Polycentric Transformation

23 september 2014

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. Research Professor, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

Resume: The Ukraine crisis began as a lingering political contention over a legal document whose essence few understood – an Association Agreement with the EU. Within months it evolved into a regional competition between major players, which catalyzed an internal strife. By the autumn, it has degenerated into a confrontation obviously fraught with global consequences

The Ukraine crisis began as a lingering political contention over a legal document whose essence few people understood – an Association Agreement with the EU. Within months it evolved into a regional competition between major players, which catalyzed an internal strife. By the autumn, it has degenerated into a confrontation obviously fraught with global consequences.

Of course, the reason is not Ukraine, a peripheral country in global terms. Maidan-2014 in Kiev proved to be the last straw that brought to a head the contradictions and mutual grievances that had been piling up after the Cold War. The explosion of mutual enmity between Russia and the West showed that the confrontation of the second half of the twentieth century was not over. The parties had not reached agreement on the new rules of the game. At first it seemed that Moscow was the only country to be outraged, but the more acute the crisis the more obvious the fact that the dissatisfaction with the status quo is far and wide. A new world order, much spoken about at the turn of the 1990s, has never emerged, and attempts to establish it (unipolarity, American leadership) have failed.

There is no sense in trying to figure out at this point what the future world order will be like, it will be established anyway sooner or later. Yet it is possible to try to analyze the nature of the present global environment that will determine its future configuration.

It would be naïve to think that a new world order will emerge smoothly and all by itself – history does not know such examples. Dmitry Yefremenko contends that the Ukrainian crisis is the first in a series of major international conflicts that will accompany the emergence of a polycentric world. The author analyzes the extent to which Russia, which has dared to go beyond the “red lines,” is ready to bear the costs and change its habitual modus operandi. It will have to be changed anyway – even if the conflict over Ukraine eases, there will be no return to the former kind of relations with the West. Alexei Arbatov points out that in the future multipolar system the success of any country will depend on its ability to build an effective and fair model for its own development. Sergei Glazyev offers a comprehensive plan for reconfiguring the world order by fighting the Western, above all U.S., monopoly. The key element of this plan is curbing the arbitrariness of the issuers of world reserve currencies, which use their advantageous position to dump their problems onto other countries.

Sergei Karaganov exposes the reasons for the new confrontation between Moscow and Washington and maintains that it will continue for long. Alexei Portansky analyzes, in this connection, the effectiveness of Western sanctions against Moscow. He believes that the effect may be sizeable and painful. Dmitry Shlapentokh contemplates about what is happening to the axis of the Transatlantic community – the relationship between the United States and Germany.

Andrei Skriba discusses the genesis of the Ukrainian crisis and what possibilities remain for its durable settlement. He is convinced that this is impossible to achieve without Russia and the West agreeing on a model of Ukraine’s existence.

Yelena Pavlova and Tatiana Romanova discuss complexities of mutual perception. They come to the conclusion that Russia and Europe have never tried to understand each other in earnest, instead reducing their judgments to ideological labels and methodological simplifications. Viacheslav Morozov questions Russia’s ability to abandon its Western-centric world view – even amid the acute confrontation and statements about its turn towards the East, Moscow nonetheless appeals to the Western frame of reference. Vladimir Makei believes that, since the present-day world development is largely influenced by identity politics and by culture wars, this system cannot be universal and applicable in all cultures. Alexei Malashenko analyzes a very special factor of cultural and religious coexistence of various peoples in Russia – the Islamic community.

The main reason for the changes taking place in the world is the rapid economic and political rise of Asia. Bihari Kausikan emphasizes that Asia needs Russia but Russia is yet to find its role and niche in Asian politics. Timofei Bordachev and Yevgeny Kanayev offer basic provisions of a strategy for Russia’s turn to the East. Vladimir Portyakov believes that the present developments will cause Russia to give up its policy of balancing between major centers of power and to inevitably seek a rapprochement with China. Alexei Grivach discusses the major gas contract signed by Moscow and Beijing during Vladimir Putin’s visit to China in May. The contract is Russia’s first major breakthrough into Asian markets. Mikhail Konarovsky draws the reader’s attention to a country that may soon become another battleground for strife for influence by various forces – namely, Afghanistan.

The civil war in Ukraine, the actual disintegration of Iraq, the stalemate in Syria, the mounting crisis between Russia and the West, the sanctions war which is undermining the principles of the global economy – such are the gloomy signs of 2014. Mankind is marking the centenary of the First World War in a manner as if it has decided to prove that the potential of instability and conflicts in the world has not decreased a bit over the past century.

} Page 1 of 5