MOSCOW—The Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin is banned from traveling to the United States because his calls for violence helped inspire the pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine in 2014. But if America’s leading ideologue today, Steve Bannon, were to visit Moscow, Dugin, a 55-year-old with a long beard and ultra-conservative views, would gladly sit down and talk with him. Dugin says he sees Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, as his “ideological ally.”
One day would not be enough for them to cover all the geopolitics they have in common, Dugin told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. First their conversation would be purely philosophical, Dugin imagined, “as Bannon and I read the same authors, we are united by the entire treasury of European conservative culture and history.”
Dugin, famous in Russia for his deep disrespect for the world’s liberals, looks at Bannon as his “last hope” in Washington’s conservative political circles.
For a long time, Dugin said he had counted on President Donald Trump as he “could see Bannon’s hand all over the presidential campaign.” But Dugin’s scenario for Russia’s future ties with the United States crumbled on the day “the mad neo-con Trump authorized firing Tomahawk missile at Syria.”
Dugin, who forgave Trump’s “tough on Russia” comments, and even Trump’s expectations of Russia to give Crimea back to Ukraine, said he “tolerated, supported Trump, while many here gave up.” But not any longer.
In the interview, Dugin insisted that unlike liberals, who “forgave Barack Obama’s failed promises,” conservative politicians were now turning away from Trump. “That is the main difference between liberals and conservatives. We have a deep sense of dignity: The moment the right-wing politicians Marine Le Pen [in France] and Matteo Salvini [in Italy], and all of the alt-right supporters [in the U.S.], saw that Trump was a puppet, they stopped supporting him.”
Dugin agreed with a recent Newsweek piece describing his deep ideological connections with Trump’s strategist Bannon. Newsweek quoted Bannon’s words (originally reported by BuzzFeed) at a Vatican conference in 2014. “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what [Putin] is talking about as far as traditionalism goes, particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism,” Bannon said. “When you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of [Putin’s] beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism.”
Russians associate “Eurasianism” with Dugin’s name. He was using the term long before Bannon.
So, even though the two never had a chance to meet, Dugin told The Daily Beast, “I connect with Bannon’s focus of the entire presidential campaign: the denial of globalism, rejection of America’s hegemony, the return of religious and national interests, his criticism of liberals and respect for traditional values,” Dugin said. “Bannon is a bright personality, his team published my books in the United States, including The Fourth Political Theory.”
It was never easy to catch up with Dugin’s views—he sometimes says things that, when pressed, he denies later. Readers of his English language website, geopolitica.ru, might think that the ideologue of the “Russian Spring” lives with the West on his mind. But Dugin celebrates the gap between Russian and Western development, insisting that “Western civilization is death” and mocks Europeans as “Euromonkeys”: “We should throw away the entire West’s racism, we are people of Asia, of Eurasia, we should stop heading towards European culture.”
As leader of the Eurasian movement, Dugin likes to call for “destruction” of everybody who did not support traditionalist values. He also mocked supporters of Western human rights.
His unforgettable face and Rasputin-like beard have been seen for decades at Russian ultra-nationalist rallies, where he pronounced big, radically anti-Western words into the microphones.
“Dugin is talking about creating some new cross-cultural nation [of Slavs and Turkish people] of anti-Atlantic, traditional ideology—his theory often sounds like a pretty fascist approach,” said Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Russian SOVA, a Moscow-based NGO monitoring ultra-nationalist groups. “He said and wrote a lot, calling for a war in Ukraine; many Russian nationalists who listened or read Dugin’s texts actually joined the insurgencies in Ukraine afterward.”
In April of 2014, I reported on pro-Russian protests and the so-called Novorossiya Movement in Odessa, a city in the south of Ukraine. One of the movement’s leaders, Yegor Kvasnyuk, explained to me that long before the Kremlin’s officials began to speak about “the Russian Spring” and “Novorossiya,” new Russia, he had heard the words from the Eurasian revolutionary Alexander Dugin: “As early as last September, during a meeting in Russia, Dugin told us that Novorossiya, a sovereign republic, should have devoted, honest Russians to lead it to revive our Russian roots.” Kvasnyuk called Dugin “the greatest predictor of Russia’s future.”
The same month in 2014, Vladimir Putin spoke about “Novorossiya” along Dugin lines: “Here is Novorossiya: Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev, Odessa were not a part of Ukraine during the Tsar’s times, all these territories were passed to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government.” Putin spoke about a referendum to decentralize power in these regions.
In his public speeches during the first weeks of the war in Donbas, Dugin promised that hundreds of thousands of people would come out in all “Novorossiya” cities in support of pro-Russian militants. But that did not happen, and Dugin started to fall out of Putin’s favor.
Now, according to Anton Shekhovtsov, a Vienna-based expert on right-wing movements, “Dugin is not connected with the Kremlin at all, otherwise he would have never been fired from Moscow State University.”
Shekhovtsov notes that even Russian businessman Anton Malofeyev, a major supporter of the Ukraine rebels “got rid of Dugin entirely.”
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin ideologue working on political tactics around the world, says he understands why Dugin failed to become a mainstream figure in Russia.
“Dugin never bends, never compromises, and that is why political elites cannot forgive him,” Markov tells The Daily Beast. “But somehow he always manages to slip in and leave a trace: On my recent trip to Ankara, officials referred to ‘Putin’s adviser Dugin’ visiting them recently.”
Dugin admitted that Trump was not his only disappointment lately—Vladimir Putin has also made unforgettable mistakes for Dugin, the true believer.
“When Putin walks away from the right politics, I do not support him, as we conservatives do not support opportunists,” Dugin told The Daily Beast. “The most serious contradictions began when the Kremlin disowned Novorossiya. We should not have stopped—I reject the decision of freezing the conflict,” Dugin said. “By giving up on Novorossiya, they failed the dignity challenge, but unfortunately, Putin’s supporters have a slave’s mentality, and live by the principle, ‘Whatever Master orders is the law.’”
Dugin added that he was not in the opposition, but that he would rather down-size to some remote part of Russia and out of the spotlight, than bend to Putin.
Earlier this month, Dugin wrote on his website about yet another war: “What happened on April 7th, 2017 could be the beginning of a Third World War,” he commented on the U.S. attacking Syria with cruise missiles. “As a rule, nobody wants war, but, alas, wars happen, and sometimes world ones. Therefore, I posit that first and foremost, as in the case of any disaster, it is necessary to remain calm and gather one’s thoughts.”
It looked like for now Dugin was not leaving the spotlight, he was working in his office on Moscow’s main Tverskaya Avenue, making predictions and political forecasts, so if Bannon stops by, they would have plenty of time to talk.