Two reading recommendations: Russian geopolitics and international trade

The Last War of the World Island, by Alexander Dugin

A recurring topic in geopolitics is the Russian question. From the point of view of Western Europe, Russia and its previous political iterations, namely the Soviet Union, is seen as, save for a few historical interludes, as the actor that most endangers the European liberal project, or at the very least, a latent threat. Alexander Dugin brings us a distinct perspective, he who was named as “Putin’s brain”, where the center of gravity is precisely in Russia.

Heir to traditionalist and continental Eurasianism of the authors before him, predominantly Lev Gumilev, but also of known geostrategic conceptions such as Mackinder’s Heartland, Dugin begins by introducing a historical contextualization of Russia and its strategic background, as well as what he identifies as being the process of weakening of Russia during the 20th century and its successive losses of influence, in what he sees as being the quintessential continental power and which should, as a strategic imperative, consolidate under a “conservative ecumenism” of sorts – an endeavour on which, in his view, the survival of Russia as we know it depends.

Being a controversial figure, as his statements on the Ukrainian question that led him to being expelled from Moscow State University show, his ideas are no less evocative. Events such as Brexit, an idea which the author himself imagined over a decade before it came to fruition, make us wonder whether in fact the Eurasian project is being put into practice and yielding results.

The Great Rebalancing, by Michael Pettis

This title, whose author is a professor of finance in the University of Beijing, has us visit the history of economics, and how certain historical patterns have been repeating, with the book focusing on the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. Imbued with an exceptional historical vision, as opposed to a purely technical perspective, Pettis analyzes the great cases of financial imbalances that generate crises: how export stimuli sacrifice internal demand in exchange for international competitiveness, and how financial flows that distort international markets generate a precarious equilibrium that in the long run needs to be rebalanced, one way or another. Salaries, savings rates, indebtedness and the great economic miracles of the 20th and 21th century are put into focus, but also the dollar question and the implicit costs to the american economy that its use as the global currency involves.

Despite being fundamentally a book about economics and finance, it is an accessible reading for people from other fields, which is an added bonus, as its an essential field for IR in particular.

Recently, a new book was published from Michael Pettis and Matthew C. Klein, under the title “Trade Wars are Class Wars”. Within the same perspective, it’s a book that focuses on the updated situation of international trade, in particular with the emergence of the trade war between the US and China, and the same capital and trade flows that “The Great Rebalancing” showcases as generating chronic imbalances, which will inevitably need to be solved. We will visit this title at a later date.

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