The War on Russia in Its Ideological Dimension
The war against Russia is currently the most discussed issue in the West. At this point it is only a suggestion and a possibility, but it can become a reality depending on the decisions taken by all parties involved in the Ukrainian conflict – Moscow, Washington, Kiev, and Brussels.
I don’t want to discuss all the aspects and history of this conflict here. Instead I propose to analyze its deep ideological roots.
Therefore I will not examine the war of the West on Russia in terms of its risks, dangers, issues, costs or consequences, but rather in an ideological sense as seen from the global perspective. I will therefore meditate on the sense of such a war, and not on the war itself (which may be either real or virtual).
Essence of liberalism
In the modern West, there is one ruling, dominant ideology – liberalism. It may appear in many shades, versions and forms, but the essence is always the same. Liberalism contains an inner, fundamental structure which follows axiomatic principles:
▪ anthropological individualism (the individual is the measure of all things);
▪ belief in progress (the world is heading toward a better future, and the past is always worse than the present);
▪ technocracy (technical development and its execution are taken as the most important criteria by which to judge the nature of a society);
▪ eurocentrism (Euro-American societies are accepted as the standard of measure for the rest of humanity);
▪ economy as destiny (the free market economy is the only normative economic system – all the rest types are to either be reformed or destroyed);
▪ democracy is the rule of minorities (defending themselves from the majority, which is always prone to degenerate into totalitarianism or “populism”);
▪ the middle class is the only really existing social actor and universal norm (independent from the fact of whether or not an individual has already reached this status or is on the way to becoming actually middle class, representing for the moment only a would-be middle class);
▪ one-world globalism (human beings are all essentially the same with only one distinction, namely that of their individual nature – the world should be integrated on the basis of the individual and cosmopolitism; in other words, world citizenship).
These are the core values of liberalism, and they are a manifestation of one of the three tendencies that originated in the Enlightenment alongside communism and fascism, which collectively proposed varying interpretations of the spirit of modernity. During the twentieth century, liberalism defeated its rivals, and since 1991 has become the sole, dominant ideology of the world.
The only freedom of choice in the kingdom of global liberalism is that between Right liberalism, Left liberalism or radical liberalism, including far-Right liberalism, far-Left liberalism and extremely radical liberalism. As a consequence, liberalism has been installed as the operational system of Western civilization and of all other societies that find themselves in the zone of Western influence. It has become the common denominator for any politically correct discourse, and the distinguishing mark which determines who is accepted by mainstream politics and who is marginalized and rejected. Conventional wisdom itself became liberal.
Geopolitically, liberalism was inscribed in the America-centered model in which Anglo-Saxons formed the ethnical core, based upon the Atlanticist Euro-American partnership, NATO, which represents the strategic core of the system of global security. Global security has come to be seen as being synonymous with the security of the West, and in the last instance with American security. So liberalism is not only an ideological power but also a political, military and strategic power. NATO is liberal in its roots. It defends liberal societies, and it fights to extend liberalism to new areas.
Liberalism as nihilism
There is one point in liberal ideology that has brought about a crisis within it: liberalism is profoundly nihilistic at its core. The set of values defended by liberalism is essentially linked to its main thesis: the primacy of liberty. But liberty in the liberal vision is an essentially negative category: it claims to be free from (as per John Stuart Mill), not to be free for something. It is not secondary; it is the essence of the problem.
Liberalism fights against all forms of collective identity, and against all types of values, projects, strategies, goals, methods and so on that are collectivist, or at least non-individualist. That is the reason why one of the most important theorists of liberalism, Karl Popper (following Friedrich von Hayek), held in his important book, The Open Society and Its Enemies, that liberals should fight against any ideology or political philosophy (ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Marx and Hegel) that suggests that human society should have some common goal, common value, or common meaning. (It should be noted that George Soros regards this book as his personal bible.) Any goal, any value, and any meaning in liberal society, or the open society, should be strictly based upon the individual. So the enemies of the open society, which is synonymous with Western society post-1991, and which has become the norm for the rest of the world, are concrete. Its primary enemies are communism and fascism, both ideologies which emerged from the same Enlightenment philosophy, and which contained central, non-individualic concepts – class in Marxism, race in National Socialism, and the national State in fascism. So the source of liberalism’s conflict with the existing alternatives of modernity, fascism or communism, is quite obvious. Liberals claim to liberate society from fascism and communism, or from the two major permutations of explicitly non-individualistic modern totalitarianism. Liberalism’s struggle, when viewed as a part of the process of the liquidation of non-liberal societies, is quite meaningful: it acquires its meaning from the fact of the very existence of ideologies that explicitly deny the individual as society’s highest value. It is quite clear what the struggle opposes: liberation from its opposite. But the fact that liberty, as it is conceived by liberals, is an essentially negative category is not clearly perceived here. The enemy is present and is concrete. That very fact gives liberalism its solid content. Something other than the open society exists, and the fact of its existence is enough to justify the process of liberation.
