Сергей Караганов

From the Non-West to the World Majority

New article by Professor Karaganov "From the Non-West to the World Majority" was published in Russian language in "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine No. 5 (2022). Pp. 6-18. The english translation is attached.

Sergei A. Karaganov

Snowballing global changes make fundamental and systematic analysis of current events, let alone forecasts, near impossible. So I will only make a few remarks about some trends, which I believe must be taken into account by those who make responsible political decisions.

I will begin with an idea which is quite obvious but which has so far not been fully grasped by the Russian economic, intellectual, and partly political elites. The period when Russia tried to integrate into the international order created mainly by the West is over. It should have been done earlier. The conflict between Russia and the West has developed into a direct confrontation, a hybrid war. And it will be a long one regardless of the situation on the Ukrainian fronts. Ukraine is just the most pertinent and visible, but not the only, and maybe not the main, arena of this confrontation. For us, this is also painful but necessary work to overcome the illusions and mistakes we made in the previous thirty-five years, and get rid of the ghosts of the past.

The answer to the question about what the future will be like is ahead, but one thing is already clear.

The current period of history will bring “unheard of changes, unseen rebellions.” Russian poet Alexander Blok wrote these prophetic lines at the beginning of the last century, which was particularly arduous for humanity. It seems that the current one will not be any easier. A return to the usual and relatively comfortable status quo ante is impossible.


1The author uses the ideas voiced at the 30th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy as part of the work on situational analyses conducted at the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the Higher School of Economics. Special thanks (in random order) go to Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrei Sushentsov, Konstantin Zatulin, Anastasia Likhacheva, Timofei Bordachev, Alexei Drobinin, Dmitry Suslov, Alexander Kramarenko, Vassily Kashin, Mikhail Remizov, and many others. However, the author alone is responsible for erroneous judgments and minor hiccups in the text.

A battle is in progress for the future of Russia as a sovereign state, for its distinctive civilization. Russia is moving away from Euro-Atlantic civilization in its present form. It has given Russia a lot, but in many ways it is no longer needed, not to mention the fact that it is increasingly at odds with our own historical tradition, cultural attitudes, and values. And the Euro-Atlantic region itself is rapidly degrading even from the point of view of its own coordinate system.

Let me repeat some of the already published points concerning the root causes of the international system’s breakdown:

  • The loss by the West of its military superiority―the foundation of its dominance in politics, economy, and culture over the past four to five centuries.
  • The exhaustion of the existing model of capitalism (world economy),the endless growth of consumption, the financialization of all industries, the elimination of borders between the real and the virtual that leads to a fatal erosion of the ethical basis, which once made capitalism the key to progress (this problem is relevant in Russia as well).
  • The resolution of truly global problems was largely imitated (innoticeably selfish and egoistic ways): environmental and climate deterioration, pandemics, growing social inequality, food shortages, migration, etc. And they continue to get worse.
  • But the main reason for the breakdown and its main feature is the rise(particularly due to the loss by the West of its military superiority) of what we keep calling the non-West due to our habitual Western-centered thinking and language. It would be more accurate to call this collection of states and nations the World Majority, because in the universal human context the West is a clear and shrinking minority. This formula was gifted to me by Fyodor Lukyanov. Other colleagues suggest calling this set of countries the Big East. We shall see which term catches on, but the non-West is definitely not the best one.

There are also more specific reasons for the changes. One of them is the degradation of the leading elites in most Western countries, including due to the long and crisesless development of relatively democratic political systems (which, as a rule, are anti-meritocratic). The present elites demonstrate their incapacity in the face of mounting problems, deepening contradictions, and almost avalanchine, by historical standards, redistribution of forces in the world. Provoking a crisis around Ukraine and ratcheting up hostility towards Russia over the past fifteen years are important elements of the West’s attempts to keep its privileged position. Russia limits the West’s ability to use it as a resource base, but most importantly, it sets an example of disobedience. So the West will try to destabilize Russia as the rear of China, the main strategic rival of the West in the coming decades.

The policy of strangling Russia will be pursued for a long time. But the selfdestruction of the West, temporarily put off by the consolidation against Russia, will continue as well. The West has been weakening for at least fifteen years, but now this process is acquiring a new quality. Destructive global processes are deepening. New waves of migration and conflicts, including food ones, are unavoidable.

By retreating and trying to go on the counter-offensive, the West is destroying the remains of the regimes left from the previous system that regulated international relations, as well as international law, and even diplomatic practices and convenances.

