It is now a good thirty years since Russia broke out of the corset of the unified Soviet state. After a period of instability in which it re-emerged as a multi-ethnic organism, its current President, Vladimir Putin, has become a defender of the crisis-ridden global nation-state order, without which “nothing is going on”. How could this happen? What comes next?
Let us remember. In the mid-1980s Mikhail Gorbachev came forward with a plan to open up the Soviet Union to a modernization of socialism. “Glasnost”, that is, transparency and” new thinking “were the key words under which” Perestroika”, the transformation of society desired by Gorbachev, was to develop.
Explosion of diversity
An Explosion of diversity set in in the Soviet Union. A process of “internal decolonization,” as the author of this text called it at the time, was initiated. It was a process that unleashed enormous forces of previously bound Initiative across the country’s eleven time zones. The Soviet Union breathed a sigh of relief.
But the Explosion was not limited to the Soviet Union, then Russia. It radiated worldwide. The events in the Soviet Union had an exemplary, stimulating character for the whole world. Some hoped for a renewal of socialism, others welcomed the victory of the “free world"in Gorbachev’s announcements. For all, however, the events of that time ended the long period of paralysis that had prevailed during the bipolar division of the world into a US - and a SU-dominated camp.
Gorbachev’s Perestroika was also an offer for a global ecological Initiative that crossed national borders. His own publications proclaimed a “Second Russian Revolution”, also “A new policy for Europe and the world”. From his scientific staff appeared writings such as those of Vadim Sagladin (was personal advisor to Leonid Brezhnev and M. Gorbachev), Ivan T. Frolov (philosopher, Journalist and politician of the USSR) or Igor Bestuzhev-Lada (Soviet futurologist), who, under the Tenor “global problems of the present” and “the world in 2000”, took up the publications of the “Club of Rome” on the “limits of growth”. Memories of the Soviet geologist, geochemist and mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky, an interlocutor of Albert Einstein, came to life, who was the first to develop the concept of the biosphere, which then led to James Lovelock’s Gaia theories in the West after him.
A leap into a new Dimension of cross-border cooperation and new thinking seemed preferable, multipolar structures appeared in international life, even if this still took the form of the unified nation-state, as he had led the world twice before into catastrophe and then into the “Cold War”. The new development gave rise to hopes around the world that such confrontations would not have to be repeated in the future under the dictates of forms of government that had subjected themselves to all spheres of life.
New national constriction
But then, in the summer of 1991, Gorbachev was not only sent home when he asked the " G7 " in London for help in dealing with the supply crisis that had arisen in the Union, to which the out-of-control Perestroika had accelerated. Instead of helping Gorbachev in his efforts to slow down the crisis, the Western powers gathered in London, above all the United States, supported the course of acceleration that the Opposition, led by Boris Yeltsin, was pursuing. A clear case of” Regime change”, one would say today.
As a result, Gorbachev, criticized as a “procrastinator,” had to give way to Yeltsin, who promised to transform the Soviet Union, led by the IMF and the World Bank, into a Zone of “free market economy.” This course, however, did not lead to freedom and not to the market economy, but directly to the dissolution of the Soviet Union; the USA was able to establish itself as the “only world power”. The EU, in the broadest sense the ‘West’, assisted. Under this pressure, the bi-polar distortion of the international order very quickly turned into a uni-polar, US-dominated one.
In the course of this development, Russia was forced to close its borders again in order to assert its unstable internal constitution as a multi-ethnic state and its historical role as an integration node of Asia against the interventions of the USA, more generally of the ‘West’.
Vladimir Putin took on this task as president. His first actions were to prevent Russia from falling into a debt trap by ensuring the immediate settlement of the foreign debt taken over from the Soviet Union, as well as Russia’s exit from IMF lending. He did this despite his efforts to keep open the relationship with the West, especially with Europe and even more specifically with Germany. One can recall his first speech abroad, which he delivered in German in the Bundestag, which was still meeting in Bonn at that time, on 25 April 1895. September 2001. In this speech, he offered cooperation for a Eurasian security alliance.
