Recent decades have seen a dialogue of the deaf between opposing worldviews in the United States and Russia, which have brought the two major countries into protracted conflict despite the end of the Cold War between capitalism and communism.  

Today the conflict is not over ideology, but over the issue of world hegemony.  The conflict is unbalanced, because while the United States does want to be the world hegemon and exerts its power in many international situations from a standpoint of “protecting and expanding democracy,”, Russia today is NOT seeking to be a world hegemon, and is also not seeking to spread any ideology:  but it is determined to be independent. 

Naturally, to help it resist the American desire to dominate, it has entered into alliances of convenience with China, Iran and Turkey.  

The United States has had a long tradition of belief in itself and its civilizing and democratizing the world.   Defining words are Manifest Destiny, Continentalism, Neoconservatism (or Neocons), and Hegemonism. 

Manifest Destiny

Manifest destiny was a settler-colonial belief in the 19th-century United States that White American settlers were destined to expand across North America. It was an early expression of American imperialism in the United States of America.   There were three basic tenets to the concept:

  • The inherent superiority of white Americans and their institutions
  • The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the West in the image of the agrarian East
  • An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty.
Manifest destiny expressed conviction in the morality and value of expansionism that complemented other popular ideas of the era, including American exceptionalism and Romantic nationalism. Andrew Jackson, who spoke of “extending the area of freedom”, typified the conflation of America’s potential greatness, the nation’s budding sense of Romantic self-identity, and its expansion.   A belief expressed in 1845 was that Providence had given the United States a mission to spread republican democracy (“the great experiment of liberty”).

Historian William E. Weeks noted in 1996 that three key themes were usually touched upon by advocates of manifest destiny:

  • the virtue of the American people and their institutions – a view known as American exceptionalism;
  • the mission to spread these institutions, thereby redeeming and remaking the world in the image of the United States;
  • the destiny under God to do this work.

The Monroe Doctrine is a 200 year old United States foreign policy position that opposes European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere. 

Authored by Secretary-of-State John Quincy Adams and articulated by President Monroe in 1823, it holds that any intervention in the political affairs of the Americas by foreign powers is a potentially hostile act against the United States.  

The doctrine was central to American grand strategy in the 20th century.  The doctrine led initially to isolationism but also active intervention in the affairs of Latin America. 

The Clark Memorandum, written on December 17, 1928, by Calvin Coolidge’s undersecretary of state J. Reuben Clark and officially released in 1930 by Herbert Hoover, allowed U.S. use of military force to intervene in Latin American nations.   

We have seen plenty of instances of this intervention in the recent past, such as in the overthrow of Marxist President Allende in Chile in 1973.

From 1896 until 1912, the Republicans held the White House and cited manifest destiny to promote overseas expansion.  

When President William McKinley advocated annexation of the Republic of Hawaii in 1898, he said that “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California.  

It is manifest destiny.”   American acquisition of other Pacific island groups in the 1890s was an extension of manifest destiny across the Pacific Ocean.

In 1898, Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba and ceded the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States.

The belief in an American mission to promote and defend democracy throughout the world, as expounded by Jefferson and his “Empire of Liberty”, and continued by presidents Lincoln, Wilson and George W. Bush, continues to have an influence on American political ideology. 

Under Douglas MacArthur, the Americans “were imbued with a sense of manifest destiny,” says historian John Dower.

America Today

Despite its ongoing cultural turbulence, the US continues to assert that other nations desire America’s “engagement” more than ever. 

At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January 2024, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that that geopolitical turmoil and conflict around the globe have made the world’s nations hungrier than ever for diplomatic intervention from Washington to help deal with their crises. 

“There’s a greater premium than there’s ever been on our engagement, on our leadership, in partnership with others.”  What leadership?  In warmongering and cultural implosion?

The Neocons include people like Victoria Nuland, currently Acting Deputy Secretary of State in the Biden administration. 

