The main challenge of our time is the erosion of institutions that have been ensuring international cooperation for a long time, said Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, at the Beirut Institute e-Policy Circle 37 Summit “Stability Redefined – Who Authors the Future?", which took place on June 16. The participants discussed the situation in the Middle East, the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joseph Biden, and the dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the Nile River dam. The discussion was moderated by Raghida Dergam, founder and executive chair of the Beirut Institute.
Opening the discussion, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto raised the topic of Biden's visit to Europe. According to him, Washington has made it clear to Europe that we are talking about the return of the United States to the global agenda, including climate issues. The minister compared this development of events with a "fresh wind".
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi focused on the Nile water dispute. Outlining its history and recent progress, she highlighted her country's commitment to the principles of international water law and the peaceful resolution of differences.
Joey Hood, acting assistant US Secretary of State for the Middle East, gave an overview of the Biden administration's policies in the region. Listing a number of US initiatives, the diplomat pointed out that US efforts to “develop partnerships that focus on shared economic prosperity and values that bring dignity and respect to all citizens” are being hampered by the pandemic and attempts by “China and some other countries” to undermine the “rules-based world order" and bend international institutions to fit their worldview.
Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, called the main challenge of our time the erosion - under the influence of the changes taking place in the world - of a number of institutions that have been ensuring international cooperation for a long time. He urged participants not to expect too much from the meeting between the presidents of Russia and the United States and not to hope that it will radically change the situation. “The main challenge which both leaders are facing... is to turn an unsound and irrationally bad relationship into an orderly bad relationship,” he summed up, adding that Russia and the United States are responsible for strategic stability. Accordingly, the best possible outcome of the meeting, in his opinion, is the creation of a joint working group of military leaders, diplomats and experts for a comprehensive consideration and analysis of strategic stability problems.
During the discussion, Haavisto also stressed that Russia, despite all the disagreements with it, cannot be isolated from Europe and pointed to the prospects for cooperation, in particular in the field of climate change. Hood expressed hope for Russian-American cooperation in Syria “on humanitarian issues” and possible political cooperation in the future. Lukyanov, in turn, questioned the prospects for such cooperation, pointing out their dependence on the official recognition of the government in Damascus by the Americans. He added that currently the most successful Russian-American interaction in Syria is associated with the military deconflicting activities. Answering the moderator's question about the possible impact of the Russian-American agreements on Iran, Lukyanov noted the complex and non-linear nature of relations between Russia and Iran and stressed, that even in Syria, where Moscow and Tehran are allies, they have different agendas.
Accordingly, neither side can give orders to the other, and the most pressing issue for the United States - the "nuclear deal" - is not among Russia's priorities. Russia can to some extent help the parties to reach agreements on this topic, but no more.