DAVID SPEEDIE: I'm David Speedie, director of the program on U.S. Global Engagement here at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Our guest today is a good friend, Dr. Marlene Laruelle. Marlene is a Ph.D. graduate of the French National Institute for Oriental Languages and Cultures. She is currently director of the Central Asia Program and a research professor of international affairs at the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Quite a mouthful, Marlene.
MARLENE LARUELLE: A long title, I agree.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Marlene has been working on identity politics and Russian nationalism since the 1990s and has published on Eurasianism in French and Russian. She is currently working on a study of Russian nationalism and has published several books on this general topic.
Prior to George Washington University, she was a scholar at both the Kennan Institute and SAIS, the School of Advanced International Studies, at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.
Marlene, welcome back to the Carnegie Council.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
DAVID SPEEDIE: By way of context, let me also say that Marlene has worked with us for a couple of years now on a major project that deals with the rise of the new far right in Europe, including Russia. We'll get into the broader European picture in a moment, Marlene.
Obviously, as far as Russia is concerned, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine over the past few months has had a definite impact on ultra-nationalism and the rise of certain forces in Russia. But let's step back for a moment, if I may, and ask you—we began the study of the far right in Russia with a certain school of thought, New Eurasianism. Tell us why Russia was the logical place to begin, as it were, those two years ago.
MARLENE LARUELLE: It was a logical place to begin because, in fact, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this school of thought, Eurasianism, has been really the first one in Russia trying to build connections with the European far right and trying to import into Russia a far-right narrative. That was the logical place to begin, because that's really where these Russians with their European connections began to construct and develop in the early 1990s.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And we did see some connections of movements between, as you say, the Western European far-right movements and the school in Russia. We began looking at a man called Aleksandr Dugin at Moscow State University—
MARLENE LARUELLE: In the sociology department. He was working there.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Tell us a little bit about Dugin, New Eurasianism, and his reach and penetration into Russia—the academy, the Kremlin, and so on and so forth. Why was he such a focus of our attention?
MARLENE LARUELLE: Aleksandr Dugin has been one of the most studied ideologists in Russia, both by Russian and by Western scholars, because, first, he's a very prolific author and he's really the one who was able to be this connection with Europe, as we said. He's a very interesting figure because he has kind of two trends of ideologies that he is trying to merge.
One is really importing from Western Europe traditional fascist or neo-fascist ideological theories. The second one is more kind of typical for Russia, called Eurasianism.
Eurasianism is this big idea that Russia is by definition an empire, that Russia has to be a great power, that Russia needs to have a sphere of influence in the region, and that, by definition, Russia is the antithesis of Europe, something which is neither Europe nor Asia, kind of a third entity, and that's where the legitimacy of the Russian empire is to be developed.
He was trying to combine both imports from Western fascist theories and this Eurasianist intellectual legacy that has been existing in the country, at least in the Russian émigré circles, since the 1920s.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And, of course, in terms of the post-Cold War environment and the strains and stresses over the past 20 years, the new Eurasianism was a deliberate sort of foil or antithesis to what he called "Atlanticism." Is that correct?
MARLENE LARUELLE: Exactly. That's the traditional geopolitical view of two ideologies opposing each other, the one called Atlanticism—that would be the U.S./Anglo-Saxon world and part of Europe—and the Eurasianism, which would be the ideology of continental powers, Russia and possibly part of its near abroad and of some European neighbors.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And Dugin does have some traction in political circles as well. He's not just some sort of malevolent ivory-tower figure at Moscow State. He does have some penetration into the alleys of power.
MARLENE LARUELLE: He has some penetration, but that's a relatively complex issue. He had at the beginning some level of penetration in the military circles in Russia, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, because his ideology was a good argument for the Russian military to hope for the revival of Russia and Russian great power. Then he was able to build some connections inside academic circles. He was influential among some student circles. When he got the position of professor at Moscow State University, it was a big achievement for him, because it was giving him kind of academic legitimacy on which he was trying to build his political legitimacy.
