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DIFFERENT OPINIONS

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

26.01.2012

The World we live in

By Evgeny Primakov

It is extremely complex. Economic turbulence, terrorism, threat of WMD proliferation, protests against authoritarian regimes, often resulting in disturbances and chaos, NATO’s use of force in an attempt to impose orders of West’s liking on this or that country, long-simmering regional conflicts ready to burst in fire – all of this is the contemporary world. Interweaving economies of various countries, integration processes and global scientific and technical progress – all of this is the contemporary world too. I’d rather not dwell on describing well-known events but turn to lessons we, as a state, should draw from them.

Firstly, the hardships and complications of the global crisis resolution are obvious but the exit is by no means sealed. The talks of a hovering recession in the centre of the global economy – the US – are groundless. According to estimates of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, which have proved to be reliable, the USA GDP growth rate in 2011 exceeded 2.2% and is projected to grow in 2012. The conclusions about a dramatic weakening of the dollar, which is about to give up its mission of a global means of payment, are unrealistic as well. Against this background, the call to make the ruble a reserve currency and turn Moscow into an international financial centre sounds questionable, when Russia’s global economy share remains the same – 3.7% – and its contribution to the Global GDP increase has totalled 0.15%. The trend has it that regional reserve currencies are indeed emerging but there is still a long and difficult way to go. And apparently it will not begin in Russia.

We often talk about the unification of the BRIC. Sometimes this abbreviation gets extended. The BRIC countries are united by faster economy growth. However, Russia still lags behind: in 2010 China’s GDP grew by 10.3%, India’s – by 10.1%, Brazil’s – by 7.5%. These figures are much larger than Russia’s. In 2011, the trend generally persisted, despite the fact that Russia has increased its GDP.

Secondly, I will not make pessimistic forecasts about the European crisis. It is a serious matter because in some EU member countries not everyone feels happy about the fact that they are expected to bail out other states’ economies, some express this concern openly, some only imply. Meanwhile, recipient states are witnessing popular outrage against austerity measures initiated by Brussels in the social sector. There are signs that the crisis may be overcome through the development of supranational structures capable of controlling budget policies of the European Union members. Not everyone is ready for this, but unavoidable difficulties will not lead to disintegration of the EU or even of the euro zone – European integration has taken deep roots. What lessons are we to learn from the crisis of the European Union?

The establishment of the Customs Union among Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan was one our achievements in 2011. There has been paved a way to a common economic zone ensuring freedom of movement for capital, labour  and services within these three countries. Corresponding documents have been signed and there are good reasons to believe that they will be put into action. There has been developed the idea of a European Economic Union and now it is expected to start working in 2015.

The EU crisis lessons are to ensure that the integration do not become a short-lived success. Apparently, it is counterproductive to hasten the expansion of the trilateral Russian-Belarusian-Kazakh union serving as a base for a Eurasian Economic Union. It is also obvious that in fostering integration process in the post-Soviet space we will not be able to do without supranational structures, in favour of which the integrating countries will have to cede a share of their sovereignty. This is crucial for stepping up integration, otherwise it will get stuck at the initial stage. And one more, to my mind, important conclusion: multi-speed economic integration does not contradict the need for extensive military cooperation between the CIS countries and development of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It is noteworthy that, with all the misfortunes of their economic integration, an overwhelming majority of European Union countries make part of one military alliance, i.e., NATO.

Thirdly, a local tectonic shift has taken place in the Middle East region. The “Arab spring” has resulted in displacement of Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, as well as resignation of President of Yemen, who ruled for dozens of years, and shook other authoritarian regimes in the Arab world. The situation is still unfolding and time will show where that leads. But even now there emerge some specific features that go beyond their regional framework.

The influence of such achievements of the modern civilization like the Internet, mobile phones and television on political life manifested itself fully in the course of the “Arab spring”. They become practical instruments of organizing people unhappy with a particular regime. And another characteristic: even not original leaders of the forces demanding change, Islamist circles remain one of the major elements of the political field in Muslim countries. At the same time the gap between adherents of moderate Islam, who acknowledge secular state and radical Islamists is ever widening. Apparently, Russia is willing to maintain contacts with moderate Islamic forces, in accordance with her geopolitical as well as domestic interests. Taking into account the increasing proportion of Muslims around the world and their migration flows to various non-Muslim countries, this part of our policy must never be secondary.

The "Arab spring" started with a removal of a number of leaders whom the US and their European allies relied on. Response followed immediately. The United States together with their NATO allies decided to capitalize on the situation and overthrow Arab regimes they didn’t like. I strongly disagree with those political experts who put all events in every Arab country going through antiregime protests in a single category of the “Arab spring”. Marches in Syria and Libya very soon developed into a armed resistance to authorities, pushed from outside.

The scheme used by NATO to overthrow Gaddafi makes an especially dangerous precedent: an amorphous UN Security Council Resolution is adopted to legitimize armed intervention aimed at supporting one of the parties to a civil war that erupts in a sovereign country. I am convinced that the Libyan events will be seriously taken into account by those who develop Russia’s foreign policy. Our country has already taken the position against repetition of NATO’s Libyan operation in Syria. I do not think that Russia and China, who did not veto the Resolution on Libya, will allow themselves to be fooled twice by those who alleged that this Resolution would protect peaceful population from bombings of Gaddafi.

Fourthly, considering changes that have really taken place in the US policies under the Obama Administration, there are no grounds to assume that we have achieved a new era in the Russo-American relationship. Becoming President Barack Obama refused to follow the way paved by his predecessor Bush, Jr. Personal qualities of the new American leader had some impact indeed, but objective reality played an even greater role. The policy of American unipolar hegemony had hit a dead-end, their ties with allies weakened while the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, costly and each time less compatible with the requirements of a sustainable economy, proved to be hopeless.  Obama’s deviation from the policies of his predecessor helped achieve an improvement in the Russo-American relationship. However, soon American policies showed some of its unfortunately traditional traits, which hinder this process. Moreover, the year of 2011 was not the best time for promoting this process, a pre-election year for both Russia and the US. Certainly, all of this does not speak in favour of forecasts of a new Cold War or, at best, a freeze of the relations, which mean so much for the entire world.
To prevent this pessimistic scenario not only Washington has to recognize Russia’s equality, but Russia also has to take certain active and consistent actions. 

Academician Yevgeny Primakov was Russian Prime Minister (1998-1999), Foreign Minister (1996-1998), Director of Foreign Intelligence Service (1991-1996)




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