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815 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     807 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities


The opinions expressed by the authors of the articles in this section are for discussion purposes only and may not coincide with the position of the Russian Government and the Embassy


NEW RULES OR NO RULES? XI Annual Valdai Discussion Club Meeting Participants' Report

In Search of an Order

For those who believe in the magic of numbers, the year 2014 was further proof in its existence. The World War I centenary had been anticipated in awe and History, by taking another dramatic twist, confirmed the worst of expectations. It pronounced that centuries-old conflicts are still with us and that such concepts as the balance of powers, borders, and sovereignty are still relevant even in the era of a global interdependence.According to the British scholar Eric Hobsbawm, centuries can be “long” or “short” in political terms. Hobsbawm’s 20th century was “short”, spanning the period between 1914 and 1991. 21st century heralded as a post-Cold war century could be even shorter spanning between 1989 and 2014. So, probably it is better to define the last two decades in the way the prominent European social scientist and historian, Zygmunt Bauman did period as Interregnum, a period with no solid basis for politics, economics or social order. He coined the term liquid modernity to characterize this condition.

The Ukrainian crisis – and prior to that, the crisis in the Middle East – underscored the evanescence of many post-Cold war institutions. It exposed the numerous illusions based on self-suggestion or “strategic partnership” mantras in the absence of real trust.

The biggest anniversaries of 2014 were similar in that they were all related to shaking the foundations of the world order. Apart from the WWI centenary, we had the 75th anniversary of WWII. Even the fall of the Berlin Wall, whose 25th anniversary was celebrated last year, was an act of destruction, albeit perceived as a positive development by Europeans and the West as a whole. The old system was unattractive, but stable, the new attractive but as it turned out unstable.

In terms of anniversaries, 2015 seems to be more inspiring. Two hundred years ago the Congress of Vienna ended, laying the foundation for the “concert of nations” and paving the way for the golden era of European diplomacy. Seventy years ago, WWII ended and the UN was established, making the world order relatively manageable in the following decades. Forty years ago, the Helsinki Accords were signed, settling the postwar European borders and defining the rules of behavior. Each of these landmark events entailed the positive stabilization of an essentially anarchic international system. It comes as no surprise that we now hear calls to put the world in order by diplomatic means.

Red lines and Rosy Dreams

These anniversaries remind us of the events related to successful or, conversely, disastrous attempts at constructing an efficient political order. Even if we believe that the contemporary world works better in many respects than it did in 1815 or 1989, the danger of a large-scale war has not evaporated.

We hear this from various political figures – from die-hard conservatives who only believe in the parity of offensive capabilities to Mikhail Gorbachev who three decades ago ushered in an era of high hopes and idealistic expectations. Not so long ago such warnings were routinely dismissed: such things were deemed impossible in an open world of global interdependence, and the traditional concepts of power were regarded as hopelessly obsolete. But today, it is beyond dispute: openness and interdependence by themselves do not increase the level of global security. They change the external conditions, not the eternal principles of international relations based on the balance of competition and cooperation. The combination of openness and mistrust tends to be destructive.


Indeed, the classical concepts fail to reflect the ongoing changes, require additions and adaptation to the swiftly changing conditions. Technological revolution made many believe that the past could not teach us anything about the future. But it would be strange to believe that globalization has changed the actors’ fundamental instincts and intentions. The international system is never static, regardless of what views of the world order are currently dominating. Anarchy is the natural state of international relations and the international players will never rein it in if they don’t work hard to maintain a balance. This requires workable, that is universally recognized, rules of behavior. Or at least the notion of “red lines” which you should not cross if you don’t want to face fatal consequences.

