Increasing Supply on the World Values Market
Editor's Column
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Fyodor A. Lukyanov

Russia in Global Affairs
National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs
Research Professor;
Valdai Discussion Club
Research Director


SPIN RSCI: 4139-3941
ORCID: 0000-0003-1364-4094
ResearcherID: N-3527-2016
Scopus AuthorID: 24481505000


E-mail: [email protected]
Tel.: (+7) 495 980 7353
Address: Office 112, 29 Malaya Ordynka Str., Moscow 115184, Russia

The Russian diplomatic corps recently published a review of the
country’s foreign policy. This curious document represents a code
of political directives to provide guidance for those working on
the international stage in Russia. A tour through this document
provides interesting insights into both the country’s current
political course and the attitudes of the foreign policy

European diplomats are usually more interested than their
Russian counterparts in debating what the foundation of relations
between two countries should be. Moscow’s position is generally
that relations should be built on the basis of the two sides’
interests, while their counterparts in European capitals are more
likely to insist that policy should be designed on the basis of
values. This is clear from the foreign policy report, as the term
«interests» appears nearly 100 times, while the word «values» shows
up on a mere four occasions.

The phrase «common values» appears only once, in connection with
Russia’s relations with the European Community — a subject
impossible to address without paying at least some lip service to
values. In other places where the term appears, the context seems
to suggest that values are a point of divergence between Russia and
the West. The report is critical of attempts to introduce «a single
system of values» into the United Nations’ activities, talks about
the need to preserve the «civilized values of different cultures,»
and concludes that the «values, orientation and models of
development» are becoming «points of competition.»

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in recent comments, set out this
position more pointedly: «For the first time in years, a character
of competition has appeared in the market of ideas to govern the
world order at its current stage of development.» Lavrov’s use of
market terminology is a good indication of the greater orientation
on the part of the country’s political leaders toward ideas of
competition rather than philosophical discussions of Russia’s
«unique values.»

The Kremlin increasingly responds to complaints from Western
diplomats that Russian policy does not adhere to any set of fixed
values with either justifications or open irritation. The
strengthening of the country’s economic position has been
accompanied by a growing indifference to this theme: «Let them
bad-mouth us,» they seem to say. «We know that the real motive for
raising humanitarian issues is to weaken our position.»

This sense of economic well-being seems to have generated a new
level of self-satisfaction. Surveying the problems developed
countries are encountering in their attempts to build the modern
world, Russia now has confidence in its right to offer its own
alternative to the reigning values paradigm. The first step has
been to reject what others refer to as «universal» values.

Discussions about value orientations are often quite abstract
and can easily do more to confuse than clarify the situation. The
simple use of the word «values» in relation to practical politics
can mean a dead end for any dialogue.

When Russian officials talk about values, the conversion
immediately turns to global themes like culture, religion and
history. From this point of view it is difficult to find common
values, as just about every nation has a certain image of itself as
the unique owner and defender of a certain set of traditions. As
the number of civilizations has continued to multiply, this has led
to the fragmentation of these values and, in extreme cases,
generated dogmatic instances of national exclusion.

What the European Union labels «values,» to which it expects its
partners to adhere, are essentially a set of applied principles
determining the organization of society and politics. It would be
impossible for the EU to try to operate on the basis of the most
common Russian understanding of values. There is just no way to get
Estonians and Greeks, Swedes and Italians, or the Portuguese and
Finns to line up under one cultural-historical and religious
banner. The problem is even more serious for the United States,
which rose to prominence partly by rejecting a host of traditions
and principles fundamental to Old World conceptions. The United
States wouldn’t be able to gain membership in the EU even if it
wanted to, as it is not in line with a broad range of EU

So what the EU means when it refers to European values is an
extremely pragmatic set of rules uniting more than two dozen very
diverse peoples. You might even say that these rules are the only
thing uniting them. These have been adopted in Europe not because
they correspond to the specific traditions of the different member
«civilizations,» but because they have proven to be the most
effective method of maintaining the order, balance and continuity
of authority across the European spectrum. It is a purely rational
choice, without any sentiment involved whatsoever.

Democracy, in this light, is nothing more than a mechanism for
organizing the political process. The idea of a society based on
laws suggests the existence of a functioning justice system and the
necessary relationships between it and other public institutions.
Freedom of speech is a framework of conditions for facilitating —
albeit imperfectly — the transfer of information and for providing
at least some oversight of the authorities. There are similar
explanations behind all of the values the EU regularly

Which of Russia’s value orientations runs counter to the
above-listed mechanisms? Have systems based on strong authority
ever proven to be a blessing for our «civilization?»

What the Russian side ends up doing is suggesting alternative
orientations. The lack of well-developed civil society — which
makes it difficult to apply European principles — is explained
away as a result of the incompatibility of Russian mentality with
«Western recipes.»

Europe has to some degree fallen victim to the same kind of
narcissism. In a departure from its usual rationalism, the Old
World has tried to transform its practical principles of
self-organization into a dogmatic system that it is now attempting
to impose on its neighbors, regardless of whether those countries
are ready to assimilate this system or not. When you add the United
States to the picture, with its attempt to spread its model by
military force — and with shoddy results — then the devaluation
of Western ideas is easy to see.

Sooner or later, Russia’s foreign policy community will come to
the conclusion that these notorious «values» represent an
opportunity to pursue our «interests,» though not because
hypocritical rhetoric provides the country with cover for cynical
motives. This will happen for the simple reason that it is the
easiest approach to take.

None of this will bring an end to discussion of Russia as a
unique civilization, of course, but it will be a sign that the
country’s leaders have passed out of the initial stages of
capitalism and stopped looking at everything as somehow market

| The Moscow