This report was prepared based on the results of a situation analysis conducted at the end of 2019, a number of preliminary studies, and two subsequent discussions involving a narrow circle of experts. (The situation analysis participants, except for representatives of executive bodies, are listed in the Appendix).
The work on the report went through some rough times. Its version intended for governmental authorities was distributed in February 2020. An open version for the public was intended to come out in March. But the coronavirus epidemic and the information hysteria it triggered made normal discussion impossible. In addition, the profound problems it exposed required many of the conclusions and recommendations made in the report to be refined and some new tasks to be set. At the same time, the overall logic of the report and its underlying message have not changed and, in fact, have become even stronger. So the text fully prepared for printing had to be rewritten or edited to add new pieces, and its presentation postponed. In general, the need for new ideas for Russia’s policy, intended both for the country itself and the world, has become even more obvious.
The report continues a series of projects organized by the Faculty of World Economy and International Relations, HSE University, under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, with the participation and support of the International Affairs Committee of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, and the International Public Fund “Russian Peace Foundation.”
The reports are based on preliminary studies, resulting theses and their discussion by way of situation analysis involving both experts on the issues discussed and in adjacent fields. Participants are selected in such a way as to represent the widest possible range of political views and intellectual schools. We try to attract a variety of specialists, not only those from Moscow. All experts, including representatives of governmental authorities, act in personal capacity and under no circumstances are explicitly quoted.
Abridged versions of the key points made in the report or even their preliminary public versions are sometimes discussed with groups of foreign experts, primarily from China and the United States.
The concept of this report emerged out of ref lections on fundamental changes in the world affairs, on Russian policy, previous situation analyses, and debates at the annual CFDP Assembly held in April 2019. In particular, its participants criticized Russian foreign policy for lacking major ideas and for seeking to correct past injustices rather than focusing on the future. Foreign Minister and CFDP member Sergei Lavrov urged his colleagues to come up with alternative constructive ideas. Nothing happened at first, but then a group of CFDP members and other experts decided to analyze the new situation in the military-strategic field and the state of strategic stability. The resulting report contained non-trivial conclusions and evoked a reaction that was truly unprecedented for such publications both in Russia and abroad. (The text of the report).
Some of those ideas and conclusions paved the way for drafting the concept of this report.
Its key point is the need to develop a set of forward-looking ideas ― meeting national interests ― for the Russian foreign policy strategy. These ideas should obviously reflect the equally urgent need for strategic ideas for domestic development, facilitate the latter and allow Russian politics to regain its forward-looking optimism and drive.
Since such ideas must reflect the needs and realities of the surrounding world now and in the future, the first section of the report contains our (very brief) forecast of the main global development trends.
The second section assesses the results of the Russian foreign and defense policy in recent years and states that many of its achievements have not yet been fully contemplated and formulated for ourselves and the world, even though they do create an objective basis for filling foreign, and partly domestic, policy with new, future-oriented ideological substance and for expanding and deepening the domestic base of the former. In fact, if the benefits of external achievements for domestic policy and everyday life are left unclarified, they may lose public support or even frustrate society.
The third section outlines the main ideas which we think should become the focal point of Russia’s foreign policy identity. Initially, there were two such ideas. The third one ― protecting the environment at home and globally ― was added during the discussion. The need for fundamental steps to strengthen Russia’s policy to combat pandemics was just mentioned. This issue is addressed more thoroughly in the current version of the report. It also became clear that a number of other topics, primarily culture and humanitarian policy, need correction and promotion as well. Finally, it is clear that a new model of development and international order must be found and proposed to Russia itself and the world. We will be offering our own solutions, including through situation analysis.
The fourth section lists possible new concrete initiatives, or old ones worth revisiting, that could be used for advancing the proposed Russian foreign policy agenda.
We have expanded Section Four by adding a chapter on humanitarian policy and cooperation on countering pandemics. These topics were barely discussed during the situation analysis but were repeatedly mentioned, with humanitarian policy invariably criticized as insufficiently effective. This is why we asked Evgeny Primakov to prepare his set of ideas on this issue. The chapter on desirable international cooperation in combating pandemics and on Russia’s role in it was written on the basis of materials kindly provided by Larisa Popovich.
And yet, even we are convinced that this list is far from being unarguable and needs to be corrected and complemented as the world remains highly turbulent and plagued with numerous problems and contradictions. The purpose of the report is to give a new impetus to the Russian foreign policy thought, propose ideas that can reinvigorate Russia’s foreign policy, strengthen its international position and internal stability, and prevent the country from sliding back to the stereotypes of recent decades, which proved outdated and even counterproductive.
This will facilitate future-oriented ideas for Russia itself. Without such ideas, great powers are doomed to fade away. This is particularly true of our country which has always been highly ideologized throughout history.
The theses below were prepared and the situation analysis conducted by a scenario team, which included Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, HSE University; Anastasia Likhacheva, Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, HSE University; Igor Makarov, Head of the Department of World Economy, Faculty of World Economy and International Relations, HSE University; Lev Sokolshchik, research assistant at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, HSE University; Nikolai Novik, research assistant at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, HSE University; and Anna Osetrova, junior research assistant at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, HSE University.
We would like to thank all the participants in the situation analysis for their active and creative contribution to our work. The resulting document differs considerably in both format and ideological content from the points discussed during the situation analysis. This is an updated version of the first report. But it is the publishing editor who is fully responsible for the final text and for all the flaws and blunders that may have occurred in it.
Head of the Writing and Scenario Team, Publishing Editor