In 1913, Russia was on the verge of becoming the main engine for
pan-European development. It demonstrated the most dynamic rates of
growth in all industrial sectors, except in the automobile and
agricultural machine-building industries, where the United States
was the incontestable leader. Despite social unrest and upheavals,
major European industrialists and bankers strove to move their core
enterprises and headquarters to Russia.
Of course, the Russian Empire was much vaster than the Russian
Federation is today: in addition to Moscow and St. Petersburg, it
included such centers as Helsinki, Warsaw, Kiev, Baku, Revel, and
Despite the losses that Russia sustained over the subsequent
decades, today it can boast an impressive number of modern
powerhouses: Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg, Kazan,
Vladivostok, and others.
Thus, forward-looking Euro-Atlantic business majors are once
again looking for a niche in Russia. Some companies – e.g.,
Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, and Boeing – have long been developing
and/or producing their intellectual products in Russia. Others (and
there are many) are looking to move their science and technology
divisions and production capacities to Russia where they are
especially interested in our brains and creativity.
Russia once again has a real chance of becoming a world economic
leader – without having to link everyone up to its energy
resources. This is not a hyperbole. According to a number of French
experts, education, creativity and culture will become the main
resources of the future. Meanwhile, within the Euro-Atlantic
civilization, only the Russian people have preserved the ability to
produce all of these values on a national scale – both at home and
abroad. And since these values are more important than technologies
(the growth of technology is unviable without universal, holistic,
fundamental knowledge), we now have a huge competitive
It would be a crime for Russia to miss a historic opportunity
for the second time in one century. If we lose our trump card, it
will soon be played by China or maybe India. And whereas the latter
would probably put its imminent achievements to the common good,
the former will ultimately turn them against “white”
Historically, Russia has perceived itself, and has been
perceived by others, as a North European nation. Today, Asian
companies, unlike Western companies, are not hurrying to bring
their technologies into the country because they view Russia as
part of a different civilization.
Like other European nations, Russia sought to expand its
influence mainly in the south and east. It is another matter that
we had far more opportunities for continental expansion than other
Particular Slavophiles, such as the brothers Aksakov, Dahl, and
others who thought that Europe’s salvation was to come from the
East, were the first to declare that Russia was an Eastern nation.
They imposed their delusions on the domestic and foreign elites. As
for ‘Eurasianism,’ this concept was the creation of Westernizers
who sought emigration but then grew disenchanted with European
culture (Pyotr Savitsky, Nikolai Trubetskoi, Georgy Florovsky).
Paradoxically, of the two utopian ideals, only the “Eastern
deviation” was remembered by many of our contemporaries throughout
the world. Finally, Alexander Dugin’s “Eurasian” demagogy is just a
cover for extreme isolationism.
One pet argument cited by Western critics of Russia concerns its
past involvement in the partitioning of Poland – in their view this
was a manifestation of Russia’s “alienation” from the European
world. At the same time, they ignore the fact that Russia did not
show ambition for Polish territory any more than Prussia or
Austria-Hungary. Tearing Rzeczpospolita into pieces had for several
generations been a favorite family sport of the German princes, yet
no one would dare call Germany an Eastern satrap. Therefore, Russia
followed general European (even if not the finest possible)
If we abandon such delusions that have outlived their
usefulness, and face up to Russia’s European nature, we can easily
identify its particularities within European civilization.