However, this has not been more than raucous applause in the Bundestag. Multiple repetitions of this offer in the following years, have not changed anything. On the contrary, EU and NATO enlargement to the East followed, the “colourful” revolutions on Russia’s borders followed, and the EU and NATO seized Ukraine. Simply put, Russia has been pushed back to its “national” identity.
With this retreat of Russia upon itself, the process which had already twice in modern history led to the “National” constriction of Russia, once through the counter-revolutionary wars after 1918, to which Stalin responded with his policy of “socialism in one country”, the second time in the formation of the bloc after 1945.
The term “National” has to be quoted in these processes, because Russia as a multi-ethnic organism ‘actually’ has the best prerequisites for passing on to the world exemplary impulses of the differentiation of the social organism, which could be able to overcome the narrowness of the unified nation-state, instead of developing such a unified nation-state, even still ethnically, that is, Russian. This statement applies to Russia before the Revolution no differently than in the Soviet Union after it, and also to post-Soviet Russia.
In addition to the already mentioned multi-ethnic structure, we should also speak of the long and special history of traditional Russian community culture, inseparably connected with this structure, which survived even the Soviet, even the Stalinist transformation. It is again leading to hybrid forms of Russian reality, in which individual and collective self-sufficiency economies on the ground are a constituent part of the country’s overall economy.
In concrete terms, today it would be necessary to take a closer look at what in Russia is called “additional family provision”, which was operated on dachas, farm gardens and company-owned settlements. In the past, it was an Element of structural survival that could be learned from.
Certainly with great insight it would be necessary to investigate whether and how these eco-social structures could have significance beyond Russia in dealing with today’s global crisis before they could be crushed or forgotten under the pressure of the new conditions.
However, the current political development has led to the fact that relations between states on a global level are once again highly strained, even more strained than at the beginning and middle of the last century!
Instead of encouraging each other on survival issues, the competition is for tighter resources and sales markets. However, a solution to these conflicts through a new Great War is now out of the question in view of the existence of nuclear weapons, as well as the dense international, and above all increasing digital interconnections. Unless someone, a group or a government is willing to take the risk of its own destruction. This, however, would be the end of the present civilization.
The result is a precarious global stalemate in which it does not go back and forth. In this stalemate, the Great Powers Act with distributed roles:
the United States, especially Trump as a shatterer of the existing international order and a trade warrior, waging war below the state belt,
Russia, especially Putin, as an involuntary defender of nation-state principles and applicable international treaties, not least the trade treaties such as those of the WTO,
the Chinese as smiling beneficiaries of the terrain that becomes free in the shadow of this conflict.
Russia Of All Places
In other words, the paradoxical global constellation has arisen in such a way that it is precisely the multi-ethnic state of Russia that defends the crisis-ridden creed of the unitary nation-state on which the international order of the “United Nations” is still based today. Russia defends the Creed, although the necessity of its differentiation and its transformation into a cooperative, open world order of federally connected regions has long been recognized if further competitive struggles are to be overcome. What is more, Russia Today appears vis-à-vis the USA, in particular Trump, who loosely pushes aside the nation-state order as it was enshrined in the “United Nations”, almost as its conservator.
How long will Russia be able to bear the role of defender of the unitary nation-state order, which is alien to its nature, and the resulting pressure, which also continues on the internal Situation of the country?
To answer this question in such a way that not only Russia does not suffocate in this role by falling into nationalism itself, but also the world order is not carried away by a possible crash of Russia, is the task facing the leaders of Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin today. Putin’s attempts to secure Russia’s stability beyond his term of office can be classified here – but mind you: not as a monopolistic nation-state, but as an organism that must continue to be able to integrate many peoples in the heart of Eurasia.
A Situation has arisen that concerns not only Russia, but the entire international community, which is today looking for a new order. Under these conditions, a correction of the European, especially the German Ostpolitik in the sense of mutual aid, which seeks to overcome nationalist constrictions, instead of waging a war of sanctions, which is to drive Russia into a corner, is the order of the day – desirably with the United States, but if necessary without it.