As a former diplomat, she played a prominent role in supporting the 2014 coup against Victor Yanukovich, the elected president of Ukraine, and continues to urge US financial support to Ukraine under president Zelensky with a view to Ukraine joining NATO and the EU and allying with the West against Russia. 

She is a warmonger of the first order, but a number of NATO political and military leaders are also now urging preparations for war with Russia.  This is madness.

Meanwhile, today’s United States is racked with cultural pessimism, conflict and community violence over gender and identity issues (for example Black Lives Matter).

It suffers from oppressive wokeness, hostility to traditional values, a militant secularism that seeks to drive Christianity out of the public square while embracing irrational New Age fads and acquiescing in the expansion of Islamic influence.

Meanwhile the Biden administration refuses to defend the country’s borders and the American education system is turning out anti-patriotic young students.  

Australia, where all levels of our education system and our public media have been captured by “progressive” activists. Our major national holidays – Australia Day, Anzac Day – have been demonized as racist and people have been told to be ashamed of our history and of the people who founded, pioneered, built and defended the modern Australian nation.   School children are being given self-hating complexes about the “Stolen Generation” and “stolen land.”   Big business is riddled with Woke elites affecting moral leadership to the community while underpaying workers and gouging farmers and small business suppliers.

Unfortunately the same is true of Australia, where all levels of our education system and our public media have been captured by “progressive” activists.

Our major national holidays – Australia Day, Anzac Day – have been demonized as racist and people have been told to be ashamed of our history and of the people who founded, pioneered, built and defended the modern Australian nation.

School children are being given self-hating complexes about the “Stolen Generation” and “stolen land.” 

Big business is riddled with Woke elites affecting moral leadership to the community while underpaying workers and gouging farmers and small business suppliers.

THE CONTRAST WITH MODERN RUSSIA COULD NOT BE MORE STARK.

We’ll look at that now.

The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991. The 1990s were a very bleak period of destruction of the old command system and painful reconstruction of a capitalist structure that had not existed since the Bolsheviks destroyed it in 1918.

The morale of the Russian people was very low in this period for a number of reasons.

These included mass unemployment, lack of skills for coping in a world without the comfortable if shabby certainty of the centrally planned economy, and hyperinflation which destroyed pensions and savings and reduced the elderly to poverty.

Nevertheless, Yeltsin won several elections in the 1990s, making it clear that communism was not going to come back.

The economy’s nosedive stopped by 1998-99, but the GDP level of 1990 was not reached again until 2007. Seventeen years of negative growth! while the West continued to grow.

Putin became president in 2000, and set out to revitalize the Russian economy and rebuild national esteem. He undertook massive refurbishment of run-down establishments in St Petersburg for the 300th anniversary of its foundation by Peter the Great in 1703.

In Moscow, prominent buildings not maintained during the 1990s were repainted and repaired in a continuous program that lifted people’s spirits.

Putin was well aware that the cynicism engendered in people by the self-seeking behaviour of the Soviet elites and the disconnect between the optimistic rhetoric of communism and the shabby reality, had created a vacuum of values.

He sought to counteract this by incorporating religion and ethics into the schools curriculum. He requires all his regional governors to read the works of the early 20th century Christian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev.

In recent decades huge numbers of Russians have returned to Christianity.

Putin has greatly encouraged this, and is close to Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. 

In reaffirming the country’s history and culture, he understands that for a thousand years, being Orthodox has been a core part of what it is to be Russian.

Russia today is culturally confident, patriotic and socially conservative.  The population as a whole comprehensively rejects politically correct “wokeness” (gender fluidity, artificial Diversity Inclusiveness and Equity) and the Duma has outlawed LGBT propaganda and its proselytizing to children. 

The government and Duma have a strong focus on “real families” of a mother and father with children.

“A Real Family”

The demonstration by the punk feminist group Pussy Riot inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012 drew much hostility from the Russian public as well from the Orthodox Church and the courts.

