic article entitled 'Putin's War on the Liberal World Order' at the very beginning of SMO. The important point is not only the challenge to globalism and liberalism in European countries (which could also be interpreted in terms of realism, as for example Meersheimer, Kissinger or Bannon do), but also Russia's revolutionary questioning of the very foundations of civilization, which until recently were entirely controlled by the West. This is why the SMO raised the question of the transition from the unipolar to the multipolar world, an absolutely different world order, in which the West and its code of civilization are not something whole and universal, but only a part and something local, regional and absolutely unnecessary for everything else. Fukuyama saw in Moscow's actions something bigger than Moscow itself. This is the clash of civilizations that Fukuyama's main opponent, Samuel Huntington, warned about. Russia is engaged in a civilization conflict, not a national one, with the West. It’s with the West as a civilization, as a code, not with some individual country.
This also explains the reaction of the West:
- to exclude Russia from itself,
- to cut it off from its economic and technological networks,
- to expel it from all global structures controlled by the West (and it turns out that the West controls almost all of them!),
- isolate it from its non-Western partners, pushing it by all means,
- mobilise all Western-oriented networks in Russia itself to stop SMO as soon as possible, to slow down the Russian offensive and, at the very least, to overthrow Putin.
The West wants to show that without the West and without the complicity of Western civilization - without the Western code - Russia will perish and, if it insists, the West will actively contribute to that perishing.
The situation is as follows: Moscow, in pursuing the SMO, understands sovereignty in a sectoral way, while the West understands it in a total way, not only at the level of national interests, but at the level of the code of civilization itself, from which Russia is decisively cut off.
This lack of understanding on our part causes a delay in the formulation of a sovereign ideology and the development of a fully-fledged sovereign strategy in all spheres of life.
We have not yet realised how fundamental SMO is from the point of view of civilization. We started something that we did not fully understand. And now we are surprised to see how deeply the Western code has penetrated our society. It is not just a snowball of foreign agents, oligarch defectors, traitors and Russophobes. It is just a symptom. It is about the need for an incredible effort, national and popular, to sustain civil sovereignty. This means first of all to establish - partly to remember, partly to recreate - our Russian code. This requires radical changes in spheres that are clearly not a priority for the government: philosophy, science, culture, education, art, social consciousness, psychology and even fashion and style. This is what is known as 'ideology', only now we are not talking about the ideological options offered by the modern West (liberalism, socialism, nationalism), but about a specific civilization ideology - the Russian one - that goes beyond Western clichés. Conventionally, we can call it the 'fourth political theory', beyond liberalism, communism and fascism.
We are inevitably entering a new phase in the battle for the Russian code and, if you like, this battle does not depend directly on the success and speed of the SMO. Our excommunication with the West has already happened. The West has already passed judgement on Russia. It is impossible to correct the situation and return everything to how it was before 24 02 2022. We must fully and deeply accept the consequences of the civilization challenge that we ourselves have produced.
Translation by Lorenzo Maria Pacini