Nationalism is not unique to any country, yet it is a very important aspect to analyze in the field of political-economy. There are different types of nationalism and these types do not always fit together comfortably.
The first type of nationalism emerges from expanding a nation in what I call the Conquest-Model like the growth of Rome. This brand of nationalism was accomplished well by Rome only because it sought to create an economy building roads and expanding investment opportunity with a common language and monetary system. Others who have sought to create an empire, such as Spain, failed to view its possessions as equals and instead sought to exploit their resources as economic slaves. Britain expanded around the world but it too did not actually embrace the different cultures as did Rome. Rome permitted its conquered states to retain their own religion and customs, but created a single economy through language that the EU has failed to even understand. The USA expanded from East to West building a common language and economy in the same manner as Rome.
The second type is often considered the only type that is defined very broadly to include all of the people and religious groups that have traditionally lived in a given the territory creating the image of one country v another. This is truly perhaps the most common for it is typically the one furthered by the state and political leaders for it supports greater power in their hands. The key desire of these nationalists is often inspired by the state for the goal is to reintegrate the territory after a fall, or defend it against the world when the economy declines such as Germany post-WWI. These two flavors within the second type provide subcategories that are distinct. This second form nationalism is also one of pride where a lot of Russians ascribe to this seeing the old empire as a dream and respond that taking Ukraine is good because Russia is getting bigger once again. They do not see the economic impact.
A third type of nationalism is a much more exclusive and even racist in nature. We saw this emerge in Philadelphia during 1844 as people rise up against immigrants during an economic decline under the theory that the domestic natives cannot find work because of the immigrants. We see the USA embroiled in immigration reform but this is again directed at Mexicans for economic reasons.
Ethnic nationalism unfold during economic declines. Groups will also emerge as we saw in Germany against the Jews that become committed to a pure state along blood lines. In Russia, there are those who are opposed to expansion for they want a state that is free of “polluting” peoples of other ethnicities, or at least those who are not Slavic. The primary declaration of these types of nationalists is to prevent immigration of unwanted groups and, for some, to bring their “stranded” people abroad back into the state’s domain. This type of nationalism rises everywhere from Japan that will discriminate against Koreans working in Tokyo to Singapore where natives blame inflation on all the foreigners who live there.
What we must understand is that since the emerging markets declined from a 2007 high, we have both types of nationalism running around in Russia right now. Our economic models on Russia point lower into 2020 that will complete a 13 year bear market. We must strive to understand what is taking place for these two forms of nationalism have substantial support in Russia, yet paradoxically, they are in deep conflict with each other simultaneously. The nationalism of restoring the USSR attributed to Putin would mean bringing into Russia and its major cities many of the very people whom the ethnic nationalists want to kick out, especially Islamic non-Slavs from former Soviet countries like Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Furthermore, some of these ethnic nationalists would actually want to contract Russia creating a pure state of Russian blood. This group wants a Russia without the Islamic regions and to jettison the North Caucasus region—a vision once famously articulated by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Obviously, like ice cream, there is never just one flavor. Consequently, interpreting the current international situation as simply a new Cold War or to see Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a Russian Hitler bent on reconstituting the USSR at all costs is not entire a fair representation. Clearly, the Cold War was driven in substantial part by competing ideologies of world scope where the ideology of communism was to save the world with global dominance. Putin has no such ideology. Yet I can find no one who can articulate exactly why the USA and Russia are enemies. It appears to have devolved into just an old Hatfield–McCoy feud (1863–1891).
Commentators in the press simply often now refer to Putin as a “nationalist” leader. Without question, he is riding high on a surge of nationalist sentiment following the annexation of Crimea as he has tapped into that first form of nationalism. This is because the Russian economy is declining. The sanctions now allow Putin to separate himself from any blame domestically for the economic decline. The USA has handed him his external enemy on a gold patter. The worse the Russian economy declines, the great the hatred toward the West emboldening the people to wage war. The sanctions will have exact opposite impact from their intention and are creating the precise same mistake as the reparation payment imposed upon the German people after World War I that support the rise of Hitler that evolved eventually into the third type of nationalism.
Unfortunately, the West’s idea of a partnership with Russia was wrongly based on its absolute acquiescence with all Western policies anywhere in the world. There was no real consideration of the consequences for Russia surrendering everything. The West’s brain-dead strategists wanted the total reshaping of Russian society according to a Western model, without any consideration for Russia’s peculiarities, history, and culture. Putin’s view that the greatest crime of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Russia did not make the full transition to a free economy. It merely moved from the state ownership and dominance to one of oligarchies.
Therefore, even if some in Moscow may dream of a new Soviet Union where the state takes care of them and they need not really compete for income, such dreams mean very little in practical terms outside of Russia in states such as Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine proper where these neighbors have no interest in giving up their political independence and have made the transition to a free economy unlike that in Russia. The Ukrainian Revolution was precisely against a president from the East who was introducing a Russian Oligarchy with his own family as the exploiter aided by the corrupt police. These regions have moved to a free society and have no interest in going back to a state that is merely controlled by corruption.