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Russia and Global Forecasting: Getting Past Melodrama Diplomacy

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The President of the E. M. Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), Academician Alexander Dynkin, Editor-in-Chief of the collective monograph “World 2035. Global Outlook”[1]  noted that this forecast was focused on those dynamic trends that are visible today, which will have a long-term impact on the development of the world in twenty years ahead.

Working on long-term forecasts have been an important area of the Institute’s competitive advantage, being engaged in such forecasts since the mid-1970s. The first publication – “The World at the Turn of the Millennium” was published in 2001 and included a forecast until 2015. Comparing the estimates of that time with today’s statistics, one can see that the forecast was very close to the reality, especially in terms of the growth rates of world GDP in the period of 2011-2014 and the growth rate of the Russian economy at that period.In 2011, “Strategic Global Outlook: 2030” was published.

The new study – “World 2035. Global Outlook” is the third forecast covering key development trends in the fields of economy, ideology, politics, innovation, social sphere and international security. Publication of the book in early April 2017 shortly preceded the Meeting of G20 Leaders in Hamburg, on July 7-9, 2017. There is no surprise that, hopefully, well informed “sherpas”, while preparing for the Summit, made proper use of the widely available forecast materials.

The Leaders of the G20, as well as the representatives of eight Permanent Guest countries, and the heads of the most influential international organizations met to address major global economic and political challenges and to contribute to prosperity and well-being of the entire population of our planet. The final document of the Summit  declares that “mastering the challenges of our age and shaping an interconnected world is the common goal of the G20.”  The G20 revealed its strength during the global economic and financial crisis in 2008 – 09,  and played a crucial role in stabilizing economies and financial markets. Strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth – remains the highest priority of G20.

The IMEMO forecast methodology firmly relies on thorough consideration of comprehensive links between such developments of different nature as economic, financial, demographic and social trends, achievements in science and technological change, ideological activities, changes in demography, social psychology and cultural processes. This approach gave the authors an opportunity to focus attention on sustainable long-term trends of the world economy and global political order, as well as on entities, structures, institutions and key actors of the international system.[2] 

The statistical database of the Outlook 2035 is built on predictive estimates of Gross Domestic Product, labor productivity, Research, and Development investment and other indicators calculated systematically and meticulously. Using the original method developed in IMEMO enabled the authors to analyze and expose qualitative characteristics of strategically significant long-term trends. 72 researchers are listed as the members of the team of academic writers.[3]  Globalization and technological change have contributed significantly to driving economic growth and raising living standards across the globe. However, globalization has also created challenges and its benefits have not been shared widely enough. By bringing together developed and emerging market economies, the G20 has been determined to shape globalization to benefit all people.[4] 

“World 2035. Global Outlook” and the Declaration of G20 Leaders share the vision of middle and long-term future of the world. The Leaders of G20 underlined:  “We are resolved to tackle common challenges to the global community, including terrorism, displacement, poverty, hunger and health threats, job creation, climate change, energy security, and inequality including gender inequality, as a basis for sustainable development and stability. We will continue to work together with others, including developing countries, to address these challenges, building on the rules – based international order.[5]”

In the 21st century, the confrontation between capitalism and communism was replaced not by the “end of history”, as many expected, but by the growth of nationalism, the conflict of moral values with a very vivid religious and historical-psychological coloring. Academician Alexander Dynkin presumes that in social policy, many countries will be forced to look for recipes for responding to the growing deepening inequality. Large-scale reformatting of the structure of society is expected.[6] 

The Outlook is unique for the fact that the development of 189 countries is forecasted giving a really “big picture” of globalization and regionalization at the same time. Regionalization is seen as an important trend of global evolution. For Russia, the coming decades will be the search for one’s place in this rapidly changing world. The search will be based on a combination of a sense of identity and an understanding of the country’s global responsibility. Looking back, IMEMO researchers can be proud that their previous forecasts of the main trends of the world economic development have been confirmed. Moreover, some of the most important quantitative indicators were exactly up to their expectations. Thus, the real growth rate of world GDP in 2001-2015 was 3.7%  – exactly the same as in the forecast for this period.

