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Moscow's moves in Georgia track a script by right-wing prophet

Is Alexander Dugin really the new sage of the Kremlin?

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Critics of Dugin argue that he is a self-promoter who's seized upon a superficial coincidence between his deeply anti-Western philosophy and a recent spate of friction between Russia and the West.

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"It's a vast exaggeration to suggest that Dugin is the ideologue behind today's Kremlin leaders," says Masha Lipman, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. "Admittedly, he's been reasonably prominent lately and, apparently, there are people with money and clout among his supporters. But Dugin is vehemently anti-Western, while Putin and Medvedev never forget to refer to the Western world as Russia's partners. None of Russia's leaders wants a new cold war."

In a nutshell, Dugin's philosophy holds that Russia is a "special geopolitical formation" that is fundamentally different from the West and therefore fated to fight for its own separate space. "Russian values hold that justice is more important than freedom, that the collective is more important than the individual," he says. "Russia is not a country, it's a civilization."

The West, particularly the US, believes its system is suitable for everyone, leading to a drive for hegemony, he argues. "If Americans identify their values as universal ones, they become our enemies," he says. "Americans think their victory over us in the early 1990s was irreversible and final. They will not accept that they were wrong without some dramatic events, such as wars."

Russia must build alliances with like-thinking nations, such as China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and others who oppose US hegemony, he says. "Russia badly needs allies. The US won't let the multipolar world be born without struggle; there will be dramatic collisions."

He says the Russian military's longer reach these days, including the November Caribbean war games between a Russian naval task force and Venezuelan warships, is something he has long advocated.

"If the US insists on encircling Russia, why shouldn't we put our bases in Latin America?" he says. "What we want is a Monroe Doctrine for Eurasia. If the US recognizes our sphere of influence, then we could recognize theirs."

The coming battle will be in Ukraine, he says, where pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko looks increasingly beleaguered in his efforts to lead his country into NATO. Dugin says that if Ukraine pledges neutrality and normalizes its relations with Moscow, the issue can be settled peacefully. Otherwise, "there could be civil war, mass disturbances, and Ukraine could break up," he says. In time, "Russia will create a supernational state" to absorb pro-Moscow territories such as Belarus, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, eastern Ukraine and possibly large tracts of ex-Soviet Central Asia, Dugin says.

This goes beyond anything Russia's pragmatic leaders, Putin and Medvedev, are contemplating, insist the critics. "People in the Kremlin are scared of Dugin; they think he's dangerous," says Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements in Moscow. "The strategy offered by Dugin is a formula for disaster. Russia needs to do everything it can to avoid isolation, and that means not behaving like a great power.... The Eurasianist way is to promote confrontation, ratchet up the jingoist propaganda, and take over power in the country. If that happens, Russia is finished."

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