What is it with Americans with Western Slavic names turning into pro-Kremlin Russophiles? There was myself, then Tim Kirby, and now some guy named Andrew Korybko with this standard, delusional Eurasianist article. Yes, I look at a name like Korybko and see Ukrainian or possibly Polish, but who gives a shit? He’s American, not Russian. That is all that matters. See we Americans, including those of us with Polako-Ukrainian heritage such as myself, have this luxury that native-born Eastern Europeans don’t have. We can be interested in any foreign country and not be ostracized for it out of some stupid centuries-old national rivalry. But that’s a topic for another article. All that matters is we have another American coming to Russia and lecturing Russians as to what they should do, and of course this means they have to support their government because Mr. Korybko is upset with his own.
Actually, the article is entitled “Will Russia lift the lamp?” In case you’re wondering what the fuck that means and you don’t have time to read either his article or my send up of it, I’ll answer his rhetorical question for you. No, Russia will not lift the lamp. Russia isn’t lifting any lamps. For those with the time, I’ll summarize by telling you that the article is a collection of the author’s suggestions about what Russia can supposedly do to improve its position in the world. Surprise, surprise, it’s the same tried-and-failed bullshit that hasn’t worked thus far.
Before I start taking this apart point by point, I want to mention a couple general things I notice about these types of articles. The first is that they all seem to be written by people with a very low knowledge of economics and globalization, and who seem to see the world as some kind of computer strategy game. You get this any time some Russian pseudo-intellectual starts babbling about geopolitics as well. They’re always looking at the map like some kind of chessboard, and they assume Russia is strong because it has resources, nukes, tanks, and SU-27 fighters. I’m not sure it’s even fair to blame the author of this article when he is probably just regurgitating the stuff he “studies” here in Moscow.
That being out of the way, let’s get on with it. What are Mr. Korybko’s suggestions for Russia? Are they even remotely plausible?
Take the Initiative: Instead of permanently being in a defensive position vis-à-vis NATO, Russia must take the initiative in building strategic partnerships (energy, economic, military, diplomatic, etc.) in states formerly thought of as being securely in the Western domain. It can start in Egypt, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Latin America, thereby applying the West’s policy of strategic encroachment into their own ‘backyard’. Wherever there are cracks in the Western-led international order, Russia should present itself as the attractive alternative, thereby wedging the gap even wider and weakening the entire Western structure.
So Russia should “take the initiative” by offering alliances and partnerships that nobody wants, save for stagnant dictatorships which currently don’t enjoy the support of the EU or US. Sounds like a plan. I love how simple he makes this sound. Why oh why did the geniuses in the Kremlin never think of this before? And it can start in Egypt, a military dictatorship which is now infamously unstable? Great! It’s not like the USSR had a far more stable Egypt with a far more popular government on its side for decades. How did that work out? And which Bulgaria is he referring to? If he means Volga Bulgaria, aka modern Tatarstan, they have no choice but to go with Russia, since you can’t even publish anything in this country about separatism or federalization without being slapped with a criminal punishment. He couldn’t possibly be referring to the NATO and EU member state Bulgaria. Hungary is also a member of both alliances, so the reader may be wondering as to why he thinks this has potential for Russia. Well dear reader, the reason is that the Kremlin-funded Eurasianist movement has ties to Hungary’s right wing Jobbik party. They make no attempt to deny this, but remember kids- Ukraine is where all the fascists are! And then there’s Latin America. Uh yeah. No. Latin America is never going to go over to Russia’s side. They’d be better off with Brazil.
The other problem with this suggestion is that it posits that there is a “Western dominated” world order. That simply can’t be the case in a world where some of the top economic powers include Japan, South Korea, and China. Love ’em or hate ’em, but Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also major players. Ditto for countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, India, and so on. Yes, you could say this means that past Western domination is certainly declining, but this doesn’t automatically bode well for Russia. See all those other nations who are coming up in the world and challenging hegemony are doing so by developing their economies, by manufacturing things, and by attracting investment. Japan, which found itself utterly destroyed in 1945, did not see its path to greatness in retaking lost territory such as Korea or Manchuria. Within a few decades they managed to rival and in many ways beat their former conqueror, the United States, simply through hard work, ingenuity, innovation, and a very intelligent trade policy which utilized the state to protect domestic industries until they could compete on the world market. Sure, Russia has oil and gas, but every single time more oil or gas is found somewhere else, Russia’s potential wealth is threatened. By contrast it would be easy for some developing country in Africa to suddenly challenge Japan in auto manufacturing.