But he has been in difficulties since the Ukrainian crisis, and he lost the position during the spring. But he's still influential in some political circles, and he's trying to develop connections with the presidential administration, even if I think we cannot really say that he's kind of the guru of the Kremlin. But he's one of the personalities that people in the Kremlin can follow or—
DAVID SPEEDIE: He's not whispering into Mr. Putin's ear on a daily basis.
MARLENE LARUELLE: No, he's not. Some other people are more influential in whispering to Putin.
DAVID SPEEDIE: In terms of Dugin, does he have links with, say, Zhirinovsky?
MARLENE LARUELLE: He had some links in the early 1990s, but they are now not very much developed. He has deeper links with someone called Alexander Prokhanov, who has been a very influential communist ideologist, who now built a new think tank, which is considered as the main nationalist think tank, called the Izborsk Club, which now regroups about 30 of the main Russian nationalist figures. This club is relatively influential in targeting some ministries—of course, the Defense Ministry, the Education Ministry, the ministry which is in relation with the near abroad—so the key elements for their own strategies. And Dugin is one of these members.
DAVID SPEEDIE: That sounds like a fairly sinister grouping. Is it marginal or does it have influence?
MARLENE LARUELLE: It has some influence. They were able to build really good relationships with the media world. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, all these Izborsk Club members are very much visible on TV. The level of their media presence has increased, clearly. And they've got some influence in some ministerial circles, plus the military.
DAVID SPEEDIE: I should have mentioned, by the way, for our audience that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, of course, is the somewhat eccentric leader of the so-called Liberal Democratic Party, which is probably not either liberal or democratic. But that's the name of this extreme party in Russia.
What you have just said is a good segue to the next question. You mentioned in passing that Dugin has fallen into some disfavor or become somewhat marginalized with the Ukraine crisis. I was going to ask you to elaborate on that a little bit.
Also, how is the ongoing crisis in Ukraine impacting on the rise of the far right and ultranationalism?
MARLENE LARUELLE: That's two different questions. The first one, on the current situation of Alexander Dugin, is relatively complex. He became very vocal during the Ukrainian crisis. He was one of the main supporters of this idea of "Novorossiya," ("New Russia") the argument to justify the annexation of Crimea and the current destabilization in eastern Ukraine and this idea that Russia should retake some of the territories. He has been very vocal. He has been on TV more than he was before. He has been publishing a lot of articles.
So he won a lot of legitimacy during the crisis, but at the same time, that created a lot of tension inside Moscow State University, because his narrative was considered as very violent and he was sometimes almost calling for the killing of Ukrainians, even though, after, he explained that it was kind of a metaphorical call for killing. But that created some tension and he lost some of his support at Moscow State University. Therefore, some students' petitions were able to organize his dismissal. So he lost his position, and his academic legitimacy has been fragilized now.
But he's still very visible on the Russian media.
DAVID SPEEDIE: This is very interesting, and actually quite encouraging for those who think that ultra-nationalism is sort of off the charts because of Ukraine. Here's a situation where, if I understand you, the Ukraine crisis brought Dugin, to a certain extent, more to the fore, it showcased his extreme view, and there was reaction against that within Moscow State.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Exactly.
DAVID SPEEDIE: That's an interesting, nuanced view of what's happening within Russia.
But again, the more general question of the crisis in Ukraine.
MARLENE LARUELLE: The Ukrainian crisis really had a kind of paradoxical effect on Russian nationalism. First, one of the main trends of Russian nationalism—that is, anti-migrant xenophobia—relatively disappeared from the scene because the attention of the public opinion was so much oriented toward Ukraine and the tensions with NATO and the West that the xenophobia, for example, more or less disappeared. So those who were promoting a very ethno-nationalist narrative very oriented toward migrants, more or less lost the visibility they had a few years ago.
There was a new trend since 2012 called "national democrats"—those who were calling for a nationalistic policy, but a pro-Western one, one that would be pro-democratic, pro-liberal, also more or less disappeared from the scene.
