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.