As for Dr. Piontkovsky...
Piontkovsky's point was supposedly in distinction to an earlier presentation by Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin, which I wrote about a little while ago. Piontkovsky has been called an "enemy of Russia" by Dugin, and in turn says that Dugin's policies would make Russia a province of China. Though I think they have more in common than it would appear. Both believe in a special mission for Russia, both believe in balancing East (China) against West (Europe and America). Both believe the Russians ended Communism for their own purposes, rather than being defeated. Both believe there is really an Islamist threat. Both believe Putin is really intelligent and could stay in power if he wished. Etc. Where they differ is that Piontkovsky wants to use the West to defend against China, while Dugin wants to use China to defend against the West.
But they are united in their attitude towards Islamism, that the US did Russia's "dirty work" in Afghanistan (the first time in Russian history someone did Russia's dirty work rather than having Russia do their dirty work, according to Piontkovsky), They don't really seem angry at Russia for wanting to preserve a post-Soviet sphere of influence--Piontkovsky noted that Russia lost her empire in 1917 and regained it three years later, he predicted this could happen again in the post-Soviet era.
The "Scythian" motif comes from a poem by Aleksandr Blok:
You are but millions. Our unnumbered nationsWhile Piontkovsky didn't go into too much detail in his talk about the relation of the poem to Russia's foreign policy, he has spelled it out elsewhere, for example, in this 1998 Jamestown Foundation article:
Are as the sands upon the sounding shore.
We are the Scythians! We are the slit-eyed Asians!
Try to wage war with us--you'll try no more!
You've had whole centuries. We--a single hour.
Like serfs obedient to their feudal lord,
We've held the shield between two hostile powers--
Old Europe and the barbarous Mongol horde.
Your ancient forge has hammered down the ages,
Drowning the distant avalanche's roar.
Messina, Lisbon--these, you thought, were pages
In some strange book of legendary lore.
Full centuries long you've watched our Eastern lands,
Fished for our pearls and bartered them for grain;
Made mockery of us, while you laid your plans
And oiled your cannon for the great campaign.
The hour has come. Doom wheels on beating wing.
Each day augments the old outrageous score.
Soon not a trace of dead nor living thing
Shall stand where once your Paestums flowered before.
O Ancient World, before your culture dies,
Whilst failing life within you breathes and sinks,
Pause and be wise, as Oedipus was wise,
And solve the age-old riddle of the Sphinx.
That Sphinx is Russia. Grieving and exulting,
And weeping black and bloody tears enough,
She stares at you, adoring and insulting,
With love that turns to hate, and hate--to love.
"We are part of Europe, but we are being pushed out of Europe." "We would welcome a strategic partnership with the West, but we are being pushed aside." "Our leap towards peace and freedom was not trusted, our goodwill was seen as weakness." Such passages, in various samples of cheerless prose, paraphrase the central motif of a classic poem written eighty years ago by Aleksandr Blok:In a way, Dugin and Piontkovsky can be seen as the traditional Russia of the double headed eagle. Piontkovsky points Russia's European face towards Asia, while Dugin bares Russia's Asian face to the West. In the end, despite the mutual invective, both are Russian patriots, determined to protect a unique identity for Russia in the face of threats and blandishments from either East or West.
"Come to us--from battlefield nightmares into our peaceful arms!... If you do not, we have nothing to lose. Our faith, too, can be broken... We shall take to the wilds and the mountains Woods, letting beautiful Europe through, and as we move into the wings we shall turn An Asiatic mug to you."
There have been many proposals to "turn our Asiatic mug towards Europe" or worse: strategic partnership with China (it would be interesting to know Beijing's opinion on this), "a return of tactical nuclear weapon to the troops," and "offering anti-imperialist regimes access to nuclear technologies and their delivery means."
The entire Russian political class, from the westernizers to the statists, was seized by the "Scythian syndrome." Both groups looked at the West as Blok did--"both with hatred and with love"--differing perhaps only in the relative proportions of these two emotions. Take, for example, the strange public performance in two acts--one "with hatred" and one "with love"--put on by Andrei Kozyrev in Stockholm in December 1992: was this not a remake of the "Scythians"
In this emotionally charged atmosphere among the political class, and in the absence of any distinct constructive ideas, the Russian foreign ministry had to solve an extremely important practical task: to ensure Russia's long-term national interests in one of the key foreign policy areas--relations with the West.