The rules, meanwhile, are not some kind of commandments carved in stone, they emerge from perpetual work aimed at coordinating the actors’ interests. If this work is discontinued and either side begins to believe that the order that sits well with it will preserve itself – or makes the wrong choice of measures to maintain it – the erosion and subsequent collapse of this order is inevitable. Decades ago, the Soviet Union fell victim to its own miscalculations in both domestic and foreign policies. But history has shown that inadequate estimation of capabilities is not something that was unique to the Soviet Union. What is more we are living in “the age of the weak”. According to a remarkable Harvard study, in the asymmetric wars that broke out between 1800 and1849, the weaker side /in terms of soldiers and weapons/ achieved its strategic goals in 12 percent of cases. But in the wars that erupted between 1950 and 1998, the weaker side prevailed much more often – in 55 percent of the cases. For the weaker side it is not needed anymore to defeat or destroy, it is enough to disrupt the work of its enemy’s machine.The military and ideological domination of the West that came with the end of the Cold War did not succeed to make the system more manageable. Yes, the West was able to monopolize the right to speak on behalf of the whole international community and for some time this was universally recognized. But it failed to rebuild the world in the spirit of tranquility and stability, ensure the triumph of its own principles even within the confines of a cultural area close to its own borders (Russia serves as a spectacular example). Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man was a bestselling book in the trans-Atlantic world in the early 1990s, but never became popular internationally, unlike Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations. The experiment to create an America-led unipolar world has demonstrated that a single power is unable to manage world politics. However, the transition to a multi-polar model based on diverse political cultures, beliefs, economic and technological capabilities has so far only exacerbated the symptoms of anarchy. And the emerging powers’ bid to revise the de facto established rules bears risks for both themselves and the status quo. Multipolarity sounds good but it tastes bad at the moment.

A knot that can’t be severed

The spread of democracy and market economy has had a controversial effect, too. They led to divergence rather than convergence. The international community as a whole is becoming more democratic, and the number of actors vying for the right to participate in the construction of a new world order is growing. Arguably, there has never been so many of them. But they are predictably unsatisfied with the fact that international organizations are perpetuating the privileges of a narrow group of countries (the Big Five permanent members of the UN Security Council). Consequently, states and societies have yet to find the optimum formula for coexisting in a world with a growing number of players and contested or ignored game rules.

Economic interdependence doesn’t mitigate contradictions – on the contrary, it often aggravates them. Geopolitical competition complicated with a lack of understanding between the key players is undermining the world economic system. Citizens’ distrust of governments, political and business elites is the new universal norm. It turns out that governments (both democratic and undemocratic) are virtually unable to govern their countries. They have more and more troubles taxing the rich, arresting terrorists and integrating immigrants. Often, national governments are even unable to identify the reasons for their crises, which are frequently caused by a combination of internal and external factors. 

The type of instability varies from country to country depending on the form of government, but the common denominator is that world politics is increasingly defined by the countries’ internal problems, not their direct competition. Or, rather, external competition is the consequence of internal disruption, contradictions grow and they become increasingly difficult to untangle. Alexander the Great, who sliced the knot of the Phrygian king Gordias with the stroke of a sword to avoid untying it, is not a role model here. Everything is entangled so intricately that a sword would destroy both the ties and the fabric of national interests constituting the knot. 


Contrary to the historical wisdom which declares that national states must mobilize their internal (financial, human, and technological) resources to remain influential on the world arena, today’s great powers tend to rely on global capabilities to achieve social and political stability at home. The crisis of globalization, deepened by the global financial decline, leads to a lower governability of the world’s most powerful nations. The new world order is based more on a general decline in power than the broadly discussed shift of power from the North to the South. As Moisés Naím puts it, “power no longer buys as much as it did in the past. In the twenty-first century, power is easier to get, harder to use—and easier to lose”.

The growing confusion of the ruling elites generates dangerous illusions as to how to respond to the increasing number of challenges. One of them is isolation, which comes in two variants. The first variant is defined by the belief of the leading powers (so far, these are the western powers) that they could isolate the trouble makers and transform them by isolating them. The second one is based on the premise that a state can “close up”, isolate itself from the external environment and defend its sovereignty, therefore relying on the autarkic idea of self-sufficiency. Both approaches fail to pass any reality check and the more leaders try to follow this path, the bigger the damage is to everyone.

The world players are united by their fear of the specter of ungovernability. Over the past five years political protests have erupted in more than seventy countries around the world. Some of them are autocracies, others are democracies; some of them are rich and prosperous, others are poor and depressed. Some protests took place in the countries hit hardest by the economic crisis, while others broke out in the fastest growing economies, which have been left largely unscathed. In some countries riots led to the overthrow of governments; elsewhere they simply became disruptive to the governments’ operations. But each of these cases gave the feeling of a deficit of power or the inadequate results of its application. Even worse, one could feel the lack of political fantasy, which would enable those in power to have a fresh look at the changing context and put forward some brand new ideas. So Fukuyama, having proclaimed the end of ideological diversity a quarter of a century ago, had good reason to languish for a leftist alternative – and acknowledge that no one was offering it.

