No Lull in Sight

5 september 2009

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: There has been no traditional summertime lull in Russian politics this year. The breath of the crisis is felt everywhere. In Russia, it forces the government to take preventive measures – many analysts predict a hot autumn prone with social problems. But in the international arena, new opportunities are opening up, which Moscow does not want to miss.

© "Russia in Global Affairs". № 3, July - September 2009

There has been no traditional summertime lull in Russian politics this year. The breath of the crisis is felt everywhere. In Russia, it forces the government to take preventive measures – many analysts predict a hot autumn prone with social problems. But in the international arena, new opportunities are opening up, which Moscow does not want to miss.

The main event of the summer was the Moscow visit of Barack Obama, who officially opened an era of a “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations. Almost all commentators agree that the Moscow negotiations were successful, although admittedly the Russian and U.S. presidents avoided thorny problems. A report prepared by a team of experts led by Sergei Karaganov and published in this issue focuses on ways to broaden and complement the new Russian-U.S. agenda. The authors say that the key to a real reconfiguration of relations between the two countries lies in coordinating their priorities, primarily with regard to regional issues.

Although the Cold War ended 20 years ago, there has not emerged a European/Eurasian security system that would enjoy the trust of all the participants. Meanwhile, the number of real or potential hotbeds of conflicts arising along the continent’s perimeter has been persistently increasing.

Boris Mezhuyev and the author of this article analyze the proposal Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made more than a year ago for building a new European security architecture. Oleg Alexandrov discusses the situation in the Arctic, which is now turning into an area of rivalry among adjacent nations. The expert believes that creation of a regional security system in Northern Europe could serve as a model for a pan-European security system.

Tigran Torosyan focuses on the role of Turkey as a rising regional power. Ankara has an increasing impact on developments in the South Caucasus, Southern Europe and the Middle East. This is evidenced – among other things – by a recent visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Turkey, which has become a landmark event for relations between the two countries.

Ivan Safranchuk analyzes the Afghan conflict which the Russian and U.S. presidents discussed in detail in Moscow. The author holds that there exist possibilities for deepening cooperation between the two countries in this sphere, but their interests do not fully coincide. Also, the Afghan problem can hardly be solved without the involvement of regional structures, above all the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Yevgeny Primakov writes about yet another field of confrontation – the Palestinian-Israel conflict. The author believes that the resolution of this conflict is crucial for ensuring stability on a vast territory from the Middle East to South and Central Asia.

Vladislav Inozemtsev analyzes the possible impact of the economic crisis on the balance of powers in the world. In his view, the West should make efforts towards cooperation with countries that found themselves outside of the Western world’s orbit in the 1990s. This refers, above all, to Russia and Latin American states. Only such “Broader West” can counteract the challenges of the new century.

Is Russia prepared to face these challenges? A section of this issue devoted to Russia’s potential for transformation discusses this question in detail. Olga Kryshtanovskaya analyzes the principles of Russia’s authoritarian modernization in the 2000s and concludes that the potential of this model has been exhausted. Mikhail Afanasiev believes that Russian society has enough resources for systemic renovation; however, the state machinery is unable to use these resources properly. Tatyana Mitrova focuses on changes taking place on the world energy market. The state of this market is vital for Russia’s development. The scholar warns that Russia must be ready for serious and potentially unfavorable changes, which will require that it review its approaches. Alexander Chepurin writes about Russian resources of a different kind – he discusses possibilities that can open up for Russia from interaction with Russian communities abroad.

Victor Kremenyuk raises a broader issue – he calls for rethinking development priorities, which is imperative for an unbiased analysis of the past experience. Dmitry Badovsky writes that social therapy is more important than political liberalization for Russia’s modernization project. This therapy includes the removal of the monetary peg from values, the elimination of corporate tendencies in society, the restoration of social mobility, and a return to the principles of public solidarity.

Vladimir Pechatnov turns to the history of World War II, which has been widely discussed both in Russia and the rest of the world of late. Correspondence between Joseph Stalin and Sir Winston Churchill from Soviet archives reveals interesting aspects of the relationships between the leaders of the Allied coalition.

Our next issue will be devoted to the sweeping changes in Europe and the world that were heralded by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Modern Russia’s vision of developments over the past two decades differs from the view that prevails in Europe.

Last updated 5 september 2009, 14:17

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