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A dialogue with Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, following the tragic death of his daughter Darya Dugina (Дарья Дугина 1992-2022) in a terrorist attack in August. How does he, who the western media relentlessly dubbed “Putin’s brain”, “Russian think tank” and “state teacher”, view the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the present situation in Russia. How does he evaluate his relationship with Putin? How does he view China's future after the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party? What advice does he have for China’s younger generation? On October 21st, Wang Wen, Executive Dean at the Chonyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China, received Dugin’s invitation for a one hour talk in his office. A synopsis of the conversation is published in the Global Times, while the unabridged version is authorized to be published on the Guanchazhe website.

Wang Wen: First of all, please allow me to pay homage to you on behalf of many Chinese people and express my condolences for the unfortunate passing of your beloved daughter Darya. These past several months, many terrorist attacks have occurred in Russia. How do you see Russia's domestic development under conflict today?

Dugin: I would like to thank you, first of all for your moral support and deeply appreciate the grief of the Chinese people over the death of my daughter Darya Dugina. Dugina is a symbol of our Russian soul's struggle against an unjust hegemonic global system and a victim of Western terrorism. We already know that this operation came from Kyiv, from Zelensky himself and from the head of the Ukrainian military special forces. Zelensky is responsible for my daughter's death and the bombing. Although the US and UK Secret Service refused to explain and condemn the terrorist attack, we are almost certain they were targeting me and my daughter because we are one.

This was the beginning of a war of terror against Russia, the first time Western terrorists attacked Russian citizens on Russian soil. I would like to emphasise once more that Dugina and I did not hold any official positions and did not participate in the Special Military Operation (SMO) in eastern Ukraine. It is unprecedented that intellectuals have been murdered for just what they said and thought, and this kind of terror against intellectuals is quite disturbing. And this is nothing but war.

This reveals a whole new chapter in the history of war: when ideas really matter, you get murdered for your ideas. This example tragically demonstrates the importance of thought, being a gambit with one’s life. Yet, if you are a warrior, you should be prepared to die in battle; if you make political decisions, you should be prepared to pay for your decisions.

For a long time, theological philosophy has been concerned with human life. Russia finds itself in a critical state, I would like to call it "a profound ideological revolution in Russia", and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict marks the beginning of a complete change. In the 1990s, Russia accepted Western hegemony, Western systems, Western values, and Western political democracy, followed the example of the West, and regarded the West as an only lifeline. This is the difference between Russia and China: China accepts the rules and takes full advantage of international rules to prevail, whereas we in Russia during the 1990s betrayed our national sovereignty. After Putin came to power, he began to fight for Russia's independence. But for the past 22 years, he has been shackled by the rules set by the West. The West has always hoped to weaken and attack Russia in this way.

Putin attempted to reconcile the contradiction between the rise of the country and integration into globalization, but it proved impossible. This irreconcilability peaked after the SMO began. Putin could only but react with direct violent action, but Russian society was not prepared for it, because fighting the West is a path too long and too narrow. Russia is now in a war against the West, against the United States. We try to adjust our societal ideas and re-evaluate ourselves, to adapt to the present situation we find ourselves in, which is a very intense and dramatic process.

Wang Wen: I agree with your astute analysis and prediction. I recall that back in 2008 you wrote about the inevitability of conflict between Russia and the West. However, when Chinese scholars recognize that a Sino-American conflict may be becoming inevitable, they usually try their best to propose avoiding war with the United States. For example, when Professor Graham Tillett Allison of Harvard University proposed the "Thucydides Trap" between China and the United States, Chinese scholars would refute it and try to change this "fulfillable Prophecy”.

What I want to know is, why don't the Russian elites advise President Putin to try his best to avoid conflict, or to do something that might be better than ad hoc military action? In Russia, a wise political philosopher like you must have a better solution, no?

Dugin: It has to do with the balance of consciousness between individuals and groups. It was not President Putin who voluntarily wanted to launch this special military operation, but the whole society demanded this special operation. Russian society is very special and needs a "father" type of leader (such as a Tsar) who must also provide security assurances to the whole society. Putin has been trying to reconcile this connection. Accepting the West and ensuring Russia's independence are a set of contradictions. Putin hopes to reconcile this contradiction and maintain a certain balance, but this balance is very fragile.

Putin has always been trying to proceed in a peaceful way, without the use of military means, to avoid a conflict escalation with the West. Since Crimea “returned to Russia”, we noticed early on, that Russia can easily liberate eastern Ukraine, but President Putin had always refused to do so. He believed for a time the assurances given by the West, but the West deceived Russia. Putin wants to avoid war, but war is increasingly inevitable. It is a pity that we were not fully prepared for this special military operation in terms of politics, economy, culture, and military. In fact, we should have been better prepared.

