Vladimir Putin: an ethical realist

22:00 17.11.2014 • Ilias Iliopoulos , Dr. phil in History of University of Munich, Professor of Grand Strategy at the Hellenic National Defence College (Greece)


Russia was never able to produce its own Metternichs and Disraelis, but rather the entire time of its European life it has lived not for itself, but for others, precisely fort interests common to all mankind. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Diary of a Writer, 1876, Jul.-Aug.)


In a most significant speech, His Excellency, the President of the Russian Federation Mr. Vladimir Putin raised a crucial question: What if all state actors (following the attitude of certain sides) choose “not to live by the rules – but rather live without any rules at all?”

Clearly, President Putin referred to the ongoing, systematic and grave violations of written and customary International Law due to unilateral actions undertaken by the United States of America, usually seconded by their European vassals. Mr. Putin warned about the increasing “symptoms of global anarchy”. He also stressed that the solidity of the international system created back in 1945 “rested not only on the balance of power and the rights of the victor countries, but on the fact that this system’s “founding fathers” had respect for each other.”

As is the case with all Vladimir Putin’s speeches (see Ilias Iliopoulos, “Vladimir Putin, and the National Idea”, in: www.nonpapernews.gr, 2 June 2014; also see Ilias Iliopoulos, “Vladimir Putin: The President”, in: Defence Analyses Institute of the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence, Confidential Paper, special edition, September 2004), the insightfulness of his thinking, the implications of his conclusions and the uniqueness of his analytical consistency make Mr. Putin’s recent speech at the renown Valdai discussion club another stunning contribution to the heritage of Strategic Theory and International Relations worthy of the great thinkers who proceeded him: from Thucydides to Hobbes, from Machiavelli to Pareto and Weber, from Carl von Clausewitz to Carl Schmitt, to mention only a few such men. Yet, Vladimir Putin is not “just” a thinker; he is also a practitioner, and a very experienced one. Undoubtedly, the President of the Russian Federation is a great statesman – in fact, a “Staatsmann” par excellence, much superior to his American and European counterparts. Sadly, the “West”, undergoing an era of unconceivable moral, spiritual and biological degradation, has proved astonishingly incapable of bringing about an “hômme d’ état” possessing even the least of Vladimir Putin’s charisma, quality, skills and verticality.

In fact, his latest Valdai club speech impressively reassured Mr. Putin’s accordance with core principles of Political Realism. When we talk of order in international affairs of all times, we may sensibly mean by that only a correlation of power, which thanks to its relative stability prevents serious conflicts at key points in the system, although such conflicts often break out in the periphery. From a realist-conservative point of view, whenever order – with these restrictions – has prevailed, it was based on two preconditions. First, there existed a balance of power (namely established through alliances) between the major Powers; secondly, a guiding principle existed which did not allow any room for misunderstandings. Of course, this guiding principle has nothing common with the current “strictly luxury products” (to put it in terms of Clinton Rossiter, an American conservative philosopher) of Western Moralistic Universalism, or Post-national Progressivism; it should be rather understood as a modus operandi, analogous to the “cuius region, eius religio”-axiom that put an end to the Religious Wars in medieval occidental Europe.         

Following Mr. Putin’s view of international relations, one realizes that the balance of power is for the leading Russian statesman a collective or social good, requiring constant attention from all sovereign state actors. Remarkably, for Mr. Putin, the balance of power is to serve not as a pretext for state aggrandizement but as an instrument for all Powers to express their unity against the Hybris of a potential Hegemon or the disintegration of the international state system. President Putin has persistently and emphatically counseled the guardians of this balance to practice restraint and moderation, with an eye to both their legitimate separate strategic interests and the health of the world system at large; “Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states’ affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals” said Mr. Putin (also see Ilias Iliopoulos, “Vladimir Putin at the Munich Security Conference”, in: Strategy, Athens, No. 150, March 2007), and he added: “Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to talk…”

When President Putin says “it is my conviction that we could not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades, sometimes with such efforts and difficulty, and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place”, he only echoes the best, most solid and pragmatic principles of the classical European Political Philosophy of International Relations as manifested by Edmund Burke, the great liberal-conservative, “Aristotelian” philosopher: “An ignorant man, who is not fool enough to meddle with his clock, is however sufficiently confident to think he can safely take to pieces, and put together at his pleasure, a moral machine of another guise, importance and complexity, composed of far other wheels, and springs, and balances, and counteracting and co-operating powers. Men little think how immorally they act in rashly meddling with what they do not understand. Their delusive good intention is no sort of excuse for their presumption. They who truly mean well must be fearful of acting ill” (“Edmund Burke: Appeal from the New Whigs”, in: Works, London, 1854-1857, Vol. III, pp. 111). 