Most people saw it as sacrilegious, offensive and demeaning to national identity, and supported the jailing of two of the perpetrators. 

By contrast, the Western media supported the group – evidence of a huge disconnect between the mindsets of Russia and the West.

Some decades ago the Russian historian Lev Gumilev (d. 1992) coined the term passionarity – (пассионарность , passionarnost’) to refer to the strength of belief by an

ethnos (or country) in itself, its strength of will to affirm and defend its own culture and spread its influence. 

In studying the rise and fall of ancient and medieval civilizations, Gumilev was seeking an answer to the question of why various civilizations start rapid, explosive expansion at a certain point in history [like for example the Romans and the Mongols], as if propelled by some invisible force to cover as much ground as possible. 

He noted that over time, the original impulse of an ethnic group to expand visibly weakens, and future, complacent, generations of the original group show much less creative activity and expansive energy than their forefathers. 

Gumilev’s notion of “passionarity” sought to measure the intensity of a given group’s ethnic identity, vitality and energy in its will to domination.  

Certainly 19th and most of 20th century America showed passionarity, and present-day Russia is again showing passionarity.  But for half a century now, the United States has been losing it, and so has most of the West.

In Russia today, the prevailing mood is for Slavophilism rather than Westernism.  The trend is certainly magnified by the West’s demonization of post-communist Russia and push to get Ukraine into NATO.

Here is an extract from an article published in 1974 on the evolution of the Russian intelligentsia in the 19th century:

At the beginning, the intelligentsia was almost exclusively made up of gentry.   The first two competing directions of ideas came from this group in the 1840s, and were known as Westernism and Slavophilism.  

The Westernizers ¾ for example the literary critic Vissarion Belinsky and the Moscow University professor Timofey Granovsky ¾ taught thus:  By the fundamentals of their culture, the Russians are European, only younger in historical age, and therefore they must follow the path already taken by the West, by acquiring the fruits of its culture.  

Above all, the Westernizers considered such fruits to be understanding of the value and dignity of human individuality and of its right to free development of its reasoning.

Yes, objected the Slavophiles ¾ Aleksei S. Khomyakov, Ivan V. Kireyevsky and others ¾ Russians are Europeans, but eastern ones.  

They have their own principles of life, which they should develop by their own efforts.   Such principles were considered by the Slavophiles to include the Orthodox religion and the peasant commune.  

The Europeanizing reforms of Peter the Great they judged as a national catastrophe.   Russia was not a pupil and not a traveller on the same road, and not even a competitor of Europe, but rather its successor.  

Russia and Europe were two stages of cultural development of humanity.   Western Europe was a vast cemetery where under rich marble monuments slept the great dead people of the past.  

The forests and steppes of Russia were a cradle in which moved and cried the future of the world.   Europe was decaying, while Russia was only beginning to live, and because it would have to live after Europe, it would need to know how to live without it.

Those last words seem quite prophetic today, given the ongoing implosion of the West.

Solzhenitsyn in his 1978 Harvard Address made these remarks:

Any ancient deeply rooted autonomous culture, especially if it is spread on a wide part of the earth’s surface, constitutes an autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking.  …  For one thousand years Russia has belonged to such a category, although Western thinking systematically committed the mistake of denying its autonomous character and therefore never understood it, just as today [1978] the West does not understand Russia in communist captivity. 

But the blindness of superiority continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive.  There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life.  Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction.  However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick.  The real picture of our planet’s development is quite different.

The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations.  Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. 

Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism.  Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.

[In Western society] any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution.    One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint.    Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space.  Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. 

It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept.  Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected. 

I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours.  Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. 

After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.

There are meaningful warnings that history gives a threatened or perishing society.  Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen.  …  Only moral criteria can help the West against communism’s well planned world strategy.  … No weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. 

Eurasianism versus Atlanticism

During the 2012 presidential election Putin and his supporters in United Russia put forward the notion that a Eurasian Union be formed by the Russian Federation and a number of other post-Soviet states to change the geopolitical and geoeconomic configuration of the entire continent.

