_ Yuri Kofner, chairman of the Eurasian Movement of Russia. The interview was conducted by Patimat Omarova, assistant to Sergey Glazyev, adviser to the President of the Russian Federation on Eurasian integration. Moscow, April 2015.
– Please tell us about the activities of your organization.
– The Eurasian Movement of the Russian Federation (EDRF) was de facto founded back in 2009 to tell young people of the Commonwealth countries about classical Eurasianism, to adapt this concept to the conditions of the 21st century and to promote the processes of Eurasian integration. Our movement is now the biggest pro-Eurasian NGO in the post-Soviet space. It operates through regional Eurasian student clubs (there already over 30), including on the basis of such universities as MGIMO, MSU, HSE, Kazan Federal University, Orenburg State University. Among our initiatives are a project to create a Eurasian Youth Parliament, a flag of the Eurasian Union and open lecture courses on Eurasian integration for students.
– What is your vision for the Eurasian integration project? What, in your opinion, are the priorities for Eurasian integration?
– From the external point of view, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) seems to me to be in many respects similar to the “Europe of Nations” – EU concept envisaged by Charles de Gaulle, implying the implementation of the “Nazarbayev principles” of equality, voluntariness and gradual integration between the member states. I also fully support the Eurasian vision of Vladimir Putin, as outlined in his pre-election newspaper article and his speeches at the Valdai Forum, where the ultimate goal of integration is to ensure the well-being of citizens of the participating countries, and, in spite of the resistance of the Transatlanticists, the creation of a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
However, in its content, the Eurasian Union has two significant differences from the European Union: Firstly, unlike the current EU, which eventually became an instrument of US colonial rule and therefore purposely blurs the boundaries between European nations, the Eurasian Union honors and upholds the national sovereignty of all member states, big and small, as one of its main principles of existence. Secondly, unlike the current European Union, a special feature of the EAEU should be the protection of the traditional values and the ethno-cultural identities of its peoples. The Eurasian Union needs to have a well definde social, identarian and spiritual mission in the international arena.
– How would you characterize the processes of Eurasian integration? What, in your opinion, is positive and what is negative?
– The renewed economic cooperation within the EAEU I see as the main positive aspect. Here everything goes just as it should go. And even in spite of the fact that there can not always be growth in the economy, interstate cooperation and the supranational Eurasian Economic Commission have shown their effectiveness and a “gentleman approach”. So, despite the sharp drop in the Russian ruble, which gave Russian goods a significant competitive advantage in the Kazakhstan market, both sides of the Union developed constructive measures on a reciprocal basis.
For me, as a Russian Eurasianist, I also do not see any problem in the fact that certain member countries are in no hurry to move from economic to political integration. For example, the fact that we do not yet have an Eurasian Parliament within the Union means simply that certain national societies are not yet ready for this step. Here, the main principles should be, as mentioned above, national sovereignty, voluntariness and a step-by-step approach of further integration. For a few years we have already achieved a lot.
I see the main shortcomings of Eurasian integration in the absence of three elements: 1) in the absence of an official union ideology; 2) in the absence of the necessary informational support in the media; 3) in the absence of humanitarian and cultural cooperation as part of the official agenda of the EAEU. The first question is indeed quite controversial, since it is too close to the political aspect, however, the implementation of the second and points can be started right now. Firsty, pro-Eurasian union-wide TV channels and more positive Eurasian information content in the national media of the member state are needed . Secondly, the events in Ukraine have shown well that Russia is obliged to pay special attention to soft power and public diplomacy. Thirdly, it is puzzling why Kazakhstan and Belarus do not facilitate the work of pro-Eurasian NGOs on their territory. And finally, if we do not touch upon the political aspect, then why can we not create joint programs for cultural exchange and humanitarioan cooperation? For example, a “year of Kazakhstan” in Russia and vice versa. Or a student exchage programe, named after the great Kazakh scientist of the 19th century Chokan Valikhanov.
– You correctly say that the Eurasian integration project is often perceived as a purely economic union. Many insist that this project does not go beyond practical goals. It remaines very pragmatic. Thus, the question of ideology, philosophy remains open. What is your vision of the ideology of Eurasianism? Is it necessary at all?
