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Sergei Karaganov

Dean of the Department of World Economics and World Politics of the National Research University-Higher School of Economics

For long, I have been watching the world move inexorably towards a wave of military conflicts threatening to deteriorate into a thermonuclear World War III that can likely destroy human civilization. This prognosis was one of the main reasons why I published a series of articles about why it is necessary to restore the credibility of nuclear deterrence, which kept the world safe for more than fifty years.

Many structural factors indicate a high probability of qualitative escalation in military conflicts. This would bring the world to the brink of total catastrophe. Furthermore, it would bring innumerable misfortunes to humanity in general and to Russia in particular. My intention is not to scare those who are already nervous and not yet ready to accept the new reality, especially given the hysteria my previous series of relatively “vegetarian” articles caused. However, you cannot hide an eel in a sack, and the most sagacious colleagues of mine have begun to write more and more determinedly about the likelihood of sliding into a big war, offering recipes for preventing it and preparing for it if it happens. First among them, of course, is the article “Warfare in a New Epoch: The Return of Big Armies” by Vasily Kashin and Andrey Sushentsov, based on a 2023 Valdai Club report of the same name. Another leading Russian international relations expert, Fyodor Lukyanov, has been advocating the same idea but in a bedside manner so characteristic of him.

For long, I have been watching the world move inexorably towards a wave of military conflicts threatening to deteriorate into a thermonuclear World War III that can likely destroy human civilization. This prognosis was one of the main reasons why I published a series of articles about why it is necessary to restore the credibility of nuclear deterrence, which kept the world safe for more than fifty years.

Many structural factors indicate a high probability of qualitative escalation in military conflicts. This would bring the world to the brink of total catastrophe. Furthermore, it would bring innumerable misfortunes to humanity in general and to Russia in particular. My intention is not to scare those who are already nervous and not yet ready to accept the new reality, especially given the hysteria my previous series of relatively “vegetarian” articles caused. However, you cannot hide an eel in a sack, and the most sagacious colleagues of mine have begun to write more and more determinedly about the likelihood of sliding into a big war, offering recipes for preventing it and preparing for it if it happens. First among them, of course, is the article “Warfare in a New Epoch: The Return of Big Armies” by Vasily Kashin and Andrey Sushentsov, based on a 2023 Valdai Club report of the same name. Another leading Russian international relations expert, Fyodor Lukyanov, has been advocating the same idea but in a bedside manner so characteristic of him.

Edging closer to catastrophe...

On the other side, the American “deep state” has also started warning about the high probability of a World War III and speculating about how the United States can avoid defeat if forced to fight on two or three fronts at the same time—Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East.

I have decided to join the discussion. Of course, I would prefer a negative answer to the question posed in the title of this article. But to achieve this, we need to understand the causes of escalations in conflicts and advance a much more active policy of safeguarding peace. I am confident that we need to considerably adjust all policies—domestic, military, and foreign—and offer a new paradigm of development to ourselves and the world.

I will try to present my vision of the challenges ahead. I shall also describe active and proactive ways to respond to them. By listing the challenges, I do not expect to discover something new, but collectively, they draw a more than alarming reality that necessitates decisive action.

The first and main challenge is the depletion of the modern form of capitalism, based primarily on profit-making, for which it encourages rampant consumption of goods and services, many of which are increasingly unnecessary for normal human life. The torrent of meaningless information in the last two to three decades falls into the same category. Gadgets devour a colossal amount of energy and time that people could otherwise use for productive activities. Humanity has come into conflict with nature and begun to undermine it—the very basis of its own existence. Even in Russia, the growth of well-being still implies primarily increased consumption.

The second challenge is the most obvious one. Global problems like pollution, climate change, dwindling reserves of fresh water, solely suitable for farming, and many other natural resources, remain unsolved. Instead, the so-called “green solutions” are proposed, most often aimed at consolidating the dominance of the privileged—both in their societies and globally. Take, for example, the constant attempts to shift the burden of fighting environmental pollution and CO2 emissions to manufacturers, most of whom are outside the old West, rather than to consumers in the West, where excessive consumption is taking on grotesque forms. An estimated 20 to 30 percent of the world’s population, concentrated mainly in North America, Europe, and Japan, consumes 70 to 80 percent of the resources drawn each year from the biosphere, and this gap keeps growing.

The consumerist disease is spreading into the rest of the world as well. We ourselves still suffer from ostentatious consumption, so fashionable in the 1990s and now receding, although extremely slowly. Hence the intensifying struggle for resources and mounting internal tension, including due to unequal consumption and growing inequality in many countries and regions. The awareness that the current development model leads nowhere but also the unwillingness and inability to abandon it are the main reason for the increasing hostility towards Russia (and the Rest, which it de-facto represents). This also applies to China, albeit to a slightly lesser extent, since the cost of severing relations with it would be much higher.

As early as in the mid-2010s, sanctions were already openly explained by the need to contain the sprawling body of the European Union. Now they are one of the main bonds that hold the West together.

Politicians in Europe increasingly talk about the need (if not the desirability) to prepare for a world war, obviously forgetting that if it begins, NATO’s European member states will have no more than several days or even hours to live. But God forbids, of course.

A parallel process is the increasing social inequality. This trend has been growing exponentially since the collapse of the USSR that buried the need for a social welfare state. In developed Western countries, the middle class has been shrinking for about 15 to 20 years and becoming significantly less visible.