Those who won from the current situation are those who were calling for something more classical—kind of a "great power" narrative, a return to Russia's imperial mission—those who consider that the fight against the West and NATO is the main goal of Russia.
So this group, among Russian nationalists, won the ideological battle, and those who were more oriented toward anti-migrant xenophobia lost. But that's probably only for some time, for some months, some years, and then the balance could change again.
DAVID SPEEDIE: How did this schism come about? It seems that one does not necessarily cancel the other out, if you know what I mean.
MARLENE LARUELLE: No. Of course you can be on both sides. But it's really relatively two dissociated groups. It's not the same kind of strategies, not the same kind of think tank lobbying groups.
We can really identify it a little with those who lost and those who won. If we look at sociological surveys done currently in Russia, the anti-migrant narrative is considered as less important for the general Russian public opinion than it was a few months ago. It doesn't mean that they don't care anymore. It just means that the impact of the Ukrainian crisis, and the way the presidential administration has managed media in discussing the Ukrainian crisis, has been so important that the other issues just disappeared from the scene. But they are still there. It's just that they are not visible.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Just dormant at this point.
What you're doing here, in effect, is presenting—again to use the word—a more nuanced and an interesting view of what's happening within Russia, with the Ukraine crisis and so on.
Let me ask you this—not an immediate subject of what we're here to discuss today. But as someone who goes to Russia frequently—and, obviously, you follow the coverage of the situation in Russia, and especially in the context of the Ukraine crisis—how do you feel about the way Russia is portrayed in the mainstream media in the United States?
MARLENE LARUELLE: I must say, I consider the way the Western media, and especially American media, have been portraying Russia is really very limited and superficial, and very Cold War-oriented in its understanding what was going on in Russia. There have been a lot of investments in Russia in terms of media propaganda, but I think the U.S. side was really very unilateral and very oriented ideologically also in the way they presented the conflict, with difficulties in trying to understand the Russian perspective and also in dissociating what Putin said and what Russia is as a country and as a population.
DAVID SPEEDIE: The great realist statesman, Henry Kissinger, said recently that demonizing Putin is not a policy. Do you think too much is focused on the person of Vladimir Putin? Obviously, he's the president of Russia, so we can't say he's just another figure, so to speak.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Globally demonizing Russia seems to me a very short-term view. It doesn't send the right message to Russia. It also sends a complex message to Europe. I think that's not a good long-term strategy for the U.S., not to be able to integrate also part of the perceptions that the other countries have when we have this kind of crisis.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Yes.
Back to the subject at hand, you head a center at George Washington University that, of course, focuses on Central Asia. It's unusual for an American university. Are there other major centers for Central Asian studies?
MARLENE LARUELLE: In Washington there is another one at SAIS. But, otherwise, there are few universities—yes, in Bloomington [Indiana University] and Madison [University of Wisconsin-Madison], for example, they are working on Central Asia. But there are not so many of them.
DAVID SPEEDIE: I was going to ask you how developments in Russia are impacting Central Asian states. Obviously the migrant issue is very much there, because migrants from Central Asia are in Russia since the end of the Cold War. How is that playing out in terms of the Central Asian states?
MARLENE LARUELLE: The current crisis is really impacting the Central Asian societies and the political regimes, because, first, they are all still part of the information space produced by Russia, with Russian-speaking media. Even if it's media in national languages, they are still very much based on the Russian media world. So they have been very much part of the debates and the Russian perception of the conflict.
As you said, because of the migration issue—there are about 5 million, if not more, Central Asians currently working in Russia—that's also something very important for Central Asia. For some countries, like Kazakhstan, which is a member of the Customs Union and which will soon be part of this Eurasian Economic Union, and for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, who potentially will enter it, their relationship with Russia is something very central for both their domestic and their foreign policy.
Therefore, they followed very closely what was going on in Ukraine.
