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.
In a situation of rigid Western economic sanctions and complicated relations with practically all of its neighbors, Iran nevertheless is turning into a most important state in a vast geopolitical area that embraces the Middle and Near East, Central and Western Asia. The Iranian aspect is present in practically all international problems that draw global attention.
Asia Pacific is becoming a foreign policy priority for Russia. This is logical, as it is the most rapidly developing geopolitical region. Not only is the global economic and political center of gravity shifting to the region, the direction and forms of humanity’s future development largely depend on it. Russia’s interests cannot be fully reconciled with the interests of the United States or China.
EU does not lose hope that Azerbaijan would some day sign an agreement with Turkmenistan, and maybe even with Kazakhstan, to build the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline to add a new meaning to the idea of Nabucco. But it is certainly a topic for a very distant future.
The current developments in Syria are directly related to the broader processes at work in the Arab Spring, which largely explains the alignment of forces on the eve of Geneva 2. Islamists have stepped up their extremist activities. The alignment of forces between pro-government areas and cities and nascent administrative centers held by the opposition remains almost unchanged.
Russia and Europe are playing a zero-sum game with Ukraine, which can only benefit the corrupt Ukrainian elites. But even their potential gains are rapidly diminishing. The Russian idea of a Union of Europe, from Brest in France to Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast, is in the interests of all sides.
Both Moscow and Brussels are sending a certain signal not only to Kiev, but also to some other so-called focus states of the Eastern Partnership, that in practical terms the time of comfortably sitting between the two chairs is coming to an end. It is important to understand what the "free trade area" is and what the "Customs union" is.
Could Russia’s attempts to establish closer ties with countries of Southeast Asia or Indochina become an issue in its relationship with China? Putin’s visits to Vietnam and South Korea will focus on certain infrastructure projects, certain easing of tensions in bilateral relations and by no means taking any steps that could undermine the major bilateral treaty with China.
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.
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.
Russia has surged ahead on the foreign policy stage, but this is not enough to remain a great power. The tough-minded policies and masterful diplomacy of Russia’s leadership have maximized the country’s position in the world, and are now the main source of its international influence and prestige. Russia’s foreign policy in the next decade depends entirely on what happens at home.