Scared of Putin’s Shadow

In Sanctioning Dugin, Washington Got the Wrong Man

U.S. President Barack Obama walks to Marine One before departing for Sweden and the G20 Summit in Russia, September 3, 2013. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

On March 11, 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department placed a new round of sanctions on 14 figures that Washington considers responsible for the conflict in Ukraine. Until now, sanctions had targeted either high-level Russian politicians or those who were part of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle—his friends and their bankers. The latest list, however, includes mostly secessionist leaders from Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine that roughly covers the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. But it also names individuals that do not belong to the Russian ruling circles, and are connected to the Ukraine conflict only by ideology.

Take for example, Alexander Dugin, an outspoken Russian thinker who is often noted in Western media for his fascist views and his belief that Ukraine is not a sovereign state but a region that belongs, and therefore is fated to return, to Russia. Dugin has no official status within the Russian government. He is not even a member of the Public Chamber—a consultative institution created by Putin to foster a regime-friendly civil society—although one of Dugin’s close associates, Valery Korovin, was elected by an informal public vote as a member in Spring 2014. Nor is Dugin a part of Putin’s inner circle. The two men might not have ever even met. (Dugin is known to take every opportunity to publicize his personal connections with the Russian political elite, but has never bragged about having met the Russian president.) His supposed links to the State Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin are likewise unsubstantiated. Dugin has no known financial interests that could have been secured by an alleged inclusion in Putin’s inner circle, unlike many of the other officials on the sanction list. So why is Washington targeting him?


The story behind Dugin’s rise to so-called prominence begins in the early 1990s, when he was working closely with the communist and nationalist groups opposed to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Dugin tried to become a shadow advisor to the Russian authorities and

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