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19 October 2015


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A. Pols

A very nice post full of valuable insights. The notion of ingrained western Russophobic bias fits historys's arc, at least for the last 2 centuries. The central point behind this may very well boil down to the simple truth that Russia holds the most valuable tracts of land in the world and "we" (the west) covet it, along with having a certain notion that they hold it, but are not worthy of it...


Thank you for your excellent erudite work Mr. Habakkuk. Would you perhaps agree that to some extent Russia is becoming the beacon of hope, replacing the United States, for us secular humanists? I am also interested whether perhaps the spirit of Tolstoy and others of Berlins "Russian Thinkers" are motivating Russias renewal?

My own opinion is that they are.


I suspect that Karaganov is rather coy in his language (i.e. "it appears that..."). It was evident by the Kosovo campaign that the hypothetical had been answered beyond any doubt. Its answer began taking shape with Clinton's decision to expand NATO amidst much US triumphalism, Brzezinski's doctrine of breaking up Russia (the "Grand Chessboard"), and the corruption of the Harvard Boys and their Russian "reformer" buddies. It is no coincidence that Yeltsin stepped down when he did, and Karaganov being close to Primakov no doubt was in a position to influence the answer to the no-longer hypothetical question. Subsequently, much of the early 2000's was used to start putting the pieces back together while the US was preoccupied in its self-created quagmires. Saakashvili's harebrained decision to attack South Ossetia was actually quite useful to Russia, both as a rallying point and as a real-world evaluation of the effectiveness of its military reforms. I think that the lessons learned from the AARs of that campaign were evident in Crimea last year and in Syria now.


Thank you - again - Mr. Habakkuk for the fruits of your erudition.

Little to add on my part, except that I fall under those who think that the West's antagonism of our elites is to Russia itself and to its civilization. It was always a vain hope that a change of economic systems would lead to a lessening of our misleaders' antipathy toward Russia and its civilizational model. It is a deeply-rooted and assiduously nurtured hatred that enlists the selfish motivations of various power centers to sustain its longevity. Religious, political (those Trotskyite NeoCons still cling to their venom), economic, all forces in the West who consider themselves to be the highest, indeed the only spiritual, structural, and financial exemplars for all of humanity, draw together to abominate this outlier nation and civilization.

The Western Hegemon will brook no competition or counterexample. But Russia begs to differ, not out of an aspiration to itself be the Hegemon, but because they are who they are, and see no need to engage in the illogical and deeply offensive death struggle.

Thank you, and all of the other participants in this Committee of Correspondence. God bless you all, and may God save us from this dangerous folly.




This. Exactly this. US government hostility to Russia goes back about 130 years, to the time when the US government embarked on its drive to develop its sea power to support global ambitions, once the Reconstruction of the South and the development of the West was well underway. At heart is the perennial hostility of sea powers for the largest land power.

And now Russians fully understand that US hostility to Russia cannot be appeased, for it is not lie in anything the Russian government has done, but in what Russia is: the only Great Power that is sufficiently self-sufficient that a naval blockade is useless against it. That hostility therefore must be deterred. And the present Russian government appear to have that job well in hand.



Sorry bruh, but "Secular humanists" are running the USA and the rest of Western Europe. Look around at your works and despair.

The Russians have realigned to traditional Orthodox Christianity and are reaping the rewards.


Svenchin's book "strategy" is avaliable in english and very much recommended:


Students of Russian revolutionary history should also check out Victor Serge, who is finally back in print thanks to the Ney York Review of Books.

Victor Serge was an international revolutionary, an Anarchist among Bolsheviks, a great novelist, and (according to some) a Colonel in Soviet Military Intelligence. He chronicled as no other the blazing fire of the revolution and the nightmare of Stalinism that resulted:





"On the one hand, among his many catastrophic actions, his fear of new Bonaparte made him destroy what was, apart from the German, the best command group in Europe, and replace them with inept cronies like Voroshilov and Budyonny. But the military-industrial and mobilisation machine he created – at an astronomic cost in human lives and suffering – made possible the defeat of Germany."

No matter what, we have to bash Stalin, The Evillest Man Evah. Because COMMUNISM!!!


Russia has always been our enemies in time of peace and our allies in time of war.

Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church declare a "Holy War" in defence of Secularism.

The Secular West declares a "Holy War" in defence of muslim and Israeli jihadism.

The Shostakovich - and the circumstances under which it was performed - brought tears to my eyes.


"Russia has always been our enemies in time of peace and our allies in time of war."

