Fifteen years ago, in the early summer of 1989, the entire Soviet nation was glued to the television, not believing its eyes. At that time, the country held its first Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union, and it was then that public politics first arose in Russia.
U.S. President George W. Bush is planning to return the Americans to the Moon, and then on to Mars. But alas, the grandiose plans are less a daring desire to explore the universe than a cunning political reckoning and pre-election move.
The international community is facing new forms of danger that will demand new forms of action. For the United Nations, the world's primary agency for peace and security and its center for harmonizing the policies of nations on important matters, this is an especial challenge. Only an evident willingness to adapt and to renew its sense of mission will inspire, in the governments and peoples of the world, the confidence and support.
The Westphalian system has long been the target of numerous attacks, but the most serious threat to its existence – and thus to the foundations of the constitutional systems of sovereign states – has emerged at the beginning of the 21st century, especially after September 11, 2001.
Today Russia possesses unique opportunities for switching from a policy of response to to a policy of initiation when considering international events. But to take avail of these opportunities, Russia must adjust its foreign policy mechanism.
It could be persuasively argued that the goals of the post-Communist transformation have been successfully accomplished. The dominant socio-economic problems confronting Russia today are the crisis of the industrial system and the establishment of the socio-economic foundation of a post-industrial society.
The presidential regime in Russia has put an end to opposition parties, both on the left and on the right. There is no room for them in the new system of non-alternative power. It goes without saying that the president and his minions do not need them. Moreover, the electorate does not need these parties, either.
In Chechnya we are witnessing a rather painful failure of the strategy of substituting effectual technologies and PR simulations for a real meaningful policy – something that has become a trademark of part of the President’s team. But real stability is different from its virtual representation.
High oil prices on the world market give the oil-exporting countries an opportunity to implement reforms, but their governments tend to miss this chance since the favorable situation on the market paralyzes their will to do so.
In the next few decades, Russia’s role as the world’s major fuel source will continue to grow. Considering its indisputable leadership in energy resources and, potentially, in export permits Moscow to demand an equitable and respectful relationship with its partners.
There are no profound grounds for the statement that global oil prices will remain high for an indefinitely long time. Moreover, it looks like the days (or rather years) of oil as a leader among global energy sources are numbered.
The situation in the Middle East is proving to be a waste of valuable human and material resources that are necessary for the development of the region. The peoples and governments of the region recognize the need for reform, which will be assisted by the declared willingness of the international community.
A simplified approach to the Middle East problems does not conform to local realities. It would be more fruitful to follow the ‘do-no-harm’ principle, separating what must be reformed from traditional elements of life that do not impede the modernization processes.
Washington is unlikely to fully replace the occupation troops in Iraq with a UN peacekeeping force. But cooperation with the UN would broaden the Bush administration’s room for maneuver. Such was the conclusion of a situation analysis headed by Academician Yevgeny Primakov.
The Americans had no illusions about the Afghan mojaheds from the very start, and extremely simplistic people only could hope in earnest that they could become the heralds of Afghan democracy. As an Afghan once formulated: "One cannot buy us out, one can only lease us for a while".
Over the last ten years, since Russia and the European Union signed the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the entire world has seen so many dramatic changes that the PCA has ceased to be an adequate political and legal foundation for Russia-EU relations. The legal basis for these relations must be completely renewed.
It is difficult to forecast a formula for future Russia-EU relations – they simply run against too many unknown factors. We don’t know what the European Union will be in seven to ten years. Russia is undergoing serious changes, as well, and it is also unclear what their outcome will be.
Progress in Russia-EU relations gives the participants an opportunity to look at the Baltic region’s prospects from a new perspective. This part of the Old World can become a real proving ground for testing models of effective cooperation.
There is a general consensus that it is time for Russia to make a breakthrough into the future. It is almost perfectly clear today what needs to be done, and equally clear how it should be achieved. The greatest paradox, however, is that after fifteen years of post-totalitarian development, a question is looming large: who should Russia make the breakthrough with?
The current situation in Russia seems to be a bit of a paradox – the economy is developing at record-breaking rates, while a serious conflict is flaring between the government and the business community. A victory by either side in the war between business and bureaucracy would be tantamount to Russia’s failure.
This report was prepared following the conclusions of XI annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting.