On January 13, as part of the Gaidar Forum in Moscow, an expert discussion titled “The State in the Middle of the 21st Century: What are the Strengths?” took place, dedicated to the joint project by the Valdai Discussion Club and the VTSIOM Public Opinion Research Centre, "The Future Preparedness Index."
In his speech, the general director of VTSIOM, Valery Fedorov, outlined the main goals of the project. According to Fedorov, the goal is to define ideas and directions that could lead the country to success, see sprouts of future in the present, and outline the contours of the new world. The state of the future will face the fact that it citizenship is seen more and more as a variable factor, residents of different countries not only choose, where to live, but also, citizens of what country they want to be, a choice that may be made multiple times throughout life. In these conditions, all states enter the race for people. The winners will be those states that correctly build a balance between what they take from citizens (taxes, military service), and what they give (laws, institutions, protections, social assistance, services, identity).
, an assistant of the Russian President, gave his vision of the goals of a state that seeks to be successful in the modern world. According to him, the state must give people substantiated values and goals, and show in practice that they can be achieved. If the state fails to do this, it suffers historical defeat.
Another session participant, Andrey Bezrukov
, an associate professor at MGIMO, outlined the challenges facing the modern state, using the example of the United States. He noted that the decision that Donald Trump begins his presidency with is healthcare. At the focal point of a state’s attention is a healthy person that must work, contribute to GDP and pay taxes. Although the private sector tries to solve these tasks, for now, no one solves them better than the state. In developed countries, state expenditures for healthcare and education amount to around 50 percent.
The state, according to Bezrukov, will continue to strengthen. The question is how people can be convinced to let it interfere in practically all areas of life. That is why a growing conflict between the individual and the state, which Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning became the harbingers of.
Another problem for the state in the new era will be solving issues of social justice and wealth redistribution, according to Bezrukov. At this point, the issue is not ideology, but the state’s survival, as seen in the example of the Middle East, which is currently undergoing a social explosion.
We are not afraid of new challenges. This by itself means that we have a chance for a better result when it comes to encountering modern threats than other states.
Alexander Filippov, a Professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, stressed that in the modern world, the state acts as an instrument of the commons, a representative of those, who cannot defend their own interests through their community, and it is these socially vague masses that formulate the demand for a stronger state. According to the scholar, there is a danger that the state could be replaced with interest groups that exist under its auspices while pursuing their own interests.
Andrey Frolov, the Editor-in-Chief of Arms Export Magazine, dedicated his speech to the role of the state in providing security. Frolov defined two groups of trends that allow for an evaluation of the challenges that the state will run into in this area: technological and psychosocial.
Technologically, we can imagine what the state military machine will look like 20-40 years from now, this is the period that rearmament programs are based around. As a result, modern military technologies are one of the indicators that can help perceive the contours of the future.
As for psychosocial factors, it is obvious that the role of non-state establishments will grow. As the example of ISIL (banned in Russia) shows, technological superiority does not always guarantee victory on the battlefield. Suicide bombers used by this terrorist organization are de facto an analogue of high-precision aiming systems, and it is obvious that methods for countering them cannot be purely military.
In conclusion, Frolov noted that in the near future, states may face a now dilemma in the field of security, not “guns versus butter,” as in the 20th century, but “guns versus pensions.” In conditions, where the populations of developed states are aging and the average lifespan is growing, a decrease in military expenditures in favor of social spending may impede the development of new weapons systems, which can itself lead to new challenges.