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A Non-Alarmist Forecast for 2022

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Recently, pre-New Year forecasts about international affairs and foreign policy have emerged as a popular trend not only across Western nations but also in Russia. In most cases, they include various horror stories about possible challenges and threats looming large for the world and certain countries in the coming year.

Forecasts exploring the potential opportunities that the new year may open up—whether for the international community or for individual nations—are much less common. At the threshold of the New Year festive season, we would like to remain optimistic. Let us try to challenge the usual alarmism narrative, sketching an illustrative list of opportunities for Russia’s foreign policy in 2022.

1. Preventing Escalation in Donbass and Along the Russian-Ukrainian Border

Today, many experts and politicians in the West believe that a new escalation of the military confrontation in Ukraine is a virtually inevitable prospect, with debates only revolving around the scale and the modalities of Russian involvement. Preventing such a scenario would be a major success of Russian foreign policy in 2022. In turn, this presupposes Kiev’s explicit and unambiguous refusal to solve the Donbass problem with military force, as well as the West’s denial to promote such attempts, be it directly or indirectly.

It would also be a great achievement for the parties to comply with (at least) the first three clauses of the Minsk Agreements on a sustainable ceasefire, pull-out of heavy weapons and effective OSCE monitoring as well as a considerable reduction in tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

2. Stabilization of the Russia-U.S. Relations

Interaction between Moscow and Washington will predominantly remain adversarial, as it has been over the past few years. However, given the contacts between the presidents of the two countries that have taken place throughout this year, we can expect next year to see the rivalry stabilize, particularly in the most dangerous areas—including through sustained dialogue on arms control, strategic stability and cybersecurity. The U.S. refusal to impose more anti-Russian sanctions could be considered a success. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that new targeted sanctions are almost inevitable.

An important goal for the Russian-American relations going forward to 2022 would be to end the diplomatic war and restore proper functioning of diplomatic missions on the two sides, at least in Moscow and Washington, which should be followed by a reopening of Russian and U.S. consulates in other cities.

3. Restoring the Russia–NATO Dialogue

Contacts between Moscow and Brussels were finally frozen in the outgoing year, and the proceedings of the Russia–NATO Council were terminated. Still, both sides have expressed their interest in continuing a meaningful dialogue—not only at the political but also at the military level. Such a dialogue could be resumed in some new format: for example, through a bilateral crisis management group in Europe. The latest time to resume contacts would be after the upcoming NATO summit in Spain in the summer.

To be effective, though, this dialogue should not be merely limited to periodic contacts between the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, but it must also include meaningful interaction between the militaries of the two sides at the working level.

4. Russia–EU Agreements on Energy Transition

Over the past few years—especially throughout 2021—Moscow has significantly updated its stance on climate matters by launching a series of practical programs for the low-carbon energy transition. At the same time, the energy transition could contribute to the rapprochement between Russia and the EU to become a new irritant in Moscow–Brussels relations, especially regarding cross-border carbon regulation.

Apparently, the coming year will be decisive for determining the future of Russia–EU cooperation in energy. It is important for Russia to finally put the Nord Stream-2 pipeline into operation, removing one of the main obstacles to a positive dynamics of energy cooperation between Moscow and its Western partners, along with the launch of joint new energy development projects.

5. Preventing Afghanistan from Becoming a Failed State

The socio-economic situation in Afghanistan rapidly continues to deteriorate, a trend aided by subsisting international sanctions against the new authorities. A humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan in 2022 would create a threat of many millions of refugees arriving in the neighboring countries, which would also strengthen the positions of the most radical fundamentalist groups capable of significantly destabilizing the political situation not only in Afghanistan but also in the surrounding states.

Establishing effective multilateral cooperation mechanisms for humanitarian and technical assistance to Afghanistan and agreeing on a number of exemptions from the UN sanctions regime would be a success for Russian foreign policy. At the same time, Kabul should demonstrate visible progress in respecting human rights, forming an inclusive government and curbing the activities of terrorist groups from Afghanistan.

6. Exploring Broader Horizons for Russia–China Relations

Cooperation between Moscow and Beijing is marked by a steadily positive dynamics; however, the two years of the pandemic have taken their toll to cause considerable damage, especially affecting humanitarian, cultural and educational facets of the relationship. The current format of economic ties has largely exhausted its former potential for extensive development.

The parties are faced with the task of supplementing traditional trade with developing joint technological and production chains as well as ramping up bilateral investment activity. The evolving geopolitical situation globally requires an increased level of coordination of Russian and Chinese policies in a number of regional areas and in many international organizations.

7. A Breakthrough in Relations with India

While Russia’s latest National Security Strategy puts India and China at the same level, the dynamics of Russia–India cooperation have long been lagging behind that of Moscow and Beijing.