In the early days of the American Republic, Russia was seen as a distant but friendly Power. There were no conflicts of interest. Several early US presidents had done service as US Ambassador in St. Petersburg. Tsar Alexander II, Emperor of all the Russias was Abraham Lincoln's only diplomatic friend in Europe.

This changed when the US government decided to take on a global presence and undertook building a steel navy to support that presence.

The Spanish Empire was our 25-meter target.

The Russian Empire in Asia was our 100-meter target.

David Habakkuk


Re Svechin's book. At the start of 1989, when I was producing a couple of programmes on the so-called 'new thinking' introduced into Soviet security policy by Gorbachev, we interviewed General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, who was the military intellectual most closely associated with the changes.

He talked a great deal about a Soviet strategist of the Twenties, Aleksandr Svechin, who he said had been 'repressed' under Stalin.

Years later, I came across the translation of Svechin's book on 'Strategy', which included as well as an introductory essay by Jacob W. Kipp, which I think is enormously important for anyone wanting to make sense of early Soviet history, another introductory essay by Larionov and Andrei Kokoshin.

From the volume's editor, Kent D. Lee, I learnt that Larionov 'comes to us already distinguished as perhaps the most outstanding Soviet military intellectual of the post-war period' – in particular, as one of the 'fundamental forces' behind the 1962 study 'Military Strategy' published under the name of Marshal Sokolovskii.

From Kipp I learnt the extraordinary story of how in a few short months in 1917-18, Svechin went from being chief of staff of the Northern Front of the Imperial Russian Army, to being chief of the All-Russian Main Staff of the army being created by the Bolsheviks. Rapidly – probably in part because of doubts about his loyalty – he was transferred to teaching duties in the newly-established 'Academy of the General Staff of the RKKA.'

Among much else that I discovered was that Svechin – drawing on the work of the German theorist Hans Delbrück – had focused heavily on a sometimes ignored element of complexity in Clausewitz. In tandem with the 'Napoleonic' strand in the great German theoretician, there is another which stresses the advantages that in appropriate circumstances the defence may possess. From Delbrück's writings, he took a distinction between wars of 'destruction' and wars of 'attrition'.

In the Twenties, Svechin would lose out to Tukhachevskii, who embraced the vision of a rapid and decisive victory, in the event of war, employing the supposed sympathy of the 'proletariats' of other countries as a 'force multiplier'. About both elements, Svechin was sceptical. Ironically, both men would die in the apocalypse of terror which Stalin's embrace of Tukachevskii's vision – which entailed a 'complete militarisation' of the national economy to produce the new instruments of mechanised warfare.

By contrast, as Kipp brings out, Svechin's strategy was the natural concomitant of the 'New Economic Policy' of the Twenties, with its emphasis on maintaining the 'smychka', the alliance with the peasantry.

The first edition of 'Military Strategy' – which Larionov compiled and co-wrote – was actually an application of Tukhachevskii's vision to the nuclear age: having close analogues to the restatement of 'Douhetist' visions by figures like Curtis LeMay in the West. The fact that a leading theorist of strategies of nuclear pre-emption ended up completely repudiating what he had done is really not simply to be explained by the traumatic effects of Reagan's military build-up.

(On Larionov's repudiation of what he had done, see his 1994 paper entitled 'Russian Military Strategy in Historical Perspective', available at http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/rusmilst.htm; also the very brief interview with him recorded for the 1999 PBS programme 'Race for the Superbomb', available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/interview/index.html .)

My own view is that Western policy has made major blunders through failure to realise the complex elements involved in the shift by the Soviets to a defensive strategy at the end of the Eighties. The desperate desire of people in the West to believe that Putin wants to reconstruct the Soviet Empire really does us no favours.

We ought to have better things to do than to refight the Cold War.

Medicine Man

Thank you for this post, Mr. Habakkuk. Your work on SST is always interesting.

David Habakkuk


'At heart is the perennial hostility of sea powers for the largest land power.'

There is some truth in this. But on the whole, in international relations as in most other aspects of life, it helps to prioritise. When there was a realistic prospect of a single power dominating Europe, Britain forgot about its natural 'sea power' antipathy towards Russia, and buried the hatchet, at least for a time (and vice versa.)

This happened with Napoleon. Between the time of Mackinder's 'Geographical Pivot of History' paper in 1904, and Eyre Crowe's famous memorandum of 2007 warning of the threat from Germany, British policy shifted decisively towards accommodation with Russia, because of the threat from German naval power.

As you have yourself noted, this might have happened following Hitler's invasion of the rump of Czechoslovakia, had Chamberlain heeded the advice of the service chiefs.

Ironically, there was a real possibility of a Mackinder-style consolidation in the late Thirties: the political project of Friedrich Werner, Count von der Schulenberg, the German ambassador to Moscow in the period leading up to 'Operation Barbarossa', was for a 'continental bloc', to be formed by incorporating in the Anti-Comintern Pact the power against whom it had been originally aimed: the Soviet Union.

But Hitler was too stupid – or suicidal – to see the force of Schulenberg's arguments. And Chamberlain, and MI6, were too stupid to see that even people in Berlin and Moscow who did not share Schulenberg's vision might see advantages in, at least temporarily, burying the hatchet.

If what Colonel Lang has christened 'the Borg' in Washington and London were not unutterably stupid – the contemporary heirs of Chamberlain, in fact – they would have realised many moons ago that if there is a Mackinder-style threat today, it lies in a coming together of Russia and China.

For a sea power to produce policies whose natural effect is to produce a Eurasian consolidation may – or may not – reflect some kind of predetermined instinctive hostility. But it also represents a rather spectacular case of shooting oneself in the foot.



"If what Colonel Lang has christened 'the Borg' in Washington and London were not unutterably stupid – the contemporary heirs of Chamberlain, in fact – they would have realised many moons ago that if there is a Mackinder-style threat today, it lies in a coming together of Russia and China."

Indeed, the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite & Punditocracy (AFPE&P) are the intellectual heirs of Neville Chamberlain, having in common blind Russophobia. The reason they do not fixate on China is that they have a firm hand on China's economic windpipe, the Straits of Malacca. Therefore, the AFPE&P fear China much less than they hate Russia.

I do agree that the simultaneous overthrow of Russia's relations with Ukraine and the 'Pivot to Asia' have resulted in an own-goal of cosmic proportions.


I find it to be a great relief to read these frank (and rare) discussions.

I was unfamiliar until recently with the "deeply-rooted and assiduously nurtured hatred" of Russia among foreign policy (and perhaps other) elites. I wondered if it was driven by influential people in the US who have Eastern European roots. But it is now clear that it is more widespread than that. Some of the suggestions about the reasons for it here in the comments are helpful. I find this hatred to be not only foolish but dangerous.


This is very "iirc", but I do think Svechin had an impact on Konstantin Rokosovsky, the arguably most complex, interesting and imho effective wartime Marshall of the Soviet Union. I am however not certain if Rokossovsky ever personally studied under Svechin.

The link between Svechin and Clausewitz was also a bit of a topic in the doctoral thesis of Stephen Michael Walsh on Rokossovsky here:


I think you may have fun reading it, I certainly did.


With respect, David, we need to be little careful about the shorthand we use in these discussions about Russia. Phrases like “the Bol’shevik revolution” or “the patent bankruptcy of Communism” don’t do enough justice to the situation on the ground as it was perceived at the time and in evolution. The “revolution” was actually made in the villages and towns of the Empire by a population sick of war and the immense disruptions of wartime on supplies of all essentials. This against the background of a crisis of the ancient regime, which in my view, entailed the final collapse of those mythologies that had sustained the allegiance of the population (some 80% resident of Imperial subjects were registered in the rural districts in the 1897 census), a process well under way at least by 1905. This situation was succinctly described in Lenin’s famous phrase “the elites are incapable and the people don’t want to” (“verkhi ne mogut, nizy ne khotiat”). In such a context of chaos, as Trotskii once noted, “power lay in the streets”. Lenin was perhaps one of the most incisive analysts of the Russian scene of his time, but in my estimation, he was entirely unprepared to govern in the extreme circumstances of the moment. As a system of rule, “Bol’shevism”, or “Communism” in the Russian context, was therefore a work in progress, a constant improvisation driven by the vicissitudes of war, civil war, Anglo-American and French expeditionary intervention, and widespread peasant resistance to requisitioning that amounted, in certain central provinces (notably in Tambov), to armed insurrection. Notwithstanding the renaming of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (b) as the Russian Communist Party (and its ideological component “Marxism-Leninism”), what that Party faced in the country at large at the end of the civil war – especially with the failure of the European proletariat to “answer the call of History” – was the same fatal conundrum faced by every Imperial government since the time of Peter I, but most critically since the accession of Alexander II: how to draw the necessarily enormous material and manpower resources from a multi-ethnic, largely peasant population of small holders (still using the old three-field system of crop rotation) spread over eight time zones for the vital modernization of the State’s instruments of power, first and foremost, for the defense of the realm. It is hardly surprising that the reconstruction of the Russian state after 1918-1920 would draw far less from any reading of the works of Marx and Engels, then from the far older authoritarian/autocratic political traditions and practices manifested at least from the era of Ivan III Vasilievich (1440-1505), if not earlier (the influence of 200 years of Tatar rule as a model for Russian autocracy has long been a disputed issue in Russian historiography). It is quite right to view the Russian or Soviet “system” as it entered the last quarter of the 20th century as having largely exhausted its possibilities. President Putin himself has observed that the achievements of the Soviet era were enormous, but the costs Russia paid for these achievements were prohibitively high. It is also arguable that the very success of that “system” in creating – albeit at forced march – a mostly literate, often urban, diversely occupied population with an unprecedented (for Russia) standard of living and personal ambitions – was the very acid that worked to deface the rather thin veneer of “revolutionary” legitimacy that the “system” struggled to maintain in the post-war period.
I sometimes wonder how that process of gradual delegitimization will work itself out in my own country.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not think the Communists had totally exhausted their capabilities. They could have split themselves into two parties, for example.

