On March 11, a visiting session of the Valdai Discussion Club, titled “A Time of Change: The World in an Era of Global Unpredictability” opened in Yerevan, Armenia. The event was attended by about 100 people, including leading Russian, international and Armenian experts along with members of Armenia’s government. Developments in Eurasia and South Caucasus were discussed during the session in the context of modernity and challenges emanating from the Greater Middle East.
In his welcoming address, Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Club, stressed the importance of seeking new ways of interaction between Russia and Armenia in the Eurasian region as a whole.
"All the topics that we are discussing today are very relevant for us, and we hope that we will be able to find new opportunities for cooperation," Bystritsky noted.
Alexander Khachaturyan, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Armenia and Executive Director of the Center for Strategic Initiatives, in turn expressed hope that "the discussion will result in practical results."
Armenian Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan outlined the main trends in the development of the Caucasus and the Middle East, noting the clearer self-identification of each country and the reinterpretation of the borders of the regions. According to the minister, today, the role of Russia, Turkey, Iran and other major players in the Middle East is extremely important.
"Armenia is trying to build relations with major world powers in areas where bilateral interests coincide," Sargsyan said, noting that in Armenia’s foreign policy, relations with Russia and relations within the framework of strategic alliances, particularly the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, traditionally play a special role.
Opening the first panel of the session "How to maintain stability and promote development in a rapidly changing world," Fyodor Lukyanov, the Valdai Club Research Director, said that "the instability in the world is unprecedentedly interconnected, there are no regions, even those that seemed safe, guaranteed from Internal shocks ".
Vitaly Naumkin, President of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, explained this, using the example of the most turbulent region, in which the interests of global and regional players converge, the Middle East. Instability in the Middle East, which is the main threat to the Eurasian region, was also discussed by Valdai Club expert and director of the Caucasus Institute, Aleksandr Iskandaryan. He noted that whereas 10 years ago, the main security threats to the region came from within, now they are coming from outside.
Ruben Safrastyan, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, suggested that the new world order arising after the period of unpredictability will be occupied by four poles: the United States, Russia, China and a set of small states. The latter reflects the democratization of the world, to which no one can rule in a team style. According to Safrastyan, traditional and conservative values, which should guide small and medium-sized countries, play a special role in the formation of a new world order.
Karen Bekaryan, a legislator at the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia discussed the topic of tradition and conservatism, noting that stability is not an end in itself, but an instrument of development.
Continuing this idea, Ivan Timofeev, Programme Director of the Valdai Club and the Russian Council for International Affairs, noted that conservatives "understand the limitations of reasonable approaches, consider balance and restraint to be important." He also touched upon the role of the United States in the current global changes, stressing that expectations from the new US administration are not yet justified.
Nikolai Zlobin, President and founder of the Washington-based Center on Global Interests, disagreed that the United States is today a factor of maximum uncertainty in the global arena. In his opinion, it is quite the opposite: the United States is excessively stable, not capable of change. Therefore, special policy changes in connection with Donald Trump's presidency should not be expected. The US is accustomed to looking at the world systematically, not "seeing" individual countries and anticipating or shaping global trends. This will continue and will serve as an obstacle for Trump's declared "turn inwards."
According to Zlobin, Trump will most likely delegate the actual conduct of foreign policy to the very establishment he is up against, and therefore nothing will fundamentally change. Zlobin added that in the modern world, the state in general is rapidly losing its functions and opportunities, giving way to a wide variety of non-state actors. According to Zlobin, Armenia is to some extent the prototype of the future state. Its citizens can have different passports, they move around the world and together with the diasporas are in fact an institution of global civil society based on common values.