2022 should ideally come to be the year of breakthroughs, encompassing not only trade and investment but also the geopolitical dimension of Moscow–Delhi relations. The countries have different approaches to China, to the concept of the Indo-Pacific, to the multilateral Quad (the U.S., Japan, Australia, India), to shaping the future of Afghanistan, etc. These differences can hardly be eradicated completely, but a significant convergence of the two countries’ positions on some of these issues is quite possible.

8. Consolidating Russia’s Positions in Africa

A second Russia-Africa summit is planned for the fall of 2022. Its first edition, held in Sochi in October 2019, raised many hopes for the prospects of an expanded Russian presence in Africa. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has made numerous adjustments to these plans, preventing the parties from reaching the expected levels of trade and investment. Nevertheless, Africa still retains considerable interest in interaction with Russia, which could act as an important balancer of the prevailing influence of the West and China in the countries of the continent.

Therefore, the coming year could become a “Year of Africa” for Moscow, a year of converting common political agreements into new practical projects in energy, transport, urban infrastructure, communications, education, public health, and regional security.

9. Stabilization in the South Caucasus

Just over a year has passed since another outbreak of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with a fragile truce and the introduction of Russian peacekeepers into the region. Risks that the conflict resumes in some form remain, though. It is extremely important for Russia to mitigate them throughout 2022, by tackling the issues of demarcation and delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

It is equally important to prevent armed clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, unblock the transportation arteries (they are currently stalled) and launch major development projects for the region, gradually forming a new basis for Moscow’s interaction both with Baku and Yerevan—and, in the long term, Tbilisi.

10. Initiating Political Transit in Belarus

The referendum on constitutional amendments in Belarus will take place in February 2022, marking the beginning of the political transit. Russia is certainly interested in carrying out such a transit in an orderly fashion, without any threats to the socio-economic and political stability of the state and without significant damage to the Russian–Belarusian relations.

Besides, next year should become crucial for implementing numerous integration projects announced in 2021, as well as for taking bilateral military and political cooperation to a new level. At the same time, as before, Russia in 2022 should not solidarize with all actions of the Belarusian authorities, which can be unpredictable and impulsive.

11. International Cooperation in the Fight against Coronavirus

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet become an incentive for the international community to unite around shared goals. Moreover, it has intensified global geopolitical competition. The task of achieving recognition of the Russian anti-COVID vaccines by the WHO and the EU was not solved in 202, which means this has been postponed to the next year.

However, Russian foreign policy can and should set strategic goals, including expanding international cooperation in providing vaccines to the Global South, facilitating the conditions for the post-COVID global economy recovery, countering covid protectionism, etc.

12. Avoiding a Collapse of Oil Prices

Russia welcomes 2022 with comfortable oil prices at $70 per barrel. Moreover, current natural gas prices in Europe are significantly higher than Russian expectations and preferences, with European gas futures having exceeded $1,800 per thousand cubic meters in December. However, the increased volatility of global energy markets threatens a new price collapse next year, similar to that in early spring 2020.

Consequently, one of Russia’s strategic tasks in the coming year is to reduce the volatility of energy prices using the established OPEC+ format. More generally, it is very important to enhance the interaction of hydrocarbon exporting countries in the context of the emerging global energy transition.

* * * * *

For sure, this list of opportunities for Russian foreign policy in 2022 can be continued. However, we shall not forget that politics has always been and still is the art of the possible, so it would be unrealistic to expect such historic achievements as, for example, the dissolution of NATO military structures or even an unconditional implementation of the Minsk agreements on Donbass by Ukraine in the coming 12 months.

Achieving the much more modest goals, as outlined above, will require political will, exceptional diplomatic skills, effective coordination among the many government agencies, patience and perseverance from everyone who determines and implements the country’s foreign policy. Naturally, we would like to wish our politicians, diplomats and businessmen good luck in the coming year, which has always been essential to achievements in foreign policy as well as in life.

From our partner RIAC

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Diplomacy

Can BRICS Underpin a New World Order?

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Amid an unprecedented spike in global geopolitical risks, the world is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that the architecture that underpins the old world order is giving way to a new configuration of international relations and regional blocs. The countries of the Global South are establishing their own institutions, alliances of regional integration, and payment systems, with them turning into a crucial force in the transforming global economy. The largest developing markets, primarily the nations of BRICS, are among the leaders here. In March 2022, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov said that BRICS will form the foundation of a new world order, saying “I think that the BRICS states, totaling almost half of the world’s population and accounting for a large chunk of the global GDP, will be among the backbones of the new emerging world order.”

