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Arguing the Roots of Russophobia


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There was a time when he was valiantly talking reset with former President Barack Obama and was famous for his passion for technology. He even brought the concept of Silicon Valley to Moscow where he launched the Skolkovo Innovation Center. Now he has embarked on other ideas.

In a social media rant loaded with warnings, including about the potential for nuclear war, Dmitry Medvedev told the West not to “choke on your saliva in paroxysms of Russophobia!”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov himself used the term a few times today.

At a conference in Tajikistan where he was at one point all but drowned by a pack of crying peacocks, the head of Russian diplomacy accused Lithuanians who voted this week to call Russia’s war in Ukraine of “genocide” of Russophobia.

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Russian officials have long accused the West and others of being anti-Russian, but they appear to be stepping up their use of the word as they continue their war in Ukraine. Nowhere do they publicly link their newly acquired semi-outcast status to their actions in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a ceremony, Friday, May 6, 2022.
(Russian Foreign Ministry)

“You know, when the Russian people hear about the removal of (Soviet-era) monuments and the cancellation of Tchaikovsky, the conclusion they draw is that they don’t want anything in common with such Europe,” Dmitry Suslov told Fox News.

Suslov, a well-known political scientist in Russia and close to government circles, is also deputy director of the Higher School of Economics.

Russia, in general, was not at the center of polemics or broad punitive measures or ostracism until the annexation of Crimea and this war in Ukraine which killed thousands of innocent civilians less of three months.

But Suslov is convinced of the opposite and that the former satellite states of the Soviet Union have joined NATO to attack Russia. Russia is now using recent comments by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austen to prove its point on victimization and justify a hardening of its line.

“The game-changer really happened after Lloyd Austen famously said that the goal of the United States was to weaken Russia. As soon as the Russian people hear this, it becomes a patriotic war. It’s not a war against Ukraine anymore. In Ukraine. It’s a war against Russia. You know, it really consolidates people around the flag.

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Austen’s comments were in the context of the end of the war in Ukraine, not general animosity towards Moscow, and when I point this out to Suslov, he retorts: “Such an approach is a manifestation of either strategic blindness or strategic frivolity because it is impossible to end a war by weakening a nuclear superpower. The more the United States attempts to weaken Russia by depleting its military resources in Ukraine, the more likely the chances of escalation and escalation are for Russia to accept any sort of weakening or defeat in Ukraine. It’s just impossible not to understand that.”

And Suslov thinks the West is encouraging Russia. “Those in the United States who are openly saying that they want to end this war by weakening Russia, from the Russian point of view, they want Russia to use nuclear weapons. They want Russia to lead this escalation, which again proves my point. That Ukraine for the United States is not a country they want to protect or save. For the United States, Ukraine is just a pawn, wasting time. material they use in their hybrid fight against Russia.

Arguing the Roots of Russophobia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, welcomes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for talks in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 26.
(Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)

When I insist on why the United States would want Russia on its knees if there was no end to the war, I ask Suslov to come back to President Putin’s lament that the world does not is no longer multipolar, that is, Russia is no longer one of the two globally recognized superpowers.

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This counter-current discourse does not bode well for a quick end to this war. The language of leaders and diplomats has become coarser, the readings of phone calls with Putin are increasingly different for each interlocutor, and the prospects for diplomatic solutions are not discussed. When a reporter from the Russian-language Current Time TV channel approached Sergei Lavrov with a question today as he was walking out of his meetings, Russia’s top diplomat told him to go talk to the peacocks.

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