There could have been a Conservative (Communist) Party and a Liberal (Communist) Party - forever fighting over the amount of Free Enterprise that is to be permitted within USSR.

Sort of like Liberal and Conservative parties; forever fighting over the amount of socialism permitted in the country.

David Habakkuk


Thanks for that comment, which gives me a great deal to think about.

I should stress that I have no claims to be a Russianist, and my amateurish interest in areas of Soviet and pre-Soviet Russian history is the result of following the guidance of various scholars who have pointed out that to make sense of the present one has to try to make sense of the past.

One clarification. When I wrote about the 'patent bankruptcy of communism', I was not talking about the early history of the Soviet regime, but about precisely the period when, as you note, 'the rather thin veneer of “revolutionary” legitimacy that the “system” struggled to maintain in the post-war period was eroding.'

On the earlier period, much of what you write is very much in keeping with Moshe Lewin's summary of his lifetime's work in the 2005 study to which I referred, and don't think I would disagree with most of what you say.

With regard to the 'final collapse of those mythologies that had sustained the allegiance of the population' in the pre-1914 period. Ironically, a premise which the kind of 'end of history' nonsense which became ingrained in the West after 1989 shares with Marxism-Leninism is the assumption of some kind of natural benevolent 'teleology' of history.

In fact, the processes of 'modernisation' – both the coming of industrial and urban society, and of Western 'individualist' values, and the associated challenge to traditional 'mythologies', have been profoundly ambiguous. Indulging in hopelessly crude over-simplification, one might say that the 'wicked fairy' of reaction left two curses on the dreams of emancipation of the modern West.

According to one, 'liberty' would inevitably become 'licence', leading to some kind of war of all against all. A possible outcome then might be a reversion to a most primitive form of 'legitimacy' – in which people will, however much they may hate a tyrannical ruler, accept him on the basis that the only alternative is anarchy.

According to another, the replacement of traditional religious modes of legitimation would simply lead to the projection of religious expectations onto politics.

In the late Tsarist period, intelligent Tsarist statesmen were acutely aware of quite how difficult it was to modernise their vast ramshackle empire, not least because of the still essentially medieval structure of peasant agriculture. If there was a strategy to do this, it involved breaking up the commune, and creating a class of independent peasant proprietors, and – at almost any cost – keeping out of war.

It also required that sufficient of the Westernised intelligentsia could grasp that, in a Russian context, any premature attempt to create a Western-style liberal order would simply play into the hands of the revolutionary forces.

A rethinking among sections of the intelligentsia of familiar assumptions is indeed apparent in the 1909 symposium 'Vekhii'. In a controversial but as it happened prescient remark, its editor, the literary historian Mikhail Gershenzohn, wrote that 'so far from dreaming of union with the people we ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people's fury.'

(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vekhi .)

Among the 'Vekhii' authors was Nikolai Berdyaev – one of the writers on the 'reading list' which Putin provided to regional governors in January 1914. I read Berdyaev's study of 'The Origin of Russian Communism' after Stephen F. Cohen recommended it to his readers back in the Eighties.

To treat Putin's list, as David Brooks of the 'New York Times' does, as evidence that Russian foreign policy rests upon a 'highly charged and messianic ideology' really is to display a fanatical determination to fit evidence into a preconceived framework.

