Make Something Great Again

25 september 2016

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 future and the past can meet sometimes—when the present is at an impasse, like it is today. For a quarter of a century now, we have been tirelessly building a new world order, but suddenly time seems to have rolled back, reviving the talk of a new Cold War, an ideological conflict, arms control, and nuclear confrontation.

The future and the past can meet sometimes—when the present is at an impasse, like it is today. For a quarter of a century now, we have been tirelessly building a new world order, but suddenly time seems to have rolled back, reviving the talk of a new Cold War, an ideological conflict, arms control, and nuclear confrontation.   

Of course, we are not returning to where we were in the past. The political landscape in 2016 is in no way similar to the situation in 1986, the last year of the Soviet-American confrontation. But disappointment with the results of the desirable change causes an instinctive wish to go back to the time when things looked clear and significant. We want to make something great again, even though everyone has his own golden age to long for.

Andrei Kortunov wonders why the liberal world order, which held so much promise in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has failed. He thinks, however, that it is unescapable in one form or another. Sergei Karaganov reminisces about the past quarter of a century and voices concern that so many are wishing to replay the scenario of the systemic military-political confrontation in Europe. Vassily Kashin writes about the past that never goes away—mutual suspicions that have invariably permeated intensive and close ties between the United States and China at all times. Boris Kapustin discusses the permanent link between Russia’s past and present—the continuity of public consciousness where lasting traditions mean both a solid basis and unsurmountable rigidity.

The main problem of the current global situation is that the previous forms no longer work while no new ones are there to replace them. Alexander Gorelik, anticipating the race for the post of UN Secretary-General, tries to figure out the capacity of the biggest international organization today and in the future. Alexei Klishin addresses a delicate issue of the balance between national and supranational factors in legal systems and practices. He comes to the conclusion that imbalances between them have a negative impact on international law. Dmitry Suslov forecasts the end of an entire era of American politics: no matter who wins the presidential election in the U.S., the familiar political America is already a thing of the past, while a new one is only beginning to surface. The same is true of the European Union. Tatiana Romanova analyses the multi-factor crisis of the European Union, perhaps the most successful socio-political experiment of the 20th century.    

A new phenomenon that is likely to become a major distinction of the coming decades is the emergence of a new politico-economic reality in Eurasia. Timofei Bordachev looks at the prospects of an alliance between Russia and China and concludes that it is impracticable on an anti-American basis, but does not rule out a new type of relations based on the need to jointly address acute common challenges. One of them is apparent—an obscure future of Central Asia. Besides the problem of continuity of power—and the death of Uzbekistan’s all-time leader Islam Karimov made it especially acute—there are serious conceptual challenges in the region. Ivan Safranchuk says that all countries in the region are facing the need to choose a strategy of their future development and none of the existing options is going to be easy. Vitaly Vorobyov believes that the United States will try to draw China into various conflicts in the Pacific, which makes Eurasia all the more important for Beijing. Alexei Malashenko and Alexei Starostin focus on another rarely discussed subject concerning Russia’s Far East, namely the growing Muslim community there and its endogenic processes.    

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak expounds on the perennial subject of Russia’s possibilities in international energy cooperation, which will unavoidably become a major priority for it in the coming decades. Slawomir Raszewski analyzes the situation in the Middle East and tries to foretell oil market trends. It may be a welcome attempt, but, given the current volatile situation, it is unlikely to be successful.

In our next issue we are going to discuss a subject linked with a significant date in history—twenty-five years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But we will be looking not at the past but at the future, because the processes set in motion in those days are far from being complete.

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