Real changes in Western politics are likely no earlier than in three to four electoral cycles, if and when a completely new political generation replaces the present one.In the next decade, these and some other systemic factors will increase international instability and probability of conflicts, especially in the South, in the East, and again in Europe. Regardless of how and when Russia’s special military operation ends, the level of military threat―in the world in general and Russia in particular―will remain extremely high and may even rise due to the escalation of this or other inevitable conflicts.

The current confrontation is much more intense than during the Cold War in the second half of the 20th century. The West is set not just to contain, but destroy the Russian state in its present form. The war has not developed (yet) into a direct military confrontation only because Russia has strong nuclear capabilities. But the overall crisis of the system of norms and law has already spread to the militarypolitical realm, thus exacerbating the risks dramatically.The West (especially the United States) is trying to reverse the direction world development by changing the balance of military power, which is not in its favor for the time being.

A new generation of weapons will appear, designed to neutralize Russia’s current advantage. In any case, the level of international strategic stability will decrease. There is little hope that the current confrontation will sober up the opponent without aggravating the crisis further―this would require political leaders of an entirely different level. But crossing the nuclear threshold is extremely dangerous, partly due to the quality of the present elites. Efforts need to be taken urgently to reduce the likelihood of nuclear, let alone bigger thermonuclear, war. It is not clear, however, with whom we could do this.


The phenomenal level of the West’s hostility is caused not only by Russia’s refusal to play by the old rules, by the Western desire to stop the rapidly changing realignment of world forces, or by the Europeans’ fear of an inevitable return of traditional, including military, rivalry to the subcontinent. The motives are inside the Western world itself. It needs Russia as an enemy to unite against and to justify the right of elites to maintain power despite failures and the deteriorating model of the economic, social, and political organization of society, which nurtured them and which is crumbling now.

Inevitable acute crises in the West will undermine the anti-Russian “consensus” and prompt some groups of elites and individual countries to try to overcome total confrontation. However, structural problems, on the contrary, lead to its aggravation in order to distract attention from neglected problems. In the foreseeable future, the West (unlike individual countries, I hope) will be a hostile opponent, impossible to negotiable with and requiring reasonable disengagement and containment.

A special issue is cultural distancing, given the more than three hundred-year orientation of the Russian elites towards Europe and the five hundred-year penetration of European and Western culture into non-Western civilizations, which are on the rise now.

A likely way out is to position ourselves as the civilization of civilizations, the “world of the worlds,” one of the last strongholds of classical Europe, which for the most part is dying in the Old World. In any case, Russia’s European cultural heritage is not an obstacle to its multi-vector and multicultural policy, but one of its pillars and prerequisites. After all, it was Europe at its best times and in its best manifestations that sought to open up new world horizons. From the Tatar-Mongol period we inherited religious tolerance and cultural openness. When building our empire, we, mostly unlike Europeans, did not destroy, but absorbed local cultures and elites, becoming Eurasians long before the theories of Eurasianism came around. In the past, countries that suppressed the great Asian civilizations made us feel ashamed of “Asianness.” Now it becomes a sign of success.It is important to understand that the current conflict is existential only for the contemporary Western establishment, which has grown accustomed to its global dominance over the past forty years. But it is not fateful for Western countries as such.

Of course, the “liberal global imperialism” of recent decades has been extremely beneficial to them, but they can exist perfectly well without it, more modestly, but calmer, without getting involved in dangerous adventures that are alien to the vast majority of their citizens.

Theoretically, in the future (of about ten to fifteen years), one can expect a relative normalization of relations if nationally oriented elites come to power in Western countries and recognize Russia’s national interests. More authoritarian regimes that will emerge inevitably may create additional dangers. Even with the positive dynamics of relations, there will be no return to the relatively predictable past. We should rely mainly on ourselves and countries that benefit from interaction with Russia and are guided by real national interests, not by the needs of the present supranational, if not to say anti-national, elites. Fortunately, there are many such countries and there will be more of them.


Much in the future policy will depend on the outcome of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the final objectives of which have yet to be determined. The defense of Donbass and the liberation of Eastern and Southern Ukraine are obvious objectives. “Denazification” (or the eradication of aggressive nationalism) will only be possible if the territory of present-day Ukraine is fully occupied, and political purges are conducted. This objective (even under the most hardline regime in Russia) is difficult to achieve in the modern world, and it also runs counter to the basic values of our peoples.