– Of course, the Eurasian Union needs its own ideology! And the European unification was not started out of economic considerations, thats a myth, but under the impression of the ideology of pan-Europeanism, developed, like Eurasianism, in the 20s and 30s of the last century. Nowadays the Euro crisis, the immigration crisis, Brexit, etc. all show that the EU is not at all built on economic feasability. We too often hear about “European values” from the lips of the European bureaucrats.
However, I’m not saying that we should repeat the mistakes of the EU. I.e. we should not build our union against the economic interests of the member states or without any of liberal values at all. On the contrary. As opposed to the EU, the Eurasian Union should promote democracy between states, not within. Furthermore, the EAEU should be built on the economic co-development of the member states, and, even more importantly, offer an ideological alternative to the postmodern West.
This conceptual alternative seems to me to be the following: a return to religion, traditional values, social solidarity, equal cooperation of peoples, protection of the ethno-cultural identities, inviolability of the dignity of man and a respect for nature. This is Eurasianism – a new ideology in the formation, which replaces the obsolete modernist doctrines of liberalism, communism and fascism. Its rise is inherent not only to modern Russia and Kazakhstan, but also to other regions of the world, depending on which it has different names, but I call it either “identarianism” (as in Europe) or “neomodernism” (more general).
– Many researchers note the parallels of a multipolar world in creation and the construction of Eurasian integration. What do you think, in which direction is the system of international relations going?
– After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was clear that the world needed a reformation of international relations. The US emerged victorious from the “first Cold War” and it is understandable that they want to consolidate their unipolar hegemony by enforcing cultural Marxism and postmodernist globalism arround the world. In this “New World Order” or “Brave New World, as Huxley called it, Russia was given the role of a raw material, labor and consumer periphery of the global economic core. The next planned step would have been the final dismemberment of Russia into many “principalities” for more convenient external management by the globalist elite.
Thank God, over the past 25 years there has been a counter-trend: the economic and political rise of the great powers of global East and South, which naturally also want their place under the sun and therefore favor the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. However, unlike China, which seeks to restore a bipolar system, Russia, due to its history and geography, has a specific position in this process. Moscow understands both Asia and Europe. The Eurasian Union, as one of the poles of the emerging multipolar world, thus is called upon to become not only an actual alternative to a unipolar model, but, as already mentioned, to offer a conceptual alternative based on the post-Soviet religious and patriotical revival, as well as on equal cooperation of sovereign peoples. Russia thus should use its position in order to promote its vision of a multipolar world.
– What is your assessment of the Ukranian crisis?
– The coup d’état in Kiev and the attrocities of the Ukranian army with the aid of neonazist groups against the Russian population of southeast Ukraine were provoked by the United States with the expectation of an inevitable reaction from Russia. One aim was to place NATO military bases in Crimea and the Donbas region. However, more importantly, the main goal was to expose Russia as an alleged “aggressor” in order to turn the Europeans, and especially Germany, away from deepening cooperation with Moscow. This is important for two reasons: Firstly, the US globalist elite is most afraid of a potential Continental alliance between the two great civilizations – Germany-Europe and Russia-Eurasia. They dread the creation of a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, of which I spoke above. Putin’s concept of a “Greater Eurasian Partnership” (GEP) would seriously challenge the United States’ unipolar agenda and loosen its grip over Europe. Secondly, the EU-EAEU common economic space would be a direct competitor to Washington’s project for creating a Transatlantic trade bloc between the US-Canada and the EU, on the basis of which Washington plans to restart its bloated economy.
– What does your organization do to aid in the develpment of Eurasian integration?
– Unlike other Russian NGOs, our movement is working with a long-term perspective. Firstly, we are engaged in developing the human resources needed for the processes of Eurasian integration. For example, each year we conduct several lectures courses and young leaders schools on Eurasian inteagration. Secondly, we pay a lot of attention to the public diplomacy in order to prevent further color revolutions in Russia and in the Commonwealth countries. Our movement recognizes itself as a continuer of the cause of the classical Eurasianists and therefore considers its mission the realization of the Eurasianist philosophy in the 21st century.