Democracy is one of the tools with which oligarchic elites that hold power and wealth, govern complex societies. This is why authoritarian, and even totalitarian tendencies are on the rise in the West and other places, despite all the noise about the protection of democracy.

The third challenge is the degradation of man and society. This is primarily the case in the relatively developed and rich West. The West is falling victim to urban civilization living in relative comfort, but also detached from the traditional habitat in which humans were historically and genetically formed. The continuous spread of digital technologies, which were supposed to promote mass education, is increasingly responsible for the general dumbing-down. This increases the possibility of manipulating the masses not only for oligarchs, but also for the masses themselves, leading to a new level of ochlocracy. In addition, oligarchies that do not want to share their privileges and wealth deliberately endarken people and encourage the disintegration of societies, trying to make them incapable of resisting the order that is increasingly unfair and dangerous for most. They are not only promoting but imposing anti-human or post-human ideologies, values,​ and patterns of behavior that reject the natural foundations of human morality and almost all basic human values.

The information wave combines with relatively prosperous living conditions—the absence of the main challenges that always drove the development of humankind: hunger and the fear of violent death. Fears are being virtualized.

European elites have almost completely lost the ability to think strategically, and there are practically no elites left in the traditional meritocratic sense. We are witnessing an intellectual decline of the ruling elite in the United States, a country with enormous military, including nuclear capabilities. Examples multiply. I have already cited one of the latest that really shocked me. Both U.S. President Joseph Biden and his Secretary of State Blinken argued that nuclear war was no worse than global warming. But this disease threatens all humanity and requires decisive counteraction. Our thinking is becoming less adequate to deal with increasingly complex challenges. In order to distract people and themselves from unresolved problems, politicians are whipping up interest in artificial intelligence. For all its possible useful applications, it will not be able to fill the vacuum of conventional intelligence, but it undoubtedly carries additional huge dangers.

The fourth most important source of increasing global tensions over the last 15 years is the unprecedentedly rapid redistribution of power from the old West to the rising World Majority. Tectonic plates have started moving under the previous international system, causing a long worldwide geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geo-ideological earthquake. There are several reasons for that. Each is examined in turn.

Firstly, the USSR from the 1950s and 1960s and then Russia, which had recovered from a fifteen-year-long decline, struck at the core of the European and Western 500-year long domination—their military superiority. Let me repeat what has been said many times: it was the foundation upon which Western domination in world politics, culture, and economy rested, allowing them to impose their interests and political order, culture and, most importantly, to siphon off the world GNP. The loss of the 500-year-long hegemony is the root cause of the West’s rabid hatred towards Russia and the resulting attempts to crush it.

Secondly, the errors of the West itself. The West, which had come to believe in its final victory, has relaxed, forgotten history, and fallen into euphoria and lethargy of thought. It made a series of spectacular geopolitical mistakes. At first it haughtily rejected (perhaps fortunately) the aspiration of the majority of the Russian elite at the end of the 1980s and the 1990s to integrate into the West. They wanted to be equal, but got snubbed. As a result, Russia turned from a potential partner and even ally with huge natural, military, economic, and intellectual potential, into an opponent. Moreover, Russia became the strategic kernel of the non-West, which is most often referred to as the Global South, or more appropriately, the World Majority.

Thirdly, having come to believe that there was no alternative to the liberal-democratic globalist capitalism, the West not only missed but also supported the rise of China, hoping that the great state-civilization would follow the path of democracy—that is, would be governed less effectively and would strategically go along with the West. I remember my amazement when the fantastically lucrative offer made by the Russian elite in the 1990s was rejected. I thought the West had decided to finish off Russia. But it turned out that it had simply been guided by a mixture of arrogance and greed. After that, the policy towards China no longer looked so startling. The intellectual level of Western elites became obvious.

The United States subsequently became involved in a series of unnecessary conflicts—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria—which it predictably lost, ruining the aura of​ its military dominance, and wasting trillions of dollars invested in general-purpose forces. By thoughtlessly withdrawing from the 1972 ABM Treaty, perhaps in the hope of restoring superiority in strategic weapons, Washington revived a sense of self-preservation in Russia, finally destroying all hopes for amicable agreement. Despite its miserable state, Moscow launched a program to modernize its strategic forces, which by the end of the 2010s had allowed it for the first time to not only catch up, but also surpass competitors, although temporarily.

The fifth source of tension in the world system is the avalanche-like change in the global balance of power. The rapid decline of the West’s ability to siphon off GDP caused its furious reaction. The West, but primarily Washington, is destroying its formerly privileged economic and financial positions by weaponizing economic ties and using force in a bid to slow down its own decline and harm competitors. A barrage of sanctions and restrictions on the transfer of technology and high-tech goods breaks production chains. The unabashed printing of the dollar, and now the euro, accelerates inflation and increases public debt. Trying to retain its status, the United States is undermining the globalist system which it created, but which has given almost equal opportunities to rising and more organized hardworking competitors in the World Majority. Economic deglobalization and regionalization are underway. Old global economic management institutions are faltering. Interdependence, which used to be seen as a tool for developing and strengthening cooperation and peace, is increasingly becoming a factor of vulnerability and undermining its own stabilizing role.

The sixth challenge. Having launched a desperate counterattack, primarily against Russia, but also against China, the West started an almost unprecedented wartime-like propaganda campaign, demonizing competitors, and systematically cutting off human, cultural, and economic ties. The West is dropping an iron curtain that appears even heavier than the previous one and building up the image of a universal enemy. On the Russian and Chinese sides, the war of ideas is not so total and vicious, but the counterwave is growing. All this creates a political and psychological situation where the West is dehumanizing the Russians, and to some, but lesser extent, the Chinese. In turn, we are looking at the West with increasingly fastidious contempt. Dehumanization paves the way for war. It seems to be part of preparations for war in the West.

