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.
What are the options open to Russia? Handing over Snowden to the US will be a huge loss of face but his continued presence in Sheremetyevo will be untenable and will increasingly look as if Moscow is showing the thumb up at Obama. As a pragmatist, President Vladimir Putin would estimate that the damage to Russia’s ties with the US will be substantial.
Russia merely reaffirmed its position, which is natural considering that developments in Syria are turning in its favor. The United States announced that it will begin to send arms to some rebel groups. The conflict in Syria is likely to develop into a protracted war. Russia is all alone on this issue, but the differences over other issues are not that serious.
There is no question of Russia giving asylum to Snowden. However, it will be fun to watch how Washington makes a demarche with Moscow. To be sure, it will be an awfully embarrassing thing for the US to do after having given asylum to the notorious Chechen separatist leader Ilyas Akhmadov almost a decade ago.
Both Russian and Western media often focus on the differences in the positions on Syria espoused by Russia and the United States. But the results of the G8 summit are nevertheless encouraging. Putin and Obama signed three important agreements and decided to hold a Russian-US summit in Moscow on September 3-4.
The single biggest stakeholder in the outcome of the China-United States weekend summit in California was not Japan, but North Korea. It is more than a coincidence that Pyongyang agreed to hold a meeting with Seoul the day after presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping wrapped up their talks.
Just when the Moscow-Washignton tango is getting to be noticed the US administration introduces a discordant note by announcing the nomination of Victoria Nuland, former state department spokesperson under Hillary Clinton’s watch, as the new head of European and Eurasian Affairs at Foggy Bottom. With an ambassador in Moscow, Michael McFaul and, now, a confidante of Talbott as the assistant secretary of state, Moscow faces a formidable challenge on the diplomatic track.
Why did Russian officials choose to make Fogle’s case so public and then insist that it was unlikely to affect U.S.-Russia relations? The official explanation for this is that Moscow had already asked the United States to stop trying to recruit its intelligence officers—which seems like a silly and unrealistic request, since Russian agencies seem unlikely to halt similar steps in the United States—and that officials were frustrated after handling a similar case quietly earlier this year.
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.