A Disintegrating World

24 september 2011

Fyodor Lukyanov is Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

Resume: The summer of 2011 gave no break to global politics.

The summer of 2011 gave no break to global politics. The protracted war in North Africa, in which humanitarian slogans were closely intertwined with mercantilist intentions; the continuing instability in the Arab world; the intensification of conceptual contradictions in the European Union; the political clash in the United States over the national debt, which threatens to overthrow the global economic system; and finally, the horrible massacre in Norway, which reminded everyone of the all round growth of radicalism – these are elements of the worsening crisis of the world order. Not surprisingly, our authors, no matter what particularly they write about, intentionally or unintentionally touch upon one or another aspect of this extensive subject.

Sergei Dubinin is confident that the current dismal state of the world economy, from which the leading countries are now coming out, sometimes with the help of selfish solutions, will not reverse the globalization but, on the contrary, will move it into a new phase. Russia, in his view, should continue its efforts to integrate into the open economy, traditionally led by the West. Pavel Salin, in contrast, believes that the world has entered an era of decline of the Western domination, although he does not share the opinion about an inevitable rise of China against this background. Yet there is no doubt that the economic and political center is shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, posing a serious challenge to Russia accustomed to the West-centric world arrangement.

Laszlo Lengyel fears a fragmentation of the European Union – if not formal, then actual – and a return of all the symptoms of the past confrontational policies of the Old World, from which it seemed to have been cured by the European integration. For Russia, this would mean a crucial change in the external context.

Lai Hairong discusses the compatibility of Chinese culture and traditional values with Western liberal democracy. Simon Tay writes that the economic achievements of China, against the backdrop of the worsening crisis in the United States and Europe, may bring about a redistribution of geopolitical influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Alexander Panov analyzes Russian-Japanese relations in the context of the challenging and ever-changing political landscape. These relations have a great potential for progress, but the recent years have seen a rift between the two countries.

Vitaly Naumkin writes that the Arab Spring came as a surprise to everyone, thus demonstrating a complete lack of understanding by the outside world of the ongoing processes and its general perplexity. In the meantime, a retrospective look at the events in the region reveals the general logic of its development as an element of the global system.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen examines the situation in the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. They have been bypassed by political upheavals and some of them have even consolidated their international positions. However, the scale and pace of change in the region make these conservative and seemingly successful regimes rethink their development strategies. Alexander Lukoyanov analyzes in detail Iran’s political development, on which the Arab Spring has had varied impact.

Adam Stulberg raises the topical question of whether the present and future gas pipeline networks in Eurasia are destined to inevitably reproduce conflicts, like those that have occurred more than once between Russia and transit states. The author comes to an optimistic conclusion that crises are not caused by systemic factors but by a set of instant circumstances in specific countries. One would like to share the author’s optimism, especially in light of yet another gas deadlock between Moscow and Kiev.

Andrei Yepifantsev writes about the most painful issue of Russia’s foreign policy in adjacent territories, the South Caucasus policy, which three years ago put the great powers on the brink of a clash. In the author’s opinion, Moscow has been continuously making mistakes there, although he acknowledges that the situation in the region objectively is very confusing, and there are no signs of improvement in sight. Sergei Markedonov focuses on a specific aspect of the Caucasian situation, namely Georgia’s decision to recognize “genocide of the Circassian people,” and on its possible consequences. Rasim Musabekov discusses the situation in neighboring Azerbaijan, located at the intersection of the influence of two powerful players – Russia and Turkey.

Nikolai Silayev comments on the discussions, flaring up now and again within Russia and in its interaction with many of its neighbors, about how to assess the Soviet past and especially the Stalinist period. The author believes that attempts to reanimate those times as a model to follow and as a source of inspiration are doomed to failure; yet they reflect the problems fretting the mind of the public, dissatisfied with how things stand in today’s Russia.

Igor Makarov writes about international efforts to address the global climate change. This area of world politics has been as eventful and erratic as all others. The global Kyoto model no longer works, and the fight against climate change is now shifting to the national level. This development reflects the general tendency in international processes.

Our next issue will be entirely devoted to one topic. December 2011 will mark 20 years since the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union. This event continues to influence the course and pace of many processes in the international arena. We will try to look deeper into how the world has changed over the 20 years without the Soviet Union and understand where we can go further.

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