Finished reading these two which are useful in understanding relationship with both:
Russia’s foreign policy : change and continuity in national identity by Andrei P Tsygankov
Russia and the western far right tango noir by Anton Shekhovstov
The latter recommends and is recommended by self-proclaiming Russia experts who regularly promote their own narrative of Russia that suits their personal, financial circumstances. Shekhovstov also repeatedly and irritatingly refers to Russia as ‘Putin’s Russia’ like so many others. Again – 143 million citizens and the need to constantly refer to just one.
That said, there is useful information about the history of fascist groups in Europe, US, UK and their relationships with both Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. The book focuses mostly on political influence in Moscow rather than former Soviet Union nations and also not on rhe wider causes of fascist thinking such as austerity and financial crashes – the book is exclusive focus on relationships between ‘pro-Kremlin actors and Western far-right activists’. For example far-right Zhirinovsky’s activities and relationships from 1990s onwards.
Shekhovtsov refers to the last 20 (approx) years not as fascist but as
An authoritarian kleptocracy that nevertheless seeks to be a peculiarly Russian form of democracy in order to gain internal and external legitimacy 1
He does not view the EEU vision as that of Russian classical Eurasianism or Dugin’s fascist Eurasianism. This is useful reminder of the need to use terminology carefully and clearly within context. I am increasingly steering clear of Eurasian articles that appear to be rooted within Western fascist thinking even if not displayed that way from the outset.
Of Alices, rabbit holes and royal families underground…
Shekhovstov does look at the influence of Russian media organisations (in the same way that one might look at Rupert Murdoch or George Soros media and their influence) and how views in Russian media (such as left-leaning) can be marginalised due to the amount of coverage given to far-right commentators.
I’m grateful to my university for providing access to the book and to a certain extent to the author for writing about such a difficult topic.
Outside of this book, there’s a growing emergence of views that may show a greater understanding of Russian viewpoints on geopolitics that may be less confrontational, more open and less rigid to ideologies.
Tsygankov reviews the history of foreign policies including
- statist – not anti-Western but focuses on state ability to govern and preserve the social and political order 2
- civilisationists – classical Eurasian with a culturally distinct orthodox expanding empire 3
- realists – non confrontational engagement with West is rational strategy 4
He reviews ideas of pragmatic cooperation but suggests limitations and if I’ve understood correctly – the extreme events of 1990s made it nearly impossible to ‘reformulate its transnational identity’ 5
So I do not interpret that as a Russia wanting to restore the USSR but the sharp break up, the disastrous free market experiment that involved so much pillaging meant there were very little opportunities to work out what post-divorce arrangements could result in beautiful friendships and family relationships continuing to flower. Or less hippyish – finding common ground for security and stability. Russia has more international relations with more neighbours than the rest of us, so they must be figuring out some useful ways of collaboration and cooperation even with its worst relationships.
Mechanisms for sustainable engagement with society are still ‘young’ and I would argue – sincere voices wanting a productive political engagement are frequently drowned out by the better funded far-right (i.e funded by US/UK/EU non state actors and intelligence ‘interests’).
Tsyganov suggests that there is now a challenge of what distinctive identity needs to be preserved with both Western and Asian especially Chinese cultures and media6. And probably a lot more with the World Cup as well as across their own multi-ethnic federation.
So please, with the claims mostly emanating from the US from the loudest voices, investigate and judge for yourself, investigate claims, learn Russian, talk with some of the 143 million – not just parroting or retweeting the US/UK/EU commentators who ‘apparently’ speak for them.
1 Shekhovstov A (2018) p71 Russia and the Western Far Right, Routledge, available as above.
2-6 Tsyganov A (2010, 2013) Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity, Plymouth (UK) available as above.