New Problems and Old Mentality

9 april 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 problems of national and global security have once again come to the fore in recent months. Russia, the United States and other leading states and their alliances (NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization) are trying to adapt to the constantly changing environment. In many cases, the reality outruns people’s mentality, which remains a captive of views inherited from the past decades.

© "Russia in Global Affairs". № 1, January - March 2010

The problems of national and global security have once again come to the fore in recent months. Russia, the United States and other leading states and their alliances (NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization) are trying to adapt to the constantly changing environment. In many cases, the reality outruns people’s mentality, which remains a captive of views inherited from the past decades.

The recently adopted Military Doctrine of Russia continues to rank NATO first among probable “dangers” and insists on the preservation of mobilization capacities in case of a major conflict. Meanwhile, Vitaly Shlykov analyzes in this journal the rapid and unprecedented transformation of the Russian Armed Forces. He argues that the Soviet military organization, which was based on mass mobilization, has been replaced by a modern army capable of meeting 21st-century challenges. The architects of the military reform actually (but not officially) proceeded from the assumption that it is regional conflicts rather than world wars that threaten Russia, which is at variance with the new doctrine.

Sergei Karaganov examines why the international security agenda, now discussed in Moscow, Washington and European capitals, is reminiscent of discussions of 30 years ago and where it may lead. The “strategic havoc” was caused by the lack of understanding of how to respond to the fundamental changes taking place in the world.

Konstantin Kosachev writes about NATO-Russia relations, now being rethought by both parties. In his view, the negative experience gained by them during the Cold War and in the post-Cold War years is the only obstacle to their practical interaction. Objectively, Russia and the alliance have no disagreement about the perception of real threats or the interpretation of basic values. The author is convinced that Russia and NATO can create a stable security system in Europe and in the Northern Hemisphere as a whole only if they pool their efforts.

Nikolai Kapitonenko proposes opening a new page in relations between Moscow and Kyiv: Russia and Ukraine can stop being political antagonists and become close partners, if they recognize their mutual security needs. Then, the author is confident, the painful NATO membership issue will no longer be relevant. Anton Lavrov’s article about the deployment of Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the August 2008 war is a reminder of the “hottest” page in relations between Russia and Western countries in the recent past.

Still, the post-Soviet space remains an arena of geopolitical and economic competition. Andrei Suzdaltsev analyzes whether the Customs Union of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), formally in effect since January 1, can stop the economic expansion of the European Union and China to former Soviet republics. He argues that the Customs Union is a half-baked project and that political motives behind it prevail over economic calculations. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu writes about regional conflicts and emphasizes that countries of a given region, rather than external forces, must play the leading role in their solution.

Alexei Bogaturov discusses the identity problem faced by newly independent states, specifically in Central Asia, which have to constantly maneuver between various centers of power. Arkady Dubnov analyzes the development of Uzbekistan since it gained independence and wonders why this country, which aspired to play a prominent role in Asia, now is experiencing serious political and economic problems. Svyatoslav Kaspe discusses why the paths taken by Russia and other former Soviet republics are diverging. He holds that this divergence will persist until Moscow stops clinging to the vestiges of the Soviet identity.

Although the acute phase of the global economic crisis is over, our authors continue studying its causes and consequences. Maxim Shcherbakov points out the impotence of economic science, which he explains by the habit of economic experts to apply old instruments of analysis to the basically new situation and to cling to “habitual axioms” instead of recognizing the reality. Timofei Bordachev notes that researchers do not have theoretical instruments yet that would let them analyze the global economy as deeply as they analyze global politics. Vlad Ivanenko holds that the scale and duration of economic problems have not been fully understood yet and this is especially dangerous for export-oriented countries, including Russia.

Last updated 9 april 2010, 11:44

} Page 1 of 5