Six Months in a New Reality: The World Is at a Dangerous Crossroads
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On August 25th, the Valdai Club held an expert discussion, titled “Half a year in a new reality: How has the world changed since February 24th?” Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for the Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, moderated the event.

Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, stressed that Russia's "European choice" was a matter of the past. “It will never be like it was six months ago,” he added, explaining that Russia, of course, has not abandoned those universal values ​​that are commonly called European ones, but the former “fixation” on relations with the West will no longer exist. Analysing the current situation, Kosachev identified three trends. First, with the departure of Western players from the Russian market, Russia received a second chance after 1991 for independent development. Second, the myth about the unipolar model being beneficial for all countries of the world collapsed. Third, the idea of ​​multi-polarity has been revived. “They tried to teach us about the ‘end of the history’, but now there is a multi-variance. I'm not sure that at this point we can determine where humanity will develop. I think that this is good - this is, in fact, the main sign of the freedom that the unipolar model is deprived of," the senator summed up, calling for the creation of new international institutions for a multipolar world and the involvement of the existing "healthy part" of the West in these discussions. 

Dimitri Simes, President of Washington’s Center for the National Interest, noted that the world is now at a dangerous crossroads, reminiscent of the times of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sixty years ago, the parties were able to move beyond this crossroads because, despite all their differences, they demonstrated responsibility and political restraint. However, in our time, "healthy forces" are not in power, and Western elites generally do not make a good impression, which significantly increases the risks. However, according to Simes, there is still hope for constructive diplomacy and for the the American administration to demonstrate pragmatism, which can push it to try to resume its dialogue with Moscow following the midterm elections. However, even if we “move pass this dangerous crossroads,” this will not be the beginning of world harmony, but a continuation of the struggle for political and economic influence, the expert believes.

Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), pointed out that the start of the military operation in Ukraine was a milestone, but in general, the transition is of a fundamental nature; it was reflected in a number of regional conflicts,  the coronavirus pandemic, and energy resource price volatility. “It makes sense to talk about a more comprehensive transition to a new state of the international system,” the analyst said. He believes that another important factor is the ongoing attempt to consolidate the West, caused not only by the challenges associated with Russia, but also by the Chinese challenge, the activity of the Global South, and the pressure of global development problems. In fact, he argued, we are talking about an attempt to slow down the movement towards multi-polarity and restore the order that existed at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one - with the world centre, the world periphery and large semi-peripheral countries. However, this model does not look sustainable, and the period of consolidation is likely to be short-lived. “We are moving towards a system where multilateralism will have better prospects than the attempts at unilateral domination that we are seeing today,” Kortunov said.

Nelson Wong, Vice Chairman and Executive Director at the Shanghai Centre for RimPac Strategic and International Studies, also acknowledged that the situation is dangerous, noting that the conflict in Ukraine is turning into a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO - or the collective West. He sees no prospects for a consensus being reached between the main players in the near future. At the same time, according to Wong, Russia can emerge from the conflict with losses, but is unlikely to be defeated - at least it is currently fulfilling its goals and objectives. He expressed hope that the world order would eventually become more democratic and balanced, and that Russia's actions would be the beginning of a global awakening that would end American hegemony. “Unfortunately, instead of calling for restraint and immediate peace talks, the United States of America and some European countries continue to supply weapons to Ukraine, adding fuel to the fire. Thus, we are getting closer and closer to a world war,” the Chinese expert said.