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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


“Smart” foreign policy to serve “smart” economy

Transition to intellect-based economy needs retrofitting diplomacy.

12 December 2011 Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian Council for International Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia in 1998-2004.

Hardly anyone would doubt that the Russian economy today is in want of fundamental changes. It must be less dependent on raw material resources and more on the intellectual potential of the country. It must not only rely on large and super large corporations, but also small and medium-size businesses. Russia’s economy must become really dynamic, innovative and modern, in other words, it has to be “smart” as they now say.

It stands to reason that the transition to “smart economy” is impossible without relevant changes in the social and political spheres. One can argue about the contents, sequence or format of such changes but it is quite obvious that it will be impossible to transform economy without changing everything else in the life of our society. No one ever managed to do this anywhere; Russia’s historic experience like experience of other countries proves that economic, social and political modernization are necessary elements of the integrated process, out of which it is impossible to intentionally single out separate dimensions ignoring or putting aside all of the others for the better times.
What about foreign policy? Foreign policy must correspond to Russia’s potential and seek to strengthen it through its action while contributing to the economic and social progress of the country. Under this logic, one may presume that in the next few years our foreign policy must also acquire new dimensions and explore new instruments. In other words, in order to keep abreast of the times foreign policy as well as economy must be “smart”.

Let me make myself clear, I am not trying to make it look as though the modern Russian foreign policy is “not smart”. This is not true. In general, our foreign policy reflects the structure of our political system, economy and the present state of society meeting the current socio-economic and foreign policy interests of our country. Its limitations are of predominantly objective nature, and do not result from subjective errors or lack of professionalism in those who develop and carry out this policy.

At the moment, Russian foreign policy is undergirded by three instruments: military power (first of all, its nuclear component), energy resources, and membership in key international organizations (primarily the place of a permanent UN Security Council member). With the help of these instruments we have managed to partially restore the international standing we had lost late in the past century, return to the circle of great powers and even create a certain reserve of strength as regards Russia’s position in the global politics. However, as time passes the significance of these tools will be inevitably decreasing. In the 21st century, military power more often creates problems than resolves them, which has been demonstrated by the experience of American military interventions of the last few years. Under the circumstances of economic interdependence, tough energy diplomacy is at least a double-edged sword. As to the central role of international organizations like the UN, the World Band, the G8 and the G20 in world affairs and economy, its future is far from certain.

The qualitative change of the threats and challenges that to a certain extent any country is facing is one of the principle key of the international system of the current century. Firstly, these threats are growing in number. Secondly, they are becoming much more diverse and sophisticated than they were in the traditional system of international relation of the past century. Thirdly, they are harder to predict and provide against. In this new environment, the winners will be those countries who find optimal balance between old and new instruments of foreign policy influence, between national traditions and innovative approaches to international problems, between the consistency of a strategy and flexibility of tactics. “Smart” foreign policy does not dictate that we abandon the habitual instruments of influence, but it means being ready to view these instruments among new, less habitual and yet to be explored instruments.

Apparently, foreign policy assets accumulated by Russia will most likely be subject to “inflation” already in the course if this decade. And it is not about a short-term crisis. The decrease of the foreign policy efficiency is likely to be protracted and scarcely visible even for its participants.

We have several years to prevent a situation when the real role of the Russian state in international affairs starts to gradually decrease, Russia’s opinion on really important issues is ever less taken into account and the country is not able to perform its proper role in the system of international relations taking shape right before our eyes.

That is why it is necessary to start modernizing Russian foreign policy without delay. First of all, it entails a radical increase in the arsenal of instruments we are ready to use in world affairs. It is necessary to note that the dimensions of global politics often deemed by us dangerous or even hostile, i.e. development of communications technologies, drastic growth of migration flows, globalization of education and science, climate change, rising global food problems etc., could be among the most promising for Russia.

Obviously, each of these new dimensions can pose a threat to Russia’s interests. But only in case we remain on the defensive, relying on traditional instruments of Russian influence abroad. On the contrary, "smart policy" must look at these dimensions first of all as sources of new resources and opportunities for the country.

"Smart economy", on the one hand, creates new potential for foreign policy, and on the other - defines the priorities of the latter. For instance, "smart economy" makes the country more attractive for highly skilled migrants but at the same time requires a very well elaborated migration strategy as well as a qualitatively new level of work with Russian diasporas abroad.

"Smart economy" inevitably assumes making Russian universities more competitive at the global education markets, but it also makes it indispensable to create a long term state strategy of global promotion of Russian educational services. In other words, economy is constantly generating new opportunities for international influence, but the efficiency of modern economy in a globalized world depends significantly on how much these opportunities are used by foreign policy.

However, relationship between "smart" economy and "smart" foreign policy are more complicated in practice. Foreign policy should not always follow economy; sometimes foreign policy decisions kick-start important economic processes. For example, Russia’s accession to the WTO will without doubt speed up the transition to "smart economy" just like Russia’s entry to the Council of Europe contributed to the acceleration of the pace of reform of the Russian legal system.

The success of the "smart" foreign policy will be very much defined by the capability to create a broad coalition of state institutions and private sector, think tanks and civil society to achieve the common goals of strengthening Russia’s position in the world. The role of state in launching and fine-tuning these mechanisms will be defining.



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.

13.03.2015 - 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.

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.

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