The population globally has been more on the Russian side than on the Ukrainian side, also because they are part of this media world, so their interpretation of the conflict is the one mostly given by the Russian side. Among the elites, you can find both tendencies, the pro-Russian and the pro-Ukrainian, depending on which part of the elites you are talking to. Of course, those who are more Western-oriented will be more the pro-Ukrainian; those who are more on the Russian side will share the Russian perspective.
For the regimes, that's really interesting, because they had kind of contradictory points of view. They were all made very afraid by the Maidan itself, because, of course, they're going to project that on themselves. And they are all relatively authoritarian regimes, so of course they are afraid of following the same fate as Mr. Yanukovych and being overthrown by a democratic revolution coming from the street. At the same time, they realize certainly that Russia was able to reassert itself more visibly in the region, with potentially—only potentially—a territorial threat to their own sovereignty, especially for Kazakhstan.
So they had to balance between the two fears. I think, for the majority of them, the main fear is just having a Maidan at home.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Yes. And, of course, in the two largest Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, there has been uninterrupted leadership by Nazarbayev and Karimov since the end of the Cold War.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Exactly. It's more than 20 years. The presidential succession is, of course, one of the big unsaid stories. Everybody is thinking about it; nobody is saying it.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Keep it in the family?
MARLENE LARUELLE: Probably not, but at least organizing a kind of consensual presidential succession will be one of their main goals now, especially because they realize that the more they can avoid intra-ally tensions, the more they will be able to avoid Russian pressure. That's the lesson coming from Ukraine. If you want to avoid Crimea, then you need to avoid having a Maidan at home.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Yes, exactly.
On to Europe generally. Obviously, you assembled the group of scholars who were brought together. They are diverse. They are from several countries. Tell us a little bit about the choice of scholars and what their focus has been. The first set of papers on the far right are about to be published. Is that right?
MARLENE LARUELLE: Exactly. In fact, I have been commissioning, all together, more than 10 papers on two different topics, one set being mostly devoted to the current situation of the Russian far right, around Dugin's group, and the second set of papers being mostly about how European far-right parties look at Russia. We will have articles on France, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Hungary, as being the main countries having developed relationships with the Russian far right.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Very good.
Again in Europe, in general terms, we can't just talk about "the far right," in a sense. There are "far rights," plural. How do we distinguish among the various factions—I guess, basically, from Euroscepticism in certain national movements to outright neo-fascism? It's a complicated topic.
MARLENE LARUELLE: That's very important, to make the distinction and not to mix them all together.
First, Euroscepticism can be both on the right and on the left, with, of course, this difference: Euroscepticism on the right is usually associated with an anti-migrant narrative, and on the left, this is not the case.
Depending upon country, you really have different strategies that have been developed by these countries. Some decided to normalize their narrative because they have a real strategy of gaining power in democratic institutions, and therefore they are trying to develop a more normalized narrative, so focusing mostly on Euroscepticism, the need to come back to nation-states, and the fear of massive immigration in Europe. That's the more consensual element that these parties can bring on the table.
Then you have other parties who decided to be less consensual, to be more radical, not to try to penetrate the system, but to try to refuse it, to deny them, to put themselves as anti-system parties. Of course, for them, the electoral fight is less important than for the first category, because of course the more you have a radicalized narrative with open references to fascist theories or neo-Nazi groups, the less you will be successful in terms of electoral constituencies. But depending on their strategies, that can be also the good choice.
It's interesting to see that. In fact, in Western and Central Europe, you really can see these two tendencies. They are conflicting with each other. It's very difficult for them to find common ground.
Of course, also it means that inside the biggest parties, the ones who are trying to normalize themselves, like the Front National in France, you also have the more radical tendencies inside. It's just a way of strategizing the more consensual ones. But the more radical groups are also present inside the system. So you could imagine that the more they will gain power, the more the more radical groups could also try to challenge them from the inside, and potentially these movements could split.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And, of course, the far-right groups manifest themselves in different ways. There seems to be a sort of generic "anti" rather than "pro"—anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, anti-Roma, whatever. It's a series of, I guess, feeding on resentments of native populations.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Yes.
