Russia and Global Security Risks
Translateralism: How to Get Out of the Diplomatic Comfort Zone
List of speakers

On July 22, the Valdai Club held an online presentation of a new report, “The Future of Translateral World Order: Rethinking Global Partnerships in an Era of Deepening Uncertainty”. 

Opening the discussion, Ivan Timofeev,, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, who acted as a moderator, emphasised the importance of the idea expressed in the report about the possibility of effective coalitions, whose participants absolutely do not coincide in terms of their attitudes towards values, which sharply contradicts the notions accepted in the West about shared values serving as the basis of relations between countries.

The author of the report, Kazushige Kobayashi, Research Fellow at the Centre for Conflict Research, Development and Peace Building at the Institute for International Research and Development in Switzerland, presented his proposed concept of translateralism, which differs from multilateralism. Its essence is that it’s a deliberate attempt to cross borders and establish contact with a variety of partners from different ideological camps. As the speaker demonstrated by citing many historical examples, this approach is much more effective than trying to establish uniformity among allies and partners. “If we only communicate with like-minded people, we will not succeed, because we will have less creativity – and in today’s world, it is creativity that is needed,” he said. On the contrary, translateralism, which rejects a binary worldview of a clash between two superpowers, involves informal agreements and experimentation. It allows one to leave the “diplomatic comfort zone” and establish contact with people who think differently, which increases intragroup diversity, broadens horizons and provides for more flexibility in decision-making.

During the discussion on the report, Nivedita Kapoor, Associate Research Fellow at the Strategic Research Programme of the Observer Research Foundation, examined Indian foreign policy as an example of a translateral course of action based on the establishment of flexible and open partnerships and informal relations with countries with different political systems. She indicated that this approach is winning, and has more and more supporters throughout the world. Tatyana Zonova, Professor at the Department of Diplomacy at Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia (MGIMO), noted the importance of putting forward new theoretical concepts in the field of foreign policy. For her, the idea of ​translateralism contains a useful desire to find an alternative to the now rapidly developing political and ideological polarisation, fraught with serious clashes on the world stage. Anna Kireeva, Associate Professor of the Department of Oriental Studies and Research Fellow at the Centre for Comprehensive Sinology and Regional Projects at MGIMO, pointing out the relevance of the report, raised the question of the pluralism of the emerging world order and the applicability of such well-established dichotomies as “democracy – authoritarianism” or “West – East”. She also analysed the translateralism within the policies already pursued by a number of countries and alliances.