Written by Prof. Mark Neimark, Dr. Sc. History, Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of Russia
The internationalisation of the crisis in Ukraine has revealed, even more graphically than before, the deep-down essence and ingrained properties of Russophobia, as well as the lines of its continuity and development. The Western world’s demonisation of Russia has reached a new and unprecedented level. This is a consequence of Russia’s tough response to NATO’s extremely dangerous expansion towards its borders and the US-led West’s alarming geopolitical games related to Ukraine’s putative accession to the North Atlantic alliance, which is creating a direct threat to Russia’s national security.
People in the US corridors of power listen to us but fail to hear us. The US leaders are used to a situation where you can easily find a common language with them as long as you bite your tongue. The window of opportunity has narrowed down to, figuratively speaking, a creaky slat in a shutter. The US conflict-generating activities are based on the strategy of containment of Russia, its basic goal being, if we use a Chinese proverb, “to cut off a dog’s tail up to its neck.”
But not to simplify the matter, Russophobia is a systemic phenomenon – value-related, worldview-centred, political, economic and socio-cultural. It is an attitude to Russia, which is hostile from the outset, a priori biased, reflexively inimical, always painfully suspicious, and derogatory. Russophobia cannot be understood as anything other than a systemic antithesis to Russia’s geopolitical significance.
What is important here is to differentiate between the two layers of the problem: first, the petty, purely external propaganda-related signs of its demonisation intended for domestic consumption in Western countries, targeting the public mind that has long been persuaded to accept Russia as an inescapable evil; and, second, the foundations of Russophobia, its basic components, properties and traits, characteristic of the West’s global anti-Russia reflection and combined practical actions.
Combined in their specificity, all the links in the ignorance-half-knowledge, secondary-partial-knowledge chain, ignorance fed by the Western mass media’s outright rejection of all things Russian, help to preserve and reproduce the Russophobic moods and manifestations. For example, certain high-ranking NATO figures have displayed their ignorance by claiming that NATO was created in response to the formation of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, although it was the other way round.
The US leadership should have taken heed of a far-sighted warning given 25 years ago by the authoritative diplomat and analyst George Kennan, known for his contribution to the development of the Moscow containment concept. He possessed unique knowledge of Russia’s capabilities and potential and, based on his awareness, warned that:
“expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.”
At the age of 94, he dotted all the anti-Russia i’s and crossed the geopolitical t’s by providently saying:
“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever.”
And, as the main prognostic conclusion:
“Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”
In the meantime, the internationalisation of the Ukrainian crisis has caused the US rhetoric at the top level to become unprecedentedly Russophobic and personalised. Joe Biden went as far as to call the president of Russia “a war criminal” and “a bloody dictator,” something that has not prevented him from maintaining contacts with Vladimir Putin. He is fawningly echoed by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, who has simply called for the elimination of the Russian president.
What is notable, he is doing this at a time when Russian and Ukrainian representatives are holding bilateral talks…
A new tendency is the newspeak of clearly anti-Russian gestures at the top echelons of diplomacy in quite a few countries. For example, the UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, in a bullet-proof vest, like a modern Amazon, took a ride in a tank in Estonia not far from the Russian border.
It is clear that the West’s centuries-old pulsating fears of Russia are here to stay, as are the never-ending phantom pains of Russophobia.
The main counterbalance to the Russophobic demonisation and the mega regulator that can counteract it can be found only in Russia’s innovative self-development, its genuinely significant geopolitical and economic status, and its ability to fittingly and effectively respond to new threats and challenges of the modern epoch.