The majority of crucial global players are rather guided by the hope to manage the backlash against globalization than to manage globalization itself. It is no accident that most countries have come to regard openness and interdependence as a threat rather than an opportunity. The responsibility of governments to their populations for avoiding upheavals is growing, while their ability to control the developments is decreasing. New factors – primarily of a technological and communicational nature – are emerging. They evolve according to their own logic and outpace governments’ ability to react to them. In other words, new technologies give individuals capabilities comparable or even surpassing those of governmental structures. For example, even as governments seek to control the Internet, the life of millions of people becomes unimaginable without web technologies, and any attempt to sever them will cause a shock to the entire society. 


In a situation like this two models of behavior present themselves. The first model is for countries and societies to cooperate and search for collective answers to the multiplying challenges of globalization, i.e. common damage control. The second one is for individual countries, or cohesive groups of countries, to consolidate within national or regional confines in order to minimize the impact of external factors. Even though it is quite evident that the first option is more efficient (and, possibly, the only rational one), the entire logic of the international situation tempts global players to employ the second model. 

Politics vs. economics

The political contradictions of major states put into question the very foundation of economic globalization. Non-economic factors (national security interests) stand behind the wide-spread use of sanctions, and this is enshrined in the fundamental documents of the GATT/WTO. But the interpretation of national security interests is at the discretion of governments, which practically rules out any coordinated efforts. The logic of economic viability gives way to the logic of political confrontation, even if the latter harms the country’s own economic positions. It is noteworthy that both sides in the “sanctions war” for Ukraine – the US/EU and Russia – have threatened to use the mechanisms of the World Trade Organization to contest their opponents’ actions, but have not done so. Everyone realizes that these developments have nothing whatsoever to do with economics.

The Ukrainian crisis has demonstrated that the political needs of a state outweigh business interests, although since the end of the 20th century it has been a common belief that the world is progressing in the opposite direction. The business community, in spite of its huge capabilities and operations beyond national jurisdictions, bows to government pressure. The era when the power of transnational capital seemed to be unlimited is apparently coming to an end. The paradox, however, is that in order to solve the multiplying problems of developing and maintaining stability the states need external resources, which are traditionally controlled by private transnational actors. Meanwhile, the aforementioned technologies retain their trans-border nature and so evade national control.

The state itself is in an ambiguous situation. Under pressure from the global environment it seeks to expand its capabilities to protect itself and control supranational processes. And societies, alarmed at the impact of the global environment, expect governments to protect them. But the demand for a more active state role is countered by the deepening mistrust for it by the citizens.

Back in the mid-2000s many scholars and politicians predicted a renaissance of leftist sentiments amid the evident flaws of the neoliberal economic model and growing indignation at the global ideological monopolism that took hold after the collapse of “real socialism”. In reality, we have something different. The dirigiste approach, envisaging a strong directive influence of the state over the economy, is still not in demand. Leftist mass movements have not generated a realistic alternative, focusing mostly on a harsh critique of the existing omnipotence of the market. Instead of getting a left alternative we got spontaneous anarchism, whose adepts are not the poor, but the prosperous middle classes fearing the loss of their well-being.

The decline in trust for the market does not lead to a growth of trust for the state as a controlling body. Conversely, people are more and more disappointed in the ability of politicians and ruling classes as a whole to solve the problems of nations. Citizens can see that governments are struggling for the credit of trust and expanding authorities to stay the course and exert more pressure on the populations.


The phenomenon of democracy with no real choice, i.e. a real ideological alternative, leads to the rise of marginal populist parties and movements whose aim is not to implement their agenda (which is usually rather vague), but to discredit the establishment. Hence the popularity of anarchistic ideas that the state will be gradually supplanted by new technologies, from Internet democracy and omnipresent social media to cryptocurrencies and “big data”. And the fact that these expectations are essentially utopic and that technologies are always only an instrument does not mean that the state can simply brush off these ideas. Their emergence clearly indicates a crisis of new governance models. Meanwhile, attempts by the establishment to expose populist opponents, not to mention the desire to limit their political capabilities, often lead to an opposite result, especially as the ruling parties are unable to offer anything new even at the level of rhetoric.

The paradox of power in a world fixated on internal security problems is that as governments decrease their vulnerability to external influences and pressures more and more successfully, their own influence and power abroad dwindles.