However, for the BRICS states to become the foundation of a new world order, the bloc has to offer other countries in the world economy new paradigms of development on a global scale. Such areas in the new economic architecture may include relaunching globalization on a platform of new states and regions, establishing a new institutional system for modernizing nations engaged in the global economy, agreeing on a new reserve currency pool with currencies of developing countries, creating a global development track as an alternative to the one promoted by the West, and forming new regional blocs and platforms to coordinate and develop those blocs.

Virtually all possible global-scale paradigms could be implemented within the broad BRICS+ format that offers BRICS states various options for cooperating with other states in the global economy. Spearheaded by China in 2017, BRICS+ still has to acquire its tangible development outlines in many ways, although some possible models for cooperation within BRICS+ have already been announced by representatives of the BRICS states. China’s 2022 BRICS presidency forms a favorable foundation for facilitating BRICS+, with China’s representatives having stated that they are considering the options of developing the BRICS+ concept within interactions, among other things, between regional integration alliances of the countries of the Global South.

As regards the idea’s implementation, a format that appears most suitable for BRICS+ is an alliance of three pancontinental alliances: the African Union, CELAC (the community of Latin American states), and the SCO/SCO+ in Eurasia. Such an alliance spans the largest possible number of countries across the Global South, while it requires no in-depth and complex economic integration or alignment of economic interactions across all three continents. Such an extended format offers developing countries an opportunity to coordinate interaction on the international stage, advancing the Global South’s priority agenda in sustainable development.

This year, we are seeing quite favorable conditions for the emergence of such an extended circle of interactions between developing states: Argentina, currently presiding in CELAC in Latin America, has recently stepped up its efforts to set up interactions with BRICS. Brazil suspending its CELAC involvement in 2020 is a limiting factor, though, but it will mostly likely be temporary. Uzbekistan, now presiding in the SCO throughout 2022, is increasingly involved in integration processes in Eurasia following a period of being closed off. The African Union presidency of 2022 has passed to Senegal, a nation that actively promotes coordination and cooperation of regional integrational alliances and builds tangible interactions with BRICS states, primarily with China.

A platform for interactions between regional integration blocs involving BRICS states could become another track of interaction within BRICS+. Such a platform could include priority projects of regional integration involving BRICS states, such as MERCOSUR, SACU, BIMSTEC, the EAEU, as well as the RCEP or the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area. All these regional blocs could cooperate in coordination, moving toward aligning their standards and creating a more open economic space for trade and investment by BRICS states and their regional partners. It is important to notice that most BRICS states currently choose to shape their foreign policies in the form of regional integration blocs (Russia – the EAEU, Brazil – MERCOSUR, South Africa – the SACU), and, consequently, BRICS+ based on “integration of integrations” is the only possible format for economic integration and for opening markets between BRICS states.

The spirit of multilateralism and of building a new architecture that suits the interests of the entire Global South is important in establishing such platforms. Attempts to base BRICS solely on the narrow national interests could adversely affect the development prospects of BRICS+ as such and of other multilateral initiatives spearheaded by BRICS states. As a new format of interaction between BRICS states, BRICS+ hinges for its success on multimodal interaction formats within BRICS+ that would account for the entire range of national interests and priorities for BRICS states and their regional partners.

Therefore, BRICS+ could shape two tracks for interaction between nations of the Global South: the SCO + the AU + CELAC, the most inclusive one geared toward broad interactions between developing states within international organizations; such a format may possibly reflect predominantly China’s vision its Minister for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi announced back in 2017 when he proclaimed BRICS+ to be the most inclusive interaction platform for developing states. A platform for “integration of integrations” between regional economic groups led by BRICS states may become another development track for BRICS+. This format is a better reflection of Russia’s BRICS+ concept that Sergey Ryabkov announced in early 2018, “We suggest that our partners consider BRICS+ as a platform for developing what could be termed an ‘integration of integrations,’” Ryabkov said. If China’s vision of BRICS+ provides the broadest horizontal span of the Global South, Russia’s vision of BRICS+ prioritizes the depth and alignment of integrating BRICS states’ priority regional projects.

Generally, the number of tracks and formats for interaction between developing countries may be far greater, reflecting the globalizing vision of every BRICS member. In other words, unlike the unipolar approach to integration in developed states, BRICS+ may serve as a foundation for diversifying the models and platforms of development and economic integration. In this regard, in order to develop BRICS+ as part of diversifying development models, it is important for India, Brazil, and South Africa to also present their visions of BRICS+ and of globalization in the Global South and outside it. It is possible that India, Brazil, and South Africa see a more appealing option in expanding the membership in BRICS’ New Development Bank by admitting regional partners; this paradigm has been used after Egypt was admitted to the NDB as South Africa’s partner in the African Union, Uruguay was admitted as Brazil’s partner in MERCOSUR, and Bangladesh as India’s partner in BIMSTEC and the South Asian Free Trade Area.