The seventh challenge can be seen through the tectonic shifts. The rise of new countries and continents, and the revival of old conflicts suppressed by the Cold War-era confrontation will inevitably lead to a series of conflicts. “Inter-imperialist” contradictions are likely not only between the old and the new, but also between the new actors. The first flashes of such conflicts can already be seen in the South China Sea, between India and China. If conflicts multiply, which is quite likely, they will cause a chain reaction that increases the risk of world war. So far, the main danger comes from the abovementioned fierce counterattack launched by the West. However, conflicts can and will be breaking out almost everywhere, including on Russia’s periphery.

In the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has predictably exploded, threatening to engulf the entire region. A series of wars is raging in Africa. Minor conflicts never stop in devastated Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The West, which still enjoys information and propaganda dominance, simply prefers not to notice them. Latin America and Asia are historically not as belligerent as Europe, where most wars started, including the two world wars. Still, both Asia and Latin America are experiencing tumults of their own. Many borders there were drawn arbitrarily and imposed by the former colonial powers. The most vivid example are India and Pakistan, but there are dozens more.

Given the trajectory of Europe’s development—so far inexorably experiencing an economic downfall, growing inequality, mounting migration problems, increasing dysfunction of relatively democratic political systems, and moral degradation—one can expect a stratification and then even collapse of the EU. This will be accompanied by the rise of nationalism, and ultimately a fascistization of political systems. So far, elements of liberal neo-fascism have been gaining momentum, but right-wing nationalist fascism is already emerging. The subcontinent will fall back to its usual state of instability and even the source of conflict. The inevitable withdrawal of the United States, which is losing interest in the stability in the subcontinent, will only exacerbate this trend. Based on the existing trajectory, there are no more than ten years left before such a scenario fully unfolds.

The eighth challenge. The situation is compounded by the collapse of global governance. This pertains not only to the economy, but also to politics and security; the renewed fierce rivalry between the great powers; the dilapidated UN structure that makes the organization less and less functional; and the European security system ruined by NATO expansion. Attempts by the United States and its allies to assemble anti-Chinese blocs in the Indo-Pacific and the struggle to control the sea routes do not add up to a solution. The North Atlantic Alliance, which in the past used to be a security system that played a largely stabilizing and balancing role, has turned into a bloc that has committed several acts of aggression and is now waging a war in Ukraine.

New organizations, institutions, and routes designed to ensure international security, such as the SCO, BRICS, the continental Belt and Road, and the Northern Sea Route, have so far been only partly able to compensate for the growing deficit of security support mechanisms. This deficit is exacerbated by the collapse, primarily at Washington’s initiative, of the former arms control system, which played a limited but useful role in preventing an arms race. However, it still provided greater transparency and predictability, thereby somehow reducing suspicion and distrust.

The ninth challenge. The retreat of the West, especially the United States, from its dominant position in the global culture, economy, and politics, carries unpleasant risks—however encouraging this may be in terms of new opportunities for other countries and civilizations. Retreating, the United States is losing interest in maintaining stability in many regions and, conversely, beginning to provoke instability and conflicts. The most obvious example is the Middle East after the Americans secured their relative energy independence. It is hard to imagine that the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Gaza is just the result of the blatant incompetence of the Israeli and especially U.S. security services. But even if that is the case, it also indicates a loss of interest in peaceful and stable development. However, what really matters is that while slowly retreating into neo-isolationism, the Americans will for many years live in the mental paradigm of imperial dominance and, if allowed, incite conflicts in Eurasia.

The American political class will remain, for at least another generation, within the intellectual framework of Mackinder theories, spurred by 15-year-long but transitory geopolitical dominance. More specifically, the United States will try to hinder the rise of new powers, primarily China, but also Russia, India, Iran, very soon Türkiye, and the Gulf countries. Hence its policy of provoking and inciting an armed conflict in Ukraine, attempts to drag China into a war over Taiwan, and exacerbate Sino-Indian disagreements. Constant efforts to stir up conflict in the South China Sea and rile things up in the East China Sea systematically torpedo intra-Korean rapprochement, and foment (so far unsuccessfully) conflict in the Transcaucasia and between the Gulf Arab states and Iran. We can expect the same in the common neighborhood of Russia and China.

The most obvious vulnerable point is Kazakhstan. There has already been one such attempt. It was stopped by Russian peacekeepers as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s mission, brought in at the request of Kazakhstan’s leadership in January 2022. But this will continue until the current generation of American political elites retires, or a less globalist and more nationally oriented people assume power in the United States. This will take at least another 15 to 20 years. But of course, this process needs to be encouraged in the name of international peace and even in the interest of the American people—despite the long time it will take them to come to this realization. This will happen if and when the degradation of the American elite is stopped, and the United States suffers another defeat, this time in Europe over Ukraine.

Struggling desperately to preserve the world order of the last 500 and especially 30 to 40 years, the United States and its allies, including new ones that seemed to have joined the winner, have provoked and are now fomenting a war in Ukraine. At first, they hoped to crush Russia. Now that this attempt has failed, they will work to prolong the conflict. This is being done in the hope of being able to wear out and bring down Russia—the military-political core of the World Majority—or at least tie its hands. That way, the West could prevent Russia from developing, and reduce the attractiveness of the alternative it presents to the Western political and ideological paradigm.