 It seems that this is a unique academic result in forecasting with a 15-year horizon. IMEMO slightly overestimated the GDP growth rate for a group of developed countries (the forecast was 2.6%, the actual growth was 1.7%) and, accordingly, underestimated the speed of development of developing countries (forecast – 4.7%, real growth rate 5.5%). Quite accurate was the forecast for the Russian economy – the actual rate of annual GDP growth over the same period amounted to 4.2%. In IMEMO forecast it was expected at 5.0%. The forecast of global development offered to the attention of the reader up to 2035 covers a much wider range of processes and phenomena than all previous works of a similar nature. Almost for sure, the experience of strategic forecasting gained over the decades, including its methodological component, will guarantee a fairly high probability of the forecast of the main trends and rates of their development for the next 18 years.

The world has been undergoing a long period of international tension, economic and financial instability, uncertainty and redistribution of forces between traditional and new centers of gravity. Hence, one of the main research tasks has been to determine the risks, threats, and opportunities for Russia. According to the book, the next two decades will be a period of consolidation of the positions of Russia in the changing world, providing the country with a solid voice in solving problems of general importance. An alternative scenario would be to isolate Russia from global processes and create a closed development model that would minimize the impact of global economic, innovative, financial, and political trends. The implementation of such a scenario would undoubtedly throw Russia back for many decades and deprive it of the chances of modernizing and strengthening its global positions.

In June 2017  the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) published results of their joint project: “Theses on Russia’s Foreign Policy and Global Positioning (2017–2024).” The authors acknowledged the fact that the theses were based on the results of a parallel study conducted by a team of researchers at the E.M. Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).

According to these theses, Russia’s future global role hinges on resolving of a number of challenges. Creating favorable external conditions for resolving the backlog of problems and for overcoming the underdevelopment problem is the key goal of Russia’s global positioning. At the same time, Russia can influence the processes of the global order transformation. Russia bears a major part of the responsibility for the world’s future. Russia’s flexible and pragmatic policies should help complete the reorganization of international relations smoothly and prevent a new “era of extremes.”[7]

 The concluding observations of the Global Outlook are moderately optimistic. Eventually, as the current period of acute contradictions between Russia and the West will come to close, both parties will have to seek to restore trust and developing bilateral and multilateral mutually beneficial relationships. Russia will have to maximize her efforts to introduce “smart power” not only for optimizing image and reputation management but also for presenting her own agenda of successful global governance.

Prologue:

My esteemed colleague and friend, Dr. Asatiani, has given us an insight into the Russian strategic statecraft mindset that is wonderfully bereft of propaganda and not victim to the current negative atmosphere dominating American thinking towards the Russian Federation. If I would draw Western readers’ attention to but one aspect of this report that I think needs even more emphasizing and elaboration, it would be but this:

“Russia’s future global role hinges on resolving of a number of challenges. Creating favorable external conditions for resolving the backlog of problems and for overcoming the underdevelopment problem is the key goal of Russia’s global positioning. At the same time, Russia can influence the processes of the global order transformation. Russia bears a major part of the responsibility for the world’s future.”

I have just finished my new work with Brown Books Publishing called, “Putin-Mongering: Strategic Games in Russian-American Relations,” which should be out for the public by the end of 2017/beginning of 2018. “Putin-Mongering” discusses something that is very crucial to the above quote: that Russia’s global future role hinges very much on its ability to create those favorable external conditions….BUT….one of the most important of those external favorable conditions needs to be recreating to the better the current bad diplomatic/political environment with the United States.

The report should acknowledge that one of the problems Russia is going to have in the near future as far as ‘influencing a global order transformation’ is how that transformation is presently seen by the United States as being somewhat AGAINST American national interests. We need places like IMEMO, the scholars and specialists associated with it, working to bring to greater public media light how much the American reluctance and stubbornness to engage Russia in a non-suspicious light, to rid itself of what I call the ‘Cold War residue,’ is essential for the future of Russia’s diplomatic strength and significance on the global stage.

Keep in mind this is not to say Russian power is only relevant through American cooperation. Rather, this is about how American obstinacy and a failure on the part of the US to accept a proper place at the table for Russia will have a marked negative impact on its true potential and capability. For example, the presence of sanctions and the refusal of America to negotiate these or resolve them poisons the working environment without doubt. The report does not somberly and objectively bring this reality up and I think it should. The G20 needs to be pressed to understand that the system of sanctions under questionable decision-making needs to be addressed or the positive results they hope to bring about in the world community will be stunted. We need multiple, courageous, directed efforts from all sides to defeat the repressive intellectual orthodoxy currently plaguing Russian-American relations and, therefore, hindering Russia’s relations with many other states. This does not mean everyone will get along perfectly and all sides will always agree. But it does mean relations will finally take on a less shrill, less melodramatic timbre and that will only be good for all concerned.