My point here is that Russia can’t just will itself into a good position in this world where Western dominance is declining. For one thing, there is nothing to stop Russia from being dominated by a non-Western power, but more on that later. The point is that in order to take advantage of this situation Russia has to get in the game. It needs to manufacture things and attract investment. For their part, both Putin and Medvedev were doing this a few years ago. The most comedic irony about these Eurasianist pseudo-intellectuals surrounding the Kremlin is that all the success of their heroes has come not from isolating Russia from the West, but rather from attracting investment and making Russia somewhat competitive. Of course they managed to piss all that away in the space of about a year, but hey, maybe something that has never worked anywhere before will suddenly work this time around.
Before moving on, I want to say that while I’m being hard on Korybko’s suggestions, I’m not trying to be hard on him. I have no idea how much time he’s spent here or where he comes from politically. I believe he might have some political baggage which inclines him toward Russia, but I was the same way. I think he may just lack experience and the ability to discern the veracity of what he’s being told.
His problem in this respect is that he’s been tricked into believing that all this anti-Western rhetoric is anything but a bunch of populist bullshit to distract the people of Russia while a small elite steals their national wealth and lines their own pockets with it. See when you live in a country so rich in resources, with partially state-owned enterprises worth tens of billions of dollars if not more, and yet just outside the capital city you have almost third world conditions, it makes you start asking questions about where all this money is going. Indeed, Moscow is the only place in Russia where many people can hope to better their lives, and many parts of Russia do exist under third world conditions. How is this possible given the amount of money firms such as Gazprom and Rosneft rake in every year? Where is the money going? It’s not going to the roads in villages or the far east. It’s not going toward more clinics. We’ve seen what happens when the government tries to build hospitals.
Of course every Russian knows where their money goes, especially if they live in Moscow. It goes into luxury hotels and restaurants, foreign, mostly Western luxury products. There are massive, walled compounds in Rublevka and Nakhabino, where Russia’s elite surround themselves with all manner of Western comfort. Always Western, always European- these people want nothing out of Russia but its wealth. They spend entire summers in France. They send their children to summer camps, prep schools, and universities in the United States and Great Britain. They own property in London. Opposing the West? They’ve robbed Russia and the West is their fence! Whenever the people start to grumble too loudly about this, whenever the Kremlin can’t distract them enough with phony political movements and inter-ethnic hatred, they point their greedy little fingers at the West.
Now they are doing so more than ever out of sheer desperation. So-called ‘silent-austerity’ has been a creeping problem in Russia since 2009. Capital flight and regions severely underwater in debt have been major problems even in 2013, before Maidan even started and before Putin pissed away any chance he had at pulling Russia out of a tailspin. The poorly-planned annexation of the Crimea has been a big bust, especially since “Novorossiya” appears to be doomed and degenerating into chaos while the rebels failed to secure a land route to the isolated peninsula. This means more expenditure for the Russian government which can’t finance its ambitious military upgrade program, a program which doesn’t even address some of the most glaring problems of the Russian military in the first place. With many Russian oligarchs on the sanctions list and unable to enjoy the ill-gotten fruits of their theft in Europe, they are taking it out on the people by sanctioning themselves, with measures that will only ensure the continual flow of capital out of Russia.
Russia only “stood up to the West” when its leadership ran out of ways to control the masses and feared for its own power. Now that it has tried, it has been a spectacular failure, all because the elite that rule this country are corrupt. They sold the stones for the fortress’ walls. They sold the weapons and armor and pocketed the money. Unable to have peace with the West for fear that the citizenry will prefer a more equitable, free system, they now rattle their sabres for a war they cannot possibly win. Make no mistake. There is a fifth column which has weakened Russia. But it’s not Navalny or the liberal hipsters who frequent Jean-Jacques. It lives in Rublevka.
Alright, let’s get back to the show.
Deepen Existing Bilateral Partnerships: Russia can deepen its strategic partnership with China and work on formalizing one with Iran, with the former being global and the latter being in the West’s most vulnerable theater. A Russian-Iranian strategic partnership would extend beyond Caspian and nuclear energy issues and see implicit cooperation between the two in the Mideast, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It can even carry over into Afghanistan after the NATO drawdown by year’s end.
