Moscow’s Ostpolitik as continental politics
A continental struggle for liberation is on the horizon in Asia. Will it be led by the Soviet Union?
Ross’s journey to Eastern Europe and Central Asia was guided by multiple objectives, among them, to demonstrate German mobility in the world, to ascertain the potential for German economic influence and expansion in the region, and to gain a sense of politics on the ground as continental politics. While the first two of these objectives are presented to the reader in the cool, objective language of New Objectivity, Ross shifts into a mystical, völkisch vocabulary as soon as he begins his discussions of continental politics. It is not through direct observation, but instead through intuition that Ross senses a “Russian spirit [Geist] that is struggling to find new form” (295), even where he finds it difficult to recognize these “driving forces that are shaping the future” (die treibenden, zukunftsgestaltenden Kräfte; 298).
It is clear that Ross sees Soviet influence as the decisive category in any future for the Asian continent. He describes every country he visits in terms of how closely it is held under the control of the Soviet center, or, conversely, how much autonomy it is being granted. Both relationships are strategically put in place by Moscow in a design for continental power, yet this power is merely one that will harness and steer the collective energies already rising on the continent.
In a summarizing article he wrote for the Neue Freie Presse after his return, Ross explained this Soviet strategy in seemingly objective terms:
“The Soviet Ostpolitik made great concessions to its own Mohammedan subjects with the goal of gaining influence over the bordering Islamic states of Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan in order to gain their support in bringing the Bolshevik movement to India”.
But in the final passage of Der Weg nach Osten, Ross assesses the situation in terms of rising continental energies:
“The most important of Soviet Russia’s external problems is the relationship to Islam. If a resolution between Moscow, Angora [Ankara], and Kabul can be reached, then the Soviet Union, as an Asian power, will assume leadership over the coming Asian struggle for liberation.”
Colin Ross. Die Weltbilanz Moskaus. In: Der Weg nach Osten: Reise durch Rußland, Ukraine, Transkaukasien, Persien, Buchara und Turkestan. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus; 1923; 295-304.