~ Dr. Matthew Crosston


[1] Мир 2035. Глобальный прогноз, под ред. А.А. Дынкина; ИМЭМО им. Е.М. Примакова РАН. М.: Магистр, 2017, 352 с. [“World 2035. Global Outlook”, Dinkin A. Editor, E.M. Primakov National Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Magistr, 2017.]

[2] Мир 2035. Глобальный прогноз, под ред. А.А. Дынкина; ИМЭМО им. Е.М. Примакова РАН. М.: Магистр, 2017, сc. 16-26. [“World 2035. Global Outlook”, Dinkin A. Editor, E.M. Primakov National Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Magistr, 2017, pp. 16-26.]

[3]Ibid., p. 351.

[4] G20 Leaders ́ Declaration: Shaping an interconnected world, Hamburg, 8 July 2017 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-17-1960_en.htm    Retrieved 14.07.2017.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Мир 2035. Глобальный прогноз, под ред. А.А. Дынкина; ИМЭМО им. Е.М. Примакова РАН. М.: Магистр, 2017, сc. 11-15. [“World 2035. Global Outlook”, Dinkin A. Editor, E.M. Primakov National Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Magistr, 2017, pp. 11-15.]

[7] Timofeev I., Theses on Russia’s Foreign Policy and Global Positioning (2017–2024). The Center for Strategic Research, Moscow, 2017, p. 34.

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On Russia’s Power: is Winter Coming?

Dr. Andrey KORTUNOV

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On November 11–12, 2018, Abu Dhabi hosted the fifth annual expert meeting within the strategic dialog organized by Emirates Policy Center with the support of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Traditionally the event gathers a large number of specialists in international relations, regional security, and Middle Eastern issues. Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General, made a speech at the session devoted to the role of Russia in the modern world, including in the Middle East.

Talking about Russia’s power in the Middle East or in a broader global context, we should probably start with defining what power in the contemporary world politics really means. Is it about material resources that a nation can mobilize to shoulder its foreign policy aspirations — the total throw-weight of strategic missiles, the number of aircraft carriers and combined budgets of national assistance agencies? Is it about the size of your territory or about the natural resources that the territory contains? Is it rather about you GNP or about GNP per capita that defines your power in international relations? Probably not. If you happen to be an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the jungle, this does not necessarily make you the strongest beast around. A lot depends on how functional these eight hundred pounds are. It may be pure muscle tissue, but it may also be accumulated belly fat.

There is another, more functional definition of power in world politics. Power is defined as ability of states or non-state actors to make other actors do certain things or abstain from doing some things in the interests of those exercising power. To put it in a broader context, you can define power as ability of actors to meet the goals they set for themselves in international relations.

From this vantage point, Russia has recently demonstrated that it is a powerful state, capable of using its power in an efficient way. No matter how we assess the Russian role in the contemporary international system — as a predominantly positive or a predominantly negative, — we should agree that Russia constantly punches above its weight, having more impact on the system that it theoretically should have according to its ‘objective’ economic, technological or demographic potential.

If I were to compare Russia to a large investment fund, I would venture to say that the price of its stocks today is significantly higher than the true value of its assets. Look, for instance, at the recent Russia’s posture in the Middle East region. In my view, we can label it as an exceptionally successful political start-up: with rather modest price paid in blood in treasure, Moscow has been able to turn itself from a marginal player in the region into the arguably most important external power broker.

This apparent gap between the operational power and its material foundation needs an explanation. To say that Vladimir Putin has been simply lucky, making full use of indecisiveness and inconsistencies of the West and exploiting many vacuums of power around the globe is to say nothing. There should be something here about the ability of the Kremlin to make fast and resolute decisions, about its capacity to promptly mobilize Russia’s political and military forces, about the quality of the Russian diplomacy and so on.