An America self-sufficient in energy may not fear upheavals in the Middle East, therefore instability in the Gulf will provide less influence on it. At the same time, the United States’ independence from Arabian oil would mean a decreasing American influence in the region and a reduction in the latter’s motivation to have a solid relationship with the US. Saudi Arabia won’t have to rely on a union with Washington now that the United States doesn’t rely on its oil. As Russia is successfully nationalizing its elites and repatriating capital and the children of prosperous parents studying in Western schools, it is significantly losing its influence in Europe and the US and is unlikely to restore it. China, whose economy depends primarily on internal consumption, will also be losing its erstwhile role in the world: as its dependence will decrease, so will its leverage.

The secret of power in a world of interdependence is that the sources of vulnerability are at the same time the sources of influence. The moment a country’s elites become less dependent on their own society (by opening accounts in foreign banks, sending children to study abroad or moving production overseas to benefit from cheap labor), they lose its trust and, consequently, the ability to govern. Conversely, as they focus on internal affairs and follow a path of isolation, their capabilities to control their own country expand, but instruments to influence external factors evanesce.

Governments will need to find a fine balance, as they now have a twofold goal: to strengthen their countries’ sovereignty and decrease the negative consequences of interdependence while at the same time maintaining a proactive presence in the external environment. This means the additional appeal of regionalism as an alternative to both globalism and isolationism.

The great powers, if we judge them by their actions, have given up on the idea of creating a functional system of world economic management and increasingly rely on their own trade and political blocs. Therefore, if several years ago regionalization was seen as a strategy for building a more global and interdependent world, today it is more often perceived as an alternative to the world order and the rise of regionalism has become a new norm. But creation of constructive and efficient regional orders is no less daunting a task than building a world order. What’s more, if this path is successful, it doesn’t mean that the planet will disintegrate into unrelated fragments. Interrelation and interdependence of the big blocs will still be with us, but the principles of their coexistence in this format are yet to be developed. The next stage of political evolution of the world system will essentially be about this.

Sovereignty and interventionism

Despite the numerous changes and upheavals of the late 20th – early 21st centuries, the basic principle of the international system has not changed: the nation state, albeit experiencing many new influences, remains its main structural unit. The core of this multifaceted and complex discussion on the rules and norms of behavior in the world is the attitude to sovereignty, which has been a key concept of international relations since the emergence of the Westphalian system in the 17th century. Attempts to reconsider sovereignty have been the single most important factor affecting the international situation since the early 1990s.

The fundamental problem of sovereignty was behind the attempts to build a “new world order”, beginning with the Desert Storm operation in January 1991. The situation was almost unique in that virtually the entire international community (including the Soviet Union in its final days) joined efforts to protect the sovereignty of a state that was attacked, Kuwait. Importantly, the process launched at that time logically led to a flagrant violation of accepted norms - military intervention in a sovereign state, Iraq, its occupation and regime change sidestepping the UN Security Council. This, in turn, set in motion a deep crisis of the entire “new world order” concept.


The Arab Spring and the Ukraine crisis have highlighted the issue of how the international community reacts to internal upheavals and regime changes in sovereign states. One can argue that such collisions, along with territorial conflicts, will lead to a chain of perturbations that will accompany the emergence of a polycentric world in the years to come. At the same time the rise of the Islamic State made it clear why non-interference of the domestic politics of others could be the guiding principles of international politics.

The classical notion of sovereignty as the right of governments to act at their discretion on the territory under their control is highly unlikely to make a comeback. But the 1990s’ liberal approach legitimizing external intervention has not proved effective, and the results have been unsatisfactory in most cases. In practice, the R2P (responsibility to protect) operations end up being sheer foreign intervention into complex internal processes, often to support one side of the conflict and change the regime. This can be a path to major international cataclysms.

The responsibility to protect, which is a moral, not legally binding notion, showcases a disconnect between the formal principles of the law and its interpretation by particular participants in international relations. A glaring example of the ambiguous nature of the post-Cold War international law environment was the conclusion of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, which declared in 1999 that NATO’s military campaign against Yugoslavia was “illegal, but justified”. This formal distinction between the notions of “legal” and “legitimate” has had dire consequences for international law. This contradiction has not been overcome, on the contrary, it has only aggravated over time. It reached its peak during the Ukrainian crisis, when the moves of all parties – both direct participants and external forces – were defined by political, not legal, logic. The Ukrainian collision has provided numerous examples of the projection of different types of power to influence the situation.

