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Putin Adviser Says Russia Abandoning Hopes Of Integrating With West

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, with his adviser Vladislav Surkov

A top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin warns that Russia has abandoned its centuries-long hopes of integrating with the West and is bracing for a new era of geopolitical isolation.

In an article for Russia in Global Affairs magazine released on April 9 and entitled "The Loneliness of a Half-Blood," Vladislav Surkov wrote that "Russia's epic journey toward the West" is over, marking an end to its "repeated vain attempts to become part of Western civilization" over four centuries.

The article comes after a series of clashes have sent Russia-West relations to the lowest level since the Cold War, starting with Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and continuing with Russia's entry into Syria's civil war and this year's mass expulsion of diplomats over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain.

Surkov, 53, a longtime Putin aide who served as his top strategist for many years and currently works as the presidential adviser on Ukraine, said that the 2014 split with the West over Ukraine was a watershed event that in his view launched "a century (or perhaps two or three centuries) of geopolitical loneliness" for Russia.

The Crimea annexation as well as Moscow's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine triggered U.S. and European Union sanctions that together with a slump in global oil prices sent the Russian economy into a long, two-year recession.

A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped reduce the scale of the hostilities in eastern Ukraine, but has not ended the conflict, and it has continued to sour Russia's relations with the West.

With Russia's hopes of rapprochement growing dimmer as conflicts have flared with the West, the country is increasingly looking inward as well as eastward, rather than toward the West, Surkov said.

Surkov cited the saying in Russia that the country has "only two allies: the army and the navy."

"Loneliness doesn't mean complete isolation," he wrote, but he said Russia's openness would be limited in the future.

"Russia without doubt will engage in trade, attract investments, exchange know-how, and fight wars...compete and cooperate, cause fear, hatred, curiosity, sympathy, and admiration," Surkov wrote. "But without false goals and self-denial."

The journey that Surkov said Russia has traveled is similar to the evolution of Putin's own history with the West.

The Russian leader sought to forge close ties with the West after his first election in 2000, but later grew increasingly critical of the United States and its European allies. He now accuses them of shunning Moscow's offers of cooperation, fostering hostility, and trying to sideline and weaken Russia.

Surkov recalled futile attempts at Westernization by past Russian rulers, noting that Russia once attempted to imitate the United States and "edge into the West."

He attributed Russia's fascination with joining the West to "excessive enthusiasm" by Russia's elite. But he said that fervor is now all but gone.

Surkov said Russia in fact is a kind of "mixed breed" culture that incorporates elements of both the East and the West, like "someone born of a mixed marriage."

"Treated by foreigners like one of their own, an outcast among his own people. Understanding of everyone and understood
by no one. A half-blood, a mixed-race hybrid, a weirdo," Surkov is quoted by Russian news agency Interfax as writing.

He said it is up to the Russian people whether Russia now becomes "a loner in a backwater" or "an alpha nation that has surged into a big lead" over other nations.

"It's going to be tough," he said, but Russia faces a long journey "through the thorns to the stars."

"It'll be fun," Surkov wrote. "And we will see the stars."

With reporting by AP and Interfax