On the Usefulness of Imagination

12 april 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 hackneyed saying “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” is as relevant today as never before, but there is no stopping to the audacious flight of imagination. Popular as it is, extrapolation of current trends to future periods does not work as something always gets in the way, while attempts to draw a completely different picture look like imaginative writing. And still we have taken the risk.

The hackneyed saying “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” is as relevant today as never before, but there is no stopping to the audacious flight of imagination. Popular as it is, extrapolation of current trends to future periods does not work as something always gets in the way, while attempts to draw a completely different picture look like imaginative writing. And still we have taken the risk. Interestingly, Yevgeny Kuznetsov’s futurological view based mainly on technological aspects does not seem to be at odds with present-day sociopolitical tendencies. In other words, technological breakthroughs do not change the general vector of global development but rather accelerate it.       

We are witnessing drastic changes taking place in all spheres around the world. Martin Gilman ponders over the future of International Monetary Fund as one of the pillars of the global financial system and comes to the conclusion that the situation in the world has changed dramatically since the days when this institution was created. Rein Müllerson wonders if the international law of the past era can be preserved in a multipolar world. Kira Sazonova believes it can be, but insists that we should not expect international law to ensure more than it can in the present circumstances. Ramesh Thakur addresses the perennial question of the possibility to establish world government, especially now that the world is getting increasingly fragmented. Raffaele Marchetti explores the role played by civil society in conflicts, including global ones.     

Of course, special attention in this issue is given to the conflict situation in the Middle East. This region will undoubtedly be a proving ground for the great powers to test their capabilities in the years to come. Ruslan Pukhov reviews preliminary results of Russia’s air campaign in Syria. The Russian President’s decision to pull the troops out of Syria came for many as another surprise. Yet it showed once again that Moscow is consistent in pursuing its own well-considered policy in the Middle East.

Polur Raman Kumaraswamy takes a look at Saudi Arabia’s “imperial overreach” and overly ambitious pursuits in the region. Anatoly Vishnevsky suggests looking at the roots of growing Islamism through an analysis of the demographic situation in the world. He gives an unnerving forecast: radicalism and terrorism will keep rising.  

And yet, while the Middle East remains in focus, Asia appears to be much more important for the future world order in the medium term. The main factor to consider is China’s growth. Vassily Kashin ponders over when Beijing will be able to project its power to other parts of the world and whether it intends to join the “premier league” of military powers. Vladimir Portyakov assesses Chinese experts’ views that their country has reached parity with the United States in aggregate power. Deng Beixi describes China’s ambitions in the Arctic, a region where it has never been present before. 

A special section is devoted to U.S.-Russia relations. Alexei Fenenko cautions that the risk of a direct clash is much higher now than it was during the Cold War as the two countries lack mutual respect and have lost the ability to reduce risks. Ivan Safranchuk observes that there are no people among U.S. political intellectuals to offer rationale for easing tensions. In fact, confrontation with Russia in varying degrees of severity is the political mainstream in present-day America. Andrej Krickovic and Yuval Weber share this view as they study “the origins of American behavior.” 

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sums up numerous debates on Russia’s foreign policy held both inside the country and abroad. He notes that throughout its history Russia has always remained an inalienable part of European politics. But this does not mean that it must adopt the norms, rules and modes of conduct that contradict its national traditions.   

In our next issue we will further discuss Russia’s operation in Syria, international law, and security in East Asia, and also look at tourism as a global political instrument.

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