We may begin by arguing that whereas the West Europeans have
always been more attracted by technology, the Russians have
indulged themselves more readily in theorizing and universal,
There are good reasons for this. First, the proponents of
fundamental theories had a better chance of surviving the many
tumultuous periods since they had nothing to lose in the material
sense of the word. Second, Russia’s vast expanses were conducive to
universal thinking. Third, the idea of Moscow being the Third Rome
introduced an element of global responsibility into the Russian
In the 20th century, our compatriots made most of the
paradigmatic discoveries in the humanitarian sphere. For example,
Vladimir Vernadsky’s theory of the noosphere (even though the term
itself was proposed by a Frenchman), Vladislav Illich-Svitych’s
theory of Nostratic languages, Yuri Ivanov and Tamaz Gamkrelidze’s
new Indo-Europeanism, and Yuri Knorozov’s decoding of Maya
writings. Fundamental achievements by scientists from Dubna and
Novosibirsk (e.g., on properties of “dark” matter/energy) are well
Our special penchant for creativity is demonstrated by, among
other things, a comparative analysis of what motivates Russians to
work. Whereas in the United States and Western Europe, the main
incentives to work are money and career, in Russia, at the top of
this list are the prospects for personal development, creativity
and relations with other employees; while money and career are
relegated to fifth or sixth position. Not surprisingly, Russians
are, as a general rule, very good at producing one-of-a-kind
intellectual and industrial products, original technologies, and
However, Russians do not excel at making mass-produced cars
(because this is monotonous and therefore uninteresting work), for
example, but do extremely well in building custom limousines at $3
million to $15 million apiece because this is highly original
labor, which involves design, technical solutions, components,
workmanship, etc. By the same token, Russians build excellent
aircraft. Naturally, the European thermonuclear research reactor
project became possible only due to Russia’s participation.
Finally, Europe and the United States understand very well that
Russia is closer to them than is India and the Far East. So the
interest that the West’s intellectual sectors are showing in Russia
is far from accidental.
The expectation that the head of state should resolutely
strengthen the great nation is deeply ingrained in the Russian
mindset. Ever since the “aggregation and consolidation of lands”
after the Tatar-Mongol invasion, Russia’s rulers have been
appraised by their ability to ensure the country’s physical
(territorial) expansion. This is why there is such a marked
contrast with regard to the territorial losses suffered under
former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, compared with the
losses suffered by Russia during the Gorbachev and Yeltsin
administrations. The former leader lost everything – but in a
dramatic fight – whereas the latter leaders just gave everything
Are such archaic stereotypes useful today? Personally speaking,
I am against the idea of squandering our historical legacy, be it
in Kaliningrad or the Kuril Islands. But what was done cannot be
undone. Why should Russia strive for direct political control in
places where it voluntarily gave it up? After all, there are more
effective methods of securing national interests today
vis-á-vis business and intellect.
Russia’s striving for its former grandeur could of course be
chalked up to imperial phantom pains. But what empire are we
talking about? What matters in an empire is its substance, which is
directly linked with the idea of responsibility – i.e., providing
peace, order and prosperity for its subjects and satellites. An
empire does not impose either an ideology (except for the demand to
respect its status) or institutions (except for those that perform
essential military, policing and fiscal functions).
The Roman, British and Russian empires, as well as the United
States during the Cold War era, were real empires since they met
the aforementioned criteria. But the Soviet Union was not an
empire. It was obsessed with chimeras: from its idea of being a
World Socialist Republic (the principle of razing everything down
to its foundations before building again from scratch excludes all
responsibility), to the “besieged fortress” and confrontation
mentality, to its inferiority complex (“catch up and overtake the
West”). And, like the United States today, it worked hard to impose
ideology and institutions. Empires do not behave like this.
Does Russia want to restore its imperial grandeur? Fine, but we
need to understand our responsibility to the world here and now,
and assume it in its entirety. It also should not be forgotten that
an empire is not manna from the skies – it is a heavy burden.
Meanwhile, Russia is bogged down, trying to reconnect itself
with the legacy of Old Russia. It almost seems that Russia is stuck
in a 400-year time warp, similarly to Poland and Lithuania that are
hunting the same ghost. No one seems to be concerned about how we
look in this company, to say nothing about the fact that we have
allowed ourselves to be drawn into somebody else’s game.
We are becoming increasingly paranoid about being encircled by
enemies, and we feed our phobias instead of curing them. We must
assert our authority by offering an adequate vision of joint
responses to modern challenges. This is all the more important when
we remember that the entire Euro-Atlantic civilization has been
confronted with very serious threats.