Unipolar period: threat of implosion
In 1991, when the Soviet Union as the last opponent of Western liberalism fell, some Westerners, such as Francis Fukuyama, proclaimed the end of history. This was quite logical: as there was no longer an explicit enemy of the open society, therefore there was no more history as had occurred during the modern period, which was defined by the struggle between three political ideologies (liberalism, communism and fascism) for the heritage of the Enlightenment. That was, strategically speaking, the moment when “unipolar moment” was realized (Charles Krauthammer). The period between 1991 and 2014, at the midpoint of which Bin Laden’s attack against the World Trade Center occurred, was the period of the global domination of liberalism. The axioms of liberalism were accepted by all the main geopolitical actors, including China (in economic terms) and Russia (in its ideology, economy, and political system). There were liberals and would-be liberals, not-yet liberals, not-liberal-enough liberals and so on. The real and explicit exceptions were few (such as Iran and North Korea). So the world became axiomatically liberal according to its ideology.
This has been the most important moment in the history of liberalism. It has defeated its enemies, but at the same time it has lost them. Liberalism is essentially the liberation from and the fight against all that is not liberal (at present or in what has the potential to become such). Liberalism acquired its real meaning and its content from its enemies. When the choice is presented as being between not-freedom (as represented by concrete totalitarian societies) or freedom, many choose freedom, not understanding it in terms of freedom for what, or freedom to do what… When there is an illiberal society, liberalism is positive. It only begins to show its negative essence after victory.
After the victory of 1991, liberalism stepped into its implosive phase. After having defeated communism as well as fascism, it stood alone, with no enemy to fight. And that was the moment when inner conflicts emerged, when liberal societies began to attempt to purge themselves of their last remaining non-liberal elements: sexism, politically incorrectness, inequality between the sexes, any remnants of the non-individualistic dimensions of institutions such as the State and the Church, and so on. Liberalism always needs enemy to liberate from. Otherwise it loses its purpose, and its implicit nihilism becomes too salient. The absolute triumph of liberalism is its death.
That is the ideological meaning of the financial crises of 2000 and of 2008. The successes and not the failures of the new, entirely profit-based economy (of turbocapitalism, according to Edward Luttwak) are responsible for its collapse.
The liberty to do anything you want, but restricted to the individual scale, provokes an implosion of the personality. The human passes to the infra-human realm, and to sub-individual domains. And here he encounters virtuality, as a dream of sub-individuality, the freedom from anything. This is the evaporation of the human, and brings about the Empire of nothingness as the last word in the total victory of liberalism. Postmodernism prepares the terrain for that post-historic, self-referential recycling of non-sense.
The West is in need of an enemy
You may ask now, what the Hell does all of this have to do with the (presumable) coming war with Russia? I am ready to answer that now.
Liberalism has continued to gain momentum on a global scale. Since 1991, it has been an inescapable fact. And it has now begun to implode. It has arrived at its terminal point and started to liquidate itself. Mass immigration, the clash of cultures and civilizations, the financial crisis, terrorism, and the growth of ethnic nationalism are indicators of approaching chaos. This chaos endangers the established order: any kind of order, including the liberal order itself. The more liberalism succeeds, the faster it approaches its end and the end of the present world. Here we are dealing with the nihilistic essence of liberal philosophy, with nothingness as the inner (me)ontological principle of freedom-from. The German anthropologist Arnold Gehlen justly defined the human as a “deprived being,” or Mangelwesen. Man in himself is nothing. It takes all that comprises its identity from society, history, people, and politics. So if he returns to his pure essence, he can no longer recognize anything. The abyss is hidden behind the fragmented debris of feelings, vague thoughts, and dim desires. The virtuality of sub-human emotions is a thin veil; behind it there is pure darkness. So the explicit discovery of this nihilistic basis of human nature is the last achievement of liberalism. But that is the end, and the end also for those who use the liberalism for their own purposes and who are beneficiaries of liberal expansion; in other words, the masters of globalization. Any and all order collapses in such an emergency of nihilism: the liberal order, too.
