Well into the night late 2002, when the city was fast asleep, two windows were brightly lit in one of the side streets in central Moscow. If someone in the building across the street had cast a look at them, he would have seen the silhouettes of people, about six or so, moving chaotically behind the glass. It was hard to say what exactly they were doing, probably some office work, but then they did not look like office workers at all. They finally called it a day some time after 3 a.m. and went home. That was how the new sociopolitical journal Russia in Global Affairs was born and its pilot issue went into print.
This issue is a collection of the most significant articles written by our authors—outstanding Russian thinkers and experts—reflecting their views on the outside world.
It is hard to believe that fifteen years have passed. Time has gone by so quickly and so has a big part of our life closely linked with the journal. Just fifteen years but so much has happened in world politics during that time that half a century would probably not be enough to live through it all.
We started off in what now seems to be a different era—a year after the 9/11 disaster the world was still discussing possible joint efforts against the terrorist threat. But the spirit of consolidation was wearing off, with the Iraq War looming ahead, a conflict that divided not only the “international antiterrorist coalition” but also the hitherto monolithic Western alliance. Events snowballed, resulting in mutual discord, conceptual disagreements over the principles of world order, conflicts including armed ones, socioeconomic crises, and unpredictable political zigzags.
That time can be assessed differently as a series of reckless moves that proved all forecasts and expectations wrong, or as a logical course of events with easily traceable cause-and-effect relationships and regularity. This can explain how George W. Bush’s messianic neo-conservatism evolved into Donald Trump’s isolationist mercantilism; how Jiang Zemin’s restraint and moderation grew into Xi Jinping’s overarching ambitions; and how the euphoria that swept over the then leaders of united Europe gave in to the gloomy melancholy of their present successors. Of all the major world leaders who were in the game at the end of 2002, only Vladimir Putin is still at the helm, with colossal experience behind him, largely negative too, though. Putin clearly changed as he became more experienced, and the transformation of his views, instruments and objectives is perhaps one of the most vivid features of the past period.
This issue is not quite usual. We have selected the most interesting and indicative publications contributed over the past fifteen years by prominent Russian scholars and international relations experts. All together, they draw a striking picture of the time and transitional period with its expectations, disappointments, and hypotheses, some of which proved right and some proved wrong. The names of the authors speak for themselves; they need no compliment for in-depth analysis or accurate projections. And yet, while rereading their articles of ten or fifteen years ago, one cannot but feel proud for the Russian school of international studies which anticipated many events that could hardly be fully assessed when those pieces were being written.
We were happy to cooperate with truly outstanding persons, some of whom are gone, sad as it is. Such renowned international relations experts as Yevgeny Primakov and Georgy Mirsky helped start up our journal; Yuri Dubinin, a leading Soviet and Russian diplomat, was among our permanent authors; military expert Vitaly Shlykov wrote many times for our journal; legendary German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was not just a formal member of the Editorial Board but provided real help. Fortunately, most of our authors and friends are safe and sound and working quite actively. We have been lucky to have all these people with us, see their genuine interest, and receive their advice and help whenever necessary. We are very grateful to all of them.
We are also very obliged to our trustees who have been helping the editorial board and our authors over these fifteen years, making our work possible. We greatly appreciate all the support, occasional and especially regular, we have received over these years. Special thanks go to the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Vladimir Potanin, who has been helping and supporting the journal from the very beginning. It would have been a bumpy journey without his firm belief in our success.
But there is one person whose contribution can hardly be overestimated. This is Sergei Karaganov, the founder and publisher of our journal, or rather its inspiring leader. This and all the other issues would simply have not been possible without him.
When we started off fifteen years ago, relations between Russia and the United States (which were and still are the most important factor in the world no matter what happens around) were complex but promising. Today they are increasingly often described as hopeless and reminiscent of the worst years of the Cold War-era standoff. Making plans now would be absurd as new times are coming again. Sociopolitical shifts coupled with a new technological revolution randomly bring some people and countries up and throw others down. In the face of circumstances, little man (it can be even the president of the most powerful country) may be weak and defenseless or, on the contrary, get unexpected opportunities. Over the past fifteen years we have been trying to figure out what was driving global politics and where it was going. We will keep on trying until our next jubilee and hope that our authors will continue to share their ideas and views, our readers will not lose interest, and our sponsors that giveth shall not lack. All three components are necessary and indispensable. Stay with us!