One such threat is the rise of China. A ranking member of the
Russian Security Council, who spent almost three decades in China
as part of a diplomatic mission, recently summarized the mood of
the local military elite as follows: “On their own, neither Russia
nor China will be able to deal with the United States; they need to
pool their efforts to get the better of it.” Okay, let’s suppose
that we did pool together our efforts and toppled the United
States. What happens next? China has a population of 1.5 billion,
while Russia has just one-tenth this amount. It may be guessed at
who will be the next to be toppled.
So while sending energy to China and building nuclear power plants
there (business is business), we must not forget the potential uses
for these supplies. And how do we explain Russian language study
programs in the Chinese military and police, and not just in
regions bordering Russia? The threat is quite real.
But we are not the only ones who have been challenged. China has
attracted more than $1 trillion in direct investment from the
United States, Japan and Europe. At the same time, it has bombarded
the West with its consumer goods and electronics.
Meanwhile, China remains almost completely closed, never stating
its objectives clearly. Yet according to its ideology, China has
the divine sanction to govern the world, which it foresees as
becoming a Beijing province (hence explaining China’s painless
adaptation to Marxist internationalism). Once they have achieved
this status, the Chinese will definitely not be helping the
Europeans in any way.
Chinese tradition regards Christians as inferior beings, members
of the underclass. In the eyes of the Chinese, the “white man” is
fated to being subordinate to the more organized “yellow man.”
Therefore, China is the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of
both Russia and the West.
A WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
On the surface, Western expansion continues, while its nations
are much better off than others. They control the greater part of
the world economy. They conduct military operations wherever and
whenever they think they should.
Yet the EU is affected by a profound identity crisis. Its
Constitution made no provisions for the recognition of traditional
European cultural and religious values. At the same time, the
leading countries on the European continent – Germany and France –
are being confronted by increasing problems in the social sphere.
The population’s ethno-religious makeup is changing, and this is
causing new conflicts. Brussels’ bureaucracy is proposing ugly
models for the Balkans, using a “one-size-fits-all” approach toward
the newly admitted EU members, forgetting that excessive
standardization can lead a community to ruin. Finally, the
popularization of homosexuality and single-sex marriages has
reached alarming proportions.
Considering the world’s prevailing mainstream trends, Russia
should strive to join the EU. But any such integration would be
unviable without a common moral base. At this stage it seems to be
more expedient to undertake large-scale energy, intellectual and
artistic projects without committing ourselves to full integration.
The diversification of our cooperation with the Central and East
European countries on the basis of our high technology are a
separate area of discussion.
In transforming from a military-political bloc into a leading
security organization, NATO has lost the lion’s share of its
assertiveness and vigor (a case in point is the organization’s
split over Iraq). It would be tempting to ask NATO to admit Russia,
thus finally closing the security belt in the northern quarter of
the globe. But the alliance should perceive our move toward
membership as being equally beneficial for both sides. Otherwise
there must be no haste; let the membership application simply lie
there. This allows Russia to claim the moral high ground.
The general course of action is ridiculously obvious: Russia
should not place all of its eggs into one basket. In other words,
we should safeguard ourselves against one-sided dependence on any
In realizing its leadership potentiality, Russian society should
start with rebuilding the state of its morale. Russians are the
most successful nation of the 20th century. We emerged from the
past century not as losers but as winners, having successfully
coped with two totalitarian regimes – Hitler’s and our own. At the
same time we gave freedom to others. All Central and East European
countries, excluding Poland with its Solidarity movement, received
freedom and independence with the Kremlin’s blessing (yet even
Warsaw should not forget about Jaruzelski’s consultations at the
CPSU Central Committee).
Without massive support from the Russian people, the people’s
fronts in the former Soviet republics would never have achieved
anything. Finally, we freed the West from the worst possible
Despite these successes, we complain when we should be
rejoicing. Indeed, we achieved a victory over Communism and then
ceded our victory to others, but are still bemoaning our “defeat.”
What is the meaning of all this? We are back on our feet again. We
are in a robust competitive environment. We should be proud that
Russia is at long last being taken seriously, and treated as an
equal partner. Yet no, we continue to grieve about our fate, thus
pushing our partners toward worse case scenarios.
