Alexander Dugin has been dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart when Steve Bannon was at the helm. Formerly a sociology professor at Moscow State University, he lost that job in 2014 amid accusations that he was promoting genocide in the Ukraine with his refrain, “Kill, kill, kill!” However, that has not lessened his influence in Russia and among some in the Putin-led government.
With his beard and piercing eyes, he looks sort of like the original Rasputin- the Siberian monk who enchanted the Romanovs. He’s been described as an “occult fascist” and a “mystical imperialist.” He is viewed as an ultra-nationalist Russian and claims to have founded a fourth political theory- Eurasianism- with the other three being communism, fascism, and liberalism.
At a recent address in London, he laid forth the basics of this philosophy. Eurasianism is a combination of fascism and Stalinism that addresses Russia’s long-burning desires of empire and a strong national identity.
Under this theory, there will always be conflict between the United States and Russia until one is neutered or destroyed. In this view, Russia is threatened not militarily, but ideologically by a decadent West with the United States the standard-bearer of that decadence. It is not only the United States, but the European Union that stands in the way of Russian desires. The Ukraine, to Dugin, is the jewel in the crown and the means to break the will of the West. This will lead to the demise of liberalism throughout the European continent and Russian influence will prevail. Britain, which he views as being in America’s backyard, would be spared “occupation.”
The title of his lecture? “The End of the Present World- The Post-American Century and Beyond.”
Dugin is not an official member of the Russian government, but he is certainly respected in some circles. He is acknowledged to be one of the chief negotiators and strategists in improving Russian-Turkish relations after Turkey shot down a Russian jet fighter. Dugin laid the groundwork that led to a summit between Erdogan and Putin. He also led a Turkish delegation, including a relative of Erdogan, to the Crimea after the Russian annexation giving that act some international credibility. And state-controlled Russian television gives Dugin a regular voice.
In his theory, he states that in the latter half of the 20th century, liberalism clearly won. But that, he claims, signals the end of modernity and passage into post-modernity, or the 4th political theory. It is characterized by a rediscovery of pre-modernity and a return to principles and values rooted most heavily in the beliefs and teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Under this system, the primary feature of modernity was the individual without a national identity. Secularism replaced religion, cosmopolitanism replaced the nation, there was no class as everyone strove for the middle in capitalist countries or were driven there in Communist ones, there was no national pride which was replaced by human rights ideologies, and there was no delineation of the sexes as things became gender neutral. Liberalism, to Dugin, does not accept any form of non-individual beliefs. Organizations are formed by individuals to advance the “human rights” of individuals, but ultimately everything revolves around the individual.
He claims that post-modern notions of the theory cannot be achieved by any individual, class or nation. Instead, the key to achieving the theory’s objectives is through a return to rigid tradition- God, church, empire, family and community.
According to most watchers of Russia, Dugin himself exerts no direct control or influence on Putin with the possible exceptions of Vladimir Yakunin and Sergei Galzyev, two members of Putin’s inner circle. However, within Russia he commands respect through his activism, publishing, networking and media appearances. At times embracing of Dugin, at other times the Putin government holds him at arm’s length, especially when his commentary is too controversial. Then, Putin portrays himself as more moderate than Dugin and his followers to curry favor with the population. For example, when Dugin suggested Russia did not go far enough in the Ukraine, Putin pushed back as the more moderate voice, yet the objectives of both were the same. Therefore, sometimes Dugin plays the role of Putin’s “scarecrow,” as one analyst explained it.
The most important agreements between Putin and Dugin involve Russia’s role in the world. Specifically, both have an almost religious zeal for the belief that Russia stands as the world’s last great bulwark against the decadence of the West. It is this belief, coupled with the connections to the Eastern Orthodox Church, that motivated Putin to act in Syria. It is what motivates the new, better relations with Turkey in an attempt to drive a wedge in the NATO alliance. It is why Russia interferes in foreign elections in the West. By undermining Western liberal democracy, especially the sanctity of elections, it is all part of the plan to thwart Western decadence. To Dugin, it is simply accelerating a process already in motion- the decline and death of Western liberal democratic ideology.
Perhaps that is why Dugin, who is widely read, quoted and admired by many on the alt-right, was so enthusiastic about the election of Trump. Here, he found a kindred spirit with Trump’s rhetoric of “making America great again” and “taking care of America first.” If America is engaged wholeheartedly in that endeavor, then they cannot be engaged wholeheartedly on the international stage. Russia can fill that void, but only where Russian interests are concerned. They do not aspire to becoming the world’s policeman.
And Russian interests clearly center on Russia and anywhere there is a sizable Russian population, namely the former Soviet bloc. And as a bulwark against Western “decadence” and protector of Russian values, their interests also lie wherever the Eastern Orthodox Church is prevalent which includes sections of the Middle East as well as the aforementioned Soviet bloc nations.
In short, the man dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” operates differently and serves a different function than the original Rasputin. Yet, the intersection of Putin’s beliefs and actions with Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory are obvious. Which came first is inconsequential to the discussion. The aims of Dugin’s theory are knowingly or unknowingly being carried out by the Kremlin under Putin.