The discussion on the criteria for the use of foreign force in the case of serious perturbations in a country is extremely complex, as it is virtually inseparable from particular countries’ interests. But without a shared attitude to such processes and principles of moderation of external forces on the one hand and conditions, when such interference is necessary, on the other, internal conflicts will time and again provoke dangerous collisions between the leading world actors.

The question of what sovereignty means in a changing global world with numerous forms and methods of interference is arguably the most important one for maintaining and consolidating world stability. A universal answer is hardly possible, since the key players of the international relations are roughly equally divided in their attitude to the legality of interference. The western approach has so far been dominant, but as the international system is becoming more democratic and the number of significant actors is growing, a balance will probably prevail. 

Does containment work?

Major shifts in the perception of the role and significance of nuclear weapons have taken place in the post-Cold War era. The hegemonic approach demonstrated by the most powerful nations and the general growth of instability have led to the widespread view that these weapons are a tool to protect sovereignty and repel a potential aggressor.

The traditional role of nuclear weapons as a safeguard against conflict between the major powers is now being challenged. The growth of anarchy begs the question whether the possession of nuclear weapons by the leading states is still a factor that prevents direct conflicts. After all, the relative stability of the second half of the 20th century rested on nuclear parity.

An armed conflict similar to the last century’s world wars is unlikely but cannot be completely ruled out. Following the end of the Cold War, the prospect of irresponsible regimes or criminal non-state actors getting hold of weapons of mass destruction was deemed the major threat. This risk undoubtedly remains, but as the era when the world was permanently ready for a possible nuclear conflict becomes a distant past, a new danger emerges: “the threshold of fear” firmly established in the second half of the 20th century is reducing.


The view that responsible actors will never use nuclear weapons undermines both the basis of the deterrent as well as the stabilizing role these weapons played in the past. The fact that nuclear tests were discontinued many years ago and the risk of a possible use of the “bomb” is being downplayed actually decreases world stability more than enhances it. Meanwhile the intensity of the propaganda war that accompanies, for example, the Ukraine crisis, makes one fear that without the nuclear deterrent a conflict between the great powers could be not just virtual, but real.

In spite of touted initiatives like the Global Zero campaign and plans to build a nuclear-free world, in practice great powers, primarily Russia and the United States, are upgrading their arsenals. The American missile defense project, albeit controversial in terms of efficiency, can stimulate other nuclear states to expand their arsenals. This would finally negate the moral-political basis of the current non-proliferation regime. When the Non-Proliferation Treaty was being signed, the compromise between the powers that were allowed to be nuclear and the rest was that the former committed to take steps to reduce and, in the long-term, destroy their nuclear arsenals. This rationale was already brought into question in 1995, when the NPT was extended indefinitely, i.e. the nuclear powers were no longer formally bound by any reduction commitments. Meanwhile, if the major powers begin a new race of nuclear capabilities, then others will have to take their own decisions on how to ensure their security. The scary forecasts of the “domino effect”-type increase in the number of nuclear powers in the next decades are most probably exaggerated, as procuring a bomb requires a huge investment which not every country aspiring to have one can afford. But no one seriously believes that the non-proliferation regime is inviolable.

As noted above, the issues of nuclear weapons and sovereignty are becoming increasingly interrelated. The post-Cold War experience of the violent overthrow of sovereign countries’ governments has given nuclear weapons a new function. Now it is the last trump, a guarantee of non-aggression. The example of North Korea on the one hand and Iraq or Libya on the other clearly indicates that if a country has reasons to fear external pressure, going nuclear is a rational option. This is another serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime.

Finally, the Ukrainian crisis has shown that non-nuclear states cannot rely on security guarantees from the nuclear powers. The 1994 Budapest memorandum was not enough to secure Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The broad range of issues related to the role of nuclear weapons in today’s world requires a serious unbiased discussion, and the responsibility to initiate it lies with the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and Russia. The model of bilateral negotiations on reduction (previously – limitation) of nuclear arms, pursued from the 1970s into 2010s, is hopelessly obsolete. These discussions could conceivably move to a multilateral format and develop new common principles, covering in particular the possibility of providing nuclear guarantees to concerned nations. A new conceptualization would enable the participants to leave behind the current state of harsh Russian-American confrontation rooted in the past and start finding answers to questions related to the common future.

