The Valdai Discussion Club Foundation, in cooperation with its partners, launched a new research project on Eurasian integration with a workshop in Shanghai on November 16-17. The aim of the project is to examine the entire Eurasian space in four dimensions and from four perspectives. The four dimensions are economic, political, security and social; and the four perspectives are Russian, Central Asian, Chinese and EU/US.
Over 200 Russian and foreign experts attended the 10th meeting of the Valdai Club. The participants focus on analyzing the internal processes and external challenges to work out a vision of Russia in the future.
Evaluating Russia’s development index during the annual poll this year, experts of the Valdai Discussion Club spoke positively about the country's growing role in national, regional and global security, foreign policy and soft power. Most negative assessment was given to performance of Russia’s political institutions, public confidence in them and the dynamics of economic development.
The research poll analyses five basic valuable aspects of contemporary Russian identity. In particular, the respondents were proposed to reflect over following principal aspects: culture, religion, ethnicity, self-identification, patriotism etc.
This report is based on discussions held at the Valdai Club's Middle East Dialogue conference, which took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, on May 14-15, 2013. The event was attended by high-profile politicians from the Middle East and North Africa, including leaders of Islamist movements, as well as prominent experts, analysts and journalists from Russia and around the world.
According to various pragmatic criteria, Russia should be an attractive country for foreign investment: its increasing transit economy, significant energy sources, and the availability of undeveloped territory are all important factors. However, experts believe that the percentage of foreign investment in Russia remains fairly low. There are other aspects of Russian business that are not translated or described in textbooks.
Muslim activism in Russia continues to develop and radicalize. It is easy for Islam to become a form of social protest. Reoccurring ethnic conflicts may ultimately lead to interreligious confrontation, and the Russian authorities are not prepared for such a course of events.
Soft power has become the recent focus of discussion around Russia’s foreign policy. Observers argue that Moscow, which still believes in the decisive role of weapons and other traditional elements of power, is losing the information and image war. But Russia’s understanding of soft power differs radically from that of the West.
The problem of Russian education is not that we have too many professors but they are being paid too little. This is why many of them have to work at several universities at the same time in order to get a reasonable salary.
It is obvious that the Russian system of higher education needs to be reformed. The trouble is that we are stuck in a period of interregnum. On the one hand we have one foot firmly planted in the Soviet past while at the same time we are trying to become a modern industrialized state. That is the reason behind many of our problems, above all in education.
Russia is not the only country with a negative attitude toward the law. What matters is what this negative attitude concerns: the commandments not to kill and not to steal, or more detailed procedures that regulate the norms of human behavior and relationships.
Russia still has the big overarching set of institutions with ethnic regions, left over from the Soviet Union, and it really hasn't been modified very much in terms of how these republics operate. On the regional level, there's less freedom to implement policies on ethnic culture and language than there was in the Yeltsin period.
Russia has become very adept in playing the diplomatic game, in which victory depends on choosing the right associate or partner. But there are a growing number of claimants to this role in the new horizontal and interdependent world. Aside Syria and Iran, being still important, the new venues for the application of practical diplomacy may well be Ukraine, the East China Sea and Afghanistan.
Other than Iran, no state near NATO poses a ballistic missile threat to the Alliance — with the exception of Russia. But the SM-3 interceptors to be deployed in phases 2 and 3 will be capable of engaging only medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which Russia has given up under the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Edward Snowden is not an isolated case but part of an independent community which is increasingly resolute in asserting itself and rejecting “raison d’Etat” and behind-the-scenes manipulation. The direct results of Snowden’s disclosures are most clearly evident in the context of Russian-American relations. The Snowden case has humiliated Europe, which Putin took the opportunity to remind them of.
Russia should stop offering economic assistance to Ukraine. President Yanukovych desperately needs financial relief, and, in extremis, he can promise anything in return. Ukraine has entered uncharted waters. Whatever the outcome of the current political standoff in Kiev and of the forthcoming presidential elections, the economic situation of the country is very difficult.