Uncertainty All Over

15 october 2010

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 ongoing changes in the international arena are becoming ever faster and bigger.

The ongoing changes in the international arena are becoming ever faster and bigger. The global shifts in the balance of power and centers of economic and political development have been coupled with changes in the behavior of individual countries. The “bloc discipline,” which remained for some time after the end of the Cold War, is gone for good. The behavior of the leading states is determined not by their membership in some organization or alliance but by their own understanding of their interests and ways to realize them in the modern conditions.

NATO allies cannot reach agreement on common threats. The European Union, instead of the anticipated consolidation, has entered a period of deepening discord. Turkey is rethinking its national identity and foreign policy priorities. And Asia is undergoing fundamental transformation, adapting to the role of the center stage of the 21st century.

Timofei Bordachev explains the present developments by a change in the basic structure of world politics. The power interdependence of the leading countries, which underlay the system of relations, is ceasing to play a stabilizing role. In the globalized world, factors of power are changing, and vectors of the economic and political development are diverging: the economy is becoming increasingly integral, while politics is fragmenting.

Alexander Dynkin and Vladimir Pantin also write about the existing grave strains along various lines, comparing the present developments to what happened in the 1970s. It also seemed then that many benchmarks had been lost. Later it turned out that this was a realignment of powers before the beginning of a new, truly revolutionary stage in the world system development – a stage that is continuing to this day.

Dmitry Yefremenko discusses what opportunities and threats emerge before Russia in the era of a “post-American world.” In his view, Russia should take a sober look at what is happening and not hurry to side with emerging centers of power and influence. The main uncertainty is of conceptual nature – it is not clear which of various variants of modernity will prevail in the coming decades, the author points out. Adrian Pabst believes that Russia has a wonderful opportunity to harmonize its internal renovation with a new place in the world. The scholar believes this opportunity is offered by the modernization concept proposed by Dmitry Medvedev.

Sergei Dubinin is confident that the world economy will overcome the current decline, but it will emerge different from the crisis – the appearance of new, fast-growing actors requires diversification of not only financial markets but also methods of their operation. Caitlyn Antrim writes about changes in the Arctic which may drastically change global geopolitics. The melting of Arctic ice and the region’s becoming navigable will make Russia from a continental into a maritime power, which implies a different type of mindset and a different position in Eurasia.

However, these are long-term potentialities. In the meantime, Sergei Chernyshev holds that Moscow should actively implement integration projects which will help unite the post-Soviet space and serve as binding elements for consolidating entire Eurasia, from Europe to the Russian Far East. Pavel Salin analyzes prospects for incorporating Russia into a zone of China’s growth and influence. In his view, the Russian elite will be satisfied with the role of Beijing’s junior partner which it will play as China grows ever stronger. Anastasia Likhacheva, Igor Makarov and Alina Savelyeva believe that Russia will benefit from Asia’s vigorous development, as it can offer its agricultural products, which are in growing demand in Asia, as well as water-intensive products.

Alexander Vorontsov and Oleg Revenko discuss the most acute security problem in Asia – the confrontation over divided Korea. According to the authors, the conflicts in this region are rooted in the relations between the two Koreas and in the strategic maneuvering over the future of China. Bobo Lo believes Beijing itself does not fully realize what it wants in the long term.

Vladimir Orlov and Ivan Trushkin analyze the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, one of the pillars of international stability, whose unsteadiness is a source of growing concern. Finally, Alexei Arbatov argues with Sergei Karaganov, who in our previous issue criticized the idea of renouncing nuclear weapons. Arbatov rejects the idea that it was nuclear deterrence that saved the world from a global conflict in the 20th century.

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