DAVID SPEEDIE: I spent some time in the UK a few weeks ago, at the time when the UKIP was having its national conference—the UK Independence Party, which is the Eurosceptic movement there.
One of the dangerous tendencies, I suppose, is to make overly dramatic equivalencies with Germany in the early 1930s, and we don't want to do that. Nevertheless, there is a sort of patina of respectability in the UK Independence Party. Anti-Brussels bureaucracy is the manifestation. But here's a group that has won its first seat in Westminster. They were the leading party in the local elections in Britain. Clearly there is at least a bit of a malevolent Trojan horse-type thing here of using the anti-immigrant and anti-Brussels sentiment among the British public. And who knows where that might go? I suppose that's the concern, even for some of the more respectable, quote/unquote, movements in Europe. Do you agree?
MARLENE LARUELLE: Absolutely. I think they realize very well that combining an anti-migrant narrative and Euroscepticism was a very successful formula for gaining respect and participating in the public debates. That's very visible in France or in many Nordic countries. They got probably a very powerful combination.
As you said, that doesn't mean that we are going toward a Germany scenario, but that's something that should be of concern, of course, for democratic institutions.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And I see that even in Germany, for example, where one has not seen much of late, until fairly recently, this new Alternative fuer Deutschland, Alternative for Germany, has made some gains in recent local elections. That must be a cause for concern, I would think.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Yes, and especially the Euroscepticism narrative, which is shared largely—and not only by this movement, but which is really something that any democratic institution should take into consideration, because that's a growing part of the population, with the same right to participate in the public debate as the other part. So I think it should really be something of concern, because there is a growing Euroscepticism which is really going beyond purely the far-right groups.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Ironically—and from a sort of personal point of view, of course—there was the Scottish independence vote last month. Some of the establishment politicians in Westminster compared the Scottish National Party to the UKIP, in terms of being a fringe or a splinter movement. In fact, part of the "yes"-vote platform was the fear that in two years there may be a referendum in the UK that would take the UK out of Europe, which is not at all improbable. Scotland being the most pro-Europe part of the UK, this was actually part of the platform, holding onto a European identity.
So it's a very complex and multilayered—
MARLENE LARUELLE: Yes. And the UK is a specific case in that sense. You cannot really compare it, for example, with Catalonia, because then you don't have the risk of Spain trying to leave the European Union. For the Catalonia-Spain relationship, this issue will not be formulated exactly in the same way as the UK-Scottish one.
In which of the European states at the moment do you see the gravest cause for concern in terms of both the traction of the far right, the profile of the far-right movements? What two or three countries would you say ring most alarm bells?
MARLENE LARUELLE: I think, for example, Greece and Hungary are, of course, for Central Europe, two countries of concern, because they have relatively radical groups that are powerful. That's one model.
France, of course, I think should be a country of concern, because Marine Le Pen's strategy has been very well developed and very successful, and the current general political crisis in France is, of course, a big help for her.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Marine Le Pen, just for our audience, is the daughter Jean-Marie Le Pen. She is the head of the Front National.
MARLENE LARUELLE: She's the new leader of the Front National. She has been the one really making this normalization process and trying to transform the Front National into a party that would be more legitimate and more respectable. She really tries to dissociate herself from her father, and, in fact, she has been relatively successful.
So France is a country of concern, Belgium also, both for a far-right party and also because of the internal crisis.
Sweden, Finland are also countries where we can see a growing movement coming from the far right, also challenging the traditional Scandinavian model of development.
