The developments in the world have been so many and turbulent lately that one can expect every year to bring a revolution or a radical change in the global balance of power. This year will hardly be an exception. The process of reconstruction of the world order that entered a crucial phase at the beginning of the current decade will continue to gain momentum.
Sergei Karaganov believes that last year marked the end of an entire era, which began after World War II, and embraced the Cold War period and the post-Cold War years. Today we have entered a time of extreme instability while Russia has proven skillful in playing a political game. However, its weak economy, delay of reform and unwillingness to pursue an active economic policy make the situation extremely dangerous for it.
Andrei Ivanov writes about the incomplete political transformation of Russia and expects a deeper crisis in the coming years—before the country moves on to the next stage in its development.
A separate section of this issue is devoted to “Militant Russia.” This is a project launched by University of Birmingham under Prof. Silvana Malle’s supervision and kindly offered for publication in our journal. An outside perspective is always useful as it often highlights things one cannot see from within. British scholars (Julian Cooper, Andrew Monaghan, and Richard Connolly) claim an unbiased assessment of changes that occurred in the Russian state and society in recent years, but especially in 2014-2015. The authors point to Russia’s turn towards a militant course in its security and economic policies, and examine its various aspects.
Larissa Pautova offers a domestic view of this issue. Her survey of public opinion shows how much people in contemporary Russia are afraid of war and gives an insight into whether it is really militant.
The world is changing in all directions, but events in the Middle East have been particularly dramatic. And yet there are processes that appear to be most significant in terms of their impact on the global situation. The signing of the agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership opens the next chapter in devising new rules of world trade and economic interaction. Experts believe that the TPP and other such associations will not supplant the WTO but will definitely sideline it and have a significant impact on trade between major powers. Alexei Portansky calls for a thorough analysis of the change of global governance principles initiated by the United States. Sergei Afontsev advises that Russia take a sober approach but get prepared for new challenges to its economy.
How will major non-Western countries respond to the United States’ attempts to reaffirm its leadership in setting global rules? Wang Qingsong suggests that China’s Silk Road Economic Belt project can become a prototype of a new format, flexible and committed to joint development, not competition. Vitaly Vorobyov ponders over how to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization so that it would match the new circumstances and facilitate Russia’s economic development.
Increasingly fierce global competition prods actors into finding ever new instruments. Igor Makarov speaks about the changes in approaches to setting ecological standards, which became evident at the Paris Summit. In his opinion, ecological standards are frequently used in the global economy as leverage against competitors to force them out of markets, with the United States snatching leadership in this field from the European Union.
Dmitry Tupulov examines the impact of economic sanctions which increasingly often are used nowadays as an instrument of pressure. At the same time he reminisces that Russia and before it the Soviet Union always lived under sanctions, and contemplates how various ways to circumvent them, including industrial espionage, can make up for external pressure.
Anton Gumensky writes about new mechanisms of ideological competition and studies the role of social networks and online technologies in propaganda. He comes to the conclusion that numerous side effects from such methods as trolling call into question their efficacy for solving foreign-policy tasks. Bruce W. McConnell believes that democratization of information access will remain a threat, and since governments are not designed for nuance and corporations are not designed to cooperate, it is individuals and small communities that can make the Network and, ultimately, the world it intermediates, safer and more secure.
Andrei Sushentsov tries to understand whether the crisis in relations between Russia and Ukraine can be rationalized in a tangle of objective contradictions and strong emotions. Rapprochement would be out of the question at this point, but could it be possible to at least separate in a civilized manner?
Russia’s active involvement in the Syrian conflict, especially the effective operations of the Russian Caspian Flotilla that drew worldwide attention, has changed the balance of power in the Caspian region. Stanislav Pritchin focuses on prospects for determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea and ensuring regional security. Andrei Kazantsev warns of threats to stability in Central Asian countries where radical Islamism is challenging their state systems.