Wang Wen: Yes. But I am very worried, if Russia completely decouples from the West in the future, will Russia be able to continue to develop rapidly in the short term? We all believe that the West is weakening, but for now, Western hegemony still has significant influence in areas such as high technology and economic trade.

Maintaining cooperation with the West appears to be a "rational, pragmatic choice". Will Russia be reduced to nothing more than a “big Iran”, if it gets completely cut off from the West? I have travelled to Iran many times. Iran presents huge potential and rich resources. In the 1970s, Iran’s economy grew rapidly. However, after being sanctioned by the West for 40 years, Iran’s development has been greatly affected. Will Russia repeat the mistakes of Iran?

Dugin: I'd love to know what the definition of "Western" is. The West is not just synonymous with economic and technological development, the West represents a kind of consciousness, including hegemony, racism, and ontology, which can be extended to colonialism and unipolarity. This is the essence of the West. Russia has "declared war" against the West and has been forced to cut off cooperation with the West. We hope that by defeating Western hegemony, the "West" will become a province of the world, not the center of the world. To achieve this, we must not only elevate and “de-Western” ourselves, but also marginalize the West. Russia alone cannot accomplish this goal. We hope to work with other non-Western countries in the world to resist Western hegemony. If we unite, we may be able to defeat them. This is a multipolar versus unipolar war.

Wang Wen: According to your logic, the world is gradually divided into two poles, and a new "Cold War" begins. You pointed out in your article that the world is on the brink of a third world war.

China does not want to enter a new Cold War; China prefers to develop in a globalized environment. Although China is competing with the United States, it is still trying its best to find a new balance among the fierce contradictions. I believe that India, Brazil, and other BRICS countries may not want to really start a "new cold war" with the West, and they are all cautious and guard against a possible "third world war".

Dugin: Now, the situation is not unilaterally determined by Russia. In the SMO, we have "crossed the Rubicon" to confront the West. Russia and the West may understand each other, but the two cannot coexist, as determined by the geopolitical structure. From a geopolitical point of view, other countries have only two options: either to be controlled by a sea power state, or to fight to become a land power state, that is, by supporting Russia to push the world towards multi-polarization and become a region of a certain heartland.

China's independence is based on balance. From this perspective, if Russia cannot check and balance American hegemony, then China will be the victim of an offensive military conflict with sea powers, even though you only want sovereignty and prosperity. Now, the equally independent India, Brazil, South Africa, and the Islamic world are all making choices, but the outcome of their choice depends on the strength on the other end of the scale.

If the win-win strategy of globalization represented by China is to be perfectly realized, there needs to be an invisible condition, that is, the resistance of the land-power state Russia to the sea-power state. If Russia loses the special military operation and loses its heartland, then India and China will face the same situation as Russia is now and become the next direct victims of the Cold War and even military conflict.

The West may use the Taiwan Strait and Muslim militants as entry points to attack China. The West is an aggressive radical force. Other countries can avoid head-on conflict solely because Russia still exists and because Russia is fighting. Other nations have only two options: either survive in the shadow of the Western world or fight like Russia. This geopolitical analysis is very important.

Although the results of the analysis are not entirely consistent with the official Chinese interpretation, I believe that the strategists of the Chinese Communist Party, as true masters of international strategy, can fully understand the conclusions of the above analysis and avoid China falling into Russia’s situation.

I intensely recognize the great achievements China has made. Regardless of whether for Russia, or for India, Iran and the Arab countries, China is the main hope. There is a border dispute between China and India, but I would like to remind India that if India and the West fight against China together, then once China and Russia lose, the West will turn to confront India and destroy India - in fact, Soros is already preparing to do so.

In short, we do not want to confront the West, we are confronting the "West" that claims to rule the world but has not played a good role-model. What we should strive for should be multi-polarity rather than unipolarity.  The West wants to dismember Russia, we are number one on their list, you are next. Of course, this is my analysis, and I don't want to impose it on others.

Wang Wen: First of all, we have confidence in Russia. Russia will not be defeated by the West. Although NATO is fully supporting Ukraine, Russia has a huge advantage in terms of strategic depth and resource potential.

