Maturity Certificate,
 or The Order That Never Was
Fantasy of a Hierarchy-Free Future
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Oleg N. Barabanov

MGIMO University, Professor;
Program Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

Timofei V. Bordachev

Doctor of Political Science
National Research University–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs
Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies
Academic Supervisor;
Valdai Discussion Club, Moscow, Russia
Program Director


SPIN-RSCI: 6872-5326
ORCID: 0000-0003-3267-0335
ResearcherID: E-9365-2014
Scopus AuthorID: 56322540000


E-mail: [email protected]
Tel.: +7(495) 772-9590 *22186
Address: Office 427, 17 Malaya Ordynka Str. Bldg.1, Moscow 119017, Russia

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

Andrei A. Sushentsov

PhD in Political Science
MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia
School of International Relations
Valdai Discussion Club
Program Director


ORCID: 0000-0003-2076-7332


E-mail: [email protected]
Address: Room 3036, 76 Vernadsky Prospect, Moscow 119454, Russia

Ivan N. Timofeev

PhD in Political Science
MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia
Department of Political Theory
Associate Professor;
Russian International Affairs Council
Director General;
Valdai Discussion Club
Program Director


SPIN-RSCI: 3517-3084
ORCID: 0000-0003-1676-2221
ResearcherID (WoS): ABF-5625-2021
Scopus AuthorID: 35293701300


E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 76 Vernadskogo Prospect, Moscow 119454, Russia

The Annual Report of the Valdai Discussion Club

Most descriptions of the international order – whether existing or imminent –invariably include the notion of “many,” such as multilateralism, multipolarity, polycentrism, and so on. This is natural. The number of meaningful international relations actors is unprecedentedly large, more than in a very long time, if ever. The world (especially its European part seeking expansion and dominance) has long been accustomed to the rigid hierarchical constructs that defined the international system. Over the past 200 years, the hierarchy has been consistently becoming less complicated. From the Concert of Europe in the 19th century to the opposing “axes” of the first half of the 20th century, and from rigid bipolarity of the Cold War to the “unipolar moment” which was declared after it ended. The latter was the culmination.

In a sense, the “end of history” announced in 1989 was indeed a final milestone. Not the end of history itself, but the end of a specific and quite lengthy phase which was an era of hierarchies.

The outgoing international order (Yalta-Potsdam, which survived in a modified form even in the post-Cold War period) was perhaps the last one based on a balance of power within a limited group of states. In other words, it was hierarchical by nature. If this assumption is correct, then an era that has persisted in international relations for 500 years (since the European expansion into Asia, Africa, and the Americas) is coming to an end. The “end of history” in a sense also meant the end of hierarchy. The “unipolar moment” flatly rejected the need for order in the previous sense, as it envisaged that, as states integrated into the global liberal-democratic paradigm, the nature of their behaviour would change as well.

To be sure, hierarchy has ended. However, it did not end with its complete triumph and the dissolution of the international order therein, but with the exhaustion of the possibilities that it offered. The unification efforts have had the reverse effect, as different cultures and peoples seek to emphasise their identity and distinctiveness even more. The current stage is transitional. Ideological attempts are being made to maintain the dominance of a single set of norms and rules in the spirit of the post-Cold War period. But it is being imposed coercively, as in much earlier periods. All of that is unfolding against the backdrop of the limits achieved by globalisation in ensuring an acceptable division of benefits for the leading participants.

As Indian politician Jaswant Singh wrote, “the end of the Cold War did not lead to the end of history. The thaw of the late 1980s only heated up Europe’s ancient feuds. We did not enter a unipolar world. It would be a grave error to believe that simply repeating the mantras of globalisation and markets in the 21st century will subordinate national security to global trade. The 21st century will not be the century of trade. The world still has to deal with the unfinished issues of the past.”

The push to preserve elements of the former international order within what is emerging today is an important cause of the current confrontations.

However, the gradual convergence of forward-looking states is playing an even more important role. When this process begins to encompass major nuclear powers, the risks for humanity increase. Yet, it is inevitable and will involve learning the safety rules on the go.

If this “convergence” process is successful, the new international arrangement may not result from a “deal” or a “peace congress” of victors but may emerge as a result of the natural process of interaction between states and the discovery of acceptable options for all. Surprisingly, in the context of global politics, this may happen without winners or losers. This would mark the beginning of a new non-hierarchical era and the emergence of constraints on the worst aspects of previous systems, such as the pursuit of hegemony which tops that list.

You can download the report here.


A World Without Superpowers
Fyodor A. Lukyanov, Oleg N. Barabanov, Timofei V. Bordachev, Yaroslav D. Lissovolik, Andrei A. Sushentsov, Ivan N. Timofeev
World politics has begun to rapidly return to a state of anarchy built on force. “The end of history” culminated in the restoration of its usual course – the destruction of the international order resulting from large- scale conflicts between centres of power.