Suspected interference in the recent U.S. Presidential election has set the CIA’s sights firmly on Russia. The Kremlin’s goal, according to a secret CIA assessment, was to bring Donald Trump to the presidency.
Trump has repeatedly shrugged off claims that he sees Russia and Vladimir Putin favorably. “I don’t know Putin,” he said during a Presidential debate in October. Meanwhile, he’s spoken favorably about Russia’s role in Syria and appointed a “friend of Russia” as his pick for Secretary of State.
But even if Trump genuinely has no love for Putin and the minds at the Kremlin, there is certainly some praise flowing in the opposite direction.
In fact, one of Trump’s most ardent and outspoken supporters in Russia has been a prominent figure in the country’s web of right-wing Putin supporters: radical philosopher Aleksandr Dugin.
Dugin’s manifestos are published at Katehon, a think tank specializing in “geopolitical, geostrategic and political analysis of world events” and overseen by Putin associate Konstantin Malofeev. In a Katehon article from February, Dugin described Trump as a “sensation.”
[He is] tough, rough, says what he thinks, rude, emotional and, apparently, candid. The fact that he is a billionaire doesn’t matter. He is different. He is an extremely successful ordinary American,” wrote Dugin. “He is crude America, without gloss and the globalist elite. He is sometimes disgusting and violent, but he is what he is. It is true America.”
In addition to being a fan of Trump, Dugin is the co-founder of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), a political movement combining Russian ultra-nationalism and strains of fascism, and described by Foreign Policy as, “cantankerous.” He’s gained attention for allegedly espousing “geopolitics”: a political philosophy, originally introduced by the Brit Sir Halford Mackinder, that says geography is the biggest factor in shaping foreign relations, power, and war. Dugin is also thought to rub shoulders with a number of high ranking officials, including former members of the Russian government.
Widely referred to as Putin’s Rasputin, Dugin has also elaborated a Russian version of Manifest Destiny known as Eurasianism. Eurasianism is a totalitarian political ideology that “rejects the view that Russia is on the periphery of Europe, and on the contrary interprets the country’s geographic location as grounds for a kind of messianic ‘third way’,” according to a report released by the Wilson Center.
“I think his influence is greatly exaggerated — in the first place, by himself,” Dr. Daniel Treisman, a UCLA political scientist and author of The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev, told ThinkProgress. “There is a great temptation to find a ‘thinker’ behind every ‘political actor.’ If the ideas of a certain writer correspond to some of the actions of a given political leader, then that is often considered proof of influence. Inconsistencies are ignored. And then, purveyors of extreme political ideologies are often good at self-promotion.”
Dugin may have been one of a litany of radical right wing ideologues supportive of Putin’s annexation of Crimea — but it seems that when Putin stopped needing their backing, he turned on them. In mid-2014 Dugin lost his job at Moscow University, where he headed the sociology department.
Max Fisher, then of Vox, traveled to Russia in spring 2015 to meet Dugin’s cohorts; he said they were “isolated and despondent, and no longer considered Putin an ally — but rather saw him as their enemy.”
Even if Dugin doesn’t pull Putin’s strings, he maintains a clear and ominous connection to dark segments of American and European society; specifically, white nationalism.
This is part of a series focusing on the links between white nationalists in Russia and the West. Part two will focus on Dugin’s connection to American and European white nationalism. Read part two here.