Neo-Eurasianism emerged as the dominant political ideology and narrative of Russian identity in the early 21st century, with intellectual contributions of Alexander Dugin, Vladislav Surkov, and Sergei Karaganov.

Aleksandr Blok’s famous poem of 18 January 1918 titled Scythians, written immediately after the Bolshevik revolution, included these powerful verses:

You are millions.  We are hordes and hordes and hordes.  Try and take us on!

Yes, we are Scythians! Yes, we are Asians – with slanted and greedy eyes!

Russia is a Sphinx. Rejoicing, grieving,  And drenched in black blood,

It gazes, gazes, gazes at you,  With hatred and with love!…

Come to us! Leave the horrors of war,  And come to our peaceful embrace!

Before it’s too late – sheathe your old sword,  Comrades!  We shall be brothers!

The philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev was a prominent proponent of the idea that Russia stood apart from Europe on a civilizational level and represented a distinctly Eurasian character.   

Eurasianism portrayed Russia not as just an ordinary state but as a civilization in its own right, with Russia compared to Europe or ‘Atlantic civilization’ as a whole, rather than to individual nation states as the UK, France, or Germany.

The transition from classical Eurasianism to neo-Eurasianism was facilitated by the rise in the Russian political arena of Alexander Dugin.   

Dugin took up the task of modernizing Eurasianism and defining its ideas in a context relevant to Russia in the 1990s.  He positioned himself as the successor to Berdyaev and the other émigré thinkers of the early 20th century.

The Eurasianism put forward by Alexander Dugin idolizes medieval Muscovy, places considerable importance on the Orthodox faith within Russian society, emphasizes Russia’s distinctly Eurasian civilizational basis and is deeply patriarchal.  

It rejects Western partnership with Russia and the notion that Western liberal values could have any place in Russian society.

Atlanticists, as well as the liberal democracy and civic nationalism promoted by them, were effectively branded as responsible for the socio-economic shocks experienced in the 1990s.

“Sovereign democracy” is a concept that represents the conviction that Russians should define their own democracy and protect themselves from values exported from outside.  

Liberal democracy and Atlanticism are seen as capitulation to external influence from the Americans and Europeans, whereas embracing a decidedly authoritarian model of society is seen as recognizing the distinctly Eurasianist character of contemporary Russia.

Nashi activists [a youth group between 2005 and 2019 that supported Putin] distributed campaign materials in the 2012 election criticizing liberal democracy.

These materials suggested that the Western model of governance leads to caustic debate that undermines social cohesion, whereas sovereign democracy and the centralization of political authority in Russia can better facilitate orderly development.

The Karaganov Doctrine holds that the Russian Federation should position itself as the defender of ethnic Russian minority rights throughout the former Soviet republics, asserting its influence wherever ethnic Russians are subjected to perceived discrimination by the authorities of the state in question.   

Comparisons have been drawn by some between the Karaganov Doctrine and the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine, first proposed by US President James Monroe in 1823, warned that further attempt at colonization in the Americas by any of the European powers would be perceived by the United States as an act of aggression and would provoke an American military response.  

This Doctrine sought to enact the popular American belief of the time in Manifest Destiny, which held that the United States of America was destined by divine right to expand its rule across North and South America.  

In much the same way, the Karaganov Doctrine invokes the imagery of a Russian Manifest Destiny – or sphere of influence – over those territories that once fell under Tsarist rule.

Neo-Eurasianism does not call only for partnership between the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church.  

According to Dugin, both Islam and Orthodox Christianity have their basis in Eurasian civilization and share certain core values, such as a respect for centralized authority and strong leadership.  

Eurasianists claim that Islam has an important role to play in Russian society but insist that this role entails subservience to Orthodox Christianity and Orthodox values.   Putin certainly asserts that the responsibility of all Russian citizens, including Muslims, must be first loyalty to Russia.

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