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The Pretextual Death of Aleksandr Dugin's Daughter
Why it foretells what's to come in Ukraine
Aleksandr Dugin is known by many as Vladimir Putin’s Rasputin. His personal philosopher. While his closeness to Putin is debatable, there is no question of his immense impact on Russian political ideology, which has grown increasingly ultranationalist, authoritarian, and anti-Western. This impact clearly made him a target, resulting in the death of his daughter.
But who targeted Dugin or his daughter?
We predicted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine back in January and noted Putin’s penchant for creating pretexts. The Chechen apartment bombings in 1999 conveniently came right as Putin was trying to cement his authority and control over Russia. The Russian people rallied around him as they charged into the bloody Second Chechen War. Putin never looked back, repeating similar actions in Georgia (2008) and Crimea (2014).
Is it far-fetched to think the death of Dugin’s daughter could be a pretext for an escalation of force in Ukraine? A number of factors indicate that it was.
Russia is already blaming Ukraine
The Ukrainian government almost immediately denied any involvement in the bombing.
"Ukraine, of course, has nothing to do with this, because we are not a criminal state, which is the Russian Federation, and even less a terrorist state."
- Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky
That did not stop the pro-Kremlin politicians and state media from either suggesting Ukrainian involvement or placing the blame squarely on Ukrainian shoulders. Without any evidence.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry, said in a Telegram post that if any Ukrainian link was found it would amount to "state terrorism."
Denis Pushilin, president of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, immediately blamed the bombing on “terrorists of the Ukrainian regime, trying to kill Alexander Dugin.”
Officially, the Kremlin has stayed silent. However, a tragedy to someone this close to Putin will not allow him to maintain a sense of normalcy for much longer. He will feel compelled to act.
Aleksandr Dugin conveniently left the car his daughter died in
As reported by Russian media, Aleksandr Dugin left the car his daughter died in at the last minute, just before they both left a cultural festival. Aleksandr Dugin had given a talk at the festival over the weekend. Some reports suggested there was a lack of security at the festival’s parking lot.
Dugin’s daughter was a political journalist herself; one who shared many of her father’s ultranationalist, anti-Western views. She vocally supported the invasion of Ukraine. Although she was by no means as famous as her father, someone who is often credited with founding the current Russian political ideology.
So why did Aleksandr Dugin leave the car his daughter died in? At the last minute? No media source has reported on why they suddenly decided to travel separately. All we know per Russian media is that they were originally supposed to travel in the same car. And there is video of Dugin arriving on the scene shortly after the bomb exploded.
It all seems too convenient. As if they needed to create a pretext for escalating the Russian war in Ukraine, which has recently been confined to the east and south. Unfortunately, Dugin’s daughter seems like the perfect sacrificial lamb - someone intimately connected to an important Russian ideologue, but not the ideologue himself.
Dugin may not have even been in on the conspiracy. Regardless, it fits the standard approach for Putin, who has a history of taking calculated risks and finding creative ways to justify Russian expansionism.
Dugin and Putin both want to escalate the war in Ukraine
It is no secret that Aleksandr Dugin’s ultranationalist philosophy has helped shape Putin’s expansionist foreign policy, primarily in the case of Ukraine. Putin knows the West - and Ukraine - is hyper-focused on this fact. In the weeks following his invasion of Ukraine, numerous Western media outlets ran features on Aleksandr Dugin.
So Putin always knew he made the perfect ideological target for the West, Ukraine, or anyone trying to stop Russian aggression. Yet Dugin was still permitted to travel to festivals like the one this past weekend with little to no security.
It makes no sense.
What does make sense is the need for a pretext. Like the apartment bombings that preceded the Second Chechen War, Putin needs a horrific event to justify further escalating the war he started in Ukraine. He needs to sell this escalation to the Russian people. He needs to further fuel their nationalism.
Both Dugin and Putin have called for greater escalation. In the case of Dugin, he’s been making these demands for decades, dating back to his 1997 book - Foundations on Geopolitics - where he articulated his worldview and called on Russia to rebuild its influence through alliances and conquest. He basically outlined the 2014 annexation of Crimea and has called for the eradication of the Ukrainian identity.
Putin used similar words in speeches and essays he delivered and published ahead of his invasion of Ukraine. These speeches and essays indicate that he does not plan to stop in the east and south of Ukraine, or even once he has all of Ukraine itself. He wants to reunite all of the former Soviet Republics. Using Dugin’s vision, this reunification of the “Russkiy Mir” would not mean a return to Communism, but unifying all Russian-speaking peoples under an ultranationalist, authoritarian regime to counterbalance and destroy the Western world.
The war in Ukraine will escalate
Whether the death of Dugin’s daughter triggers the escalation, there’s no way the ultranationalist ambitions of both Dugin and Putin will stop Russia from advancing beyond Ukraine’s southern and Donbas regions. Everything they have said and written indicates an escalation is coming. This latest bombing only gives Putin a pretextual reason to escalate sooner rather than later.
Putin has always thought the West would tire of this war. Unlike countries in Africa and Asia, the West is not as dependent on Ukraine for grain and other imports. Ukraine also provides little in terms of geopolitical advantages when measured against their relative costs in antagonizing Russia. It is hard to sell the Western world on democratic ideals alone.
That’s despite the fact that a threat to democracy anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere.
Hopefully Dugin’s daughter was not used as a pawn in Putin’s war games to undermine democracy and a sovereign Ukraine. Based on his past history though, the possibility cannot be ruled out.
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