Successes and Reflections

26 december 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: The year 2013 is considered to be a year of Russia’s foreign policy successes. A string of events – from the breakthrough in settling the chemical weapons issue in Syria and the hard line on the Snowden case to contribution to the settlement of the Iranian problem to the convincing explanation to Kiev as to why it should refrain from signing an association agreement with the EU – made the world speak of Moscow’s potent capability to achieve its goals.

The year 2013 is considered to be a year of Russia’s foreign policy successes. A string of events – from the breakthrough in settling the chemical weapons issue in Syria and the hard line on the Snowden case to contribution to the settlement of the Iranian problem to the convincing explanation to Kiev as to why it should refrain from signing an association agreement with the EU – made the world speak of Moscow’s potent capability to achieve its goals. Although pleased to note these achievements, Russian analysts nevertheless worry about the future. Russia’s foreign policy has been very effective tactically – primarily due to its shrewd diplomacy and consistent position – but it does not have enough tools necessary to cope with the challenges posed by the changing global environment.

The topic was discussed in detail by the Council on Foreign and Defense at its 21st Assembly, held in early December near Moscow (the materials of the forum will be published in our next issue). A close scrutiny of this subject is also given in the article by Sergei Karaganov. He writes that even the most brilliant diplomatic skills will not be enough to achieve Russia’s goals if it relies only on its raw material and military potentials. Interestingly, a critical rethinking is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic, as well. Andrei Sushentsov discusses whether the United States’ “overstrain” may cause it to give up excessive ambitions and turn to the traditional, more restrained foreign policy. The Syrian zigzag is a sign of the ongoing changes.

Ukraine’s refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union and the political crisis in Kiev came as a most intricate line in this year’s story. The events graphically reflect the peculiar features of the current international environment in which real processes are intertwined with perceptions and ideas, often deliberately or impulsively distorted ones. Sergei Glaziev explains in detail the inadequacy of the idea of Kiev’s association with the EU and why Eurasian integration is more advantageous to Ukraine and other countries. Sergei Datsyuk argues that Ukraine’s problems come not from outside but inside of the country and that Ukraine is not ready to make responsible decisions concerning its future. Timofei Bordachev and his coauthors discuss the Moscow-initiated Eurasian integration project and analyze whether it provides more opportunities or challenges.

We continue to publish materials of the Strategy XXI project of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, which outlines major priorities for Russia’s development. Vladimir Ryzhkov and Rostislav Turovsky analyze the state of Russia’s federal structure and conclude that the country’s successful development can be secured only through granting greater independence to the regions. Leonid Grigoriev and Alexander Kurdin draw attention to the most complicated problem of contemporary Russia, namely, the public perception of property as illegitimate. According to the authors, this problem has no simple solution; only committed efforts to establish the rule of law and enforce measures for the gradual legitimization of major private property will help change people’s mindset.

Another pressing problem is inter-ethnic and intercultural relations in modern societies – the challenges that are faced by all countries. Valery Tishkov raises the issue of nation-building in Russia. He points out that, despite the changes in the surrounding world, nation-building in this country is still done from top down. Sergei Markedonov warns that, while discussions are underway over ways to broaden and strengthen Russia’s sphere of influence in the world, there is a specific territory inside the country – the North Caucasus – which many Russian citizens do not view as an inherent part of Russia.

Pyotr Stegny summarizes the results of the first phase of the Arab Spring, which ended with a counter-revolution in Egypt and a deadlock in Syria. He writes that to avoid recurrences of the sliding of local crises into a dangerous phase, countries must agree on basic concepts of the emerging global security system. There is a long overdue need to build international relations on the same principles of pluralism of views that underlie democratic systems at the national level, the author maintains. Andrei Baklanov analyzes to what extent military spending in the world is linked with global stability, and concludes that the planet is most likely to see a new surge of armed activity. Shepherd Iverson discusses one of the most pressing international conflicts – the one on the Korean Peninsula – and proposes studying the Soviet perestroika as a model for resolving the North Korean issue. Urban Rusnak writes about prospects of reforming the Energy Charter Treaty, which was meant to be a universal tool for regulating the energy market. Many analysts believe that the Treaty still offers opportunities for a harmonious solution to controversial issues in this sphere.

In our next issue, we will discuss the future of the European Union and Eurasian integration, continue to publish Strategy XXI materials, and analyze Russia’s declared turn towards Asia.

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