Russia’s highly centralized political system, impressive domestic and international state propaganda machinery, its consistency in supporting Moscow’s allies and partners — all these features of the ‘Putin’s style’ foreign policy puts Russia in a league of its own in world politics. It does not have many important features of a truly great power (above all, it lacks a solid and diverse economic foundation), but so far it has been able to capitalize exactly on what distinguishes it from a ‘standard’ Western democracy or a typical non-Western autocracy. In other words, Russia is powerful because Russia is different.

Nevertheless, the Russian way of maximizing its international power contains a number of risks that should not be underestimated. First, the set of instruments, which the Kremlin can use in international relations to advance its goals, is quite limited. Russia is a nuclear superpower, is has military power projection capabilities second only to the United States. It is a global leader in cyber warfare and in a number of futuristic weapons. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a veto power, which it never hesitates to use. It is a member of other international groupings — ranging from G20 and APEC to SCO and BRICS. It is a global supplier of hydrocarbons, many other commodities, as well as of food stock. It is the largest country in the world with eleven time zones.

However, is this set enough for Russia to maintain its status in global politics for all of the XXI century? Until 2050? Until 2030? Probably, not. If so, in the rapidly changing international environment the Kremlin has to consider seriously a significant diversification of its foreign policy instruments with a special emphasis on soft power components (culture, education, social practices, technological edge, science and so on). The sooner we start moving in this direction, the more secure the country’s role is likely to be in the long-term future.

Second, many of current Russia’s foreign policy investments are high-risk investments bordering political speculations. Should Russia continue betting of leftist political regimens in Venezuela or in Nicaragua? Should it bet on Euro-sceptics and right wing populists in the European Union? Should it invest into failing autocracies in Africa? This opportunistic globalism is distracting Moscow from what is truly important for Russia: from resolving multiple crises on the territory of the former Soviet Union, from building stable partnerships with its immediate neighbors, from gradually restoring the troubled relationship with the West.

As for targets of opportunity overseas, any political engagement should be preceded, not followed by a careful consideration of exit strategy options. History teaches us repeatedly: countries that can win wars, quite often lose peace. If you take the ongoing conflict in Syria, it will not last forever. When the name of the game is no longer military operations, but a post-conflict reconstruction, new players will come to the stage, no matter who is charge in Damascus. External powers with deeper pockets than those that Russia has will claim a central role in the post-war Syria. The Kremlin should try very hard to convert its current military successes into less explicit, but a more lasting and a more stable political presence in the country.

Finally, neither Russia, not any other nation should forget that the real foreign policy power comes from the inside. Foreign policy victories might look great and they definitely appeal to the public, but they never become an adequate substitute for victories at home. In the end of the day, the ability to balance economic growth and social equity, preserving national identity and integration into the global community, political representation and efficient governance constitute the only reliable foundation for power in international relations. All other foundations turn out to be quite shaky and fragile.

I have no doubts that Russia has all needed ingredients to stay as a great power, no a global spoiler. It has the potential that makes it capable of being not a part of the problem, but a part of the solution for the international system of the XXI century.

However, the future of Russia’s power and that of Russia’s role will depend on the overall evolution of the system. In a popular American fantasy television series “The Game of Thrones”, characters from time to time remind each other — “Winter is coming”. By “Winter” (with a capital “W”) they mean something really bad, big and unavoidable looming on the horizon. They cannot prevent the Winter, so they have to learn who to survive in this extremely hostile and dangerous environment.

Today, there are many indicators that “Winter” might be the future of the world politics in years to come, that what we observe today is not a bad weather, but a profound climate change. The implosion of the state system in parts of the Middle East, the rise of right populism and nationalism in Europe, Brexit in UK the election of Trump in US, the coming collapse of the US — Russian strategic arms control, a renewed arms race in Asia — there are multiple symptoms of hard times ahead of us.

If the name of the game in the global politics is likely to be security, not development, if the prime goal of nations is going to be survival rather than prosperity, why should Russia change its current understanding of power in international relations? In a way, the Kremlin is better prepared to face the global Winter than most of its competitors and opponents are. To create incentives for the Russian foreign policy to reinvent itself, one has to prove that the global Winter is not the only option. Otherwise the world might face a self-fulfilling prophesy. As they say, “fate is shaped half by expectation, half by inattention.”

First published in our partner RIAC

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Russia and Comoro Islands Cooperate To Enhance Bilateral Relations

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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On November 8-10, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Comoro Islands, El-Amine Souef, paid his first official working visit to Moscow. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with him on November 9.

