Together or Apart?

26 october 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 answer to this question with regard to the global economy and politics even a couple of years ago would be considered self-evident – of course, together. In the global world, where countries depend on each other in one way or another, success is possible only through ever deeper cooperation.

The answer to this question with regard to the global economy and politics even a couple of years ago would be considered self-evident – of course, together. In the global world, where countries depend on each other in one way or another, success is possible only through ever deeper cooperation.

A chain of crises has shaken faith in the possibility of universal approaches. The world has again begun to fragment. More and more players are seeking to formulate rules for themselves and adjacent areas and to interact with the others from the position of these rules. This means the emergence of competitive integration projects, where the participants have to be quick in making decisions about qualitative and quantitative aspects of their associations in order to keep up with the fast-changing world.

The dialectics of integration and problems of identity in the global world have taken center stage in the analysis by many authors in this issue.

Andrei Bezrukov writes that, to succeed in the 21st century, Russia must change its mindset and renounce the defensive consciousness peculiar to Russians. In an open and competitive environment, attempts at isolation could only result in a fatal lagging behind.

What should integration be based on? This question is important to Russia, which emerges as the driving force in the creation of a Eurasian Economic Union. Yegor Churilov provides the Belarusian view, namely, that the Union should not infringe on the independence of its member-countries. At the same time the author admits that there are no absolutely independent countries. Pavel Salin discusses interests and values that could cement the future association. The most important thing, he writes, is for the leaders of Union members not to confine themselves to a dialogue between their nomenklaturas but to try to win over ordinary people by explaining that they stand to gain from the Union. Alexander Gabuyev analyzes the painful immigration issue. Politically, Moscow is interested in Central Asian countries joining the Union, but Russians’ concern over the growing influx of migrant workers from there is becoming a real obstacle.

Alexander Iskandaryan emphasizes that integration in the post-Soviet space is possible but not under the slogan of restoring the former community, which is precisely the reason why former Soviet republics are drifting apart. Dmitry Yefremenko discusses the most acute collision of this fall – Ukraine’s plans to sign an association agreement with the EU, Russia’s reaction to it, and possible implications for relations between the two countries and the overall situation in Europe. Eurasian integration is planned to be modeled after that of Europe, but its future is still unclear. Sergei Pavlenko writes about the inability of the elites of Central and Eastern European members of the EU to use their membership for their countries’ renewal.

Dmitry Tulupov raises the topic of the Arctic, where the “rivalry-cooperation” dilemma is particularly acute. Over the past few years, passions over this issue have somewhat subsided: commentators less and less often predict a clash of interests in that part of the world. Nevertheless, the author points to the ongoing diplomatic competition in the Arctic, giving credit to Norway’s shrewd actions and expressing surprise at the passivity of large actors – Russia, the United States and Canada.

The Arctic is believed to be a giant reservoir of hydrocarbons to be used in the future, and the current absence of tensions over it is a pleasant surprise. In contrast, the present source of oil – the Middle East – is in mayhem, and international interaction has so far been unable to stop the escalation of violence there. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen analyzes the behavior of Qatar which played an active role during the Arab Spring. Andrei Baklanov, who has recently visited Iran, writes that this country looks like an island of confidence amidst the turmoil in the Arab world.

The huge region, stretching from North Africa to South Asia and swept by unrest, has a common desire for renewal and is seeking a new socio-political model to meet the new conditions. These efforts have so far been abortive. In the global environment where national borders are absolutely porous, countries more and more often have to look for answers not in the outside but at home. Understanding the desires of a country and modern identity based on creative values are the key to society’s progress and the country’s weight in the international arena.

Alexander Kuznetsov describes the political culture of the diplomatic service in the Russian Empire, how it viewed domestic processes and whether it tried to influence them. The best representatives of the Russian diplomatic corps were ardent patriots of their country. They advocated its renewal and wanted it to be more open to the outside world. Anatoly Adamishin in this regard recalls the 1990s when economic upheavals in Russia and attempts of the elites to solve their problems with outside support undermined the country’s ability to achieve its foreign policy goals. That policy has had an adverse effect. The West’s propensity for interventions, which adds fuel to violence in the Middle East, emerged 20 years ago in the Balkans, and Russia was unable to prevent that. Timofei Bordachev analyzes how that affected NATO’s evolution – its transformation from a defensive into an offensive alliance.

Russia, like all other countries, is faced with many new challenges, which it is unable to cope with using habitual recipes. The former identity has been exhausted, and the future one will have to be formed with due regard for the new global environment. This task is doubly difficult. In this issue we begin to publish materials related to the Strategy 21 project of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), aimed at outlining contours of Russia’s long-term development. Svyatoslav Kaspe discusses how to modify the country’s political system so that it could help to fully tap the nation’s human capital. We will publish excerpts from large reports that will be presented at SVOP meetings.

} Page 1 of 5