The West committed a strategic blunder: it missed the rise of other powers and suddenly discovered that these “others,” first, wanted to live independently, and second, wanted to do so their own way. It became clear that the imposed Western democratic model was not something that the majority of countries wanted for themselves.
The unipolar world model is giving way to multipolar one and, accordingly, to a new configuration of the global landscape. By the early 2000s, the United States had achieved the world’s top positions, which seemed unattainable by anyone else. And then it suddenly fizzled out. Dizzy with its earlier successes, the United States launched military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but lost both miserably. The weaknesses of the political system became clear. Most importantly, the American economic model lost its appeal during the 2008-2009 crisis.
In an interview with Banks and Business World magazine , Sergei Karaganov, the dean of the HSE Department of Global Economy and International Affairs, said that imperceptibly to many, the third world had suddenly risen in the shadow of ongoing global metamorphosis, offering an alternative model of semi-authoritarian or semi-democratic capitalism that seems very seductive for many countries and peoples. The BRICS countries, particularly China, became a symbol of this new model.
The Western positions in the world collapsed during the period from 2002 to 2012. The West committed a strategic blunder: it missed the rise of other powers and suddenly discovered that these “others,” first, wanted to live independently, and second, wanted to do so their own way. It became clear that the imposed Western democratic model was not something that the majority of countries wanted for themselves.
Karaganov believes that the West is still going strong, but is engaging in rearguard action. One such battle, in Ukraine, is aimed against Russia, and is also used to scare others, such as China, India and Brazil. And everyone realizes this.
Why hasn’t Russia succeeded in building proper relations with the West? First, because of an inability to recognize and acknowledge the fact that Russia and Europe are moving in different socioeconomic, moral and psychological directions, because in many respects, we are living in different eras. Second, because of a reluctance to develop a common long-term development goal. Instead, and this is the third reason, a fight over the Soviet legacy was unleashed, with an attempt to tighten the geopolitical screws on Russia, which led to the events in South Ossetia and now Ukraine. Fourth and final, because of the lack of a serious Russia-West dialogue for nearly a quarter century, which was replaced with lecturing and unsubstantiated assurances regarding the common future.
The agenda for building a new multipolar world order is already being developed by BRICS. This year, BRICS is chaired by Russia, and there will be a BRICS summit in Ufa in July. However, the positions are most likely to become crystallized around the SCO, which is likely to expand through inclusion of India and Pakistan, and later Iran. A geopolitical center of economic growth is taking shape in this region, and a new Eurasian group of countries with a growing security component is being actively formed as well.
According to Karaganov, Russia has been working on its integration with Europe for 25 years now, during which time it never had a strategy of its own. Sanctions are a logical outcome. Now that we got them, let’s at least learn some lessons. The need to fight back is forcing Russia to work, meaning that we need to change our priorities and economic policy. This is a very good opportunity to change the vector and finally start investing in people. We have excellent starting positions and an educated population. What we need to do now is raise the quality of education. If we make targeted investments in promising areas of the manufacturing industry, then, in alliance with China and with general access to the markets of Asia, we are guaranteed to enjoy long-term sustainable economic acceleration.
An economic and transport configuration based on integration of the Chinese Silk Road with the Russian Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur railways and the Northern Sea Route is currently being formed. A new economic growth center is emerging in central Eurasia, spurred on by the accelerated growth of western China, Kazakhstan and Iran, and the use of Central Asian labor and natural resources. It is essential for Russian Siberia, with its powerful production, resources and human potential, to play a key, rather than peripheral, role in this global project from the very start. To do so, it is already necessary to think about creating not only latitudinal, but also longitudinal transport arteries, which will ensure Russia’s active and lucrative participation in the new center of economic growth.
Over the past quarter century, Russia has accumulated invaluable experience of surviving in difficult circumstances. Indeed, we have lost some of our territory and assets, but we no longer have to subsidize the socialist camp and the vast majority of former Soviet republics, or maintain a gigantic war machine. We managed to keep our country in one piece, retain control over our natural resources and maintain high defense capabilities. We got rid of ideological blinders and illusions regarding both our opponents and our partners. This new awareness of ourselves and the world around us is the most important result of 2014. The latest opinion polls, conducted at a time when Russia is living under sanctions, high consumer prices and rising levels of uncertainty, only confirmed the willingness of most of the elite and society to fight for our national interests, even if we have to sacrifice some of our well-being.
That’s worth a lot. Never before has Russia been so collected and enjoyed such a strong position in the face of global challenges.
This is an abridged version of the interview, published in Russian on www.bdm.ru