Life is never dull. The results of the British referendum, hardly expected by anyone, came as a new wake-up call clearly signaling that there is not a place left on Earth where politics could be predictable. Now everyone is waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the presidential election in the United States where all think that Donald Trump simply cannot win, but are no longer certain.
The world has entered a period when the habitual political landscape is being redrawn. This means that not only new risks are emerging but old ones are resurfacing again, even though everyone thought they were gone for good. Michael Kofman and Andrei Sushentsov write that the danger of an armed confrontation between major powers, which until recently was believed to be absolutely impossible, must be taken seriously again. Pavel Gudev analyzes the notorious incident in the Baltic Sea, where a Russian warplane flew over the USS Donald Cook, and warns about the risk of uncontrolled escalation of such encounters. Prokhor Tebin takes a look at the role the Russian Navy, which is regaining strength after the oblivion of the 1990s, played in the Syria campaign. The issue of military confrontation, not only local but also between great powers, has come back to the international agenda.
Dmitry Yevstafiev comes to the conclusion that attempts to revive the Cold War-time model of relations will lead nowhere. The conflict in Syria has shown that the world has changed fundamentally, even though the opposing sides are still the same. Nikolai Kozhanov also notes a new aspect of the Middle East “big game”—a situational alliance between Russia and Iran, which reflects all the specifics of contemporary international affairs and their difference from the classical examples of previous periods.
In times of uncertainty, stability depends on how strong and broad the universally recognized framework of law and definitions is. Alexander Filippov addresses the issue of legitimacy, the underlying principle of any order—as understood by Russia and the West. Alexei Miller turns to the conceptual origins of interstate relations rooted in self-identification, memory culture and perception of history in Eastern and Western European countries. Today historical policy and memory culture are not the glue but a dissolvent that erodes the EU’s integrity, the author states.
Apart from political and legal transformations, we are witnessing profound economic changes as a long cycle of global economic development is coming to an end, writes Alexander Losev. In his opinion, it is important for Russia not to try to catch up with the outgoing technological mode but get prepared for the emerging new one. Olga Borokh and Alexander Lomanov provide an insight into Chinese President Xi Jingping’s explorations in political economy and find some very interesting similarities. The purely Chinese framework of economic policy is combined with elements that resemble decisive steps taken in the past by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Anastasia Likhacheva focuses on a rather specific but potentially important issue of water and its role in economic development, primarily in the Far East and East Asia. She believes there is the potential that has yet to be tapped by Russia.
The region where fundamental shifts are taking place in the global alignment of forces is East Asia and the Asia Pacific region. Kevin Rudd writes about the integration processes unfolding in that region, noting Russia’s possible significant role in them. Hans-Joachim Spanger analyzes in detail China’s “One Belt, One Road” project and its implications for Russia—how it goes along with its Eurasian strategy and to what extent Moscow and Beijing are allies and competitors. Lanxin Xiang is quite confident that Russia and China are allies and strategic partners and will remain so for years to come. Georgy Toloraya investigates a conflict zone which in the worst case scenario can blow up the entire Asia-Pacific region—North Korea and its nuclear ambitions. He maintains that the interests of Russia and China there do not contradict each other but nor are they fully identical either.
In our next issue we will look at the new trends in Central and Eastern Eurasia, the Arctic, the echo of the Cold War, and many other developments.