On Wednesday, November 11, the Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circle was held online, featuring, among others, Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs. The moderator was Raghida Dergham, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Beirut Institute.
Speech by Fyodor Lukyanov:
“May I enlarge a little bit on the issue of the regional and local conflicts which are increasingly growing today. We can see that the pandemic has not changed the international political agenda. None of the conflicts has disappeared. On the contrary, some new ones have emerged. And, of course, we are entering a new period of international relations. The events that we have faced in 2020 have not changed the trends we witnessed before. Moreover, many trends have catalyzed. And the changes in the international system that began earlier are now accelerating. In this regard the main event of last week – the presidential election in the United States – is perceived by many as a possibility to come back to a more traditional political leadership and to a political guidance. I hear many say: “Okay, the policy of Donald Trump, who was a very unconventional president, is over. So, the new team will be committed to the traditional way of conducting international politics.” I doubt that this will be possible, even if a new president of the United States and his administration try to do it.
So, the pandemic has suddenly confirmed what discussed before: that globalization might stop quickly. Of course, we will be back to a more globalized environment after this epidemic is defeated. But I doubt that we will be back to the universalist and globalized idea of the world? that we have enjoyed since the end the Cold War up until this spring. It means that regional conflicts, which we see everywhere now, should be addressed in a different way. In this regard I don’t believe that the U.S. leadership, even if reinstated, will be instrumental in addressing them. Yesterday we saw a surprising development of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Suddenly, a lasting conflict with no progress for many-many years was settled. Not finally, of course, but the way how it was settled is completely different from what people had expected. It is much more like a Great Gamble or a 19th-century Great Game between two empires or former empires. It has proved to be much more efficient than the numerous multilateral attempts made before. Of course, the conflict is not completely settled yet, but I think it is a good example and yet another proof of how different the world will be in the future.
The relationship between Russia and Turkey is a very-very strange kind of partnership. I would say it is unprecedented, as it is based not on trust or coincidence of interests (rather, we can see a collision of interests everywhere – in Syria, in Libya, in Nagorno-Karabakh). But firstly, there is an understanding that these powers have most of leverage. Secondly, there is an awareness that if they work against each other (in the Middle East, Northern Africa or South Caucasus) both will suffer, neither will be able to achieve what it wants. So, this kind of relationship is a completely new phenomenon.
Now a few words about the nuclear situation. Russia’s readiness to get engaged in a Renaissance of the nuclear deal might be in place. So, Mr. Ryabkov is here to stay, and he can help again. But the question is whether Iran will be as enthusiastic. Because I can say that the relationship between Russia and Iran is not easy, it is complex, multi-dimensional. In fact, the relationship between Russia and Iran is very troubled. If you come to Teheran, you will hear plenty of claims that Russia is treating Iran wrongly, that Russia is not a reliable partner, and so on. So, it is a difficult relationship. Where there are interests that coincide, Russia and Iran find ways to cooperate in addressing problems. Where more effort is needed, Iran is not necessarily interested to cooperate. But in general, we are certainly interconnected in many ways.
Many things may be happening simultaneously now, so that the initial efficiency of the Astana group, for example, may be challenged by other formats.
Iranians might be interested in getting much closer to and much more intensively engaged with the Biden administration, because Biden declared so many times that he would do everything differently from Trump. Yet I do not believe that the Biden administration will really be willing or able to do it.
The situation is not something new. I well remember another exciting election in the United States, in 2008. Europeans were so happy to see George W. Bush leaving and Barack Obama stepping in, because they expected that Obama would come back to the transatlantic tradition. Obama was back in terms of rhetoric but never was he back in terms of policy. And I guess it will be all over again this time.”
The Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circle 22 was also attended by HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, President and Founder of the Arab Thought Forum; HE Boris Ruge, Ambassador & Vice-Chairman of Munich Security Conference, former Deputy Chief of Mission of the German Embassy in Washington; former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; former Director Middle East/North Africa, German Foreign Office; Mr. Paul A. Brinkley, Managing Director at Cerberus Capital Management, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Brinkley Greenwalt LLC, Former Deputy US Undersecretary of Defense (2004 to 2011), Co-Founder and former President and CEO of NAWAH (North America Western Asia Holdings).