THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2022
"Not clinical," experts say: We're fascinated by the way the Jackson hearings have been discussed. We expect to touch on that topic in the next few days.
For today, we'll return to Ukraine. We can't tell you why this is, but all of a sudden, Aleksandr Dugin—AKA, "Putin's brain"—seems to be very hot.
Yesterday afternoon, we recommended David Von Drehle's essay in the Washington Post. According to Von Drehle, the "mystical megalomania" expressed in Dugin's 1997 book lies at the heart of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
This morning, up jumped the New York Times. In a guest essay bearing this headline—The Grand Theory Driving Putin to War—Professor Burbank seems to say the same thing:
BURBANK (3/24/22): ...Eurasianism was injected directly into the bloodstream of Russian power in a variant developed by the self-styled philosopher Aleksandr Dugin. After unsuccessful interventions in post-Soviet party politics, Mr. Dugin focused on developing his influence where it counted—with the military and policymakers. With the publication in 1997 of his 600-page textbook, loftily titled “The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia,” Eurasianism moved to the center of strategists’ political imagination.
Mr. Dugin made things more direct in his 1997 text: Ukrainian sovereignty presented a “huge danger to all of Eurasia.” Total military and political control of the whole north coast of the Black Sea was an “absolute imperative” of Russian geopolitics. Ukraine had to become “a purely administrative sector of the Russian centralized state.”
Mr. Putin has taken that message to heart...
Same self-styled philosopher, same sweeping theory. Same 1997 book—and the same buy-in from Putin.
Returning to the Washington Post, we encounter a similar column by David Ignatius in today's print editions. Quoting Professor Snyder, Ignatius describes the same "mystical Russian ideal" while naming a different guru:
IGNATIUS (3/24/22): In place of communism, Putin proposed what Yale professor Timothy Snyder has described as “Russian fascism.” Its ideological guru was the philosopher Ivan Ilyan, who fled Russia in 1922, after the Bolshevik Revolution, and visited Italy before settling in Germany. Ilyan admired the Italian dictator Mussolini, and praised the Fascists for capturing the popular “Spirit,” or Dukh. Ilyan saw Russia as a perpetual victim of the West that needed a “manly” leader who would become “the living organ of Russia,” according to Snyder.
Putin embraced this mystical Russian ideal. “Beginning in 2005, Putin began to rehabilitate Ilyan as a Kremlin court philosopher,” Snyder writes. He brought Ilyan’s remains back to Russia, placed flowers at his grave and cited him in articles, such as a 2012 essay that explained Ilyan’s vision that “Russia as a spiritual organism served not only all of the Orthodox nations … but all the nations of the world.”
All three columns move past narrow concerns about NATO membership for Ukraine; they look instead to a larger mystical vision on Putin's part. Von Drehle and Burbank point to Dugin as the key mystical dreamer; Ignatius fingers Ilyan.
As we noted yesterday, we can't evaluate this new perspective, but it seems to be traveling fast. For what it's worth, Professor Young floated the portrait of Dugin as "Putin's Rasputin" in a March 6 essay for Foreign Affairs, as essay which carried these headlines:
Putin Has a Grimly Absolute Vision of the ‘Russian World’
The Ukraine war is fueled by a delusion of civilizational necessity.
Dugin can be seen as "Putin's Rasputin," Professor Young said. The invasion of Ukraine is built upon a sweeping "delusion."
What has led to Putrin's decision to invade Ukraine? A person could imagine the novel several different ways. That said, and holy cow, Ignatius sets the scene in the following way:
"Experts say Putin isn’t irrational in the usual clinical sense. But he has entered a realm where his decisions are driven by a grandiose sense of his place in Russian history. In his own mind, his mission is transcendent."
Experts say he isn't irrational, at least not in the clinical sense! We can only hope that, in this one case, the experts are suddenly right.