In a year or two, the special military operation in Ukraine will have to be wound up with a decisive victory, so that the existing American and related comprador elites in Europe come to terms with the loss of their dominance and agree to a much more modest position in the future international system.

The tenth challenge. For many decades, relative peace on the planet has been maintained due to the fear of nuclear weapons. In recent years, however, the habit of living in peace, the aforementioned intellectual degradation, and clip thinking in societies and elites have spurred the rise of “strategic parasitism.” People no longer fear war, even a nuclear one.

The eleventh and most obvious challenge can be thought of as a set of challenges. A new qualitative and quantitative arms race is underway. Strategic stability, an indicator of the likelihood of nuclear war, is being undermined on all sides. New types of weapons of mass destruction appear or have already appeared, which are not covered by the system of limitations and prohibitions. These include many types of bioweapons targeting both people and individual ethnic groups, as well as animals and plants. A possible purpose of these weapons is to provoke hunger and spread human, animal, and plant diseases. The United States has created a network of biological laboratories around the world, and other countries have probably done the same. Some bioweapons are relatively accessible.

In addition to spreading and dramatically increasing the number and range of missiles and other weapons, the drone revolution is in progress. UAVs are relatively and/or downright cheap, but they can carry weapons of mass destruction. Most importantly, their mass proliferation, which has already begun, can make normal life unbearably dangerous. As the border between war and peace is becoming blurred, these weapons come as the perfect tool for terrorist attacks and sheer banditry. Almost any person in a relatively unprotected space becomes a potential victim of malefactors. Missiles, drones, and other weapons can cause colossal damage to civilian infrastructure with all the ensuing consequences for people and countries. We can already see this happening during the conflict in Ukraine.

High-precision long-range non-nuclear weapons undermine strategic stability “from below.” Meanwhile, work is underway (started in the United States again) to miniaturize nuclear weapons, which erodes strategic stability “from above.” There are more and more signs that the arms race is being taken to outer space.

Hypersonic weapons, in which we and our Chinese friends are still leading, sooner or later will spread. The flying time to the targets will be reduced to a minimum. The risk of a decapitation strike on decisionmaking centers will grow dramatically. Strategic stability will be dealt another devastating blow. Veterans remember how the USSR and NATO panicked about SS-20 and Pershing missiles. But the current situation is much worse. In case of crisis, increasingly long-range precision and invincible missiles will threaten the most important maritime communications such as the Suez and Panama Canals, as well as the Bab al-Mandeb, Hormuz, Singapore, and Malacca straits.

The unfolding uncontrolled arms race in almost all spheres can bring the world to the point where missile and air defense systems will have to be stationed everywhere. Naturally, long-range and high-precision missiles, like some other weapons, can also strengthen security and, for example, finally neutralize the potential of the U.S. aircraft carrier fleet and reduce Washington’s possibility to pursue aggressive policies and support its allies. But then they too will rush to obtain nuclear weapons, which is more than likely in the case of the Republic of Korea and Japan anyway.

We can already see autonomous weapons on the battlefield. This issue requires a separate in-depth analysis. At this point, artificial intelligence in the military-strategic sphere carries more dangers. But maybe it also creates new opportunities to prevent them. However, relying on AI as well as on traditional ways and methods of responding to mounting challenges would be reckless.

The list of factors that create a near-war or even war-like military-strategic situation in the world is endless. The world is on the verge or already past a series of disasters, if not a global catastrophe. The situation is extremely alarming, even more so than it ever was in the days of Alexander Blok, who forebode the twentieth century that proved so terrible for Russia and the world. However, there are recipes, and some solutions are already in the making. Everything is in our hands, but we must realize how deep, severe, and unprecedented the current challenges are, and live up to them not only by responding, but also by staying one step ahead. Russia needs a new foreign policy and new priorities for its internal development, society, and every responsible citizen.

Foreign Policy

The extremely dangerous world of the next two decades requires Russia to adjust its foreign and defense policy. In a 2022 essay for Russia in Global Affairs, I already argued that this policy should be based on the “Fortress Russia” concept: maximum possible sovereignty, independence, autonomy, and security, with a focus on intensive internal development. Russia must be intelligently open to beneficial economic, scientific, cultural, and informational cooperation with friendly countries of the World Majority. However, openness is not an end in itself, but rather a means to ensure internal material and spiritual development. As we have already seen, liberal-globalist openness is also deadly. It would be stupid to try to integrate into “international value chains” now that the creators of the former system of globalization are destroying it and militarizing economic ties. Interdependence, previously overestimated as a source of peace, is now largely dangerous. We must try to create “value chains” on our own territory in order to increase its connectedness. This especially applies to the connections of Russia’s core to Siberia and—more carefully—to friendly states, most prominently Belarus, most of Central Asia, China, Mongolia, and the rest of the SCO and BRICS.

The “Fortress Russia” policy demands minimizing Russia’s entanglement in the conflicts that will flare up during the ongoing “geostrategic earthquake.” Under these new conditions, direct involvement would not be an asset, but a liability, as the former colonial powers are beginning to experience. The United States faces an upsurge of anti-Americanism and attacks on its bases. These and other overseas holdings will become increasingly vulnerable. Russia should facilitate this, raising the cost for the American empire and helping the American foreign policy class recover from its globalist hegemonic disease of the postwar period. Russia was wise enough not to entangle itself in the latest rounds of Armenian-Azerbaijani and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. But we should not by any means repeat the Ukrainian failure, permitting anti-Russian elites to take power in neighboring countries or allowing their destabilization from abroad. Kazakhstan is of the utmost concern in this regard. We need to work proactively, together with friendly countries.