Prudence and moderation are also apparent in President Putin’s approach to economic intercourse between states. Mr. Putin’s strong moral sentiment prevents him from becoming dogmatic on abstract principles and gives him flexibility to shape his economic thinking against historical, political and cultural circumstances. Needless to say that the recent sanctions illegally imposed by the USA and its European satellites against Russia represent an “Act of War”, as a prominent American defender of Classical Liberalism stressed (see Gary D. Barnett, U.S. Commits Act of War Against Russia, 17/3/2014).

Under such circumstances, attention is to be paid at President Putin’s emphasis on the need for Powers to have “respect” for each other. There have been certain limited and defined rights recognized by civilized states, and practiced in enlightened Europe. They were established by reason, by the convention of parties, by the authorities of great thinkers, who took the laws and maxims from the consent and sense of ages; and lastly, from the evidence of precedent. To put it in Mr. Putin’s words, “international relations must be based on international law, which itself should rest on moral principles such as justice, equality and truth.” Here, it becomes distinct that Mr. Putin’s noticeably realist perspective on the international order is substantively and profoundly ethical (a “normativer Realismus” in Hans J. Morgenthau’s words): He takes a prudential approach to fostering development through political and economic relations without eroding the stability provided by the historical wisdom and heritage of different nations and cultures in the world system. Having previously been an officer, and always remaining a man of honour, Mr. Putin obviously gives greater weight to the ethical norms, cultural mores, or “manners”, shared by so many great European statesmen in the past. Regrettably, what is euphemistically called the Western political “elite” clearly lack the mores, the personal stature, the historical knowledge and the political wisdom needed to meet the high standards put by the Russian President.

Hence, the Western media hysteria! President Putin is regularly described as a “new czar”, a “Kgbist”, a “neo-Soviet” but also a “fascist” and a “red-brown”, while he is clearly not the one who triggered the crisis in “Ukraine” (or Little Russia and New Russia, to put it in historically accurate terms), and has demonstrated in this case extraordinary patience and prudence. It is the West that has persistently and systematically designed so called “colored revolutions” to get rid of non servile governments in “Ukraine”, Serbia, Georgia, Egypt, Libya, and so on, using the massively subsidized transnational cohorts of “NGO’s” as a Trojan horse – Jonathan Steel called them once “post-modern coups d’ état” (The Guardian, 26/11/2004; also see Ilias Iliopoulos, “Geostrategic Analysis of the Ukrainian Crisis”, in: Defence Analyses Institute of the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence, Confidential Paper No. 27, December 2004). Russia, who has never experienced such a degree of democracy in its history – and whose constitution is, in fact, largely similar to that of the 5th French Republic established by Charles De Gaulle – has been systematically portrayed, if not as a “dictatorship”, at least as “insufficiently liberal”, that is to say, not yet totally conforming with the requirements of Liberal Fascism and Post-national Progressivism (read: “open society”, gay, lesbian and pedophile’s “rights, multiculturalism, political correctness, persecution of opinion, massive state and public propaganda against national narratives and Christian religion, and so on). But even Henry Kissinger observed that “to demonize Putin is not a policy but a way to hide a lack of policy.”         

Surprisingly, the huge “human rights” and “minority rights”-sensibility of the supra-national elite is immediately and fully, yet selectively activated only when it comes to assaults on Russia, the Head of the Russian State, the Russian Nation and the Russian Orthodox Church – for instance because the authorities punished, as they should do, some whores who had committed sacrilege on Moscow’s cathedral, or because the Russian legislation does not allow the promotion of the so called “gay marriage”, or, again, because Russia does not allow the emergence and action of a political party of pedophiles, as it is already the case in the profoundly decadent, post-humanist, post-Christian societies of Western Europe.

Particularly, the question of national sovereignty and, subsequently, the question of non intervention, raised by Mr. Putin is of paramount importance. Nations are “principal values and subjects of human history” according to Professor Aleksandr Dugin; “saving the nation is the utmost task for the state”, said once Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (interviewed by Moskovskiye Novosti editor-in-chief Vitaly Tretyakov, seeOrthodoxyToday.org). Reasonably, the head of the Russian Federation deals with the issues of national statehood and foreign intervention, since Russia – the Heartland of the Eurasian World Island in terms of Classic Geopolitics – became not long time ago, the first victim of the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, and shortly hereafter, the target of foreign terrorist’s invasion.

The current War on Nations has been constantly going on since 1991, at three fronts:

a)      the political front: see the direct assault on the principle of National, or State Sovereignty, which has been, historically, a tremendous achievement of the European, and human Civilization, the very symbol and, at the same time, the safe place of birth of Democracy, and still remains today the last safe belt of all nations when facing global, Liberal Imperialism;

b)      the economical front: see the so called “Globalization”, which is in fact a new version of internationalized Capitalism, and the prevail of a post-industrial “Casino-Capitalism” or “Raubtier-Kapitalismus” or “Turbo-Kapitalismus”, as former German Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schroeder put it;

c)      the cultural-ideological front: see the ongoing elimination (here, I would prefer the German word “Gleichschaltung”) of all natural, collective Traditions and Values, cultural Identities, national Narratives, Languages and Symbols, and the violent attempt of the supra-national ruling elite to impose, from above, the principles and codes of the so called Global Governance, instead.


