On October 17, the XIV Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club was opened in Sochi. This year it is devoted to the global conflicts that swept the world. Before our eyes, the old world order is collapsing. Is there a creative beginning? Opening the meeting, Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Valdai Club, noted that only from conflicts, contradictions and the destruction of the old one something new can arise.
"It's another matter," he added, "that these conflicts require rational, intellectual governance. Those conflicts that people do not control can lead to the most unfortunate consequences. "
To control them, you need to understand what really is going on. In this regard, the work of the Valdai Club is very important. Bystritskiy recalled that the Club had come a long way in the past year. "The intellectual community that has gathered around it now evolves smoothly towards a full-fledged Think Tank, an organization that can discuss serious issues, offer constructive ideas, put forward concepts to understand better what is happening in the surrounding world," he said.
The participants of the first two sessions in Sochi discussed, perhaps, the two key conflicts of our time, affecting in one degree or another all the processes in world politics. Their results can be spreading populism in Europe and in the US, unexpected elections results in democratic countries, outbreaks of wars in several regions, etc.
So, first session was devoted to the the conflict of geopolitical worldviews. Participants shared their views of the modern world order and made suggestions as to what kind of world order could come to replace it. The most pessimistic view was presented by Sergey Karaganov, Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. In his opinion, we are experiencing a new Cold War, which is much more dangerous than the one in the twentieth century. The main goal today is to avoid a real big war, the probability of which is higher than ever. The new system, he said, will be based on a new military balance between nuclear states.
Theo Sommer, a columnist for the German newspaper Die Zeit, said, that the world is again split along ideological lines. Nevertheless all countries face the same challenges, be it aging populations, urbanization or climate change. They need not lead an ideological struggle, but jointly solve common problems. As to relations between Russia and the West, we must manage confrontation, prevent escalation, preserve what remains of cooperation and build trust, Sommer said.
Fu Ying, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress (China), pointed out in her speech that the geopolitical paradigm was insufficient to explain the changes taking place in the modern global system. With the change in the geopolitical configuration, the "center-periphery" model is no longer relevant: we all live in the same economic space. In this context, according to Fu Ying, there is an obvious need for a global governance system and a global security system that is sufficient for the existing global economic system.
The theses of William Wohlforth, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College (United States), contrasted with the speeches of session participants from Russia, Western Europe, the Middle East and China. According to Wohlforth, the existing world order is quite stable. One should not wait for the emergence of a new order from the current conflicts. There are fewer wars in the world than in other historical periods, and the possibility of a major war is precluded by the nuclear status of leading powers, Wohlforth said.
It is noteworthy that during discussions no mention was made of a unipolar system, which can be seen as an affirmation of its final departure into the past.
The second session, dedicated to the conflict between rich and poor, was held in the Chatham House format, which means that the participants in the discussion can use the information received, without naming the speakers. According to experts, at present there is a need for a common understanding of how the gap between the rich and the poor is connected with geopolitical, economic and demographic dynamics, how it feeds tension and conflicts on class, ethnic, racial, gender and religious grounds. It is important to diagnose accurately the causes of inequality in order to allow policy-makers to take the right decisions.
The Westphalian system of state structure no longer supports the world order. Global governance does not provide the elimination of inequalities within and between regions of the world. Experts drew attention to the disappointment with the international financial system, which is experienced by many countries. As one participant noted, the developed countries have built ties among themselves, which are dishonest in relation to other players. For example, the US created swap lines only with those states that were of interest to it.
In developed countries, the problem of inequality is primarily related to the improvement of technology. One of the main drivers of the social inequality growing is computerization and automation. According to one of the western experts, despite all the advantages that new technologies bring, in the long term the consequences of their development will be negative. According to estimates, more than 57% of existing jobs in developed countries will be replaced by robots in two generations. Undoubtedly, new jobs will appear, but they will be more low-paid.
Experts also agreed that the most important aspects of inequality are the demographic situation and migration. Rich states can reduce the severity of the migration problem, first of all, by creating conditions for the development of those countries, from where migration takes place.
Overcoming poverty and the gap between rich and poor within and between regions of the world should also be based on the demilitarization of international relations, taking into account the serious reform of the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council needs to agree to lower military spending and channel funds for sustainable development and assistance to poor countries.
In addition to the main sessions, two special sessions in closed-door format were held on the sidelines of the Valdai Annual meeting. One of them was devoted to the problems of interaction of the USA with other world powers and the prospects of resolving the country's internal political crisis. The participants of another special session discussed the influence of the Russian Revolution on the global system - outlook, social structure, economic approaches, geopolitical alignment of forces.
Also on the club's website an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He talked with the website editors on October 16 after his speech at the Valdai Club session, titled “The Importance of Being Earnest: How to Avoid Irreparable Damage”. Video of the interview is available on the website.
On October 18, within the framework of the Valdai Annual meeting three sessions will be held: The Conflict Between Man and Nature, The Conflict Between Universalism and Self-Identity, as well as The Future Preparedness Index.