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.
Russia’s relations with Baku have been strained at times. A decision to shut off Azerbaijan’s outlet for crude via Russia has brought the fragility of Moscow-Baku relations back into sharp focus. As of February next year, the 250-km oil pipeline section linking Azerbaijan with the Russian export terminal of Novorossiisk will be shut, the final nail in the coffin for exports of Azeri crude via Russia.
Last month, the Russian government had high level talks with the Japanese, South Korean, Vietnamese, Egyptian and Serb governments, which indicate actual and potential gains, without seeming to lose anything. At present, the Russian view on Syria appears to have prevailed over the desire to out-rightly see Syrian President Bashar Assad leave office. The Russian-Israeli relationship is civilly interacted, with agreement and some disagreement. Chinese-Russian relations do not seem to have taken a noticeable downslide.
The EU missed the fundamental point about Russian foreign policy: to feel secure, Moscow needs a geopolitical hinterland of countries that are economically weak and politically pliable. The EU's Eastern Partnership could make Russia's borderlands economically strong and politically secure. Therefore the Partnership must be destroyed.
The alarming breakdown in trust between Washington and Arab leaders has certainly not escaped Moscow’s attention, with Russia intensifying its efforts to move into countries that for decades have been stalwart American allies. Russia still has much ground to make up if it is seriously to challenge decades of Western hegemony in the region.
Russia hopes to mimic the success of shale oil in the US with the development of its own hard-to-reach oil reserves. Russia holds the largest deposits of technically recoverable shale oil at around 75 billion barrels of oil.
Iran has been a central Russian ally in the Middle East, despite considerable tensions between the two. But by renewing dialogue with the West, the new Iranian leadership has chosen another direction. The shifting terrain in the region creates new strategic, political and economic challenges for Russia.
Some people are trying to make the reality in Russia at least a bit more humane. The amnesty should apply not only to persons involved in high-profile cases, but also to individuals who are not as well-known. It is better to set free at least some of the individuals who deserve to be released than no one at all.
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.