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French Philosopher Expounds On 'Putin Doctrine'

Andre GlucksmannAndre Glucksmann
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Andre Glucksmann
Andre Glucksmann
Russia's August military offensive in Georgia has drawn strong international condemnation. Some of the most stinging criticism has come from Andre Glucksmann, a prominent French philosopher and Russia watcher.

Glucksmann speaks with Armand Mostofi of RFE/RL's Radio Farda about Moscow's foreign policy, Europe's stance, and what the philosopher describes as "the Putin doctrine."

RFE/RL: In an article published recently in "Le Monde," you praised the European Union's strong condemnation of Russia's recent military actions in Georgia and particularly of what you called "the Putin doctrine." Please explain what you mean by this reference to Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin.

Andre Glucksmann: We haven't paid enough attention to what Mr. Putin says; sometimes he talks very candidly and speaks his mind. In 2005, he said publicly that the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century was the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991.

Is it bigger than the World War I, which killed 10 million Europeans? Bigger than World War II, which claimed 50 million lives worldwide? Bigger than Auschwitz, than Hiroshima, than the gulag? This explains Putin's entire policy, his drive to establish, as much as possible, an hegemonic power over Russia but also over close neighbors and former provinces of the Soviet empire.

The second point in the Putin doctrine has also been spelled out by him very openly. He said that the revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were expressions of a permanent revolution. This means he is very well aware that since the first uprising -- that of bricklayers in Berlin's Stalinallee in 1953 -- the Budapest and Polish revolts in 1956, the dissidence of the Russian intellectuals, the Prague Spring -- all led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that is to say the fall of the Berlin Wall.

So the Putin doctrine seeks to avoid a catastrophe similar to that of 1991, which would challenge Putin's power. That's why he attacks, and that's why he represents a public danger for the whole of Europe.

RFE/RL: Would you say that the European Union was united in denouncing Russia's actions in Georgia?

Glucksmann:
It's a start, and it's an improvement from the past. Russia counts on the disunion of the European Union. It wants to deal with each nation separately and as little as possible with the European Union as a whole. Moscow's Foreign Ministry is deeply convinced that the European Union doesn't exist, or exists only on paper, and that the countries' egoism is stronger than their ability to be united. For once, we saw a start of common response to the Russian Army's aggression against a small country called Georgia.

'Russia Thrives On Chaos'

RFE/RL:
There has certainly been a common response. But can't we also talk of Europe's common dependence on Russian energy resources?

Glucksmann: No, not at all. I think this is an argument to excuse cowardice and inaction. We are no more dependent on Russia, Europe's main supplier of oil and gas, than it is dependent on us. 70 percent of the Russian budget comes from oil and gas revenues, and to have access to this gold mine Russia has to be able to sell. For the moment, it is able to sell only to the European Union. So there is no energetic imbalance, the buyer is a slave of the seller and the seller is a slave of the buyer.

RFE/RL: You once described Russia as a "giant with clay feet." But this giant nonetheless wields vast financial resources and a powerful army.

Glucksmann: Just compare Russia and China, two autocracies born from communism that have inherited from communism the power of a single party. But there's a huge difference.

For example, oil prices are rising, and that benefits Russia. Crises in the world are in Russia's interest because they make prices for natural resources climb. Russia is like Saudi Arabia -- it lives from its natural resources but it isn't developing its industry, it isn't an economic miracle like China. Russia is a power of harm -- the more problems in the world, the stronger it feels.

RFE/RL: Does this explain Russia's reluctance to find a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue in the framework of the 5+1 group?

Glucksmann:
Absolutely. Russia's strength relies on three things: the fact that it is the world's second nuclear power, the fact that it is the second-biggest arms dealer, and the fact that -- it believes -- its energy resources enable it to blackmail modern democratic powers. This is why it taps into its turmoil potential. It sells weapons to Iran, [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez, Hamas, Hizballah. Countries that, like Russia, thrive on crisis have formed a common front.
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by: Phil Coffman from: Odessa, Ukraine
September 29, 2008 18:04
Mr. Glucksmann is correct but is too kind to Putin. Putin is a former KGB thug along with many of the prominent people in the Russian government. They rule by intimidatio and oppression. President Medvedev is, as many believe, a puppet and can act only with Putin's approval. Putin is aligning Russia with Iran, Venezuela and other countries with destructive views towards peaceful western countries. John McCain, the American candidate for president agrees with this assessment. Every democfratic world leader must take a united stand against Putin and his expansionist attitude.