Transformation of the global system

The combination of socioeconomic circumstances inside a country and growing economic and geopolitical competition in the international arena creates the conditions for the aforementioned conflicts and enhances the countries’ urge to detach from the global environment. It is no secret that the “keys” to the global system are in the West’s hands. The smarter participants in world politics and economics, such as the countries of East and Southeast Asia, have been successfully capitalizing on this system. But the aggravation of the Ukrainian crisis dramatically illustrated the capabilities of political impact. Pressure exerted on the Visa and MasterCard international payment systems, as well as the SWIFT bank communications system to block Russia for political reasons undermines the main tenet of globalization: it is supposed to be equitable, because it is the market that decides, not the governments.


Transformation of the global system will be fraught with upheavals, but the trajectories will be different.

One of them is democratization of world governance, adaptation of the current institutions to a diversified world, considering the opinions of various groups and coordination of interests, based on the economic and political weight of participants. However, representation in itself is not a cure-all and provides no guarantee of efficient governance. Not every aspiring power, even if it has the material resources, possesses the adequate capabilities. And those who possess them do not always use their potential for the good of world governance.

In recent years, international institutions have been sharply criticized for their inefficiency. In terms of their performance this critique is probably justified, but it would be unjust to make them, and especially structures such as the United Nations, responsible for the dysfunction of the world order. The UN is a mirror reflecting the state of affairs in the world community, a function of its ability to negotiate. The UN, just as many other international institutions, is as workable as its member states allow it to be. What the world is experiencing right now is not a crisis of its institutions, but a crisis of the very notion of what is possible and desirable. The same framework can be filled with more up-to-date content, adequate to the current situation, if the participants agree to coordinate their basic interests and pursue reasonable self-containment.

The UN was conceived as a tool to prevent military conflicts between the leading nations, not to exercise global governance. In this sense, the end of the Cold War did not expand, but, conversely, narrowed the organization’s capabilities. The West believed that its victory in the systemic confrontation of the second half of the 20th century gave it a moral and political right to make global decisions. But the United Nations’ institutional structure has not changed – it reflected the results of another conflict, WWII – and it was impossible to reform it based on the “informal” victory in the Cold War. So the United States preferred to bypass an international body it deemed obsolete, thereby challenging the original mission of the United Nations.

As a polycentric world is taking shape, the United Nations can take a deep breath, since there is not, and cannot be, any other international forum comparable to it in terms of legitimacy and representation. But this requires an agreement of old and new leaders to make the UN structure fit the new reality. There are no precedents for such a peaceful agreement (absent a major military conflict shaping the world hierarchy), but its absence in the present climate will only precipitate a decline in overall efficiency and authority of the Security Council. 

It is pointless now to discuss an alternative system of global institutions. The problem that most countries face today is the need to save money or use it more efficiently, therefore no one will pay to duplicate those institutions already in place. Meanwhile, the changing nature of the global environment and its transition to polycentrism, i.e. empowerment of world regions, creates an objective demand on institutionalization of the “poles”, the establishment of powerful regional organizations responsible for “their” part of the world. In this case the role of global institutions could transform into the coordination of activities of the regional “pillars”, elaboration and enforcement of their rules of interaction.


So far the only objective process is the gradually rising prominence of the United Nations General Assembly, which does not have the right of veto. And although its resolutions have no direct action, they create the atmosphere of world politics. It is noteworthy that on many issues the majority of mankind speaks out against the moves of the Security Council permanent members, in fact voicing their distrust for the way the majors govern.

The other path is that of growing sovereignization, attempts of state institutions, struggling for authorities and control, to close up as they face external influences and processes. No particular country can be “unplugged” from globalization unless it is ready to be doomed to autarky and backwardness. However, signs of disappointment are present in various countries and societies and their efforts, albeit uncoordinated, can begin to seriously undermine the global system. The harsh measures of the West to retain domination are likely to generate counteraction.

The debates on how to regulate the Internet can serve as a conceptual model of broader contradictions. Quite recently, the World Wide Web was believed to be a symbol and a rampart of globalization and the process of its spread and deepening was considered irreversible. Today we see an earnest discussion on probable fragmentation of the Internet, and demands to nationalize its segments or, at the very least, to protect them from possible manipulations from abroad, are heard even from the established democracies, not to mention the countries regarded as undemocratic.