Of course, I also agree with you that if Russia is defeated by the West, China will be the next target of the West. In this regard, China is psychologically prepared. China's response is based on more than 2,000 years of traditional wisdom and a commitment to finding moderate, diverse solutions. In the past few years, China has achieved good results on many "battlefields" such as trade wars, technology wars, public opinion wars, media wars and the Taiwan Strait issue.

What I want to discuss with you is how to deal with the West in a smarter way. If World War 3 or a nuclear war of a certain size really happens as you predict it would mean the destruction of all humanity. In your opinion, is it possible to employ a diversified toolkit of measures to solve the problem?

Dugin: The fait accompli solution is the SMO. We didn't use other, more diverse approaches, and we couldn't do otherwise. The current Special Military Operation is very necessary, and although the current war situation is bad, it is better than a worse situation (such as being destroyed).

I am sure that the Chinese Communist Party has adopted a good decision-making model, making decisions cautiously and prudently, integrating national interests with globalization, and maintaining an independent and conservative policy.While guaranteeing democracy and social and economic liberalization, China also maintains the absolute control of the central government over the country, ensuring that the West cannot destroy the Chinese Communist Party by means of cultural methods and the internet, and save the country from chaos and even destruction.

The situation in Russia is quite the opposite. The West is destroying the absolute control of the Russian government, trying to push the government against the people. Under Yeltsin, the people were the victims of this Western onslaught.

Putin is trying to prevent and reverse this situation and enable Russia to save itself through reform and reconstruction. At one point he tried to change peacefully the legacy of the Yeltsin (1931 – 2007) government, but he was unsuccessful due to obstruction by some political elites. These political elites are traitors to the country. This is the difference between China and Russia. The Chinese political elite is the backbone of the country, but we only have the poison left over from the Soviet era. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these political elites entered the Russian government, and they did not allow the country to transform and grow Russia through peaceful means. This is exactly my interpretation of the political differences between China and Russia.

We do not have the possibility to peacefully change or reorganize Russia, and to achieve reconciliation with Ukraine and the West by peaceful means. Putin is our hope. He is on the side of the people and on the side of history. The SMO was his way of resisting, though not in the best way. We are now pinning all our hopes on oil and gas and are waiting for the West to collapse or compromise on energy issues. They are trying to come out of the energy shortage crisis, which also forces us to solve the problem from other dimensions. To this end, we should take China as an example to be studied.

Wang Wen: Thank you for your interest in China. As think tank scholars, we are also thinking about China's situation every day and working to solve domestic problems. In my opinion, international dilemmas can be better dealt with only on the basis of solving domestic problems. I believe that you have also noticed that the report of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China clearly puts forward China's long-term national development strategy for 2035 and 2050. You have been to China before. As a political philosopher, based on your understanding of China, how do you see China's future? Can China's current goals be achieved as scheduled?

Dugin: First of all, I like China very much and appreciate the governance of China by the Communist Party of China under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping. President Xi is an outstanding world-class leader. Your country made history. I think China's goals are pragmatic. The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China you held is a successful example of coordinating domestic and international issues. The General Assembly leads the country by formulating plans. In fact, neither Western society nor Russia understands China's political and social structure well enough.

In my opinion, China is made up of the people, the government, and other cultural elements such as socialism with Chinese characteristics, Confucian culture, etc. These cultural elements play a role in government governance. If the government fails to ensure cultural security, society will disintegrate. Western and Russian analyses of China almost ignore the special part of the culture, which is actually an important resource for the Chinese people.

Second, China is very particular about prioritizing things. China will not intensify conflicts, but moderate and resolve conflicts through the experience of building civilization. This culture is not entirely from Confucianism, but also from Daoism. Western political culture, including Russia, is too radical, too obsessed with absolute black and white, good, and evil. For us, evil is evil, and we will never give in to evil.

Wang Wen: Yes, the theory of Yin and Yang in Chinese culture does originate from another school of philosophy. We hope to be able to transform between negative and positive, good and evil, good and bad. In the eyes of the Chinese, good things are not entirely good, and bad things are not entirely bad. There is a relationship of attachment and transformation between the two. It's complicated.

Dugin: Yes, China does not promote a foreign policy of cultural conflict. In another culture different from China, there are clear boundaries between good and evil, good and bad, light and dark, and Russian culture contains this gene. From Russia's point of view, the world is either unipolar (there is one country with the strongest global power, such as the United States) or multipolar (the West, Russia, and China are all trying to achieve a win-win situation in this world). A multipolar world structure is also something China needs to strive for. China observes the world with from its own perspective and thoughts, and other countries are also observing China with their own thinking and worldview. This goes both ways.