The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times, President Putin said; “they include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of “supra-legal” legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes… Blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders…” President Putin reminded inter alia of the recent rape of Cyprus. In Greece, we had been witnessing to a massive media campaign and psychological warfare, accompanied by a chain of terrorist and “fire-terrorist” actions and a “colored revolution” unleashed in late August 2007 and December 2008 respectively, aiming at overthrowing Constantine Karamanlis’ government who had previously embarked on an impressive strategic and geo-economical partnership with Russia.

By the way: Have we ever heard from the supra-national elite, the Western media or the NGO’s a single word on the human or civilian rights of the Russian minorities abroad? Have we ever heard them mentioning the plain fact that, with 25,000,000 outside of the state borders of the Russian Federation, the Russian nation is, by far, the largest divided nation in today’s Europe?          

In that brilliant speech, President Putin made an even more crucial remark: “The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called “victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests.” The oxymoron of the first post-bipolar decades has been, actually, that the United States has not been acting as a Status-quo Power, or Conservative Power of the global system – as one might have reasonably expected – but as a Revisionist Power, or Radical Power, in terms of Martin Wight’s Political Philosophy of International Relations (see Ilias Iliopoulos, “Revisionism of the Hegemonic Power as a Factor of International Uncertainty”, in: Defence Analyses Institute of the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence, Confidential Paper No. 19, November 2004). We have only to draw an analogy with the remarkably pragmatic, prudent and moderate attitude of the Holy Russian Empire after defeating Napoleon in the Great Patriotic War 1812, and at the subsequent battle of Leipzig – when Czar Alexander’s army reached Paris, thus saving the entire Europe from Liberal Imperialism (Ilias Iliopoulos, Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, and the Great Patriotic War, Lecture at the Hellenic National Defence College, 9 October 2014). 

Ironically enough, the Western ruling elites insist on making “the same mistake over and over”, as President Putin rightly observed. Professor Chalmers Johnson called this phenomenon “blowback” (The Nation, 15 October 2001). “They once sponsored Islamic extremist movements to fight the Soviet Union”, said Mr. Putin and he added: “those groups got their battle experience in Afghanistan and later gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The West if not supported, at least closed its eyes, and, I would say, gave information, political and financial support to international terrorist’s invasion of Russia …” (also see Ilias Iliopoulos, “Transnational Islamic Terrorist Attacks on the Russian Federation, and Russian National Security Strategy”, Defence Analyses Institute of the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence, Confidential Papers No. 1 and 3, September 2004).

For now, the future remains uncertain. In the immediate future, the greatest risk is that of a deterioration of the situation in Ukraine that could degenerate into a rise to the extreme. Clearly, Russia has no interest in this. Nonetheless, with “Europe” having abandoned all awareness of its historical-anthropological heritage, geo-cultural identity, strategic ambition and will to independence, and with radical political theologies (Paul Gottfried) and secularized eschatologies (Murray Rothbard) prevailing over common sense on both Washington and Brussels, nobody knows what comes next. Amazingly enough, it was the distinguished American conservative theorist Russel Kirk who wrote as early as in the late 1940s: “The new American must accomplish something more difficult than chastening Russia: he must chasten himself” (The Conservative Mind, 1953, p. 127). Otherwise, “hopes for a peaceful, stable development will be a dangerous illusion, while today’s turmoil will simply serve as a prelude to the collapse of world order” (Vladimir Putin).

In these circumstances, it is honest, ethically correct and even necessary to determine what is fundamental and what is secondary. What I consider fundamental is the power struggle ongoing on the world scene, between the supporters of a multi-polar world, genuine Humanism and true Cultural and Ethno-pluralism, on the one side, and those who accept or, worse, wish the death of nations and cultures, and a unipolar world submitted to the extremist fallacies of Liberal Fascism, on the other side. In this struggle, Russia and its leadership emerge, by destiny rather than by choice, as a beacon of liberty for all nations.  

Prof. Dr. Ilias Iliopoulos is a Dr. phil in History of Eastern Europe of the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Germany; he is a Professor of Grand Strategy (with focus on Russia and Germany) at the Hellenic National Defence College, and a Professor of Geopolitics of Sea Power at the Hellenic Naval War College (Athens); from 2004 to 2007 he had been a Senior Policy Analyst and the Head of Section Geostrategic Analyses at the Defence Analyses Institute of the Greek Ministry of National Defence. The Defence Analyses Institute, the sole existing Greek think tank in the field that had been independent from foreign control, was closed  by the George Papandreou’s government, and then Defence Minister E. Venizelos, after the overthrow of Constantine Karamanlis’ government in 2009. 


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