Um…No. First of all, it’s funny how Russia’s pro-Kremlin hacks suddenly switched from being Sinophobes, most likely due to their Brezhnevite upbringing, to flagrantly praising China and calling it an ally. Unfortunately many people are taking these claims seriously, probably because they aren’t used to the traditional “up is down” lying style of Russia. They’re praising China not because they actually believe that China will save them, but because saying this is an “answer” to their failure to strike back at the West. The West is saying Russia’s in trouble so the way for Russia to “win” is to claim that China is their friend and that she will bail them out. Yet as they conclude deals with China, they are only placing the noose around their neck. China, whatever its faults, lives in reality. China doesn’t babble on about “historical missions” or “spiritual values.” It has results to show. And as much as China is portrayed as a competitor toward the United States, one must understand that China’s economy depends on the US, and indeed the strength of the dollar. That is why China buys up American debt. The relationship is mutually beneficial. Also unlike the United States, China has territorial disputes with Russia. China also has a very large, advanced military. In China, people actually bribe military officials to get in the army, whereas in Russia it’s the exact opposite. In short, China is not going to save Russia. If Russia tries to pull any of its traditional shenanigans when the investors are the Chinese state, the settlement may end up being a military one. China is going to own Russia unless some country or countries which have an interest in containing China’s influence decide to help Russia out. Hmmm….I wonder what nation that could be.
As for Iran? No. Iran is not in a position to get into Afghanistan. True, they hate the Taliban and they are historical enemies. Luckily for Iran, there just happens to be a nation which is also interested in fighting the Taliban and unlike Russia it actually has the capability to keep troops in Afghanistan. Oh I know what you’re thinking. Iran hates America! Well, kind of. Actually Iranians love Americans and American stuff. They’re actually eager to get American tourist dollars. The politeness of Iranians toward Americans is legendary, and I have experienced it myself with the Iranians I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Indeed, they practically storm the embassy of your heart with their refined manners. In any case, Iran isn’t going to go on military adventures for the sake of Russia.
Expand Multilateral Activity: BRICS could be expanded to include the MINT countries, thus furthering the organization’s scope and creating opportunities for a long-term strategic ‘flip’ of those states from their largely Western orientations. The SCO is already enlarging with the forthcoming admission of India and Pakistan, so this will present many more unforeseen advantages for Russia’s foreign and economic policies. Russia should support integrating its multilateral partnerships even further, as the interests of these organizations and their members largely coincide with Russian foreign policy.
One thing I’ve noticed about all these pro-Kremlin hacks is that they give BRICS far too much credit than it deserves, as if it’s some kind of formal alliance or something. First of all, let’s see what the name BRICS refers to in the first place.
“The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries, but they are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs; all five are G-20 members.” – BBVA EAGLEs Annual Report 2012
See that thing about “fast-growing economies?” Yeah you can scratch Russia from the list and call it BICS now, because Russia’s growth is now around zero with little reason to believe that will change.
Yes, I’m aware that BRICS is something of an organization, but this is not the equivalent to the EU or NATO. For one thing, China and India still have territorial disputes, as do Russia and China. India, China, and Brazil do lucrative trade with the US. In other words, BRICS is not some kind of alliance against globalization. It is made up of countries which benefited highly from globalization, plus one loser that decided to take his ball and go home because Ukrainians didn’t want to sign a trade deal. And adding Pakistan to the mix is supposed to help things? India and Pakistan are bitter enemies who both illegally developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent against one another. And remember what he was saying about Iran’s interests in Afghanistan? Guess what government is a fan of the Taliban? Guess what two governments hate the Taliban? Oh Korybko! Do you see a problem here? I don’t think I even need to mention that India still has an ongoing Maoist-led armed insurgency in its Western regions, do I?
Another Kremlin talking point about BRICS which his simply hilarious is the constant threats to get off the dollar as a reserve currency. Russian politicians have been flapping their gums about this for years. You hear someone in the Kremlin make a statement about Russia leaving the dollar at least once a year it seems, and then shortly after a statement is issued distancing the government from that “individual’s” opinion. First of all, remember Russia’s new best friend China and their lucrative gas deal? Yeah, about that. It seems the Chinese are paying in dollars. What is more, BRICS is supposed to be forming some kind of development bank, whose capital and reserves consist of…you guessed it. Good old American greenbacks.
Be the Bridge: Russia has the geostrategic opportunity of being an air, land, and sea bridge between Europe and East Asia. In line with China’s Silk Road and New Eurasian Land Bridge projects, the concept of the Northern Sea Route, and international air routes traversing Siberia, Russia can use its geographic position to reap the resultant dividends of East-West trade and thereby increasing its middleman importance. In the case of air travel, it can also prohibit American military overflight from Afghanistan and sanction Western air carriers.