Actually, among the mass of journalism by Berdyaev available on the net in English translation is an essay from 1917 entitled 'The Ruin of Russian Illusions', where he sees the 'Vekhii' authors as prophets vindicated, and quite explicitly denounces various forms of 'messianic' Russian ideology.

(See http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1917_280.html .)

The essay illustrates the point which Paul Robinson has repeatedly made. The outcome of the Cold War has caused the West to adopt a kind of quasi-religious faith that it represents the natural and inevitable direction of human history. Meanwhile, Russia has in substantial measure reverted to a tradition of 'Slavophil' thought, which has its origins in elements in German Romanticism, which insists that diversity is not only inevitable but desirable.

(See, for example, Robinson's essay 'The West's ''New Cold War'' is with Dostoevsky's Russia, not Stalin's', available at http://www.c2cjournal.ca/2015/04/the-wests-new-cold-war-is-with-dostoevskys-russia-not-stalins/ .)

One may think this analysis partial, but it does I think point to an important fact – that, for all its many faults, Putin's Russia does actually pose an ideological challenge to the West, which people in Washington and London are simply incapable of understanding. It is not in my view a challenge that Putin wanted to make, so much as one he has been pushed into making.

As to the respective roles of historic Russian dilemmas and ideology in Soviet Russia, I would largely agree with you, but not entirely. Here, Larionov's revival of Svechin is of particular interest. In the post-1945 world, as his 1994 article brings out, it was precisely nuclear weapons which opened up the possibility of a Napoleon/Tukhachevskii-style strategy of 'destruction'. And this could be accommodated to the vision of new apocalyptic wars precipitated by a capitalist system in its death throes.

Absent nuclear weapons, any war between the Soviet Union and the United States would necessarily be a war of 'attrition', which would actually be a very poor prospect for either side. The notion that nuclear weapons stabilised the post-war conflict is, to put it mildly, questionable.

Contrary to what became the received wisdom of the Reagan Administration, in the late Sixties and early Seventies Soviet planners realised that the notion of decisive victory in a nuclear war was empty: which was about the first thing that Larionov told us when we interviewed him in early 1989. It was I think attempts to wrestle with the dilemmas that resulted led him back to Svechin.

A question which is implicit – and which I am not competent to answer – is if Tukhachevskii's enthusiasm for strategies of 'destruction', in which revolutionary romanticism was a very real element, had not carried the day, a different security posture could have been consistent with a different economic strategy. Was the total abandonment of the 'smychka' necessary, if sufficient military-industrial power to guarantee the country's security was to be developed?

Here, the introductory essay to the Svechin study by Larionov and Kokoshin is interesting, because it brings out some of the costs of the overwhelmingly offensive orientation of Soviet planning in the late Thirties.

Because he anticipated a long war, and believed that the appropriate initial posture would be a defensive one, Svechin thought it unwise to have a heavy concentration of industrial enterprises in the West of the country. Likewise, he believed that only a relatively small part of the industrial base needed to be mobilised for war at the outset – the remainder could be mobilised during the war, according to its requirements. In the event, despite the heroic efforts in shipping industry east, the Soviets lost a great deal of industrial capacity.

Their offensive plans, meanwhile, laid the Red Army open to successive envelopments by the Wehrmacht. They also contributed to the situation where Stalin was terrified of making inevitable a war he still hoped at least to postpone, and probably to avoid, so left his forces as sitting ducks.

Another critical question, of course, is how far Stalin's post-war policies made inevitable a confrontation with the West which could have been avoided. Here, the section of the PBS interview with Larionov where he recalls the famous meeting with American troops in Germany at the end of the war is fascinating, because it suggests that was the view to which he had come.

This was a view I was very happy to see encouraged. Convincing Russians that it was naïve seems to me foolish. But that is what we have spent much of the last twenty-give years doing.


"Another critical question, of course, is how far Stalin's post-war policies made inevitable a confrontation with the West which could have been avoided. Here, the section of the PBS interview with Larionov where he recalls the famous meeting with American troops in Germany at the end of the war is fascinating, because it suggests that was the view to which he had come."

Major 1944 and 1945 studies of the postwar world by soviet diplomats Litvinov, Maisky, and a very young Gromyko looked forward to continuing "The Grand Alliance" into the postwar world. There expectation was to gain major reparations from all of Germany, and to trade a relaxation of the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe for a large reconstruction loan from the U.S.

