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By Josephine Azoulay
On the 8th of May the Henry Jackson Society welcomed Charles Clover, author and journalist in Beijing for the Financial Times. He was here to discuss his new book on the ideological underpinnings of President Putin’s Russia and the Eurasianism theory: ‘Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism’.
Mr Clover opened by reminding us that Russian nationalism is a very recent phenomenon, and that until a few years go Russian nationalists were widely marginalised. But since 2008 to 2010, this group of marginalised individuals suddenly invaded all forms of media and became extremely mainstream. Incidentally, as these ideas significantly gained importance in Russia, Russia’s foreign policy started to change accordingly to become more aggressive and by establishing its own national identity.
According to Mr Clover, the making of Russian policies was then invaded with debates and discourses over this national identity and with what he called ‘buzz words’ such as Eurasianism or Atlanticism, which only far-right Russian used until then. One some level, Russian nationalists succeeded in created a vision of foreign and domestic policy that became widely popular. Mr Clover also pointed out that this nationalist ideology is useful to the Kremlin who finds it very convenient to use these slogans to serve their own interests. However, Mr Clover stressed that this Russian nationalism could not actually be defined as an official ideology in the sense of what communism was. Indeed, according to him, the official nationalism is merely dog whistle politics and is very different to the actual radical nationalism.
Furthermore, the interest in radical nationalism has not only grown in Russia, but also obviously in Europe. Mr Clover then tackled how this movement originated in his opinion. He first argued that Russia always had a weird relationship with European philosophy and ideologies. Indeed, the best example being communism: Russia took this European-born philosophy, exported it to its country and took it extremely seriously by applying it in every single aspect of life, before re-exporting it to the rest of the world. This system could easily be compared in this matter. In the 1990s, the new right emerged in Europe, and was then injected into Russian politics, before it was weaponised, made powerful and finally, re-exported to the rest of the world. Indeed, western thinkers of alt-right constantly praise Russia and its hard right movement leaders. For example, the recent Macron leaks were first tweeted by an American alt-right member which clearly highlights how Russian hard right movement inspire in Europe and in the US.
Mr Clover concluded his speech by reading a passage from Steve Bannon’s speech at the Vatican in 2014, where he praised openly Eurasianism, nationalism and states’ sovereignty. He finally admitted that when he listened to this propaganda speech in 2014, he would have never been able to foresee the recent development in US politics.