This is where I get the idea that these Russophiles learn their geopolitical strategy from playing computer games. I’m terribly sorry but the time when this kind of “land bridge” concept brought so much riches is long gone, thanks to such innovations as long-range navigation around the Horn of Africa, direct routes to India, the breaking of the Venetian monopoly on the spice trade in Europe, the opening of the New World, and air travel, to name a few. There is no reason why countries like China or India need to ship most of their exports through Russia. The US can easily fly in and out of Afghanistan without approaching anywhere near Russian airspace, and forbidding flights by Western air carriers is only going to hurt Russia even more. I don’t know when this is going to sink in- every “answer” Russia has to sanctions just ends up hurting Russia more. It’s time to admit defeat and move on.
Nah…That would mean the elites wouldn’t be able to steal as much!
Play the Devil’s Advocate: The EU is rife with both left- and right-leaning groups that preach a form of ‘Euroscepticism’ that endangers the current Atlanticist establishment. Whether or not they are explicitly Russian-friendly, their existence, such as that of the UKIP and the National Front, sends quivers down the Eurocrats’ spine. Moscow can use its information channels to provide implicit support for these movements and their supporters, thereby irking the West in the same manner that it does Moscow through its support of Navalny and others.
Here the author endorses the same failed Russian propaganda strategy I and many others have written about numerous times(such as here, and here). It’s also worth noting that while he talks about groups on the left and right, the only two organizations he mentions by name are far-right and fascist, respectively. Remember folks, the fascists are in Ukraine! But I digress.
Anyone can see how simultaneously playing to both left and right doesn’t work in the end. Much of the far right in the West has a knee-jerk reaction to Russia’s superficial love of Soviet imagery and use of symbols such as Stalin or Lenin. No doubt they are conflicted when they tune into their beloved RT to see Russian commentators lamenting the destruction of Lenin statues and the burning of Soviet flags. At the same time, any leftist who has any familiarity with Russia’s society and the hypocritical values the state preaches will not see Russia as a champion for the international working class. In fact, Russia has managed to achieve wealth inequality that is staggeringly high even compared to that of the United States. At least in the US you can have a major protest movement against this, which continues for months. In Russia by comparison, the police crack down on mimes.
The author also overestimates how threatening these right-wing parties are to the so-called “Eurocrats.” This is a common theme in Russian Eurasianist politics, the idea that supporting any anti-government movement in Western countries will some how benefit Russia. Of course because geniuses like Dugin have absolutely no interest in actually learning about American politics, it means that Russian propaganda tends to fall mostly on the ears of the least effective people in any given society. The incoherent populist message resonates with people who ramble on about chemtrails and the Illuminati. Most of these people have no desire to get involved in politics and they merely sit online collecting “wounds,” i.e. reading and writing about how the world is screwing them over. Sure, they “like” every post RT puts on Facebook, and they leave plenty of comments, but they are utterly useless for Russia.
The truth is the “Eurocrats” of the Atlanticist Empire of Gaydom aren’t the least bit concerned about organizations like UKIP. The truth is that in a time of economic crisis and capitalist failure, right-wing parties come out of the woodwork and are extremely useful to those in power. They distract the workers’ attention away from their exploiters and turn them against their fellow exploited. How else can one explain the liberal support for Maidan and the willingness to ignore the right-wing militant elements involved in that movement? Even today I know of no European head of state who has condemned the Ukrainian government’s continued use of armed nationalist paramilitary units, while Maidan supporters still insist that we ignore the right-wing extremists in their midst. Even though they don’t represent the entire Maidan movement, their role is crucial. Their radical anti-Communist ideology ensures that Ukraine’s revolution will be neo-liberal and not of a socialist or social democratic nature. Much like how the Kremlin utilizes its own nationalists and cossack paramilitaries to advance clericalism and nationalism in Eastern Ukraine. A working-class movement is the last thing Putin or Poroshenko want.
And now, folks, we get to the grand finale!
Conclusively, by following the above-mentioned policies, Russia would ironically be harkening back to the words that Emma Lazarus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, albeit addressing the non-West and those within it who are dissatisfied with its global dominance:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
So for Western leaders, the question shouldn’t be “What can we do to Russia?”, but rather, “Will Russia lift the lamp?”
Okay I’m going to have to break that one down a bit.