Complete and harsh (and it should not be any different) demilitarization, the neutral status of Ukraine, the liberation and reconstruction of the East and Southeast of Ukraine are feasible objectives. But this will require Russia to be politically, morally, and economically ready for a long military campaign constantly teetering on the verge of escalation to the point of limited nuclear war with the West (without such a threat, the United States/West is unlikely to retreat and make a deal other than temporary truces). An attempt to liberate all or most of present-day Ukraine (except Galicia and Bukovina) will entail long-term mobilization, a sharp increase in expenses, and even greater human casualties.

There is a risk of public fatigue hitting society already in the medium term. It was war fatigue that proved to be one of the key causes of the 1917 disaster in Russia. But historical reminiscences have nothing to do with excessive alarmism. If the battle for Ukraine does not end in victory, trust in supreme power, the core of the current political system and the country itself will be undermined. The likelihood of a new February 1917, the most tragic episode in the political history of Russia since the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century, will increase.

In August 1991, there was at least part of the elite (both communist party and alternative) that was ready to take power, although it turned out badly anyway.

The difference between the current risks and what happened at the end of the 20th century is that back then the Western world did not have the goal of finishing off Russia, and did not believe in the possibility of its revival as a leading world power. But it happened. If we stumble now, they will try to finish their job by all means.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn accurately observed in February 1917, the catalyst was the betrayal of the elites (Solzhenitsyn, 2022).

Nowadays the likelihood of such a scenario is decreasing because of their “nationalization” necessitated by the circumstances and enforced by the Kremlin in recent years. But ensuring long-term public support is not an easy task, especially in the face of falling living standards as a consequence of economic war. It is declining in the West as well. Nevertheless, it would be dangerous to expect them to flinch first. We can recall the history of 1916-1917, when the Germans were losing the war and sliding into the social abyss, but Russia was the first to crumble because of the Russian disorder and the German General Staff’s actions that shored up the Bolsheviks. Such a scenario could be opposed through internal mobilization and even by declaring the current clash with the West (including in Ukraine) a new Patriotic war. But such a turn can antagonize significant segments of society, which have gained a relatively well-fed and comfortable life, having survived almost a century of deprivation before.

After most of the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine have been liberated, it would be permissible to start talking about a truce, but a relatively firm peace agreement is not yet possible. In fact, it is likely only as part of a broader agreement, which would include the creation of a new system of European/Eurasian security. Its outlines are not yet visible, and other potential participants show no willingness to work on it.

In any case, no matter how the specific Ukrainian situation is resolved, we should set ourselves up for a long (approximately fifteen years) cyclic confrontation with the West amid conflicts and chaos growing almost everywhere in the world.


The battle for the survival of Russia and the transition to a new level of its development will require the country and society to be organized differently. Modern mobilization is needed. It should essentially mean steps to unlock our own potential as much as possible, and promote internal economic, technological, intellectual, spiritual, and human development. Needless to say, with some international opportunities blocked, there will be obstacles on this way. But this prompts us to look for non-trivial solutions to emerging problems, forces us to concentrate and use resources competently, and exempts us from certain restrictions arising from our commitments to external counterparties that were assumed in their interests.

The metaphor for the upcoming period is “Fortress Russia.”

It is not accurate because it implies self-isolation and autarky. The latter itself is a threat―such is the immutable historical law.

Opponents in the economic war are pushing our country towards autarky. A “fortress,” as we understand it, means first of all effective defense against the surrounding chaos and the ability to independently choose with whom to do business and how, but doing it all the same. Russia cannot be closed to cooperation, including intellectual, with the World Majority and with those Western countries that will be ready to interact constructively. There will certainly be such countries.

Russia needs to achieve a number of goals, largely unannounced yet but obvious.Firstly, final nationalization of the Russian elites and eradication of the comprador and pro-Western elements and sentiments. This is already happening to some extent as the most radical opponents of the present authorities are leaving the country, and those who remain are afraid of being thrown out of the establishment. The impact of external economic pressure and Russophobia in the West are also an important factor. But the problem of cultural and intellectual westernization, the habit of perceiving events through the lens of Western sources of information, and relying on estimates and theories coming from the West, has virtually not been addressed yet.

