It's the little things that betray Alexander Dugin as a formidable
mastermind of global empire. Maybe it's the pointy beard. Maybe it's the
habit of trilling his r's a little too heavily. Maybe it's that mellifluous
"very clever, Mr Bond" tone in his voice.
Maybe it's the maps he has lying around his Moscow office, showing the
Eurasian land-mass cluttered with an assortment of arrows, wedges,
cross-hatching, clamps, pincers and circles.
And maybe it's because he can't resist divulging his master plan: "In
principle, Eurasia and our space, the heartland, remain the staging area of
a new anti-bourgeois, anti-American revolution."
Only a few years ago, Dugin was considered a crackpot. He still is.
today he is a "very well-read and prolific crackpot with a lot of
influence", according to Dmitri Trenin, defence analyst at the Carnegie
Moscow Centre, the mainstream think-tank.
Indeed, after a decade of cross-pollination between rightwing intellectuals
and Russia's military and political elite, Dugin's pet philo-sophy, an
obscure theory called geopolitics, has advanced to the outskirts of
mainstream thought in defence and foreign policy circles in Russia.
Geopolitics prophesies an eternal world conflict between land and sea,
hence, Dugin believes, the US and Russia.
His 1997 book, The Basics of Geopolitics, advocated a rebirth of the
Union ("or the Russian Empire, or third Rome, or whatever you want to call
it," he says), and cementing a continental bloc of anti-American Eurasian
states that would oust US influence from the Eurasian land-mass.
According to his book: "The new Eurasian empire will be constructed
fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism,
strategic control of the USA, and the refusal to allow liberal values to
dominate us. This common civilisational impulse will be the basis of a
political and strategic union."
And lately, Dugin has a spring in his step as events seem to back up
Russia's president Vladimir Putin, for example, has a travel itinerary
looks like some of the maps in Dugin's book.
One trip was to visit Moscow's one-time cold war ally India, where he
endorsed India's nuclear programme. India has been subject to US sanctions
after it tested five nuclear weapons in 1998.
Putin recently said Russia was ready for "a new phase" in relations
another former cold war ally, Syria. Russia and China have lately been
trying to outdo each other in calling for a Sino-Soviet partnership with
echoes of the old cold war bloc.
Over the summer, Putin pursued overtures with North Korea, Libya and
a sort of who's who of international pariahs.
Maybe "empire" is too strong a word, Dugin admits, but nevertheless,
says: "Already, our recommendations are being implemented at very high
levels. I think as time goes by you will see that more and more of our
analysis is being used."
While the Kremlin insists its decisions are based on "pragmatism" rather
than obscure geopolitical theories, it concedes that its foreign policy has
undergone a momentous shift: a newly published set of foreign policy
guidelines put out by the Russian ministry of foreign affairs decries a
"strengthening tendency towards the formation of a unipolar world under
financial and military domination by the United States", and calls for a
"multipolar world order". It describes Russia's most important strength as
its "geopolitical position as the largest Eurasian state".
Dugin is quick to take part of the credit for these new guidelines,
first glance it might seem presumptuous. But when one examines the man and
his associates, the objections fade.
Take General-Lieutenant Nikolai Klokotov (ret), who held the chair of
strategy at Russia's Military Academy of the General Staff from 1988 to
1996. He is listed as a consultant for The Basics of Geopolitics.
Dugin has also been appointed a key adviser to Gennady Seleznyov, speaker
of the state Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.
And while geopolitical theory was banned during Soviet times for its
to Nazism, Russia's communist party has practically adopted the ideas for
its own. Gennady Zyuganov, communist party chairman, has published a primer
on geopolitics called Geography of Victory.
Russia's main military diplomat, General Leonid Ivashov, the head of
international department at Russia's Ministry of Defence, and the
mastermind of Russia's takeover of the Pristina airport in Kosovo last
year, is one of the converts.
"The science of geopolitics has flourished in the post-communist period,
and this is a natural, healthy, objective response to circumstances," he
Ivashov's book on the subject, Russia and the World in the new Millennium,
borrows heavily from Dugin's work. He writes: "The experience of
geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the west is not limited to
the seven decades of the Soviet Union, but has a centuries-long tradition.
"Russia cannot exist outside of its essence as an empire, by its
geographical situation, historical path and fate of the state."
Says Ivashov: "The first democratic government of Russia looked at the
as something like a donor, or as a strategic partner. This is a huge
misconception. Look at the actions behind the facade of public statements.
Read (Henry) Kissinger, read (Zbigniew) Brzezinski, you come to the
conclusion that, yes in some ways we are partners, but really we are
Dugin, by his own account, became interested in geopolitical theories
the 1980s, after graduating from the Moscow Aviation Institute. At the
time, geopolitical works were banned in the Soviet Union because of the
theory's links to Nazism, so Dugin was considered a dissident. He read
voraciously and taught himself several languages.
In 1991, he joined the staff of the extremist newspaper Dyen, published
Aleksander Prokhanov, known at the time as the "nightingale of the general
staff" for his close ties with Russia's top generals.
Soon after the failed military putsch in August 1991, Dugin left Dyen
created his own magazine, Elementy, devoted to the philosophy of Europe's
new right. On its editorial board, were Alain de Benoist and Robert
Steukers, both noted new right intellectuals.
In 1992, a Moscow summit organised by Dugin and held at the headquarters
Russia's military general staff brought together Russia's generals and
representatives of the new right movement, including de Benoist and Steukers.
The subject of discussion was the formation of an anti-US "continental
bloc" of Russia, Germany and France.
Dugin was "obviously very close to the military men", said de Benoist,
interviewed recently about the conference. He said he declined further
invitations after that conference, conceding, "we were very far apart
But the idea of a continental bloc - a Russian strategic alliance with
European and Asian states - has since then attracted a number of Russian
intellectuals, strategists and politicians.
Starting in the mid-1990s, Boris Yeltsin, Russia's then president, began
promoting the idea of a Moscow-Berlin-Paris "axis".
And senior Moscow foreign policy figures, beginning with former prime
minister Yevgeny Primakov, have devoted themselves to the celebration of
Count Aleksander Gorchakov, Russia's legendary 19th century foreign
minister who, following Russia's disastrous defeat in the Crimean war,
brought Russia back to greatness through an alliance with a newly united
The parallel with today has not been lost, as Putin travelled to Berlin
June and described such a united Germany as "Russia's leading partner in
Europe and the world".
The overtures to Germany and more recently France echo the desire of
in the Russian establishment to use a Franco-German-Russian partnership to
drive a wedge between the US and Europe, a project Germany and France show
little desire to assist - so far.
But that doesn't stop Dugin speculating about a "Eurasian axis" of Russia,
Germany, Iran and Japan.
"Of course, this will take some time," he concedes, and proposes to
first with a much more manageable Eurasian axis of Russia, India and China
(according to his book it is well nigh impossible to have China and Japan
in the same Eurasian axis - you have to choose one or the other).
But, he says: "I am convinced that with Putin as president, the processes
of consolidating our geopolitical space is accelerating, and it is already
seen in Europe and Asia. Everything depends on whether it works. That is
the 21st century gamble."