After the talks, Lavrov told the media conference that they had confirmed to continue promoting bilateral cooperation in many spheres and work together towards using the existing potential in both countries.

There is considerable potential for cooperation in fishing, renewable energy, the provision of fresh water and agriculture.

“We have agreed to help our business communities establish direct ties and we also exchanged opinions on international issues, reaffirming the identity or similarity of our views,” Lavrov said.

They exchanged of views on international and regional issues of mutual interest with an emphasis on preventing and defusing crises in Africa and the Middle East, struggling against piracy in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean and countering terrorism and extremism.

Lavrov reminded that Moscow firmly supports the principle formulated by the African countries, that is “African solutions to African problems” and urged Africans to find ways of settling conflicts while the international community provides the necessary assistance through the African Union and sub-regional African organisations with the coordinating role of the UN.

Under a memorandum signed by the ministers, Russia will be training law enforcement personnel for the Comoro Islands.

Kelvin Dewey Stubborn, South African based Senior Analyst on BRICS and African policy, observes that foreign assistance is very essential to transform the economy and improve living standards of the population on the Comoro Islands.

Thus, Russia’s economic engagement is needed at this time, most importantly, to maintain stability and turn around the opportunities into an attractive place. With a relatively small investment, Russia could achieve important results for the Islands, so the first step should be genuine commitment, he told me in an emailed interview from Johannesburg.

One of the world’s poorest and smallest economies, the Islands are hampered by inadequate transportation links. It has a rapidly increasing population and few natural resources.

The low educational level of the labour force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. France, the colonial power, still remains a key trading partner and bilateral donor.

Russia established diplomatic relations with the Comoro Islands after it gained independence from France on 6 July 1975. In mid-2017, Comoros joined the Southern African Development Community with 15 other regional member states.

The most common language is Shikomoro, a Swahili dialect. French and Arabic are also widely spoken. About 57% of the population is literate. The Islands, with a population of about 1.2 million, situated off the southeast coast of Africa, to the east is Mozambique and northwest is Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

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Russia’s Growing Clout in Asia Pacific Region

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In their strategic calculus, the Asia Pacific major powers as well as other countries do not consider Russia a major military power for the region. Although these Asia Pacific countries understand Russia’s military clout in Europe and Middle East, they somehow fail to see how overall Russian military might have an impact in the Asia Pacific region too.

Accordingly, the growing influence of Russia in the region finds less attention on the regional media outlets, the regional discussion platforms and the think tank papers produced across the region. This is a total contrast to Russian involvement in Europe and Middle East, something which receives huge coverage. Despite the low coverage of its engagement in the Asia Pacific, Russia’s geopolitical presence is increasing in the region.

Although its military and economic involvements in the Asia Pacific reduced significantly after the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia has over the last decade improved and enhanced its military might significantly, making its military a potent power in the region.

Russia has been selling weapons and other advanced military technology to the Asia-Pacific countries in order to bring these countries into its geopolitical orbit. Besides its close military relations with both China and India, Russia is increasingly building good relations with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand.

Furthermore, Russia is on a spree of building certain infrastructures in several Asia Pacific countries which would make those countries dependent on Russia for the proper functionality of those infrastructures. Take Bangladesh’s nuclear plant for example. Russia is setting up a nuclear-powered power plant in Bangladesh, and this infrastructure would certainly make Bangladesh dependent on Russia for the technological aspects of the project. Bangladesh has also been purchasing heavy weapons and military vehicles from Russia.

Recently this year, many regional countries were alarmed by Russia’s large scale war games. The fact that the war games was conducted in the eastern part of Russia – which forms part of the Asia Pacific region, unlike Russia’s western part that forms part of Europe – makes it an alarming development for the Asia Pacific region.

According to an Australian news website, the war games, namely Vostok-2018 or East-2018, involved more than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1000 aircraft, helicopters and drones and 80 warships and support vessels.

More alarming was the inclusion of the Chinese military into the war games alongside the Russians. Around 3500 Chinese troops were said to have taken part in the Russian war games. Troops from Mongolia too joined the drills.

Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, boasted about the drills saying, “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles – and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible.”

Condemning the drills, NATO said the war games “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”.

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