New Format of Eurasia: Ways to Connectivity and Compatibility
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall, Bolshaya Tatarskaya 42, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On December 13, 2018, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “International Order and Political Stability in Eurasia”, in connection with the publication of the report “The Old World Revisited: Future of the International Order in Eurasia” and the Valdai Paper “Infrastructure Connectivity and Political Stability in Eurasia”.

As the United States is gradually ceasing to be the only world hegemon, new centres of power emerge to counterbalance the American influence. One of the central projects of this kind is Eurasia, a global bloc that takes “all the best of the two worlds”. At the same time, the question arises: what is it, how is it possible to unite Europe and Asia?

This question was addressed by Andrei Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, and Nikolay Silaev, Senior Research Fellow of the Centre for Studies of Caucasus, MGIMO University. Silaev said that there are at least three interpretations of the Eurasia concept: as the former USSR except the Baltics, as confluence of the EAEU with the Belt and Road Initiative, and also as a united Europe “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. In any case, we talk about bridging the gap between various parts of the continent, which cannot take place without taking into account the interests of Russia, China, India and the EU. In any case, the problem is the fragmentation of various parts of this formation, which now more closely resembles an archipelago connected by sea routes.

The purpose of the report, according to the expert, is to describe what the main dominants of Eurasian security could look like by the middle of this century. To tackle this task, the authors used a broad historical coverage and perspective. According to the scholars’ forecasts, by 2050 India and China will become the two largest economies of the world, which also means a shift of the geopolitical gravity centre from America to Eurasia. “We proceeded from what strategic goals the key centres of power set for themselves,” Silaev said. “As for the USA, its goal is to remain in Eurasia as a key ally in Europe and Asia. China for many years assumed that its economic and technological power will manifest itself in the political sphere, but now it is being pulled out of this ‘wait and see’ state. At the same time, the United States and India consider China their main rival.”

As for Russia, it has a strategic partnership with China and India, and therefore can play a balancing role between them. Even if Russia does not become one of the economic superpowers by 2050, its ability to mediate and to counterbalance will become its main resource. As for the less influential players, the complex system of relations between the giants, according to Silaev, left them few opportunities for political subjectivity, and therefore “friendship” with the United States will play an important role for them – as is happening now with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. “The minor players already have a choice – to play a constructive role in Eurasia or to become ‘spoilers’ within the framework of an identity-based policy,” Sushentsov added.

To describe the processes that influence political stability and security in Eurasia and Eastern Europe, Yauheni Preiherman, Head of the Minsk Dialogue Initiative (Belarus), proposed two concepts: first, the infrastructure connectivity, mechanisms of people and goods movements, and, second, the compatibility, or the positive interaction possibility between different actors, whose absence reduces communication between them. In this regard, the establishment of communication between parts of the continent can have both positive and negative effects, exacerbating contradictions and conflicts. On the one hand, we see the positive effects of “synergy” between the EU and the Belt and Road initiative in the 16 + 1 format. On the other hand, the Baltic states, members of the EU and NATO, rely on their partners from these blocs, which causes escalation.

According to the expert, the main problem is that “politics dominates the economy”, so there is no normal dialogue between the EU and the EAEU, although, according to economists, both parties would benefit from such interaction. Recently, more and more temporary alliances have arisen, achieved certain goals and broken up. How to take a positive direction with all these challenges and negative moments? According to Preiherman, in this sense we can only define a goal for ourselves – namely, the continuation of the security system development. A positive example is Belarus, which plays the role of a “bridge” between different countries, while not forgetting about its own interests.

The positive element of what is happening, according to Sushentsov, is that we have no reasons to be afraid of a large-scale open conflict or a new stage of bilateral rivalry. Everything goes on as usual: “Nostalgia for the Cold War continues to dominate minds, but not on a mass scale,” he said. “Russia-West confrontation is no longer on the agenda. There are so many things in the world that it is difficult to describe it in a contrasting black-and-white panorama. Now is a good time for provocations. Countries cannot afford kinetic confrontation, but competition continues. No one is looking for opportunities to start a war, but there are individual players who want to become the centre of the crisis. It is in our power to give it to them or not. ” Not only the balance of power is changing, but also the format of the new political and economic reality. In these conditions our task is not to panic, but to be ready for it.