How do Russians envisage their country’s place in the world fifteen or twenty years from now? In the afterglow of the seizure of Crimea and the intimidation of Ukraine, there has been a significant change in the mood of the country, notes the celebrated historian Walter Laqueur.
The rules of the game, formerly dictated by the EU and Washington, have changed. The expansion of NATO and the EU to the Russian periphery has been halted. Mainstream moderate Russian commentators such as Sergei Karaganov, Alexander Lukin, and others have helped popularize a narrative which holds that until recently Russian dignity and interests were trampled and the country was subjected to systematic deceit, hypocrisy, and broken promises on the international scene. But Russia has now been liberated from false illusions, having given up attempts to become part of the West.
Russian policymakers have been advised by Putin to read three of the leading Christian theologians—Ivan Ilyin (1883–1954), Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948), and Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900). For Ilyin, Christianity was never the religion of freedom; he was an opponent of democracy and found much to admire in Nazism and Italian fascism, which he believed were unjustly denigrated by liberals and democrats. Berdyaev, on the other hand, wrote that the nationalism of the Russian far right (so much in fashion now) was barbaric and stupid, pagan and immoral in inspiration, full of Eastern wildness and darkness. No one has been more sarcastic than Solovyov about the believers in omnipresent conspiracies, with their hostility toward everyone and everything, imagining dangers that do not exist, indifferent to the damage likely to be caused by their affliction with false ideas. Unfortunately, the theology of Ilyin is far more often quoted in official speeches and seems to have more followers now than Berdyaev and Solovyov.
“Quite recently, with the end of the Cold War, the belief prevailed in the West that democracy was the normal state of affairs and all other forms of governance a regrettable deviation from the norm,” he notes. “That this assumption proved to be overoptimistic is a matter of great grief to Russian democrats, but they have accommodated to the fact, as events during the last two decades have shown, that chaos is much more feared than authoritarian rule and dictatorship.”
Russia welcomed the post-9/11 US ‘Global War on Terror’ as indicating a shared view of the main international security challenges, notes analyst Neil Melvin. Russia: Europe’s revisionist power
But as the US-led security agenda expanded into state-building and democracy promotion, including through regime change, Moscow grew uneasy about Western interventions, he writes for FRIDE’s Foreign Policy in 2015: How others deal with disorder:
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and EU enlargement to former Warsaw Pact states, and even some former Soviet republics, was viewed by the Russian leadership as confirming that the promise of cooperative security was little more than a thinly veiled agenda for the expansion of the Euro-Atlantic community at Russia’s expense.
“Nullifying the prospect of pro-democracy revolutions has become a key part of Russia’s neighbourhood strategy and heavily informed the response to the 2013-14 Maidan protests in Ukraine,” he contends.