A significant part of intellectuals, especially those involved in social studies, are deeply imbued with the worldview constructed in the West. The intellectual community needs to work hard to decolonize consciousness, and move away from the foreign-policy, cultural, and informational orientation towards the West. The purpose is not to replace Westernism with its opposite―aggressive antiWesternism. This, in fact, will not change anything, since it will mean the same degree of mental dependence, but with the opposite sign. The task is different. It is necessary to open up much wider horizons to our politics and our society.

As the West’s global influence declines, it would be vicious to pay so much attention to it. The West is an important part of the world, but it is only a part and an increasingly less significant one. In Russia’s information and intellectual space, there is almost no mention of people, phenomena or events taking place in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and even in China and India. It is necessary to sharply and quickly step up and expand economic, political, and cultural ties with different regions of the world, and substantially boost Oriental, African, and Latin American studies.

Secondly, the country, its citizens and businesses must be prepared for living and developing for ten to twenty years amid growing international chaos, broken habitual ties, and economic, information, and human deglobalization.

This will require a qualitatively different economic system: more controlled from above but more liberal and interconnected at the bottom.

Such a goal has been proclaimed, but things are moving almost spontaneously, hindered by bureaucratic inertia and passive resistance of the elites, whose interests and mental attitudes are associated with the previous system. Society must understand that this is not about someone’s subjective desires or ambitions, but about a long-term and difficult struggle for the survival of the state and society in a highly competitive and dangerous world. That is why we need a “fortress.”Thirdly, and most importantly, it necessary to ensure the maximum possible self-sufficiency of the Russian economy at a time when we are facing not just the West’s hostility, but the collapse of the globalization model of the 1980-2000s.

Society must understand the reasons for this: they are objective and were dramatically expedited by the West’s actions in the last fifteen years (after the outbreak of the global economic crisis in 2008) and by the economic war against Russia (suicidal for the previous model of globalization), which was gaining momentum since 2014 and reached its climax in 2022.

Our position should be based on the understanding that globalist liberal economic policy is not just unbeneficial for Russia, but that it is failing globally. Interdependence is showing its negative side everywhere.

Fourthly, and lastly, the intellectual community should do systematic work to ensure the sovereignty of society, the elite, and itself in order to gain the independence of consciousness. Social sciences obviously cannot be supranational and universal. As a rule, they reflect the interests of the elites of the countries in which they are produced, their geopolitical and historical features. I have already provided a lot of evidence to prove this point. Here is more. Assertions that territories and natural resources will be less important in the future than financial or digital capital, that the significance of military capabilities is declining and the like, are knowingly false. They reflect the interests of very specific groups of countries and elites. The idea that the value of territories would decrease was advanced primarily by maritime powers, which could benefit from purposefully destroying intracontinental lines of communication, especially in Eurasia.

The result is that Russia has poor territorial connectivity, especially in Siberia, and the terribly underdeveloped North-South transport corridor linking us with Asia.

This is just another example of uncritical borrowing of alien and harmful ideas. The same goes for the recent nearly universal belief, including in Russia, that economic globalization will expand and deepen.

Elements of globalization―financial, energy, commodity, information, and economic connectivity―will not disappear completely, but will weaken. They are receding under the waves of nationalization and regionalization in politics and the economy mentioned above. Real global problems will not be addressed in practical terms at the international level in the next decade. They will be sidelined or overpowered by fierce competition. Henry Kissinger was right when twenty-five years ago he formulated a paradox: problems are globalized while the tools to solve them are nationalized. And yet, we should be intellectually and organizationally ready for cooperation, primarily with the World Majority. One day, these problems may become the basis for positive interaction with the West as well, but this is an indefinitely distant prospect.

Solving the aforementioned problems, including ideological ones, should not lead to a new edition of single-mindedness. We already saw that in Soviet times; it was one of the reasons for Russia’s failure back then. We just did not know and did not understand the real world. Universal lies and concealment of truth brought us defeat in the past, for example, in the Russo-Japanese War.

Nowadays, political correctness and cancel culture in the West lead to the squalor of the mind and politics.

It is necessary to preserve the freedom of discussion and intellectual creativity. We must tell the truth to ourselves, society, and the authorities. This is not an easy task amid an open confrontation with the part of the world we once looked up to in many ways, and the inevitable tightening of the political regime inside the country. But this task must be addressed systematically in various ways, including administrative methods. Otherwise, we will lose again.