This national state of depression must come to an end. We should
understand that the “raw materials appendage” issue is nothing more
than a phantom pain; the consumer is more dependent on the producer
than vice versa. Incidentally, the West knows this very well.
We should relieve our minds of historical chimeras and stop
deluding ourselves with the West’s perennial aggressiveness toward
Russia. Historically, Western nations fought more frequently
against each other than with Russia or the Soviet Union. Today, no
one in the Euro-Atlantic civilization is set against us.
The Russian people should stop cultivating a climate of
victimization, which only results in Russia putting the interests
of other nations above its own. After the victory over Napoleon
Bonaparte, Emperors Alexander and Nicholas did as they pleased in
Europe for the next 42 years. And then it was the Soviet Union that
dictated to the entire world after World War II.
Russia should cease playing a game of “catch up” with the
so-called developed economies, as well as relinquish the idea of
antagonism between Russian and Western interests. Russia and the
West objectively need each other. And given that a great many
Western technologies are unviable without Russia’s fundamental
research, they need us even more than we need them. If we stop
generating theoretical knowledge, the Euro-Atlantic civilization
will become starved for technology and simply perish.
We may connect the West to ourselves with the bonds of
intelligence and spirituality and much more effectively than China
at the present time. There is nothing difficult about educating
Europeans and Americans in Russia in the finest traditions of its
scientific institutions – and necessarily in Russian. Incidentally,
when more of the world starts thinking and speaking Russian, this
will be our most effective global influence.
It is critical that we review our general attitude toward the
United States. We cannot forget that that nation owes much of its
prosperity to Russia, among others. Remember that three-quarters of
U.S. Representatives, two-thirds of its Senators, and one-half of
the governors have Russian roots. It is no exaggeration to say that
the United States (as well as Israel) has to a very large extent
grown from Russian ancestry. Thus we must look at these inherent
connections and realize that deeper cooperation with Washington
will facilitate the resolution of problems with NATO, for example,
and at the same time help strike the right balance with China.
Unless the United States stops making fatal mistakes, it will
lose its world leadership. But for our own sake we must not do
anything that would precipitate its fall, since the collapse of its
economy (which is experiencing a very high deficit) will bury
Russia before it does others.
The United States faced up to the challenges coming from China,
in particular to the transport corridors in the Asia Pacific
region. This compelled Washington to redeploy its main naval forces
to the Pacific Ocean. But Okinawa traditionally refuses to permit
access to the U.S. nuclear fleet, while Indonesia is also opposed
to the U.S. return to the Philippines. Singapore is not opposed to
playing host, but Malaysia is against the idea. Finally, U.S.
warships will not be able to call at the Cam Ranh base in Vietnam
until the U.S. napalm bombs and chemical agents are completely
forgotten there. This is where Russia might help by offering the
United States joint naval basing in its Far East region in exchange
for a strategic alliance, including joint patrols and joint
responsibility in the Pacific, access for Russian science and
business interests in the U.S. market, and so on.
Energy transport systems to the United States via Murmansk and
Alaska would help strengthen our relations. We should stop pinning
high hopes on the BRIC group: although the economies of its member
states – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are the most dynamic in
the world, close relations between India and China after a
3,500-year-old conflict are unlikely. It would be more realistic to
promote cooperation within the RABI framework (Russia, America,
Brazil and India).
Then, even massive sales of energy and modern military equipment
to China will not pose any threat to Russia in the 21st century. On
the contrary, progress in trade can only be welcome.
At the same time, Russia must accomplish a strategic turn toward
science, education, culture and medicine as the most promising
growth points in the coming decades. It should preserve the
paradigmatic character of learning and knowledge generated in these
spheres, and treat spending on these programs not as net losses but
as social investment. Russia is in a great position to become the
world’s leading intellectual power and pace-setter in the
development of global information, transport and energy
It is time for Russia to realize its responsibility to the
Euro-Atlantic civilization and start restoring (if it so wishes)
its status as a world superpower.