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.
The government should spend money on building new highways in and between large cities, developing aviation infrastructure, rescuing forests around Moscow that are being destroyed by timber beetles (anyone flying to Moscow can see the horrifying large gray patches), and saving the Altai woods from a lichen onslaught. It is worth spending money on better equipment in education and healthcare, and making massive investments in our human capital in these sectors to enable teachers to use modern methods and doctors to make timely and correct diagnoses.
Paradoxically, Russia has very low central government debt – around 10% – and external debt a bit over 2%. Therefore it is unnecessary to use devaluation as a tool to minimize the national debt. Instead, the biggest reason the ruble is continuing to slide is the reduction in export earnings and increasing capital outflows. Devaluation, as long as it occurs on a large scale, could help Russia’s export sector, since Russian policymakers probably expect the global commodity market will continue slowing in China and the rest of emerging and advanced countries.
The most notable obstacles for proactive contracting are rigid law and strict business/contracting practices. In the Russian market, these obstacles are both exceptionally strong. Russian contract law is more rigid than its Western counterparts’, especially compared with Nordic contract law. The reason for this is that Russian academic lawyers, who drafted the Civil Code, seem to regard rigid legal rules as means of protecting contracting parties and courts offering protection.
In Russia, private deals and foreign investments are regulated on the basis of the Civil Code, which forms part of the larger private law legislation. The ideology behind private law is related to libertarian ideas of the free market: people are regarded as being free to agree on the exchange of their own resources and possessions. State law guarantees that their rights shall not be violated or the rights shall be restored in the event of a dispute.
The State Duma declared a nationwide economic amnesty. The ongoing change in attitude towards business in Russia is a signal to all government officials that “it is necessary to protect business people, who are the future of the Russian economy.” At the same time, it is a signal to investors, that they should look more seriously to engaging in business in Russia.
Russian regions differ significantly in terms of the development of their infrastructure. Obvious regional differences are unlikely to allow us to speak of a single investment climate in Russia and equal conditions of work for foreign companies in different Russian regions, and, consequently, the effectiveness of universal measures to attract foreign investors.
On July 1, the presidency of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) passed to Russia. Thus, with no fanfare, the body set up over two decades ago by the United States and other Western countries to lead the global fight against financial crime was placed in the hands of a country where, in the words of a 2012 report of the U.S. State Department, “corruption and financial crimes flourish.”
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.