The perception of the Internet as such is changing. As cyberspace is evolving into a battlefield, both in terms of information and militarily, the entire philosophy of the Web as a “space of freedom” is being eroded and all the limitations of interstate rivalry begin to apply to it. One possible way out is to make the Internet more democratic and accountable to national governments, for example by the UN taking over the Internet administration functions from the US-based ICANN corporation. The second way, if this doesn’t work, is to really break up the World Wide Web into regional or national webs, which would have a powerful impact on globalization as such. But it cannot be ruled out that the latter can become the consequence of the former if countries fail to find an efficient way to coordinate their interests internationally.

Paradoxically, the possible fragmentation of the Internet into national or regional zones cannot solve the big issue of security, since complete isolation from the other zones is impossible, and where there are any points of contact, the swiftly evolving technologies will ultimately find a way of mutual penetration.

A concert of projects

The 20th century was an era when ideologies dominated international politics, which made it unique in comparison to all previous historical periods. The end of the Cold War meant the end of ideological rivalry, but, as it soon became clear, rivalry in all of its forms – military-strategic, geopolitical, economic – did not disappear. In a sense, the world system reverted to the traditional principles of permanent struggle-interaction of its key actors, but in a different format. Erosion of ideologies gave way to more archaic forms of ideas-based organization. As many societies are seeking national identities, the world of “liquid modernity” is attempting to rely on religion as something tested by time and offering a clear self-identification.

This, in turn, influences liberalism - the only politically significant ideology in today’s world – which underpins the political and economic leadership of the West. As it resists the erosion of the “end of history” worldview, proponents of the liberal political philosophy are becoming more radical and more assertive in the promotion of their interests in the world. The conflicts surrounding the publication of anti-Muslim caricatures are an extreme manifestation of the clash between Western Enlightenment ideas and rising traditionalism. The right to self-expression, taken to its extremity, leads to an inadmissible extremist response, while both sides believe they act out of self-defense.

The clash of ideas is intensifying, but now it increasingly resembles a conflict of cultures and identities, especially as globalization, i.e. powerful unifying pressure on governments and nations, heightens the universal tendency to rely on traditional roots. Meanwhile, the aforementioned weakening of the state as an institution only stimulates the search for other forms of self-organization. In some cases citizens expect external forces to “direct” their own governments onto the desired track (like expectations of the EU aspirant countries, the Ukrainians’ perception of the “European choice” being the most glaring example). In others, attempts are taken to make the state isolate itself from the external world in a bid to avoid the negative consequences of integration. Sometimes the latter follows from disappointment in the former. 

The modern world is in a state of transition, and the erosion of relationship-building rules is far from the only attribute of this state. The new external conditions, which are aggressively penetrating the lives of governments and nations, give rise to a process of rethinking and self-identification in a changing environment. In fact humanity is living in an era when a variety of nation-building projects are being implemented simultaneously, leading to a complex and often conflict-laden interaction. The conflict of geopolitical interests is not the only reason behind it: we are witnessing a clash of dramatically different principles rooted in incongruous cultural and historical traditions.


Europe is the most vivid illustration of the post-Cold War reality. The years 1988-1991 saw the emergence of a distinct European order, for the first time in several centuries. This order was based on a sophisticated system of mutual interference in internal affairs and security built on the principles of openness and transparency. The new postmodernist system did not rely on a balance of powers, did not prioritize sovereignty and did not separate internal affairs from foreign policy. It rejected the use of force as an instrument to settle conflicts and encouraged the growth of interdependence between the European states. The postmodernist European order was not interested in revision of borders in Europe, creation of new states, as it was after WWI, or population transfers for the sake of securing borders, as it was after WWII. The main objective was to change the very nature of borders. Europeans forbade themselves from thinking in terms of geographic maps and replaced maps with various economic charts and diagrams. The Ukrainian crisis has signaled the end of the post-Cold War European order. It turned out that it is not only the non-Western states (like the BRICS) that do not recognize the European postmodernist order as something universal and applicable in other parts of the world. When the aquis communautaire faced another geopolitical reality to the east and south of the EU, it became clear it had reached the limit of its expansion.