by: Rationalitate from: Washington, DC
September 30, 2008 05:40
Another advantage that Russia receives from Iran as a belligerent state is that it keeps the Western pipelines out of Iran. There are only pipeline routes into Europe from the Caspian: through Russia, through the Caucasus, and through Iran. Russia closed off Iran long ago, and just this month sealed the deal on the Caucasus.<br /><br />http://rationalitate.blogspot.com

by: Christopher Siemienski from: Warsaw, Poland
September 30, 2008 07:46
I would like to react to the following comment made by Mr. Gluckmann.<br /><br /><br />“We are no more dependent on Russia, Europe's main supplier of oil and gas, than it is dependent on us. 70 percent of the Russian budget comes from oil and gas revenues, and to have access to this gold mine Russia has to be able to sell. For the moment, it is able to sell only to the European Union”<br /><br /><br />This statement is to an extent accurate but it makes one very dangerous assumption. It assumes that if Russia were to cut supplies to one European state it would have to cut all off its supplies to the rest of Europe as well. Yet if one examines the current pipeline network in Europe, in a few years Russia will never have to cut gas supplies to all of Europe simultaneously. The intricate network of Russian pipelines that exists, and is still being developed (The Brotherhood pipeline, the Yamal Pipeline, North Stream, South Stream and the North Africa-Italy pipeline), will permit Russia to selectively punish and reward, by means of supply cuts and preferential treatment, the different areas of Europe with out significantly affecting the total supply to Europe. Such a scenario would fuel distrust and animosity among European member states and heighten their egoistic natures eventually leading to the implosion of the European Union. <br /><br />A common EU energy policy would be the only solution to prevent this Trojan horse from causing the downfall of the European Union. Perhaps the joint European reaction with regard to the Russian led war in Georgia can now pave the way for such a policy.<br /><br />Russia needs to sell gas to Europe, but as Mr. Gluckmann said, Russia prefers to deal with the EU member states bilaterally and it is doing so through its pipeline network. If the EU does not create a common energy policy, these bilateral agreements will cause its downfall. <br /><br /><br /><br />

by: Spencer
October 01, 2008 15:25
Nevertheless, we should not demonize Russia or its leaders. There is no us vs. them. 1. Russia is an other form of the west and not opposed to &quot;our&quot; norms and values. I don&quot;t think Russia want to create a new Soviet Union. 2. Russia is not acting in a vacuum, but in a system where rational choice is crucial for survival. In a way therefore, Russia is playing chess (on not poker like the US). 3. Business and not Ideology drives action of nations (states, or elites) 4. Hence, if Russia is not selling weapns to Hizballa, Venezuela etc. someone else will do.

by: Anton from: Auckland
October 03, 2008 01:13
It is quite hard to disagree with the Author on many points, although his understanding of the processes in Eurasia is not as sound as he tries to present. For example this passage:<br /><br />&quot;He said that the revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were expressions of a permanent revolution. This means he is very well aware that since the first uprising -- that of bricklayers in Berlin's Stalinallee in 1953 -- the Budapest and Polish revolts in 1956, the dissidence of the Russian intellectuals, the Prague Spring -- all led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that is to say the fall of the Berlin Wall.&quot;<br /><br />I am surprised that an educated European person of this level may be lacking the understanding of the term &quot;permanent revolution&quot; and draws such bizarre conclusions about the sense of Putin's words - because &quot;permanent revolution&quot; is a revolutionary theory by Leon Trotski and has to do with the changing of social systems to Communism, not to changing one dictator for another, like &quot;coloured revolutions&quot; do. To me Putin used the term as a joke, hinting also on Trotski's &quot;export of revolution&quot; like it was done by Che Guevara in practice and thus pointing to the artificial nature of the revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. What he de-facto said is the revolutions in these countries did not occur natural way, but were instigated from outside - he's just a Marxist and uses Marxist terms, in this case allegorically or even humorously. But the Author likes to use this literally, which shows incomplete understanding. Thats the same as to read about a mote in the eye and start trying to find it physically.

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