Norms and Values
Norms and Values in the War Era: Results of the Valdai Club Expert Programme

Summing up the results of the Covid year 2020, we noted: “Most of the Earth’s inhabitants would wish that the events of this challenging year were never repeated.” It could perhaps be said that these words may be reiterated now, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

A year ago, we launched an expert programme of the Valdai Discussion Club titled Norms and Values. In fact, it was the continuation of a previous programme, Morality and Law. A year ago, the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic ended. From a frightening global unknown, it has become a fully manageable medical challenge. Therefore, all the forecasts of a year ago were filled with optimism as everyone was set to restore the global connectivity of societies which had been disrupted by the pandemic.

At the same time, at the end of 2021, the climate summit in Glasgow was held, which consolidated the ambitious global course for a green transformation. In early 2022, the Valdai Club published a special report on this issue with the participation of Maria Apanovich, Alexander Kaufmann and Elena Maslova. Francine Mestrum also reflected on the fairness criteria for the green transition at the beginning of the year. The Valdai Club turned its attention to the politics of historical memory, and Nourhan ElSheikh in these first months of the year presented her view on the centenary of Egyptian independence. In the same period, the Winter Olympics were held in Beijing, and we wondered if the sports festival had finally given way to a Vanity Fair.

On February 21-22, the Club held its annual Middle East Conference . Among other things, it discussed migration issues (another topic in the Club’s focus). In this regard, John Bell conducted an analysis of the problems affecting youth in the Middle East. 

In a word, there was ordinary and (in a good sense) routine analytical work, which contrasted nicely with the expert emergency of the Covid era in the previous two years. But looking back now at our January-February publications, you may pay attention to two of them, which today may look almost prophetic, although, of course, no one thought about it at the time. At the end of January, at the suggestion of a group of enthusiasts led by Anton Bespalov, we held a special discussion “Unmanned Weapons and Artificial Intelligence: Is Russia Ready for the Challenges of Modern Tactical Warfare?” In the context of this discussion, the text “Combat Drones: Aesthetics and Ethics of War” appeared. Another publication of those months is an expert interview with Alexey Miller: “The Historical Memory Battles in the 21st Century: How Can Russia Defend Its WWII Narrative?" Now, given that these battles are no longer purely academic conjecture and pertain to the real struggle on the battlefield, this text is especially interesting.

To be honest, we in the Club, like many others, did not expect these battles to begin. In mid-February, the Club’s leading Russia-based experts conducted an informal poll among themselves: “Will there be peace or will there be war?” Absolutely everyone put their bets on peace. It has become commonplace to recall that in 1991 none of the leading Sovietologists could predict the collapse of the Soviet Union. The same thing has happened to us now. It is easy to talk theoretically about the largest events that completely change the picture of the world, including the familiar old habit of compiling three scenarios for anything: “good”, “bad” and “average”.

But as a rule, academic experts cannot predict that the most radical scenario will be implemented tomorrow. February 2022 was no exception here.

However, the radical scenario has become a reality, and here it is up to the experts to comprehend and analyse it. One of our first texts in the post-February period was devoted to the genesis of value revisionism and its transformation from an “ordinary” anti-Western opposition into a direct military-political confrontation to the West. Additionally, t was asked whether such a transformation of revisionism is a one-time exception or whether it can become the rule. Vyacheslav Shuper also touched upon the issue of Russian revisionism in his article. Another topic was the issue of collective responsibility and collective guilt among the whole society for the actions of politicians. Roman Reinhardt separately raised the topic of the impact of collective responsibility on international scientific relations.

Norms and Values
The First Six Months of the New Reality
Oleg Barabanov
August 24 marks six months since the announcement by the leadership of the Russian Federation of a special military operation in Ukraine. It and the response of the West have formed a fundamentally new geopolitical and geo-economic reality; not only for the warring parties, but for the whole world. In any case, the challenges posed to world energy and food security are obviously global in nature.

The Valdai Club, due to its traditional primary focus on international issues, had usually paid less attention to internal Russian social and value dynamics. But the radical transformation of Russia’s foreign policy has put on the agenda questions of a no less radical transformation of Russian society. Therefore, this topic is also in the focus of our attention. Over the summer, the Club held a special discussion about this, which discussed the concept of the “buzz of the big time”, which is almost completely reformatting Russia, with the participation of Andrey Bystritskiy, Konstantin Bogomolov, Andrey Fursenko, Dmitry Trenin, and other experts. In the context of this discussion, the question was raised about the values of social (de)mobilisation, and to what extent one or another option is acceptable and desirable for modern Russian society. The postulated official value narrative and its perception by society were analysed in our text “Values and Dreams of Values”.

