Our First Decade

27 december 2012

Fyodor Lukyanov is Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

Resume:

Russia and the United States are trying hard to assure each other of their commitment to common goals and values. A nascent democracy is emerging in Afghanistan under the responsive guidance of the counterterrorist coalition. The Arab community is debating the causes of stagnation and lagging development. The European Union is poised to become a global leader as Europe’s expanding and intensifying integration enters a decisive phase…

When was this? Only ten years ago. In late 2002, we launched the inaugural issue of Russia in Global Affairs. The world was recovering from the shock of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the previous year. It seemed the global community had been given a second chance to unite after it had missed an opportunity right after the end of the Cold War. People believed that the new threat would bring everyone together in the name of peace and progress.

During that decade we kept an eye on global events and saw yet another illusion disappear, a sobering reality dash peoples’ hopes, and mounting chaos destroy the institutional order of the previous era.

In this issue we did not intend to summarize the past decade, yet the description of ongoing developments resulted in just that. By scrutinizing current global changes, Sergei Lavrov looks to the future, trying to understand what will determine the balance of power in the 21st century. On the one hand, the simmering Middle East emerged as a natural extension of events ten years ago; on the other hand, the energetic outburst of the Arab people, who had been passive for a long time, was unexpected. Pyotr Stegny believes that the cycle of social activity in the region will last for several more decades and will redraw global ideological maps.

Ten years ago the world saw the beginning of a general obsession with China, which had entered a markedly new phase of development. Today China is a major global player and an economic powerhouse. A decade ago it was believed that the economic interdependence of China and the U.S. would serve as a guarantee against geopolitical rivalry; now few people believe that. Igor Zevelev analyzes relations between China, the U.S., and Russia through the prism of different schools of foreign-policy thought prevailing in those countries. In 2002, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where Russia and China acted as equal leaders, was only gaining strength.

Pavel Salin discusses opportunities that are opening up for Russia as the focus of world politics shifts to Asia. Russia is a major Asian-Pacific country, yet it is not a leading power in the region. Vitaly Vorobyov describes the current state of affairs and concludes that the balance of power in the region has changed dramatically in Beijing’s favor. Asad Durrani analyzes the situation in Afghanistan. In late autumn of 2002, it seemed that the Western coalition was successfully solving its tasks and was about to end its operation. Ten years later, however, the problems are still unresolved and some analysts view the imminent withdrawal of the coalition forces as an escape. Durrani is convinced that the SCO can make a decisive contribution to the Afghan settlement.

Russia has undergone drastic changes over the decade. Sergei Karaganov discusses the challenges facing the country amid global turbulence and ungovernability. Moscow’s policy of a military buildup corresponds to the general situation in the world, but its practical implementation may generate negative changes in Russia’s polity and society. The author points out that even such a powerful country as the Soviet Union fell victim to militarization launched to counter phantom threats. Sergei Dubinin writes about the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian economy. He concludes that Russia’s economy remains vulnerable to external factors as the country has not fully tapped its economic potential. Konstantin Makienko analyzes the situation on the world arms market and the prospects for Russian arms sales, a major Russian export.

Sergei Markedonov raises the heated issue of separatism in Russia. Although the danger is not immediate, Markedonov argues that the preconditions for separation have not been eradicated. Emil Pain and Maria Suslova discuss what the Russian policy should be to meet the requirements of a society that is becoming increasingly heterogeneous in terms of culture. Konstantin Kosachev writes about a peculiar experiment in nation-building. He posits that Georgia has been trying to build a model in which the country’s domestic state of affairs – and even Georgian sovereignty – has become secondary to its international image of a new democracy. Olga Malinova reflects on symbolic politics in post-Soviet Russia; namely, how Russian leaders have used history to legitimatize a current political course.

Russia’s increased focus on its eastern regions probably best represents the changes that have taken place in the world over the past decade. Moscow’s policy was almost entirely centered on the West ten years ago, despite repeated declarations about multipolarity. In this new context, the development of the country’s eastern territories has become essential for Russia in terms of foreign and domestic policy. Vladislav Inozemtsev, Ilya Ponomarev, and Vladimir Ryzhkov offer a plan for the development of Siberia, based on the reindustrialization of this vast territory. Timofei Bordachev and Oleg Barabanov express doubts about the feasibility of this approach. They suggest using the agricultural, transport, and water potential of the region, which will be in demand from neighboring countries.

Our next issue will discuss a recent international conference to commemorate the tenth anniversary of our journal and the 20th anniversary of our founder, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. The conference scrutinized the problems of power in the 21st century. The issue will also discuss other pressing problems that have implications for the future.

Our first decade coincided with a period of increasing global uncertainty. We have worked hard to guide our readers through a growing atmosphere of global insecurity by lifting the veil of ambiguity hanging over the future. We hope that our journal’s second decade will witness both the world and Russia finding the right path to progress. Of course, this is something that we will discuss in detail.

} Page 1 of 5