It will need a long catharsis to purge Europe of its illusions of superiority – as perceived by the non-west.
In January 2013, President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the members of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. His speech gave insight into our world as it ‘is’, and secondly, though its analysis was firmly focused on the causes to the Soviet implosion, Xi’s exposition very clearly had wider meaning. Yes, it is addressed to us – the western construct – too.
Immanuel Wallenstein had already warned, in 1991, against the western ‘false consciousness’ of Cold War triumph: For, as Wallenstein points out, the Soviet collapse was not the demise not of Leninism alone. It was rather the ‘beginning of the end’ for both poles of the great ideological antinomy: That of “the ‘American Century, with God on our side’ construct on the one hand – with the Leninist, equally universalist, eschatologies, on the other”.
Since these two were woven from the same universalist ideological cloth – that is, with each defining (and co-constituting) the ‘other’ – the loss of its Manichaean enemy led to a series of geo-political structures from the Cold War fraying – as the prevailing, lone ideology lacked any satisfactory explanation for its global rule, objectives and purposes – absent the co-constituting ‘enemy’ (i.e. Communism).
In Xi’s address, he attributed the break-up of the Soviet Union to ‘ideological nihilism’: The ruling strata, Xi asserted, had ceased to believe in the advantages and the value of their ‘system’, yet lacking any other ideological coordinates within which to situate their thinking, the élites slid unto nihilism.
“Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fall to pieces? An important reason is that, in the ideological domain, competition is fierce [and necessary, Xi might have added]! To completely repudiate the historical experience of the Soviet Union, to repudiate the history of the CPSU, to repudiate Lenin, to repudiate Stalin – was to wreck chaos on Soviet ideology and engage in historical nihilism”, Xi said.
Rings any bells? Such as Americans repudiating U.S. history as ‘White Man’s story’? As dismissing America’s former leaders as ‘slave owners’? As dissing the founding fathers, and toppling their statues?
“Once the Party loses the control of the ideology, Xi argued, once it fails to provide a satisfactory explanation for its own rule, objectives and purposes, it dissolves into a party of loosely connected individuals linked only by personal goals of enrichment and power”, (Xi again). The Party is then taken over by ‘ideological nihilism’.
This, however, was not the worst outcome. The worst outcome, Xi noted, was that the country had been taken over by people with no ideology whatsoever, but with an entirely cynical and self-serving desire to rule.
This is Wallenstein’s point: The Cold War’s ‘premature triumphalism’ – paradoxically – has made the ideological Manichaeism on which post-Enlightenment modernity functioned, so much harder to sustain. As one form of universalism – liberalism – eliminated all competition for hegemony, paradoxically in so doing, the consequence has been to lift the mental fog of ideology, permitting the return of particularity, rootedness and civilization.
This process has been at work for decades, recasting politics around the world and revivifying traditions, peoples, and different forms of life. Only in America, the Anglo sphere, and amongst European Russophobes, has the ruling class continued to resist these shifts, using significant resources to insist (now wholly cynically) on imposing the liberal ‘order’.
This then, is the crux of the Xi-Putin revolution: Lifting the fog and blinkers of ideology, to permit a return to a concert of civilisational, autonomous states.
Thus ‘Saving Ukraine’ has popped-up to become the latest ‘virtue signal’ in pursuance of the American Century; wearing now a ‘woke’ face, designed to project the U.S. as an international moral ‘police’, enforcing woke doctrines, rather than as a conventional great power. (Hence the symbol for supporting Ukraine comprises the transgender flag, emboldened with the word “peace”).
The Ukraine war, inadvertently, has become iconic to a bigger struggle. Ukraine is symbol to two intertwined ways of seeing the world. And, at the literal level, stands as the fulcrum to steps and counter steps in the strategic MacKinder Great Game that is being worked out.
The significance of the Ukraine war however, reaches far back – to the 5th Century – when the Frankish ‘barbarians’, later imbued with an Old Testament ethos of a divine elect, and to whom the world was destined to be ‘delivered’ through the annihilation of those resisting divine will, swarmed across western Europe. This brought Old Rome to its end (in 410), and ultimately instantiated the Carolingian Empire (Reich).
Forget about Napoleon as the root of European Russophobia. The Carolingian ideologists, in order to consolidate power, cynically launched a brutal culture war against the civilisation that had stretched from China and Tibet in the north, to Mesopotamia and Egypt in the South, and had roots in the Mediterranean basin, too.
Modern Europe, i.e. the “West”, is a product of the Frankish civilization and was built amidst the ruins and blood of the earlier civilisation. It took the Franks centuries to fully root-out the (Orthodox) Roman civilizations of southern Europe and to substitute themselves as the ‘new Romans’. The latter thus leans toward Judeo-Christianity, as Orthodoxy leans toward earlier impulses.
Though Russian traditional Orthodoxy is still in the process of reconstituting itself, it is powerful enough to make any attempts at submitting Russia to the neo-Frankish world futile. The point here is that to understand the Ukraine war in the context of the double-helix interplay of intrinsic Traditionalism and extrinsic literal ideology, is both to understand what Putin means when he refers to Nazism, and to understand why Russia sees History as a continuum of hostility to Russian civilisation – one stretching from The Great Schism (1054), through the two World Wars, to today’s schism pivoted around Ukraine.
