The year 2014 has gone down in history as a time of the collapse of the previous model of relations between Russia and the rest of the world. The year 2015 will most likely show that the changes are irreversible and have gone beyond the point of return. We can draw a line under the bygone era, but we still cannot say what the new one will be like.
Anatoly Adamishin recalls Gorbachev’s perestroika that ushered in a new era when the state made an attempt to renovate its ideology and reposition itself in the world. He believes President Gorbachev’s greatest merit was his bold attempt to pull Russia out of the authoritarian matrix, to reform the country without oppressing the people and give them the rights and opportunity to build their own lives. This aspect of that policy still has a bearing on life in Russia today. As the author notes in his article: “We are still experiencing the aftershocks of those tectonic tremors and are asking the same, still unanswered, questions, while clashing in disputes that should have been finished years ago.”
Mikhail Gorbachev’s main pipe dream that never came true was a common European home. More than a quarter of a century on, and we seem to be back to the pre-perestroika track of distrust and division in Europe.
Vladimir Tchernega ponders over relations between Russia and Europe – the perennial issue of disputes among Russian intellectuals. These relations are an element of mutual cultural and psychological self-identification, which makes them ever more complex but unavoidable.
Ukraine is the most painful issue at the moment. Its future is a matter of concern to both Russian society and political establishment. Relations between the two states will never be the same, and their divergence is clearer than ever. Eduard Ponarin and Boris Sokolov maintain that amid the socio-economic failure of the Western and nationalistic project in Ukraine, Russia has a chance to strengthen its positions in this neighboring country. Vladimir Bruter thinks that the changes in Ukraine are irreversible, but their perception in Russia will become less acute with time. Alexei Slavich-Pristupa offers a compromise view: Ukraine has already embarked on a path of chaotic decentralization, thus making it possible for different polities to exist on certain territories within a single country.
Sensitive as it is for Russia for historical, cultural and emotional reasons, the developments in Ukraine are rather local in global terms. The historical setting of this play is changing and moving from Europe to Greater Eurasia, which used to be somewhat peripheral for Europe, but which is now pushing it to the back of the main stage. These changes are analyzed in detail in the Valdai International Discussion Club report, a shortened version of which we offer in this issue.
Dmitry Novikov writes about the niche Russia can take in the increasingly entangled relations between the United States and China. In his opinion, determining a position in regard to this “knot” is perhaps one of the most important tasks for Moscow to tackle in the coming decades. Alexander Lomanov reviews changes in China, which is reinforcing its socio-economic and political foundation in a bid, as many believe, to take a leap towards global dominance.
In search of a more global alternative for Russia, our authors are taking a closer look at BRICS. Mikhail Korostikov believes that this grouping offers a way to preserve Russia’s global prospects which are waning as Moscow is sinking deeper and deeper into post-Soviet problems. Oliver Stuenkel agrees that the association is important, but cautions against expecting it to assume a consolidated anti-Western position or offer too much support to Russia in this respect. William C. Wohlforth describes the erosion of the U.S.-centric world, dwelling at length on the performance of international institutions.
Andrei Skriba continues the discussion started in the previous issue: how the state formulates its national interests and the role of society in this process now and before. Mikhail Troitsky speaks about the restricting function of the official declaration of national interests as a filter for politicians’ ambitions, which is particularly important for today’s Russia. Andrei Frolov touches upon a very specific issue of how a country’s military-technical capabilities help project its interests abroad. In his opinion, the expected cuts in Russia’s defense budget will limit its ability to project power and defend its national interests to the post-Soviet region for many years to come.
Simon Saradzhyan has made an attempt to draft a hierarchy of Russia’s interests on the basis of the statements made by its leaders, and compared them with U.S. priorities as stated in the reports prepared by the Commission on America’s National Interests. It appears Russia’s interests only partially diverge with those of the U.S.. Convergence of their vital interests in many areas, specifically in joint counteraction to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, may pave the way to mending fences between the two countries, the author hopes. Yaroslav Zaitsev studies political cultures and the systems of determining national interests in Russia and China. In fact, many issues of future world order will be addressed within the Russia-U.S.-China triangle, which is moving into the global limelight.