Russia must be “Siberianized,” shifting its center of spiritual, political, and economic development to the Urals and all of Siberia. The Northern Sea Route, the Northern Silk Road, and major North-South land routes must be rapidly developed. The labor-rich but water-poor Central Asian countries should be incorporated into this strategy.

Conscious integration into the new world also necessitates a discovery of our Asian roots. The great Russian ruler, Prince Saint Alexander Nevsky, not only received a yarlyk authorizing his rule from Batu Khan at Sarai, but also traveled across modern Central Asia and Southern Siberia from 1248 to 1249, to have the yarlyk endorsed at the Mongol capital of Karakorum. There, a few years later, Kublai Khan began his rise to power, which culminated in his becoming the emperor and the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty over China, Mongolia, Korea, and a number of adjacent countries. Kublai, whom we know of through Marco Polo, almost certainly met Alexander. Kublai’s mother was a Christian, and his forces included Russian recruits from the Smolensk and Ryazan provinces. Likewise, Alexander’s army included Mongols, whose authority he sought to overthrow, but whom he used to protect his lands from enemies in the west—enemies who threatened, as we would now say, the identity of Russia. The history of Russia-China relations is much deeper than is commonly believed.

Russia would not have become a great empire—and most likely would not have survived on the European plain, attacked from the south, east, and west—had it not been for the conquest and development of Siberia with its infinite resources. It was largely on that basis that Peter the Great built an empire: fees from caravans, carrying silk and tea from China to Europe along Russia’s Northern Silk Road, were used to equip the new Russian army.

It would have been better to end our Western, European odyssey a century earlier. Little of use remains to be borrowed from the West, though plenty of rubbish seeps in from it. But, as we belatedly complete the journey, we will retain the great European culture that is now rejected by post-European fashion. Without it, we would not have created the greatest literature in the world. And without Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Gogol, and Blok, Russia would not have become a great country and nation.

In this new international reality, developing defensive consciousness and readiness to defend the Fatherland, including with arms, should be unconditional priorities of Russian society. The “snowflakes” in our society should melt, and its warriors should multiply. This will mean the development of our competitive advantage, which will be needed in the future: the ability and willingness to fight, inherited from the hard-won struggle for survival on a giant plain, open on all sides.

Today’s foreign policy should be geared towards the comprehensive development of relations with the countries of the World Majority. Another obvious, although yet unarticulated, goal is to work together with the World Majority to ensure the West peacefully steps down from its five-centuries-held position of dominance. Similarly, we should ensure a maximally peaceful departure of the U.S. from hegemony that it has enjoyed since the late 1980s. The West should be relocated to a more modest, but worthy, place in the world system. There is no need to expel it. Given the trajectory of Western development, it will leave by itself. But it is necessary to firmly deter any rearguard actions of the still powerful West. While normal relations may be partly restored in a couple of decades, they are not an end by themselves.

In a new diverse, multi-confessional, and multicultural world, we must develop one more competitive advantage: internationalism, along with cultural and religious openness. In education, we should place special emphasis on studying the languages, culture, and lives of the rising powers and civilizations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Foreign policy thinking should not only be encouraged but imposed in order to pivot to the other world, away from outdated and wretched Westernism.

I have written much about the need for radical reform of the foreign policy apparatus. It is underway but hindered by bureaucratic inertia and secret hopes for an impossible return to the bygone status quo ante. I would also risk calling for administrative measures: diplomats posted in the West should be paid less than those stationed in the World Majority countries. It is important to work with the World Majority to create new institutions that would help to build a new world and to prevent or at least slow our slide into a series of crises.

The United Nations will go extinct, saddled with Western bureaucrats and therefore unreformable. There is no need to tear it down, but it will be necessary to build parallel bodies based on BRICS+, an expanded SCO, and their integration with the Organization of African Unity, the Arab League, ASEAN, and Mercosur. In the interim, it may be possible to create a permanent conference of these institutions within the UN.

China is the main external resource for Russia’s internal development, an ally and partner for the foreseeable future. Russia should help develop China’s naval and strategic nuclear capabilities in order to help oust the United States as an aggressive hegemon. This could facilitate its withdrawal into relatively constructive neo-isolationism, similar to that of the 1920s and 1930s, but adjusted to the new reality.

China and Russia are complementary powers. Their coalition, which must be preserved, may eventually become a determining factor in constructing a new world system. It is gratifying that China’s modern foreign policy philosophy is very close to Russia’s.

At the same time, Russia’s strategy should focus on avoiding one-sided economic dependence, and facilitating China’s “friendly balancing” by cooperating with Türkiye, Iran, India, Pakistan, the ASEAN countries, the Arab world, the two Koreas, and prospectively even Japan. Preventing an inter-Korean conflict, provoked by the United States, is the main task. The primary element of “friendly balancing” should be the new development of Siberia. This balancing will be useful to Beijing too, as it will help alleviate China’s neighbors’ fear of its growing power. Finally, friendly relations with India, along with all but allied relations with China and the development of the SCO, should serve as the basis for building a security, development, and cooperation system of a Greater Eurasian Partnership.

