The fallout from the turbulent events of the winter and spring of 2011 is gradually subsiding. Although the instability continues, the wave of protests seems to be diminishing; at least it has stopped sweeping ever new countries. Now one can rethink the role that the “Arab Spring” has played in world politics. It is certainly evidence of a deepening global turbulence, in which all players – big and small – have to act.
Dmitry Yefremenko writes in this issue that Russia is approaching a major political event – the 2012 elections – amid exacerbating external unpredictability in all areas. The author believes that this situation will persist for a long time yet and that the main priority for Russia’s foreign policy is to help maintain the country’s sustainable development. This goal requires caution and freedom of maneuver, which is dangerous to restrict by joining alliances.
Alexei Miller analyzes the phenomenon of “historical policy” in Russia, and suggests that changes in the discussions about the country’s past can produce a basically new vision of the nation’s future. Nikolay Spasskiy reflects on the harmfulness of the superpower mindset, which is still natural to most Russians. In his view, until the country discards its unrealistic ambitions, it will not find the right path in the 21st century.
Julian Lindley-French goes even further and proposes that Russia stop imitating might and accept the fact that it is unable to play an independent role. Alexei Portansky discusses the issue of Russia’s self-perception through the prism of endless discussions about membership in the WTO. He is confident that Russian society has not realized yet that in the new era the might of and respect for this country or another is no longer determined by the number of nuclear warheads.
Dmitry Trenin calls on Russia and the United States to continue discussions about missile defense, which can change the atmosphere of their mutual relations. At the same time, he believes that rapprochement between the two countries is impossible without a fundamental demilitarization of these relations. In contrast, Alexey Fenenko insists that Russia and the U.S. must not renounce the principle of mutual assured destruction, which for decades helped keep peace and stability between Moscow and Washington.
Alek Epstein writes about a dim future of the “Arab Spring.” He argues that democracy is impossible in countries lacking the political culture of tolerance, and that even competitive elections will not bring any essential changes. Arkady Dubnov analyzes the lesson that the ruling regimes in Central Asia have learned from the North African tempest. The lesson is that protests must be nipped in the bud, before they draw international attention and entail military interference.
Alexander Lukin discusses conditions under which the Shanghai Cooperation Organization could serve as a guarantor of stability in Central Asia. He comes to the conclusion that this organization should be enlarged. The only thing standing in the way of this possibility is the enmity between the two most likely candidates for SCO membership – India and Pakistan. Omar Nessar describes sentiments prevailing in Afghanistan. Ordinary people and the political elite in that country are mostly concerned about the continuing uncertainty about U.S. and NATO plans.
Alexander Koldobsky raises another hot topic of spring 2011 – the future of nuclear power engineering after the accident in Japan. The author holds that the panic that has swept the world is incommensurate with the real risks. He proposes working out international criteria and formats for international involvement in efforts to overcome the consequences of such disasters.
Georgy Toloraya analyzes the situation in North Korea – not in the usual context of its nuclear program, but in terms of chances for regime change there. Any external pressure, he believes, can only slow down the process of the country’s internal transformation.
In the next issue, we will discuss the situation in the South Caucasus and the Asia-Pacific region, and will recall the events of 20 years ago, when the Soviet Union was rapidly approaching its end.