Putin's Rasputin: The Mad Mystic Who Inspired Russia's Leader
As Russia continues stepping up its propaganda war, the Putin regime continues to implausibly deny any responsibility for the civil war spawned in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Putin’s cynical denial of responsibility for his operatives’ actions in Crimea strained the imagination of even the most credulous observers; even Putin had to confess that the “little green men” were really his soldiers all along. By some accounts, Kazakhstan and Belarus, Russia’s partners in its new Eurasian Economic Union, may be looking for a way out before the union even goes into effect next year.
Why does Putin risk a war in Ukraine? Because he cannot build a meaningful Eurasian Union without Ukraine—and if that means settling for as much of Ukraine as he can steal, so be it. As Leon Neyfakh recently wrote for The Boston Globe:
Ukraine—with its steel mills, coal plants, bountiful agricultural resources, and massive population of 46 million people—has always, according to Russia experts, been key to Putin’s vision for the Eurasian Union.
Why does Putin risk a war in Ukraine to build his Eurasian Union? Because he is implementing—in whole or in part—the Eurasianist doctrine which was developed by the man know as “Putin’s Brain:” Aleksandr Dugin (pictured, top). Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics helped reshape the views of Russia’s political and military elite in the late 1990s and gave a new form to old prejudices against the Western nations by means of the Eurasianist ideology.
Putin appears to have given support to Dugin’s Eurasianism from the earliest days of his presidency: the Evraziia (Eurasian Movement) was organized in April 2001 as the "brainchild" of presidential counsel Gleb Pavlovsky. Eurasianism has not only found favor with the Putin regime: Gennady Zhuganov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and Vladimir Zhironovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party have both proclaimed their adherence to varying forms of Eurasianism, and Dugin is credited with having influenced both men.
Eurasianism leaves intact many of the territorial goals of the old Soviet Union while updating the ideology for a world which has grown cold to Bolshevik boilerplate. Gone is the old Marxist-Leninist claptrap about the "class struggle" in favor of a global conflict rooted in “sacred geography” and an "inevitable" conflict between the continental might of Eurasia and the "sea power" of the United Kingdom and United States.
However, Dugin is not only “Putin’s Brain”—he’s also “Putin’s Rasputin.” Dugin’s ideology is filled with invocations of "metaphysical Marxism" and adherence to the Traditionalist views of the "mystical fascist" thinker Julius Evola. Dugin’s ideology is one which claims that a final conflict is coming between Eurasia and (in Dugin’s words) “the kingdom of the Antichrist.” As pertains to this kingdom of the Antichrist, Dugin maintains, “the United States is the center of its expansion.” For Dugin, there is one course which lies open before those who oppose the "Antichrist:" “The American Empire should be destroyed. And at one point, it will be.”
What remains to be seen is how far Putin will go to implement Eurasianism.