Shaken Foundations and Russia's Reorientation

29 june 2013

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: Changes are sweeping the world, denying opportunities for the countries to focus on anything in earnest. They have only time to react to new and unexpected twists and turns, but no time to contemplate and devise strategies.

Changes are sweeping the world, denying opportunities for the countries to focus on anything in earnest. They have only time to react to new and unexpected twists and turns, but no time to contemplate and devise strategies. The world community is stunned by the abundance of information as a result of globalization, which it is unable to fully comprehend. The basic foundations, which seemed unshakable just recently, have been called into question.

Ivan Krastev discusses why democracy has stalled and is losing its effectiveness in the global world, and whether countries can adjust their habitual decision-making practices – democratic or meritocratic – to the new conditions. He points to a divergence of the paths of national elites, which are becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and no longer value their national identity, on the one hand, and the majority of the population that are still tied to their roots, on the other hand.

Vladimir Makei suggests taking a fresh look at the human rights concept, which has become a generally accepted value but which has not turned into a universal panacea as it has proven ineffective in many countries where it was brought from outside. P R Kumaraswamy focuses on the Arab Spring, trying to understand whether there is a socio-political model that would be satisfactory to countries that have shaken off the authoritarian rule. He concludes that these societies cannot develop without a broad national consensus.

Russia is going through an internal transformation that also affects its international positioning. Dmitry Trenin analyzes the “fourth vector” of Vladimir Putin, who in his current term in office has taken a different view on the West’s place in Russia’s foreign policy. Moscow’s growing interest in Eurasia and the Asian trend in its rhetoric mark a major departure from its Western-centric policy of the previous years. Igor Okunev goes even further, arguing that a combination of objective and subjective factors is changing Russia’s geopolitical code – for the first time, the Russian elites are ready to abandon their orientation towards the West as a benchmark for development.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann believes that Russia could play an essential role in giving a new impetus to globalization. He warns that its main pillar, free trade advocated by everyone only recently, has been undermined. The U.S. administration’s policy is clearly aimed at creating preferential trade areas, rather than at preserving universal rules for all. In these conditions, Moscow alone can propose a plan to create an open Eurasian Economic Space that would stretch from the Arctic to India and Indonesia, and from Ireland to South Korea. Daniel Treisman, however, is critical of Russia’s practices of presenting its initiatives on the international arena as it often loses advantageous opportunities.

Yevgeny Vinokurov formulates the principles for forming an independent productive Eurasian integration that would not be opposed to the European Union, but complement it. He emphasizes the importance of the “open regionalism” principle. Vladislav Inozemtsev discusses the position of former colonies and dependent territories in the contemporary world, focusing on theoretical approaches to how to distinguish a post-imperial policy from equitable inter-state integration.

Leonid Grigoriev and Alexandra Morozkina analyze global governance through the prism of BRICS, an association of developing countries which at their summit in Durban took the first steps towards forming alternative international institutions. BRICS is one of the symbols of the shift in the global balance from the West towards new centers of power. Russia is at a crossroads.

Anatoly Vishnevsky writes about one more aspect of uncertainty in Russia’s development. The country will need a significant influx of migrants; meanwhile, there is already an exaggerated view in Russian society on the danger of this process. Emil Pain raises a broader issue: What should be the basis for nation-building in countries which have experienced the loss of an empire but which cannot be mono-ethnic states for many reasons, both historical and current? The issue of a new identity to replace the old Soviet one is becoming extremely important for Russia’s future.

Timofei Bordachev writes about the European Union, which is also faced with an entirely new situation and which needs to basically revise its integration approaches. The era that began in the middle of the last century has come to an end. Olga Butorina compares the way the EU and Russia are responding to the crisis and draws a conclusion that is critical of the Russian approach.

Pavel Zolotarev reflects on what reasonable and efficient defense should be like in an era of uncertain threats and universal economic crisis. Vladimir Orlov and Alexander Cheban analyze the future of Russian-U.S. cooperation in reducing the nuclear threat after the Nunn-Lugar program’s expiry. The authors conclude that the experience the two countries have gained could well be used in cooperation in third countries. Lev Voronkov raises the issue of the Arctic, which is usually referred to in the context of economic and military-political rivalry. He acknowledges the persisting Cold War inertia in the region but says that cooperative approaches are beginning to take root.

In our next issue we will again revisit Eurasian economic integration and discuss the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, where Russia played a major role in the peace settlement, and the situation in Central Asia. Life may bring many other issues, too, which we are yet unaware of.

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