In order to rescue the rule of this liberal elite, they need to take a certain step back. Liberalism will reacquire its meaning only when it is confronted once more with non-liberal society. This step back is the only way to save what remains of order, and to save liberalism from itself. Therefore, Putin’s Russia appears on its horizon. Modern Russia is not anti-liberal, not totalitarian, not nationalist, and not communist, nor is it yet too liberal, fully liberal-democrat, sufficiently cosmopolite, or so radically anti-communist. It is rather on the way to becoming liberal, step by step, within the process of a Gramscian adjustment to global hegemony and the subsequent transformation this entails (“transformismo” in Gramscian language).
However, in the global agenda of liberalism as represented by the United States and NATO, there is a need for another actor, for another Russia that would justify the order of the liberal camp, and help to mobilize the West as it threatens to break apart from inner strife. This will delay the irruption of liberalism’s inner nihilism and thus save it from its inevitable end. That is why they badly need Putin, Russia, and war. It is the only way to prevent chaos in the West and to save what remains of its global and domestic order. In this ideological play, Russia would justify liberalism’s existence, because that is the enemy which would give a meaning to the struggle of the open society, and which would help it to consolidate and continue to affirm itself globally. Radical Islam, such as represented by al-Qaeda, was another candidate for this role, but it lacked sufficient stature to become a real enemy. It was used, but only on a local scale. It justified the intervention in Afghanistan, the occupation of Iraq, the overthrow of Gaddafi, and started a civil war in Syria, but it was too weak and ideologically primitive to represent the real challenge that is needed by liberals.
Russia, the traditional geopolitical enemy of Anglo-Saxons, is much more serious as an opponent. It fits the needed role extremely well – the memory of the Cold War is still fresh in many minds. Hate for Russia is an easy thing to provoke by relatively simple means. This is why I think that war with Russia is possible. It is ideologically necessary as the last means to postpone the final implosion of the liberal West. It is the needed “one step back.”
To save the liberal order
Considering the different layers of this concept of a possible war with Russia, I suggest a few points:
1. A war with Russia will help to delay the coming disorder on a global scale. The majority of the countries that are involved in the liberal economy, and which share the axioms and institutions of liberal democracy, and which are either dependent upon or directly controlled by the United States and NATO, will forge a common front once more behind the cause of the liberal West in its quest to oppose the anti-liberal Putin. This will serve to reaffirm liberalism as a positive identity when this identity is beginning to dissolving as a result of the manifestation of its nihilistic essence.
2. A war with Russia would strengthen NATO and above all its European members, who will be obliged once more to regard American hyperpower as something positive and useful, and the old Cold War stance will no longer seem obsolete. Out of a fear of the coming of the “evil Russians”, Europeans will again feel loyal to the United States as their protector and savior. As a result, the leading role of the U.S. in NATO will be reaffirmed.
3. The EU is falling apart. The supposed “common threat” of the Russians could prevent it from an eventual split, mobilizing these societies and making their peoples once again eager to defend their liberties and values under the threat of Putin’s “imperial ambitions”.
4. The Ukraine junta in Kiev needs this war to justify and conceal all the misdeeds they carried out during the Maidan protests on both the juridical and constitutional levels, thus allowing them to suspend democracy, that would impede their rule in the southeastern, mostly pro-Russian districts and would enable them to establish their authority and nationalistic order through extra-parliamentary means.
The only country that doesn’t want war now is Russia. But Putin cannot let the radically anti-Russian government in Ukraine to dominate a country that has a population that is half-Russian and which contains many pro-Russian regions. If he allows this, he will be finished on the international and domestic levels. So, reluctantly, he accepts war. And once he begins on this course, there will be no other solution for Russia but to win it.
I don’t like to speculate regarding the strategic aspects of this coming war. I leave that to other, more qualified analysts. Instead I would like to formulate some ideas concerning the ideological dimension of this war.