Some of these thoughts and perspectives are abnormal or even pathological. Chinese thinking and worldview are healthy, but Western thinking and worldview are not so healthy. We should try to understand these pathological ways of thinking, and not explain it with our intrinsic thinking.

Wang Wen: Let's discuss the future of Russia and China. Tensions in Russia's relations with the West are likely to continue to push Sino-Russian relations to heat up. This time, I visited more than 20 cities in Russia, talked with many local officials, and discussed how to strengthen the relationship between the two countries at different levels such as local level, civil level, elite level, etc. China and Russia have different perceptions of each other at all levels. From the top-level perspective, the strategic awareness of trust and cooperation between China and Russia is sufficient and firm; however, at the non-governmental and elite levels, people have very diverse views on Sino-Russian cooperation, and some ideas are not conducive to bilateral cooperation. What do you think about this?

Dugin: First of all, I think Sino-Russian relations have actually improved significantly on both levels. Our two countries certainly have many problems to overcome, such as cultural differences between the two sides. We should spend more time to understand the respective attributes of China and Russia, to understand the code of each other's civilization, to open up more " Two track dialogue ", and to deepen bilateral cooperation.

The mutual understanding between the leaders of the two countries has been "perfect", and the cooperation between President Xi and President Putin is the cornerstone of China and Russia, creating the future of bilateral relations. But we should also pay more attention to the institutionalization of relations between the two countries, put forward plans to enhance cooperation and mutual understanding at the top, middle and grassroots levels, and readjust the cooperation system at the middle and grassroots levels.

In my opinion, the future of mankind depends on the deep cooperation between China and Russia. More than ever, we need to get to know each other effectively. We are already two poles in a multi-polar world. The people of the two countries should continue to fight for the development of Russia and China, so that the relationship between the two countries will be more harmonious.

Wang Wen: An important platform for Sino-Russian cooperation is the connection between the Belt and Road Initiative and the European Economic Union. In the eyes of many people, the theory of Greater Eurasianism you advocated for many years has helped to promote Sino-Russian cooperation, especially Eurasian economic integration. But things seem to be changing. In recent years, have you gained new insights into the study of Eurasian integration? What are your thoughts on Eurasian integration and the Belt and Road Initiative?

Dugin: The content of the theory of Greater Eurasianism covers the content of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative. China and Russia have the ability to harmoniously integrate two major initiatives to promote the development of Eurasia and thus carry out the construction of the world. In the future, Eurasia should include Europe, India and many more countries. We should broaden our horizons to include all countries in the entire Eurasian continent. In terms of specific implementation, we should have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the "Belt and Road" and the various roles that Russia's "Eurasian Economic Union" should play and adapt and accept these roles.

We should introduce the real Eurasian integration theory to Chinese elites, not the misinterpreted version. In Russia, some see Eurasianism as neo-colonialism, while in China, others see it as the Russian version of imperialism. We should find various ways to understand each other. The Greater Eurasian Theory includes not only the economic cooperation between Russia and China, but also the deep cooperation between India, Southeast Asia and West Asia. We should think about and generalize this concept, enhance cultural exchange, understand its identity, purpose, and motivation.

In order to achieve the above goals, we need to have a deeper understanding of each other's culture and truly understand the internal consistency of pragmatism, materialism, realism and other logics, which requires us to have a dialogue at the level of interlingual linguistics. Otherwise, it is difficult for us to reach similar opinions on one thing.

Wang Wen: In Russia's foreign strategy in recent years, the shadow of the theory of "Greater Eurasianism" can be seen. Therefore, there have been rumours in recent years that you are part of President Putin's staff, or even "Putin's brain"; some people say that you were the bridge between President Putin and President Trump in those years. How do you respond to this?

Dugin: I'm very supportive of Putin, our spirit is similar, but I don't have any other relationship with him.

I should know the Russian people and Russian history better than anyone here. It may be a little humbling to say this, but I have a deep love for the Russian people and Russian history. I understand the logic behind this better than anyone else, as well as the current national foreign strategy that people can agree and support.

Wang Wen: Do you have any advice for young people, especially their Chinese counterparts?

Dugin: In order to understand the world, you must first become a more authentic Chinese. If you don't understand yourself, you can't understand others. If you are not confident and lack your own identity, it is impossible to understand the identity of other countries and the future of multi-polarity. To understand the world, you must first understand yourself.

(Zhang Huimin张慧敏 of Moscow University and Feng Shide冯士德 of the Russian Academy of Sciences participated in the dialogue and made a preliminary review of the content of the dialogue)