Such a strategy would provide a safety net if historical, expansionist, i.e. Mongolian genes suddenly wake up in a future China that has been living in peace for several centuries. These genes, however, unite us. Both countries are essentially heirs to the great empire of Genghis Khan. Identifying these common roots is a fascinating task for historians in both countries. If Russia stays strong, China remains a peace-loving giant, and their leaders and peoples deepen their friendship, this pair of countries will become the bulwark of international peace and stability.

India is another natural ally in creating a new world system and arresting our slide towards a World War III. It is a source of critical technologies, labor for the new development of Siberia, and an almost limitless market. The most important task is to engage India in building the Greater Eurasian Partnership, from which it is still somewhat far away; prevent it from becoming an unfriendly balancer of China, which the United States is pushing it to be; as well as ease the natural competition between India and China. The Primakov Triangle of Russia, China, and India is a guarantor of Greater Eurasia’s relatively peaceful development. Separate efforts will be needed to smooth out Indo-Pakistani tensions, which remain on the periphery of Russian diplomacy’s attention, but which are one of the most dangerous possible sources of a thermonuclear conflict. In the meantime, we need hundreds of Indologists, dozens of experts on Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian and Africa countries, and, of course, thousands more Sinologists.

More attention must be paid to ASEAN as part of the Greater Eurasia strategy. ASEAN is more than just markets and pleasant vacation destinations. It is a region where serious conflicts may erupt within a decade, especially since the retreating United States is still interested in their incitement.

The state of Russia’s ties with the Arab world is deeply satisfying. We maintain functionally friendly relations with many of its leading states—Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. Russia’s external balancing helps to bring order to the turbulent region, which the United States is actively destabilizing. China, which has contributed to the rapprochement of Saudi Arabia and Iran, has also joined the policy of external balancing and is doing its job brilliantly.

On the North American track, Russia should facilitate America’s ongoing long-term withdrawal into neo-isolationism. Clearly, there is no returning to the pre-World War II policy paradigm, which would probably be undesirable. The U.S. dependence on the outside world provides tools for pressuring it. If its current liberal-globalist elites leave power, the U.S. may even turn back to being a relatively constructive global balancer that it used to be before the second half of the twentieth century. A comprehensive strategy for containing the United States is unnecessary, as it would only waste the resources we need for internal consolidation. There are no intractable contradictions between Russia and the United States. The contradictions that currently exist were caused by the American expansion, facilitated by our weakness and stupidity in the 1990s, which contributed to the dramatic upsurge of hegemonic sentiment in the U.S. The American internal crisis, and the commitment of its existing elites to post-human values, will further erode Washington’s “soft power,” i.e. ideological influence. In the meantime, a harsh deterrence policy should create conditions for America’s evolution into a normal great power.

Europe that was once a beacon of modernization for Russia and many other nations, is rapidly moving towards geopolitical vacuum and, unfortunately, moral and political decay. Its relatively wealthy market is worth exploiting, but our main effort in relation to the old subcontinent should lie in morally and politically fencing ourselves off from it. Having first lost its soul, which Christianity epitomized, Europe is now losing the fruits of the Enlightenment, the most significant of which is rationalism. Besides, on orders from outside, the Eurobureaucracy has isolated Russia from Europe.

A break with Europe is an ordeal for many Russians. But we must go through it as quickly as possible. Naturally, fencing-off should not be total or become a principle. Any talk of recreating a European security system is a dangerous chimera. Systems of cooperation and security should be built within the framework of the continent of the future—Greater Eurasia—by inviting European countries that are interested and are of interest to us.

An important element of the new foreign policy strategy should be an offensive ideological strategy. Attempts to “please” and negotiate with the West are not only immoral, but also counterproductive according to Realpolitik. It is time to openly raise the banner in defense of normal human values from the post-and even anti-human ones coming from the West.

One of the main principles of Russian policy should be an active struggle for peace—proposed long ago, and then rejected, by the Russian foreign policy community which was tired of Soviet slogans. And not just a struggle against nuclear war. The slogan of half a century ago that “nuclear war should never be unleashed, as it can have no winners,” is beautiful, but also starry-eyed. As the conflict in Ukraine has shown, it opens the door to major conventional wars. And such wars can and will become ever more frequent, and deadly, and yet also within reach unless they are opposed by an active policy of peace.

Our only reasonable goal regarding Ukraine’s lands is quite obvious to me—the liberation, and reunification with Russia, of the entire South, East, and (probably) the Dnieper Basin. Ukraine’s western regions will be the subject of future bargaining. The best solution for them would be creating a demilitarized buffer-state with a formalized neutral status—and Russian military bases that would guarantee it. Such a state would be a place to live for those residents of present-day Ukraine who do not want be citizens of Russia and live by Russian laws. And to avoid provocations and uncontrolled migration, Russia should build a fence along its border with the buffer-state, much like the one Trump began building on the border with Mexico.

Defense Policy

When it preemptively (although belatedly) launched a military operation against the West, Russia, acting on old assumptions, did not expect the enemy to unleash a full war. So, we did not use active nuclear deterrence/intimidation tactics from the very start. And we are still dragging our feet. By so doing, we not only doom hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine and tens of thousands of our men to death, but we also do a disservice to the whole world. The aggressor, which the West de facto is, remains unpunished. This clears the way for further aggression.

We have forgotten the basics of deterrence. Reduced significance of nuclear deterrence benefits an actor with greater conventional military potential and human and economic resources, and vice versa. When the USSR had conventional superiority, the U.S. did not hesitate to rely heavily on the first-strike concept. The United States bluffed, though, and if it did make such plans, they were directed solely against Soviet troops advancing into NATO’s territory. No strikes on Soviet territory were planned, since there was no doubt that a retaliation would target American cities.