Europe is in search of a new order. The history of the past 25 years needs to be conceptualized as a story of parallel identity building projects, each of which is young, weak, and vulnerable in its own manner and taking place in the context of growing interconnectness and interdependency. The painful attempts to implement them largely define the majority of current standoffs.



The current round phase of Russia’s pivot to the East was conceived in the second half of the 2000s as a largely belated economic response to the rise of Asia, which opened up a plethora of opportunities for the development of the country and primarily its eastern regions. This rise offered a chance to turn the territory beyond the Urals and the Russian Far East from predominantly an imperial burden or rear in the confrontation with the West, and sometimes the forefront in the rivalry with Japan or China, into a springboard for the development of the whole country.


Oleg Barabanov, Timofey Bordachev, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, Dmitry Suslov, Ivan Timofeev, Moscow, February 2017

18.02.2017 - Global riot and global order. Revolutionary situation in the world and what to do about it - report by Valdai discussion club

(Report in Russian, English version to be published shortly) Спустя много лет после студенческих волнений, которые охватили практически весь мир в 1968 году, активист тогдашнего движения Даниэль Кон-Бендит так вспоминал суть происходившего: «Это было восстание поколения, родившегося после Второй мировой войны, против общества, которое военное поколение построило после 1945 года». Бунт проявлялся по-разному– в зависимости от места действия. В Варшаве и Праге люди протестовали против коммунистического режима, в Париже и Франкфурте клеймил и буржуазно-консервативное засилье, в Сан-Франциско и Нью-Йорке возмущались милитаризмом и неравноправием, а в Исламабаде и Стамбуле отвергали власть военных. Всех объединяло нежелание житьпо-старому.«Мы были первым медиапоколением. СМИ играли большую роль, потому что они передавали искру жгучего неприятия, и она воспламеняла одну страну за другой», – вспоминал Кон-Бендит.

03.02.2017 - Sergei Karaganov, Dean of the School of International Economics and Foreign Affairs of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, "A view from Moscow"

The victory of Donald Trump reinforced international tendencies, which had been obvious for Russians and which had been guiding Russian behavior for last few years. Among them – deglobalization led by forces, which previously created it, but started to retreat from it, when they saw that it benefits others equally or more. The change in correlation of forces against the old world and towards Asia will continue, though at somewhat slower pace than in previous decades. China will continue to become in the very foreseeable future an equal to the U.S. in cumulative power. Europe of the EU will continue to muddle down. (Hopefully, not towards a collapse, but something leaner, more stable and healthier like a Common market, Schengen minus, two Eurozones or a Eurozone minus). The rivalry between the U.S. and China will continue to exacerbate. The confrontation between Russia and the West will continue, but will gradually dampen.

20.08.2015 - The Interview: Henry Kissinger

The National Interest’s editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, spoke with Henry Kissinger in early July in New York.

10.08.2015 - "Shame on UK for Sham Litvinenko Trial", by William Dunkerley for "Eurasia review"

What started off as a massive fabrication in 2006 just received a great boost from a complicit British government. The mysterious polonium death of reputed former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko is the focus. An inexplicably long series of official UK hearings on this nearly 9 year old case has just concluded. That’s prompted a new flurry of sensational media reports.

02.06.2015 - Eurasian Way Out of the European Crisis (Article by Sergei Karaganov, to be published in late June in "Russian in Global Affairs")

I have already written before that having emerged victorious from the Cold War, Europe lost the post-war peace. The continent is on the verge of strategic degradation that may either become a caricature of military-political division into opposing blocs or a time of disquieting uncertainty. The military-political conflict over Ukraine can escalate as well.

15.09.2014 - Western delusions triggered this conflict and Russians will not yield (by Professor Sergey Karaganov for FT)

The west is without direction and losing sight of moral convictions, writes Sergey Karaganov

29.05.2014 - It’s not just about gas: why China needs Russia (by Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor in chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy)

In a pre-election article published a little over two years ago, Vladimir Putin wrote that Russia wanted to harness the Chinese wind for its sails of development. Every sailor knows that in stormy weather, and the world is a stormy place today, controlling a sailing ship is incredibly difficult. But by working skilfully there is a chance of inching one's goal much faster.

29.05.2014 - HARDtalk: Professor Sergey Karaganov

Stephen Sackur asks one of President Putin's influential former advisors about the next stage of Russia's apparent neo-imperialist foreign policy after developments in Crimea.

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