The system of feedback between the government and society, the administrative apparatus and thinking elites has to be strengthened and improved. Existing gaps played a negative role at the first stage of the special military operation in Ukraine: a significant part of society was not prepared for such a decision and did not understand the inevitability of the measures taken. Some of the mistakes could have been avoided if the feedback had worked properly. For example, we did not take advantage of the enthusiasm generated by the Russian Spring in 2014, and of the confusion of Kiev and its Western patrons. I personally became aware of the coming aggravation and the threat of war in 2017-2018. A separate subject is the state of expertise regarding neighboring countries, which will remain our political priority in the long term, and this will require a deep and accurate understanding of the processes unfolding there.

The assessment of the situation in Ukraine seems to have been inaccurate.I have written many times, including in this journal, about the need for a new “Russian idea,” a nationwide state ideology (see, for example: Karaganov, 2020a―Ed.)

We need it even more now not only for spiritual mobilization of society, but also as a practical domestic and foreign policy tool.

And it is possible more than ever since the Great Patriotic War. Brave members of the peoples living in multinational Russia are fighting and dying shoulder to shoulder in Donbass. In this situation, previous fears that the “Russian idea” could become an anti-state ideology of Russian ethnic nationalism seem to be excessive as never before.

The Russian idea for the world is even more obvious. We are the civilization of civilizations, a bulwark against neocolonialism, a stronghold of the free development of civilizations and cultures. We stand for the right of every nation to live according to its own principles and customs; we are against any hegemony or claims to ultimate truth. Our current struggle against the West’s expansion and all the worst in it, concentrated in Ukraine, is the struggle for a new fair world order. Almost all of these ideas have already been mentioned in one way or another by President Vladimir Putin. They just need to be arranged and steadfastly advanced.Naturally, we need a new foreign policy. Having addressed the most acute security problems through a special military operation, Russia has partly tied its own hands and tactically weakened its position on the world stage, as it is forced to concentrate resources on the Ukrainian and European track.

But this is a necessary and inevitable correction. We are paying for our past illusions and mental laziness. If the operation ends successfully, Moscow’s position in the world will strengthen tremendously. Firstly, its western flank will become less vulnerable. Secondly, and this is probably more important, Russia will become a country capable of significantly changing the overall balance of power on the international stage and determining priority guidelines for world politics.

Then we will need a foreign policy aimed mainly at solving domestic tasks. Russia has played and continues to play a role in liberating the world from Western diktat.

But it makes no sense to constantly take the bullet for everyone. It is time to understand a simple, but rather new for us, idea. Russia’s greatest contribution to building a new world order would be its own successful development to guarantee stability in Eurasia despite global upheavals. A foreign policy strategy should be aimed not so much at deriving economic benefits, although they are also important, as at ensuring internal development in conditions of real independence and selfsupport.

Let me say this again: all these tasks cannot be solved amid a long systemic confrontation with an important part of the world―the West―without mobilizing the government and society ideologically and organizationally. The question is how far such mobilization should go. At this point, only some of its elements can be seen. The authorities either have not realized yet or are afraid to say that “twenty years without war” are over. A war for survival has been forced upon us and we must win it. If we give in, if we retreat, they will finish us off.

A look at the last four decades brings disappointment: there is too much we could not or did not want to understand. We made mistakes. And yet, not only did we persevere, but we also began to win. We have to brace up again, taking into account the lessons of the past and developing the cultural openness of Russia, and keep winning, even though the challenges are huge and in many ways unusual. We should keep the focus on the future and, of course, regain the Russian drive (see: Karaganov, 2020b―Ed.).


Karaganov, S.A., 2020a. Novye idei dlya sebya i mira [New Ideas for the World and for Ourselves]. Rossiya v globalnoi politike, 18(2), pp. 21-32. Available at: https://globalaffairs.ru/articles/novye-idei-dlya-sebya-i-mira/ [Accessed 4 August 2022].

Karaganov, S.A., 2020b. Mirovoi shtorm i russky kurazh [World Storm and the Russian Drive]. Rossiya v globalnoi politike, 28 October [online]. Available at:14https://globalaffairs.ru/articles/mirovoj-shtorm-i-russkij-kurazh/ [Accessed 4 August 2022].

http://lib.ru/PROZA/SOLZHENICYN/fevral.txt [Accessed 4 August 2022].

Sergei A. Karaganov, Doctor of History Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Russia Honorary Chairman of the Presidium;National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia Faculty of World Economy and International AffairsAcademic Supervisor