Greater reliance on nuclear deterrence, and accelerated movement up the escalation ladder are designed to convince the West that it has three options regarding the conflict in Ukraine. First, to retreat with dignity, for example, on the conditions proposed above. Second, to be defeated, flee as it did from Afghanistan, and face a wave of armed and sometimes thuggish refugees. Or third, the exact same with the addition of nuclear strikes on its territory and the accompanying societal disintegration.

This is what Tsar Alexander I, and Field Marshals Kutuzov and de Tolly did from 1812 to 1814, after which followed the Congress of Vienna. Then Stalin, Zhukov, Konev, and Rokossovsky defeated Hitler’s pan-European army, leading to the Potsdam Agreements. But for such an agreement to be concluded now, we would have to clear the way for the Russian troops with nuclear weapons. And we would still suffer huge losses, including moral ones. After all, it would be an offensive war. A viable nuclear deterrent and a security buffer in Western Ukraine should guarantee the end of the aggression. The special military operation must be continued until victory. Our enemies must know that if they do not retreat, the legendary Russian patience will run dry, and the death of each Russian soldier will be paid for with thousands of lives on the other side.

It will be impossible to prevent the world from sliding into a series of conflicts and subsequently a global thermonuclear war unless our nuclear deterrence policy is drastically energized and updated. I have covered many aspects of this policy in my previous articles and other documents. In fact, Russian doctrine already provides for the use of nuclear weapons to counter a wide range of threats, but real policy in its current form goes further than the doctrine. We should clarify and strengthen the wording and take the corresponding military-technical measures. The main thing is that we demonstrate our readiness and ability to use nuclear weapons in the event of extreme necessity.

I have no doubt that the doctrine is already being updated, to which many concrete steps testify. The most obvious one is the deployment of long-range missile systems in fraternal Belarus. These missiles are clearly intended for use not only when the “very existence of the state” is threatened, but much earlier. And yet, the doctrine’s provisions specifying the conditions for the use of nuclear weapons have certain gaps that need to be filled, especially in obvious short-of-war situations.

By intensifying nuclear deterrence, we will not only sober up the aggressors, but also perform an invaluable service to all humanity. At the moment, there is no other protection from a series of wars and major thermonuclear conflict. At the Institute of World Military Economics and Strategy, recently created at the Higher School of Economics and headed by Admiral Sergei Avakyants and Professor Dmitri Trenin, we will provide academic support. Only some of my views are presented in this essay, which require the fastest working-out and implementation.

Russia’s policy should be based on the assumption that NATO is a hostile bloc that has repeatedly proven its aggressiveness and is de facto waging war against Russia. Therefore, any nuclear strikes on NATO, including the preemptive ones, are morally and politically justified. This applies primarily to countries that provide the most active support to the Kiev junta. The old and especially new members of the alliance must understand that their security has cardinally weakened since joining the bloc, and that their ruling elites have put them on the edge of life and death. I have repeatedly written that if Russia delivers a preemptive retribution strike on any NATO country, the U.S. will not respond. That is unless the White House and the Pentagon are populated by madmen who hate their country and are ready to destroy American cities for the sake of Poznan, Frankfurt, Bucharest, or Helsinki.

From my point of view, Russian nuclear policy and the threat of retaliation should also deter the West from the massive use of biological or cyber weapons against Russia or its allies. The arms race in this field, conducted by the United States and some of its allies, must be stopped.

It is time to end the argument, pushed by the West, about the possibility of using “tactical nuclear weapons.” Their use was theoretically envisioned during the previous Cold War. Judging from leaks, American strategists are working on the further miniaturization of nuclear weapons. This policy is foolish and short-sighted, as it further erodes strategic stability, increasing the likelihood of global nuclear war. As far as I understand, this approach is also extremely ineffective militarily.

I believe it appropriate to gradually raise the minimal yield of nuclear warheads to 30 to 40 kilotons, or 1.5 to 2 Hiroshima bombs, so that potential aggressors and their populations understand what awaits them. Lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and increasing their minimal yield, is also necessary to restore another lost function of nuclear deterrence: the prevention of large-scale conventional wars. Strategic planners in Washington and their European minions must realize that the downing of Russian planes over our territory, or the further bombardment of Russian cities, will entail punishment (after a non-nuclear warning strike) in the form of a nuclear strike. Then, perhaps, they will take it up upon themselves to do away with the Kiev junta.

It also appears necessary to alter (to some extent, publicly) the list of targets for nuclear retaliatory strikes. We need to think hard about who, exactly, we intend to deter. After the Americans—“in defense of democracy” and for the sake of their imperial ambitions—killed millions in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Iraq, committed monstrous acts of aggression against Yugoslavia and Libya, and against all warnings deliberately cast hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Ukrainians into the fire of war, there is no guarantee that the threat of retaliation, even against cities, is a sufficient deterrent for the globalist oligarchy. Simply put, they do not care even about their own citizens, and will not be frightened by casualties among them.

God struck Sodom and Gomorrah—mired in abomination and debauchery—with a rain of fire. The modern equivalent: a limited nuclear strike on Europe. Another hint from The Old Testament: to cleanse the world, God unleashed the Great Flood. Our Poseidon nuclear torpedoes can trigger similar floods by tsunamis. Today, most brazenly aggressive states are coastal. The globalist oligarchy and the “deep state” should not hope to escape as Noah and his pious family did.