The meaning of this war on Russia is in essence the last effort of globalist liberalism to save itself from implosion. As such, liberals need to define Putin’s Russia ideologically – and obviously identify it with the enemy of the open society. But in the dictionary of modern ideologies there are only three primary iterations: liberalism, communism and fascism. It is quite clear that liberalism is represented by all the nations involved in this conflict except for Russia (the United States, the NATO member states, and Euromaidan/the Kiev junta). This leaves only communism and fascism. Therefore Putin is made out to be a “neo-Soviet revanchist” and “a return of the KGB”. This is the picture that is being sold to the most stupid sort of Western public. But some aspects of the patriotic reaction emanating from the pro-Russian and anti-Banderite population (i.e., the defense of Lenin’s monuments, Stalin portraits and memorials to the Soviet involvement in the Second World War) could confirm this idea in the minds of this public. Nazism and fascism are too far removed from Putin and the reality of modern Russia, but Russian nationalism and Russian imperialism will be evoked within the image of the Great Evil that is being drawn. Therefore Putin is being made out to be a “radical nationalist”, a “fascist” and an “imperialist”. This will work on many Westerners. Under this logic, Putin can be both “communist” and “fascist” at the same time, so he will be depicted as a “National Bolshevik” (although this is a little bit too complicated for the postmodern Western public). It is obvious that in reality, Putin is neither – he is not a communist nor a fascist, nor both simultaneously. He is a political pragmatist in the realm of International Relations – this is why he admires Kissinger, and why Kissinger likes him in return. He has no ideology whatsoever. But he will be obliged to embrace the ideological frame that he has been assigned. It is not his choice. But such are the rules of the game. In the course of this war on Russia, Putin will be framed in this way, and that is the most interesting and important aspect of this situation.
The main idea that liberals will try to advance to define Putin ideologically will be as the shadow of the past, as a vampire: “Sometimes they come back.” That is the rationale behind this attempt to prevent the final implosion of liberalism. The primary message is that liberalism is still alive and vital because there is something in the world that we all must be liberated from. Russia will become the object from which it must be liberated. The goal is first to liberate Ukraine, and by extension Europe and the rest of humanity, who will likewise be depicted as being under threat, from Russia, and in the end Russia itself will be said to be in need of rescue from its own non-liberal identity. So now we have an enemy. Such an enemy gives to the liberalism its raison d’être once more. So Russia is being made out to be a challenger from the pre-liberal past thrown into the liberal present. Without such a challenge there is no more life in liberalism, no more order in the world, and everything associated with them will dissolve and implode. With this challenge, the falling giant of globalism acquires new vigor. Russia is here to save the liberals.
But in order for this to happen, Russia is being ideologically framed as something pre-liberal. She must be either communist, fascist or at perhaps National Bolshevist Russia. That is the ideological rule. Therefore, in fighting with Russia, or in considering to fight her, or in not fighting her, there is a deeper task – to frame Russia ideologically. It will be done from both the inside and the outside. They will try to force Russia to accept either communism or extreme nationalism, or else they will simply treat Russia as if it were these things. It is a framing game.
Post-liberal Russia: The first war of the Fourth Political Theory
In conclusion, what I propose is the following:
We need to consciously counter any provocation to frame Russia as a pre-liberal power. We need to refuse to allow the liberals to save themselves from their fast-approaching end. Rather than helping them to delay it, we need to accelerate it. In order to do this, we need to present Russia not as a pre-liberal entity but as a post-liberal revolutionary force that struggles for an alternative future for all the peoples of the planet. The Russian war will be not only be for Russian national interests, but will be in the cause of a just multipolar world, for real dignity and for real, positive freedom – not (nihilistic) freedom from but (creative) freedom for. In this war, Russia will set an example as the defender of Tradition, conservative organic values, and will represent real liberation from the open society and its beneficiaries – the global financial oligarchy. This war is not against Ukrainians or even against part of the Ukrainian populace. Nor is it against Europe. It is against the liberal world (dis)order. We are not going to save liberalism, per their designs. We are going to kill it once and for all. Modernity was always essentially wrong, and we are now at the terminal point of modernity. For those who rendered modernity and their own destiny synonymous, or who let that occur unconsciously, this will mean the end. But for those who are on the side of eternal truth and of Tradition, of faith, and of the spiritual and immortal human essence, it will be a new beginning, Absolute Beginning.
The most important fight at present is the fight for the Fourth Political Theory. It is our weapon, and with it we are going to prevent the liberals from realizing their wish of framing Putin and Russia in their own manner, and in so doing we will reaffirm Russia as the first post-liberal ideological power struggling against nihilistic liberalism for the sake of an open, multipolar and genuinely free future.