Norms and Values
Between Iran and Turan, or New Horizons of the Greater Eurasian Partnership

The Great Eurasian Partnership stands in opposition to hegemony imposed from outside, but it’s not a closed club. What the new format of relations will be after overcoming inequality is difficult to answer today. The process ahead is to develop a model that will be acceptable to all members of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, write Kubatbek Rakhimov and Alexey Mikhalev.

Relying on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a foundation and closely interacting with the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Greater Eurasian Partnership acquires features that

Basil Nikitin wrote about in the early twentieth century: using the categories of Iran, Turan, Eurasia, and China to denote special civilisations, he drew a natural border of Eurasia along the Ukrainian-Polish border. Today, when a logical question arises about whether a Eurasian economic integration project can exist without Europe the answer, unexpectedly, is to be found in the material of debates dating back to the late 1920s.

It would seem that modern reality, both economic and political, has changed dramatically. At first glance, an appeal to the texts of Nikitin seems like archaic speculation on historical material. But it was Nikitin, analysing the layers of cultures of Iran and Turan, who showed that for Russia a Eurasian future is impossible without close cooperation with these two worlds. Russia’s current balancing act between Tehran and Ankara largely confirms the same ideas. The question remains: is it possible to do without Europe?

Here it is important to immediately outline the boundaries of what kind of Europe we are talking about – Europe as part of the Euro-Atlantic bloc, claiming world hegemony. The answer to the question is not so obvious; it requires a deep look into the future. The fact is that in the case of Eurasian integration based on BRICS, SCO, ECO and with the participation of North Korea, a relatively coherent paradigm of regional relations is obtained. Its success will, over time, push Europe toward cooperation, most likely on more equal terms than it currently has. These circumstances necessitate, first and foremost, the need for the Eurasian world to overcome Europe’s claims to hegemony. A strong Eurasian economic bloc cannot go unnoticed and without being involved in the world economy. In this situation, we come to Nikitin’s reasonable thesis, expressed back in 1926: “We, Eurasians are looking for the correct formulation of our national, cultural and political consciousness, in which, correctly understood, Asianism has so far been absent. Neither Euro-hatred nor Asia-obsequiousness: this is my deep conviction.

A decade of continuous sanctions against Russia has led to the fact that its cooperation with Europe (with the exception of a few countries) has been reduced as much as possible. Given that a number of Italian and French companies have been absent from the Russian market for quite a long time, there remains hope that after the emergence of a new model of Eurasian partnership, the process of their return will begin. In addition, the specifics of the market are such that at this stage, European goods have already been replaced by goods from other countries. For example, Iran confidently occupies its niche of food supplies in Russia and is developing investment projects for gas production in the Caspian region. In this sense, Iran is a significant part of the large Eurasian place of development, which Pyotr Savitsky and Basil Nikitin argued about. As a result, Nikitin’s position found greater confirmation in subsequent events of centuries-old history.

Asia and Eurasia
Asiacentrism: Russia in Search of a New Identity
Kubatbek Rakhimov
Russian Asiacentrism has a future filled with meaning and real projects. For their successful implementation, it is important to understand and accept the principle of superposition in relation to Russia as a state-civilisation, which, however, does not detract from the merits of the Eurasian concept, writes Kubatbek Rakhimov, Executive Director of the Applicata – Center for Strategic Solutions Public Foundation, for the 13th Asian conference of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Turan and Iran are, according to Nikitin, the internal and external East in relation to Russia. Their relationship sets the dynamics of the development of Eurasia. Turan in our case is the totality of all Turkic and partly Iranian peoples inhabiting the space of the former USSR, primarily Central Asia. By and large, Turan, Iran, Russia and China are the core around which the economic development of the non-European world will be built. Today, as the BRICS association is becoming one of the most dynamically expanding economic conglomerates of states in the world, it is obvious that the trend of economic growth is shifting towards non-European countries. Let us recall that the SCO and BRICS are two mutually interrelated projects. Iran, a member of the SCO and ECO, will become a member of BRICS on June 1, 2024.

The Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) will take on new contours in the near future. This model, despite its youth among all other integration solutions, is already being transformed against the backdrop of geopolitical changes. Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly announced this project back in 2015, and since then the situation has been constantly shifting towards the development of specific issues related to the GEP. In particular, the general approaches that define the principles of functioning of the Greater Eurasian Partnership are currently already set out in key strategic planning documents affecting the international activities of the Russian Federation. These primarily include the 2021 National Security Strategy and the 2023 Foreign Policy Concept. In accordance with the basic guidelines contained in them, the Greater Eurasian Partnership has been declared a flagship foreign policy project designed to become a “broad integration contour.” This means that the GEP, the core of which can be the EAEU, SCO and ASEAN, will also use the capabilities of such complementary formats as the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, and will be able to create the necessary preconditions for the transformation of Eurasia into a single continental space of stability, mutual trust, development and prosperity (from the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation 2023).

In these conditions, the BRICS New Development Bank (BRICS NDB) can become the main financial institution of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. In the near future, the bank will significantly expand due to a new influential participant – Iran. In 2023, it launched a lending programme in the national currencies of the BRICS NDB member countries. In the future, this bank will become an alternative to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has been actively investing in Central Asia, especially in projects related to hydrocarbons. Since 1991 alone, the EBRD has invested more than €1.5 billion in more than 250 agri-food projects in Central Asia to support the transition to an open market economy and encourage private and entrepreneurial initiatives.

Currently, much attention within the SCO is paid to the development of the digital economy; this, in turn, will create conditions for the development of this industry regardless of the EU and the USA. As Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin noted: “Digitalisation will make it possible to more quickly achieve inclusive economic development, create new growth points and increase the investment attractiveness of the SCO economies.” At the same time, large-scale digitalisation projects are underway in China, particularly digital industrialisation, which Chinese President Xi Jinping proposes relying on. 
Thus, the Greater Eurasian Partnership is becoming a complex and multi-component phenomenon, providing guidelines for further development not only within the framework of export-import schemes along the East-West line. It has its own internal potential for development.

When discussing BRICS in the context of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, it is worth recalling Nikitin’s idea about India’s connectedness with the “ocean continent” of Russia-Eurasia-China. Today, more than ever, this relationship is becoming a reality. If in the early 20th century Eurasians talked about certain cultural foundations for the proximity of huge civilization-states, now the economy has become a kind of core for integration, although cultural studies help one to more easily perceive the changes that are taking place. By and large, in the complex political metaphysics of Eurasianism, culture and history have performed and continue to perform the important function of forming a political language for describing international relations.

In that situation, the metaphors of Iran and Turan as some deep civilisational foundations of the Eurasian partnership become completely operational categories. They describe not just identities, but large-scale integration projects. Many countries participating in the Greater Eurasian Partnership are members of both the Economic Cooperation Organisation (where the tone is set by three very different players – Turkey, Iran and Pakistan) and the Organisation of Turkic States, which not only has political ambitions, but also a completely coherent program for the future (including the digital transformation). At the same time, it is important to understand that Eurasian integration involves the confluence of several civilisational worlds at once. Each of them has its own image of the future and geopolitical strategy, and all this diversity is united around the idea of​​overcoming Euro-Atlantic hegemony.

The confluence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Economic Cooperation Organisation and the Organisation of Turkic States is very important from the point of view of Turkey’s active involvement in building new continental relations, despite the fact that Turkey is a NATO member state. However, over the last decade, Turkey has provided us with a unique example of a country which realises its own national interests, while simultaneously cooperating in many areas (Syria, Ukraine, etc.) Ankara’s role is very important in both the Economic Cooperation Organisation and the Organisation of Turkic States, while the Republic of Turkey is a dialogue partner in the SCO.

Will this complex system of economic relations continue to exist without Europe? Politically, the chances for this happening have never been higher. In essence, Europe will remain a partner, but as a hegemon it will become a thing of the past. This thesis seems to us to be one of the key ones. The Great Eurasian Partnership stands in opposition to hegemony imposed from outside, but it’s not a closed club. What the new format of relations will be after overcoming inequality is difficult to answer today. The process ahead is to develop a model that will be acceptable to all members of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. However, overcoming hegemony is also seen differently in different parts of Greater Eurasia.
Asia and Eurasia
Eurasian Integration: Goal-Setting in the Context of a Geopolitical Storm
Sergey Rekeda
The era of globalisation according to the old rules has come to an end — there is a search for new rules and a new balance of power, including economic ones. Therefore, the Eurasian integration associations will also have to adapt to new conditions in order to remain effective, writes Sergey Rekeda, Associate Professor at the Base Department of Eurasian Economic Integration, Institute of Law and National Security, RANEPA.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.