“Give me your tired, your poor,”
Russia’s got plenty of tired and poor. Keep in mind that this poem appears on the Statue of Liberty, and is often in reference to immigration. Russia on the other hand is incredibly xenophobic, even to ethnic groups which are indigenous to the territory of the Russian federation. Hell, even to their own “Slavic brothers” in Ukraine. What’s funny is that folks like Tim Kirby say they want Russia to have a strict immigration system, but not for them of course. In spite of the fact that Kazakhs, Uzbeks, or perhaps Azerbaijanian people may be more inclined towards life in Russia due to shared experiences in the Soviet Union, Russia should only throw open its doors to embittered, alienated Americans and other Westerners.
“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”
Again, this is a poem directed at immigrants to America, many of whom incidentally fled the Russian Empire because it was an absolutist monarchy that oppressed people based on nationality, language, and religion. To be fair, Russia today has far more freedom than that society, yet its schools and media glorify it. Does Russia offer people freedom? Is it actually offering an alternative to Western-oriented policies? Could it be that some countries side with the West because it is beneficial to them and they make a conscious choice, or are they all just puppets who are bought and paid for, as Russia commonly alleges?
Is Russia more free than the West? How is it more free? How is the West less free, and which countries are less free? See, freedom is something which we actually can measure. Whenever some Russians or Russian wannabes are confronted with this question of freedom or democracy, their response is to call it an illusion. Yet apparently freedom from the evil, oppressive West isn’t an illusion, even if it comes at the hands of a country whose elite robs the people’s wealth to buy Western products and send their children to the West for their education. Freedom and democracy aren’t an illusion. They can be measured. I used to get fed up with conservative Americans who justified everything America did by tossing out the word freedom. Now I’m sick of Russophiles who pretend like it doesn’t exist, except when they say it does. I don’t care if you’re a flag-waving American patriot or a member of Team Russia, fucking define freedom if you’re going to bring it up! See a certain figure in Russian history once said, “Whenever someone mentions freedom, ask freedom for whom, to do what.” That’s a good starting point.
Finally we can get to his conclusion:
So for Western leaders, the question shouldn’t be “What can we do to Russia?”, but rather, “Will Russia lift the lamp?”
No, Andrew, it will not. Well if it is, nobody’s buying. China’s looking at real estate in Siberia, the government is shitting itself as to where they’re going to steal from next and how they’re going to get out of the county with their assets, and asses intact, the little brother Serbs are on their way to the EU, where they export more products and receive more investment. Syria’s Assad is actually quite pleased with the US bombing campaign against ISIS. India, Iran, and Pakistan are not going to team up to replace the US in Afghanistan, unless by teaming up you mean “engaging in a bloody war that spans many years if not decades.”
Andrew, please, for the love of God, come back to the real world. You need to realize that all these things the Russians tell you about China saving their ass and the West reeling under the blows of Poland’s rejected apple crop are nothing but delusions. Many of the people you hear were protesting on Bolotnaya just a few years ago. Now they praise the president and laugh at the West in public, but then they go to Sberbank and exchange their meager savings for US dollars. They grumble about their pensions being raided to pay for the Crimea, and they’re upset about tax increases in a country where many people survive only because they have been allowed to avoid paying taxes for so long. Still many women, patriotic pronouncements aside, continue to hook up with foreign, usually European boyfriends in hopes of marriage and emigration. Your suggestions are cute but ultimately unfeasible, and very soon now the people aren’t going to be regurgitating the party line for much longer.
I’m sure you came to Russia out of some love of the Russian people, and however romantic or over-idealistic that might have been, you’d do far better not to actively engage in feeding into these delusions of grandeur. Who are you to come to Russia and decide that this government best represents and looks after these people, simply because it spits empty rhetoric at your own government? Is it not possible for you to oppose both on principle? Realize that this regime won’t last forever, and when it is swept away there will be no need for the hacks of RT, Voice of Russia, and all those organs that lied not only to the people of Russia, but the people of the world. Come back to the light, man.
After finishing this article I thought Korybko’s suggestions sounded awfully familiar. I noticed that some of the ideas, particularly an incoherent and ineffective policy of supporting any “dissident” organizations in Western countries so as to stir up chaos. As it turns out, these ideas are clearly inspired either directly or indirectly by Alexander Dugin’s delusional masterpiece, known as Foundations of Geopolitics. Go ahead and read through its summary if you want a laugh, and then you’ll definitely see why I say these Eurasianist dipshits live in real-time strategy game world totally disconnected from reality. Also note the hostility toward China, and the assertion that Russia should just go on conquering nations without doing anything to improve itself. Remember, in Russian Fantasy Land, you build a fascist empire first, then suddenly all your problems with corruption magically disappear!