DAVID SPEEDIE: That's interesting because, as you say, the traditional Scandinavian model has been one of tolerance, both in terms of domestic and foreign policy. At one point, Norway at least, and possibly Denmark, too, had something like 5 percent of GDP allocated to peacekeeping around the world. So we have looked to Scandinavian countries as models. But Sweden has some of the highest rates of violence against Muslim immigrants, I believe.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Yes. In Europe they had something that was considered a very successful model of integration for migrants. They have a huge number of people arriving with political asylum or refugee status. Since a few years, there has been growing tension in some suburbs—a really kind of classic issue of social and spatial, geographical segregation difficulties, competition on the job market, and a kind of revival of the feeling of a national identity that would be threatened by a too-large number of migrants.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Another simple question: What do you see, then, as the prospects for the EU? Clearly there is great frustration with Brussels, with layers of bureaucracy. The British complained about Brussels' regulations in how they make their sausages. The sausage question was huge in Britain.
MARLENE LARUELLE: We have the same for cheese in France.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Sausage in Britain, cheese in France. I think France, with cheese, has got more of a case, but that's okay.
Again not to be too dramatic about it, but is the EU under an existential threat from the far right? Does it have the staying power to resist centrifugal forces? Or is that too complex a question to answer?
MARLENE LARUELLE: I think there is a real danger for the European Union. It's maybe not coming directly from the far right. I think that will be giving too much credit to the ability of the far right. But the general Euroscepticism, both from the right and from the left, is probably a real issue. I think that's the real threat for the European Union, for the deficit of democratic legitimacy, the difficulties in making the European Parliament stronger, making the European Commission—maybe more listening to what is probably the majority opinion of European populations.
I think also in terms of foreign policy, the Ukrainian crisis really showed the difficulties in having a European strategy throughout the region that would not be entirely exactly the same as the U.S., so that would make Europe a visible actor with a specific voice on the region.
We have also failed in helping Ukraine, and I think we will continue to have difficulties in helping Ukraine. We are failing in negotiating something with Russia. We have seen, especially in terms of energy relations with Russia, how Europe can be divided by country.
So I think there is now a tendency of saying, okay, the relationship between the nation-states and the European Union construction is more complex, and many citizens are asking for back to more nation-state and less Europe. That's something that should be really of concern, unfortunately.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Great answer. Thank you.
By the way, in discussing Ukraine, I should have asked you—and maybe we can briefly go back now—Svoboda and the other far-right forces in Ukraine. There was a lot of discussion—obviously, the Russian narrative is that Ukraine is under threat from a neo-fascist group in Kiev. The Western press, of course, has underplayed Svoboda completely. Where's the truth in this?
MARLENE LARUELLE: Probably in the middle. As you said, it's clearly now the Russian narrative. But I think also in the West there was a kind of refusal to see how nationalist forces played a key role in the Euromaidan. Probably, given the current situation, they could potentially become an important political force in a democratic Ukraine.
I think the idea that the majority of the Ukrainian population is looking West and trying to Europeanize the country would be contrary to having a strong nationalist movement—it's a very short-term view. In Europe we have the same far-right nationalist movements, so why not have them in Ukraine, being at the same time pro-European? For them, it's not seen as a contradiction.
So I think nationalism will be—it's a big force now in Europe, it will be one also in Ukraine, and that's one in Russia, whatever the geopolitical orientation of each country is.
DAVID SPEEDIE: But, obviously, even when—I can't remember if after Poroshenko became head of state, but certainly in the interim government the Svoboda and the other far-right forces had several portfolios—
MARLENE LARUELLE: Several ministries, yes.
DAVID SPEEDIE: In the interim government.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Yes, like a kind of reward for their actions during Euromaidan. But during Euromaidan, they were the ones who were the most in favor of using forces and using violence. That really also contributed to partly the criticism of the idea of Euromaidan as being something purely peaceful.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Yes.
Let's finish with Europe for a second. Then I want to get back to a question on Russia.
In terms of the situation in Europe—the rise of the far right, some forces clearly—Golden Dawn being one extreme, other countries perhaps less prominently mentioned in the American press, Scandinavian countries and Finland and so on—a rhetorical question, because I'll give you what I think is the answer, briefly: Why should the United States care? What does this mean to us?