Unfortunately, Harry Truman was the sort who peremptorily demanded Soviet withdrawal from places, not negotiated it.

David Habakkuk


You will be referring to the memoranda by Litvinov, Maisky and Gromyko discussed in the 1995 paper 'The Big Three after World War II' by Vladimir Pechatnov.

(See https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACF17F.PDF .)

This brings back memories. In a footnote, Pechatnov points to 'an insightful description of Soviet threat perception at the end of the War (quite similar to what emerges from the documents reviewed here)' by Michael McGwire (actually, MccGwire.)

It was largely through MccGwire that I got interested in these matters. Having gone to war – like Larionov – as a teenager in 1942, he subsequently became the Royal Navy's leading expert on its Soviet counterpart. After ending his service in 1967 as head of the Soviet naval section of our Defence Intelligence Staff, he turned academic.

Some time back I discovered on the internet the typescript of the original version of the paper to which Pechatnov refers, produced in July 1987, when MccGwire was at Brookings, together with the American scholar-diplomat Raymond Garthoff.

(See https://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/1987-800-05-McGwire.pdf .)

Together, the two men had demonstrated that the view, central to the thinking of those who became 'neoconservatives', that the Soviets continued into the late Seventies and Eighties to believe that they could fight and win a nuclear war, was nonsense.

As the conclusion of the typescript makes clear, by mid-1987 MccGwire, building on this analysis, had already concluded that a shift to a Svechin-style defensive posture in Central Europe might be on the cards.

(See https://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/1987-800-05-McGwire.pdf .)

What the typescript also illustrates is the conviction – common to him and Garthoff – that to make sense of the issues of the Eighties it was necessary to go back to those of the Forties.

In the section explaining the 'Relevance of the Study' MccGwire noted that 'the assessment of Soviet objectives and motivations' in the key NSC 68 paper, which was masterminded by Paul Nitze in April 1950, 'continues to inform an influential body of American opinion, and since 1980 that opinion has largely shaped U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union.'

In the event, the representatives of the NSC 68 tradition were successful in gaining general acceptance for their contention that the retreat and collapse of Soviet power represented a vindication of their analyses and prescriptions. Those who argued for a different reading of the history were effectively marginalised. In my view, that is a major reason why we are in the mess in which we find ourselves today.

A vulgarised version of Nitze's analysis – which is actually very mixed, enormously incisive in parts and plain wrong in others – has shaped the approach not just of the United States but the West as a whole to the post-Cold War world.

A further interesting feature of the Pechatnov paper is that he touches one one of the strange paradoxes of the history of the early Cold War. As he notes, a September 1944 analysis by George Kennan – generally regarded as the principal architect of 'containment' – defines Soviet objectives in terms very close to that of the papers Pechatnov discusses.

Indeed, as he notes, Kennan's formulation of Soviet objectives – 'to prevent the formation in Central and Eastern Europe of any power or coalition of powers capable of challenging Russian security' is close to Maisky's formula: 'to prevent the formation in Europe of any powers or combination of powers with powerful armies'. And Kennan noted, as does Pechatnov, the continuity with Pan-Slav agendas from late Tsarist times.

So one ends up with a puzzle, as to why, in the famous 'Long Telegram' he sent from Moscow on 22 February 1946, Kennan was so much more apocalyptic, portraying the Soviet leadership as seeing their security as dependent on the destruction of American power. It was this view which underpinned the apocalyptic interpretation of the implications of the Soviet atomic test in NSC 68.

My own view tends to be that the opportunity provided by the defeat of Nazi Germany to realise the agendas of the radical Pan-Slavs of the pre-1914 period was one of those cases where success creates fatal temptations. To attempt to pre-empt future threats by extending Soviet power into central Europe was bound to bring into being a hostile coalition: rather than being able to exploit divisions among the 'imperialists', Stalin ended up with a united capitalist world.

And, as Kennan was well aware, such over-extension was also liable to trap the Soviets in a situation where they could not indefinitely hold down the Eastern Europeans, but could not withdraw without risking an uncontrollable process of destabilisation.

(On this, a 2010 paper by Pechatnov is I think to the point, available at https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACF17F.PDF .)

Whether had Roosevelt survived, he could have found a more successful means of handling matters is one of the great 'what if' questions.

However, it also seems to me clear that Putin is very well aware of the lessons of the past. The notion that his policies towards Ukraine and Syria represent some kind of new offensive strategy seems to me complete BS. In both cases, he has been pushed into courses of action he would have preferred to avoid.

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