Arguing the roots of Russophobia

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There was a moment when he was gamely talking re-set with former President Barack Obama and famously enamored with all thing’s technology.  He even brought the Silicon Valley concept to Moscow where he fired up the Skolkovo Innovation Center.  Now he’s fired up on other ideas.

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

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

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


Russian officials have been accusing the West and others of being anti-Russian for a long time, but they appear to be ramping up their usage of the word as they press on with their war in Ukraine. Nowhere do they publicly connect their newly acquired semi-pariah status with their actions in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at 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 make is that they want to have nothing in common with such a Europe,” Dmitry Suslov told Fox News.

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

Russia, generally speaking, was not at the center of controversy nor broad punitive measures or ostracism until the annexation of Crimea and this war in Ukraine that has killed thousands of innocent civilians in the course of less than three months.  

But Suslov is convinced otherwise, and that the former satellite states of the Soviet Union joined NATO to actually get at Russia.  Russia is now using the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austen’s recent comments to prove their point of victimhood and justify a hardening of their line.

“The game changer really happened after the famous statement by Lloyd Austen when he said the purpose of the United States is to weaken Russia. As soon as the Russian people hear that, this becomes a patriotic war.  This is no longer a war about Ukraine in Ukraine. This is a war against Russia.  You know, it really consolidates people around the flag.”  


Austen’s comments were in the context of ending the war in Ukraine, not general animosity toward Moscow, and when I point that 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 through the weakening of a nuclear superpower.  The longer the United States tries to weaken Russia by exhausting its military resources in Ukraine, the greater the chances for escalation and escalation is much more probable than Russia accepting any sort of weakening or defeat in Ukraine.  It is simply impossible not to understand that.”

And Suslov believes the West is egging Russian on. “Those in the United States who openly say they want to end this war by weakening Russia, from the Russian perspective they want Russia to use nuclear weapons.  They want Russia to conduct this escalation which again proves my point.  That Ukraine for the United States is not a country they want to protect or save.  Ukraine for the United States is just a pawn, just wasting material which they use in their hybrid struggle against Russia.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, welcomes U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the talks in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, April 26.

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

When I press Suslov on why the United States would want Russia on its knees if there weren’t a war to end, he goes back to President Putin’s years’ old lament that the world is no longer multipolar, i.e. Russia no longer is one of two globally recognized superpowers.


This talking at cross purposes does not bode well for a fast end to this war.  The language of leaders and diplomats has become rougher, read-outs of phone calls with Putin are increasingly different for each interlocutor, and prospects for diplomatic solutions are not being discussed.  When a reporter from the Russian-language Current Time TV approached Sergei Lavrov to ask him a question today as he exited his meetings, Russia’s top diplomat told him to go talk to the peacocks.

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