It seems to me there are at least three things. First of all, Europe, in spite of pivots to Asia—and, of course, pivots to something mean pivots away from something else—but even if we pivot away from Europe, to some extent, clearly the densest cluster of allies for us is in Europe, Western Europe and what was called in the last administration "New Europe," Europe as a whole. That's number one.
Second of all, we have seen unpleasant outcomes in Europe from this kind of phenomenon in the past. That ought to be a cause for concern.
Third, the question of linkages. I believe there is some empirical evidence of linkages between European and Russian far-right movements and over here. David Duke, for example, a Louisiana outrider, was espied in Dugin's circle at one point. Is that not true? So there is some connective tissue.
MARLENE LARUELLE: There have been growing connections between American white-power movements and some of their counterparts in Ukraine and in Russia. Of course, the growing phenomenon that we are discussing—that is, this connection between European far right and Russian far right—should be of concern, because all these global trends are going against parliamentary democracy and the way we consider our institutions should be.
But on your question about why the United States should care, as you said, the trans-Atlantic relationship is still a key one, whatever the relationship with Asia will be in the decades to come. The economic relationships are very important between the United States and Europe. Of course, nobody in the United States should be interested in seeing a European economic collapse.
But more importantly, I think that Europe is so much a symbol of kind of a welfare state, democratic system, respect for citizens, and probably a more consensual model abroad than the United States is, that the failure of this model from inside, that would impact globally, the world, and all the movements in the world—in Russia, in the Middle East, in Turkey, all these movements—who are looking toward Europe as the model to follow. Well, if the model collapses, then where is the future?
I think many Russian liberals have been very clear on that issue and formulating it as, "We were looking to Europe as the model, and then we have the feeling that you are collapsing. So where do you want us to look?"
I think the message that would be sent also to Muslim countries would be terrible.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Finally, back to where we began, Russia, because it does fit into what you just said. The view of both the Ukraine crisis and, especially, the view on sanctions is clearly different from Washington and European capitals.
Obviously, U.S.-Russian relations are probably at their lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War. They have been through crises before—NATO expansion, with missile defense issues, with the bombing of Serbia in 1999—but this is clearly the lowest ebb.
What do you see as the possibility for a restoration of some sort of positive dialogue? Speak a little bit about the schism between the view from Washington and from European capitals, to the extent that you have been able to observe that.
MARLENE LARUELLE: In terms of sanctions, my impression is that, of course, seen from Europe, sanctioning Russia is also sanctioning ourselves economically.
DAVID SPEEDIE: That's becoming aware over here, too, now, of course. U.S. businesses are—
MARLENE LARUELLE: Yes, big U.S. firms involving Russia are also now in difficulties in several sectors, including energy. But I think for Europe it would certainly also become something of a concern for the population in terms of possible energy shortages or increase of the price of energy during winter. That would be very difficult for democratic institutions to explain to their own populations—that because of the relationship with Russia and Ukraine and the economic sanctions, you will have to pay more for your gas this winter. That's something that no one in Europe would like to have to explain to their own constituencies. I think that makes a big difference in terms of interpreting the legitimacy of the sanctions.
Then, more globally, in the relationship with Russia, my impression is that it's really necessary to recognize the Russian point of view as being as legitimate as any other one. It's easy to be friends with your friends. The point also is to be friends with those who don't share your perception of the world. I think it's really a deep crisis because it's not only related to Ukraine—it's, of course, a Ukrainian crisis—but there has been a global kind of misinterpretation on both sides on how the international system should work.
I think it's very important also for the United States to recognize the Russian perception and to try to deal with it. We can refuse to share it, but they are a legitimate actor on the international scene, and we have to have a way of engaging with them.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Our guest has been Dr. Marlene Laruelle, director of the Central Asia Program at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.
Marlene, you've penetrated some incredibly complex and difficult subjects with great clarity and wisdom. We thank you very much for being our guest.
MARLENE LARUELLE: Thank you for inviting me.