But back to today, and geo-politics, and what comes next —
Firstly, the Great Game. The liberation of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline including Mariupol and Kherson was a huge strategic ‘Great Game achievement’, since, as MK Bhadrakumar perceptively explains, securing the Kerch Strait ensures maritime transit from the Black Sea all the way to Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as providing the strategic maritime route between the Caspian Sea (via the Volga-Don Canal) to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
The ‘big picture’ point here is that not only does the Volga River link the Caspian Sea to the Baltic Sea, but it links as well tothe Northern Sea (Arctic) Route (via the Volga–Baltic Waterway). Suffice to say, Russia has gained control of an integrated system of waterways, which connects the Black Sea with the Caspian Sea, and thence to the Baltic, and also connects to the Northern Sea Route (which is an 4800 km long shipping lane that joins the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, passing along the Russian coasts of Siberia and the Far East).
The inexorable strategic logic to these moves is that Odessa must be on Russia’s strategic agenda, since it is the hub opening up the Danube system of waterways linking Russia to central Europe. The distance between Odessa and the Danube Delta is approximately 200 km.
Next, the Tehran Summit-Great Game play by Moscow. The earlier Caspian Summit (29 June), having secured the Caspian against NATO vessels entering it, opened the way at the Tehran Summit (19 July) for a major upgrading of the North-South corridor, linking St Petersburg port in the north, through Iran’s Bandar Abbas port in the Gulf, to Mumbai.
If Moscow’s Great Game play seems overly centred on waterway links, then we would be missing the second half to the story. The companion half is a ‘corridor and pipeline’ network strategy crisscrossing Iran, West and Central Asia, India and China. This is what the big contracts signed in Tehran were about ($40Bn with Gazprom and $30Bn with Turkey): Russian energy feeds China; Iran’s South Pars field development will feed India with low-cost energy; and Turkey will become a key energy transit state.
Naturally, the U.S. is busy with obstructing this Great Game move, with the CIA chief travelling to Kazakhstan, and the EU trying to woo Azerbaijan.
What else? For some time now, Moscow has been putting into place a security architecture for West Asia. The BRICS and the SCO are gaining potential heft; Lavrov’s Team has been working the Gulf hard; and the Tehran Summit took this wider project a huge step forward.
Soon, it seems, we may expect Moscow to have its ‘ducks all lined-up’ – so as to present Tel Aviv with a proposal: Let us say Moscow puts forward a Mid-East ‘Minsk Accord’, and tells Israel that this Accord represents the only path to avoid a multi-front war with Iran. Will it work? Can Israel transition? That is problematic. Netanyahu has pushed Israel towards a far right ideological stance. Israel now stands on the wrong side of the Middle East paradigm.
In parallel to the Iran–Israeli conflict, a Syrian ‘Minsk’ may come into view, too – as Moscow’s attention on Ukraine is relaxed. Russia, too, is gently widening the move towards a new commodity-based trading system for the non-West.
Reuters reported on Monday (July 18) that Russia is seeking payment from some Indian importers in UAE dirhams for its oil trade. An invoice accessed by Reuters showed that such payments are to be made to Gazprombank via its correspondent bank in Dubai, Mashreq Bank. At the Tehran summit, ties between Iran and Russia tightened and a joint financial clearing system was agreed.
We may expect more of this: The pace is accelerating. Gold and commodity trading, as well as some financial services such as vessel and cargo insurance, may well be uplifted out from Europe to the region (never to return) – and perhaps a Urals benchmark futures trading facility will be established in the future. The aim is to loosen the commodity markets from the Western grasp, through manipulating the paper-commodity markets, and by trading options.
As for Europe, Moscow’s ‘gas retribution’ for sanctions imposed effectively is prompting the EU to ‘self-harm’, through mimicking the same economic playbook vis à vis Russian gas supplies, as Germany employed vis à vis its cheap coal deposits. This event occurred after France, in 1923, seized the Ruhr (as penalty for defaulting on Reparations). Located in the country’s west, the Ruhr region was Germany’s industrial heartland, home of most of its coal and steel production. Germany (facing large Reparation payments), was determined both to subsidise its industrial base, and to finance its dismembered weapons supply lines in order to re-arm – yet facing a hijacked cheap energy supply, the Weimar government took to printing money. What Germany ‘got’ was hyperinflation and broken supply lines, compounding the inflation. Brussels seems ready to follow this same playbook.
What is extraordinary here is that Europe took this lacuna on itself, in an excess of enthusiasm for ‘saving Ukraine’. Public protest in Europe has begun, and likely will build further. In light of the huge pendulum swing by Europe from adherence to some semblance of strategic autonomy – only to abandon itself to Washington and NATO’s sway – the pendulum will likely swing back, as the recession and price-spikes bite.
The European Deep State will endeavour to hold the line, but a fault line will open up in Europe between those states who dare not let go of ‘Uncle Sam’ (such as Poland), and those determined to move away and to engage with Russia. These tensions may well fracture the EU.
It will need a long catharsis to purge Europe of its illusions of superiority – as perceived by the non-west – especially since its claim to a lineage deriving from ancient Rome or (even less so) ancient Greece is more propaganda than truth. Contemporary ‘EU civilization’ and values in no way connect to the pre-Socratic world. Modern Europe – the West – is more the product of the Frankish, Carolingian civilization.
Nonetheless, Moscow ultimately may offer the European rump a ‘Minsk deal’ too. That, however, is likely a long way off.