Improving the credibility and effectiveness of nuclear deterrence is necessary not only to end the war that the West unleashed in Ukraine, or to peacefully put the West in a much more modest, but hopefully worthy, place in the future world system. Above all else, nuclear deterrence is needed in order to stop the approaching wave of conflicts, to ward off an “age of wars,” as well as to prevent their escalation to a thermonuclear level.

This is why we should go up the ladder of nuclear deterrence, regardless of the war in Ukraine. To develop upon the steps already planned and taken, I believe that it would be advisable, after consultation with friendly states and without shifting the responsibility onto them, to resume nuclear testing as soon as possible. First underground, and if this is not enough, then with the detonation of Tsar-Bomba-2 on Novaya Zemlya, while taking steps to minimize the damage to the environment of our own country and friendly World Majority states.

I would not even protest too much if the United States conducted a similar test. This would only enhance the universal effect of nuclear deterrence. But Washington is not yet interested in enhancing the role of the nuclear factor in international affairs, relying instead on its still significant economic power and conventional forces.

Sooner or later, Russia will have to change its official nuclear non-proliferation policy. The old one had some utility, as it reduced the risks of unauthorized use and nuclear terrorism. But it was unfair to many non-Western states, and stopped working long ago. Adhering to it, we took our lead from the Americans, who wanted to minimize not only risks, but also counterbalances to their conventional superiority. Historically and philosophically, proliferation contributes to peace. It is frightening to even imagine what would have happened if the USSR and then China had not developed nuclear weapons. Having acquired nuclear weapons, Israel became more confident among its hostile neighbors. However, it has abused this confidence by rejecting a fair solution to the Palestinian question, and now unleashing a war in Gaza with clearly genocidal characteristics. If its neighbors had nuclear weapons, Israel would have acted more modestly. Having carried out nuclear tests, India has become more secure in relations with a more powerful China. The Indo-Pakistani conflict still smolders, but the clashes have diminished since both countries obtained nuclear status.

North Korea is becoming more confident and raising its international status. This is especially true since Russia finally stopped running after the West and de facto resumed cooperation with Pyongyang. Limited nuclear proliferation may also prove useful as a barrier to the creation and use of bioweapons. Raising the nuclear threat could deter the militarization of AI technologies. But most importantly, nuclear weapons, including their proliferation, are necessary to restore the aspects of nuclear deterrence that have ceased functioning—to prevent not only major conventional wars (as in Ukraine), but also a conventional arms race. A conventional war cannot be won if the potential enemy has nuclear weapons and, most importantly, is ready to use them.

Greater reliance on nuclear deterrence is necessary to cool the European “leaders” who have lost their mind, speak of an inevitable clash between Russia and NATO, and urge their armed forces to prepare for it. Naturally, proliferation also carries risks. But given the current disorder and emerging division of the world, these risks are much smaller than those that may result from the weakening of nuclear deterrence.

Needless to say, some countries should be permanently and firmly denied the right to possess nuclear weapons. Germany, which started two world wars and committed genocide, must become a legitimate target for destruction by a preemptive strike if it ever tries to obtain a nuclear bomb. However, having forgotten its gruesome history, it is already pushing boundaries by acting as a revanchist state and the main European sponsor of the war in Ukraine. All European countries that participated in Hitler’s invasion of the USSR should fear a similar fate. I think that such a fate would also be shared, in the event of emergency, by the country that Churchill aptly named the “hyena of Europe,” if it ever contemplated obtaining nuclear weapons. God forbid, of course, as I have said so many times before.

China, with Russia’s support and that of World Majority countries, will have every right and even moral obligation, to punish Japan—whose aggression claimed tens of millions of lives in China and other Asian countries, and which still dreams of revenge and claims Russian territory—if Tokyo moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.

A sustainable nuclear balance must be established in the Middle East between: Israel, if and when it overcomes its fall from grace due to the atrocities it committed in Gaza; Iran, if it withdraws its pledge to destroy Israel; and one of the Gulf countries or their commonwealth. The most acceptable candidate to represent the entire Arab world is the UAE. Suitable alternatives point to Saudi Arabia and/or Egypt. Naturally, the World Majority countries should move towards nuclear status at a measured pace, while training relevant personnel and elites. Russia can and should share its experience with them. Dialogue with the leading countries of the World Majority, on the substance and modernization of nuclear deterrence policy, must be intensively developed immediately. If the United States decides to return to a classical interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, becoming once again a hegemon in Latin America, Russia might consider helping Brazil or even Mexico to obtain the nuclear status.

Many of the proposals outlined above will spark a wave of criticism, as did last year’s articles on nuclear deterrence. But they turned out to be extremely useful both for the domestic and international strategic communities. Americans quickly stopped talking about how Russia would never use nuclear weapons in response to the West’s aggression in Ukraine. Then they started talking about the danger of nuclear escalation in Ukraine. And then how they would lose a war against Russia and China. Europe, which has completely lost its class of strategic thinkers, is still whining, but they are not that dangerous.

We will have to work and think together. I believe that we will do so, both publicly and behind closed doors, with experts from the leading countries of the World Majority, and in the future, with representatives of the sobered-up Western world. I will end my essay with lines of hope from Alexander Blok: “Before it is too late, put an old sword in the scabbard, Comrades! We will become brothers!” If we survive the next two decades and avoid another age of wars like the twentieth century, our children and grandchildren will live in a multicolored, multicultural, and much fairer world.

Source: CIRSD

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