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By John Helmer, Moscow

Hatred of the Russian race and Russophobia are more than a thousand years old in Europe – long enough for everyone nowadays to realise there’s no cure for them.  At least not by rational persuasion, not by words.  Remission by force of arms is another matter altogether.

A Swiss history of the phenomenon in Europe, starting in France in Charlemagne’s time and ending on the Donbass contact line since 2014, explains why the stakes along that line are so great now. The book is also an aid to comprehending why in this week’s telephone conversation between the chief Russian and American negotiators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (lead image, 1st right) demonstrated the futility of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s (3rd right) talking with him again.*  

The Swiss history, published by Guy Mettan in 2017 as President Donald Trump was taking office in Washington, reveals a hopefulness that is impossible now. “Will Trump know how”, Mettan asks in his last paragraph, “will he still want to, or will he simply give up on trying to turn the tide and bring back civility in the relations between the West and Russia? Is a respite in what is turning out to be a new Cold War at all possible?” Mettan answered himself: “We certainly wish so. After all, if the task is almost superhuman, as no one will doubt after reading this book, it just may not be altogether impossible.”

Squeezing between that double negative there is in fact no space, no hope.

Mettan has written a primer on this brand of racism, noting that “Russophobia, contrary to French Anglophobia and Germanophobia, is a phenomenon that, though different of course, resembles anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. Like anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, it is not a transitory phenomenon linked to specific historical events; it exists first in the head of the one who looks, not in the victim’s alleged behaviour or characteristics.”

In Mettan’s history, American Russophobia “begins where the French, the English, and the Germans left off. It is a dynamic synthesis of French liberal-democratic Russophobia and English and German imperialist Russophobias.”  To Mettan the American phenomenon of today is a millennial climax of sorts. It‘s the apogee and the perigee, the final form of confidence in pursuing genocidal war against the Russians who resist and subjugation of those who remain,  which the German leadership held in June 1941.

According to Mettan, though, the adoption of Russophobia as US state policy since 1945  has reversed the outcome of the last war for the Germans. “This is how, in less than a quarter century, without striking a single blow Germany has just won the First and Second World Wars!”

Mettan’s book, Creating Russophobia, From the Great Religious Schism to Anti-Putin Hysteria, can be read here.  The author is a Geneva-based Swiss journalist; during the Yeltsin administration he obtained Russian citizenship,   apparently by kinship not by patronage.

The first use of the term Russophobia Mettan ascribes to Fyodor Tyutchev in 1867. He meant it to describe his own countrymen. “The modern phenomenon that becomes increasingly pathological,” Tyutchev wrote, is “the Russophobia of some Russians who are otherwise highly respected.”

To Mettan, however, this particular phobia signifies prejudice towards Russians, not fear of them. It also involves a pathological desire to be loved by another race, especially Americans, which has flourished since the Yeltsin revolution of 1991.

Mettan diagnoses this pathology as part Freudian sublimation of darker desires;  part imperial conquest of natural resources, commodity markets, gun-running; and part paid propaganda. Mettan is no Marxist;  he attributes an independently formative role for Russophobia in the battles fought by the Roman Catholic Church against Orthodox Christianity from Constantinople to the Third Rome (Moscow).“Russophobia also possesses a religious foundation and is not limited in time”. It is, however, “always limited to the Catholic or Protestant Northern hemisphere.”

The stories Mettan retrieves from Church history stop roughly half a millennium ago, when the popes in Rome egged on their Polish co-religionists to capture the Kremlin.  He has left out the passive collaboration, then active plotting of the Roman popes – Pius XI (1922-39) and Pius XII (1939-58) — with the German Army and then with the American Central Intelligence Agency, also to take over the Kremlin.

“Seen in retrospect with a pinch of humour, the 2015 European Union, with its plans of expansion eastward, in Ukraine and Georgia, after swallowing the Balkans, Poland and the Baltic States, is in every way reminiscent of the objectives of the German emperors, Charlemagne, Otto I and Henry II, the emperor who officially founded the first Reich in 1014, by sealing the alliance of the Empire and the Church under the aegis of Pope Benoit VIII.”

What tips Russophobia beyond a religious faith into racism is its “purpose to diminish the other [Russians] with a view to better dominate [them]. And this is what makes Russophobia a phenomenon specific to the west.”

Repeating itself regularly over the last millennium,  there can be nothing new in the Russophobia faking department which hasn’t been tried many times over.  Long before the British fabricated  the Zinoviev Letter of 1924 and the Novichok Attack of 2018, there was the forged testament of Peter the Great and its promotion by the two most ambitious warmaking dictators of France, Louis XIV and Napoleon.

For the continuity of the British Russophobic fabrications, read this.  US successor fabrications like the Golden Showers Dossier and Trumpgate have proved to be as equally resistant to truth testing as their British and French predecessors.

Mettan is less sure how the story of American Russophobia will end, so he tries to sound hopeful, assigning the future to himself and fellow-feeling people like him. “Anti-Russian prejudices are so deeply anchored in the Western collective subconscious”, he thinks it “would take ten, a hundred, a thousand” critics, teachers, writers, books “to eradicate them successfully ”. How that might be possible Mettan doesn’t say. For back-up, he doesn’t mention the million or so soldiers of the Russian Army.

[*] In the official text of Blinken’s press release after the telephone call with Lavrov, he used a term which implies the priority of the Ukraine over the NATO allies in deciding US negotiating terms with Russia.  But in the unofficial text of the US letter of reply which has just been published by El Pais, the order and meaning of this phrase have been changed. In the leaked document, the US is indicating “close consultation with our Allies” and “consultation with our Allies and partners”. The only explicit reference to the Ukrainians in the El Pais documents refers to the US offer to negotiate “reciprocal commitments from deploying offensive ground-launched missile systems and permanent forces with a combat mission in the territory of Ukraine. We will continue to consult with Ukraine on these discussions.” By pairing US missile and force deployments on Kiev’s territory with Russian missile and force deployments in Crimea, the US wording is intended to escalate the direct US-Russian confrontation instead of de-escalating it.  

NOTE: The left lead image is a cartoon drawn by Ryan Walker, a leading political cartoonist in the US between 1895 and 1932. He became a member of the US Communist Party in 1930, then during a visit to Moscow in 1932 he died of pneumonia.

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