All these issues were analysed in a special section on values during the big annual conference of the Valdai Club, with the participation of Alexander Prokhanov, Evgeny Primakov, Vitaly Naumkin and other experts. This section operated as an open forum, and a video of the event is available in full.

An important element in the expert discussion of the conflict was the question of the possibility of its escalation into a new world war, the presence of at least minimal regulatory constraints on the way of this. John Ross in this regard raised the issue that a value gap could lead to a major war. The transformation, if it can be said, of “nuclear ethics” and even its complete disappearance were connected with the same questions. In this regard, Adlan Margoev analysed the results of an NPT conference, Dimitris Konstantakopoulos in this regard raised the question of the most important global value – the value of saving humanity. Addressing this context, the Valdai Club held a series of discussions on the activities of the G20 in the context of the crisis: one after the meeting of foreign ministers and another one following the results of the G20 summit.

A separate topic in the context of the crisis was the analysis of the values which underpin the world economic system. Valdai Club experts raised questions about the lack of fairness and equity in the global financial system. Radhika Desai wrote in this regard about the problems of global dollarisation, while Dario Velo reflected on the need for a more democratic monetary order.

This theme of justice and equality served as the basis for a broader understanding of the current crisis by a number of Valdai authors, primarily in an anti-imperialist context. Alan Freeman, in this regard, reflected on how anti-imperialist the modern political left really is. Keith Bennett touched on the same topic. Carlos Ron in this regard analysed the position of Venezuela in the anti-imperialist contextRasigan Maharajh raised the issue of the “creative destruction” of the global order based on the hegemony of the minority over the majority. The question was also raised of how far the right-wing conservative official discourse of Russia is generally ready to accept the anti-imperialist ideals of the global left. This whole range of issues will be touched upon in the Valdai Club report “The Left and the War”, which is now being prepared for publication.

The problem of global food security has become a serious social consequence of the crisis. Back in March, the Valdai Club held a special discussion, “A World on the Edge of Hunger: How Can We Overcome the Current Food Crisis?” Nourhan ElSheikh analysed the grain crisis in African countries.

The regional specificity of Africa in the context of the crisis was considered by the Club's experts in a broader context. Abayomi Azikiwe analysed the reaction in African countries to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Roger Tsafack Nanfosso turned to the history of the Russafrica concept and how it can be in demand today.

Despite the military conflict, the usual topics for expert analysis have remained on the agenda. In particular, this year, the Club followed the political and pre-election events in France (discussion and text by Jacques Sapir), Italy (discussion and text), Brazil (discussion and texts by Charles PennaforteLyudmila Okuneva and Boris Perius Zabolotsky) In June, the first Russian-Pakistani dialogue of the Valdai Club was held where various aspects of bilateral and regional relations were discussed. Social processes on the Korean Peninsula were covered: Andrey Lankov analysed the course of the Covid epidemic in the DPRK, while Ilya Dyachkov addressed issues of historical memory in relations between South Korea and Japan. Ivan Schedrov wrote about the socio-political crisis in Sri Lanka

As in previous years, the Club’s experts studied the problems of migration. Andrey Korobkov and Dmitry Poletaev prepared the Valdai Club report on the social protection of foreign migrants. In honour of International Migrants Day on December 18, the Club held a special meeting on this topic (discussion and text by Maria Apanovich).

The Club’s experts also responded to the tragedy of the passing of several of the world’s leading politicians last year. Stefano Pilotto addressed the memory of Mikhail Gorbachev, and texts were published about the historical legacy of Queen Elizabeth and Jiang Zemin.

Summing up the results of the Covid year 2020, we noted: “Most of the Earth’s inhabitants would wish that the events of this challenging year were never repeated.” It could perhaps be said that these words may be reiterated now. Well, the experts of the Valdai Discussion Club will continue to work in any case.

Norms and Values
Values ​​and Social (De)Mobilisation
Oleg Barabanov
Deep value and behavioural transformations are becoming more and more significant against the backdrop of the “big time buzz” of current events. To what extent they will affect the balance between the psychological mobilisation and demobilisation of society, only time will tell, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.