Improving the functioning of BRICS Provisional Monetary Reserves Pool (PMRP) could also be a direction of ramping up international activities of BRICS. Recently, BRICS’ PMRP has stepped up coordination with other regional financial organizations (RFOs) within regular consultations the IMF holds with RFOs. At the same time, BRICS’ PMRP was significantly less active in its responses to crisis phenomena in BRICS states compared to BRICS’ NDB. Another option is considering, as part of BRICS+, the possibility of bolstering BRICS’ PMRP’s mandate to monitor the macroeconomic situation in BRICS’ states, to develop coordinated anti-crisis measures, and to interact with other RFOs from developing states and BRICS states’ regional partners. In particular, there could be formed a regular coordination mechanism including BRICS’ PMRP, the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development (EFSD), ASEAN’s Chiang Mai Initiative and their regional partners (CMIM), and Latin American RFO FLAR. Another area here could be expanding BRICS’ PMRP membership by admitting BRICS states’ regional partners, including several states admitted to BRICS’ NDB.

On the whole, the prospects of transforming the world economy today are tightly bound to coordinating the activities of the largest countries of the Global South, primarily the BRICS states. However, a global restart of global economic development requires a larger interaction format, BRICS+, that will make it possible to engage other developing countries in the process. In this case, the process of reformatting the world economy will become truly inclusive and stable. The “integration of integrations” format involving cooperation between regional integration blocs of the Global South may become an important tool in scaling the global economic transformation. China’s 2022 BRICS presidency may give an additional impetus to building platforms for interactions between regional groups of developing states.

Progress achieved by the BRICS nations in moving toward new platforms for cooperation between alliances of developing states may form the foundation of a common cooperation platform for all the states of the Global South. This expanded platform could advance inclusivity and openness in the development of the Global South countries, accelerate dynamics and structuring of the integration processes, could fill the gap and the lacunae on the map of integration processes in the developing world. So far, we can but state that developed countries are far better provided with dynamic and well-structured integration alliances than the countries of the Global South.

From our partner RIAC

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Understanding The Strategy and Use of Military Diplomacy by Nepal

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Authors: Harsh Mahaseth and Ananya Shukla*

From the very inception of Nepal as a modern nation state, its geopolitical status was clear and in response, the role of military diplomacy in securing Nepali sovereignty from the Great Powers of the time was anticipated by its founders. The predominance of Military Diplomacy in Nepal’s foreign policy naturally arose from Nepal position as a buffer state landlocked between the two Great Asian Military Powers of India and China. The Gorkha Kingdom, the precusor state to modern Nepal was founded by Prithvi Narayan Shah, who established the Kingdom in 1768 with the conquest of the dominant power in the region at the time, the Kingdoms of the Kathmandu valley.

King Shah famously quipped that the unified kingdom that he had founded was “a yam between two boulders”. Shah’s aphorism contrasts the small squishy starchy tuber of Nepal against the two massive boulders of the Qing Empire and an ascendant British Raj. Though the internal political structure of Nepal has shifted dramatically several times since its founding, Nepal’s status as the proverbial yam persists though the boulders have morphed into modern day India and China. Though the two massive boulders to the North and South seem like they will eventually absorb the soft vulnerable yam, not only has Military Diplomacy played a leading role in securing Nepal’s sovereignty in the Colonial Context, it has also served the Nepali National Interest in the Post- Colonial Era.

From a purely geopolitical perspective, Nepal exists only as a buffer state between the two historical military powers of the Asian Continent, India and China. The Himalayas being the highest peaks on the planet have separated these two great powers for millenia though the himalayan branch of the silk route served to connect their peoples through trade. While the Chinese remained a unified political polity under the Mandate of Heaven for millenia, the Indian Sub-Continent was a patchwork of Kingdoms of vastly differing sizes, cultures, languages, religions until they were forcibly consolidated by the Mughals and the British, giving rise to modern day India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. While rule of over India was slowly and effectively consolidated by the British Colonialists, the Chinese were going through what they refer to as “the Century of Humiliation”, in which Chinese supremacy was toppled. A resurgent China in seek of “National Rejuvenation” will naturally come in conflict with the national security interests of India.

However, after reform and opening up of the Chinese Economy under Deng Xiaoping, India has found itself with a powerful geopolitical, ideological, economic rival to its North for the role of the Asian Hegemon. The Point of contention lies in the nebulous terms of the 1950 treaty, especially considering the Since Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic by first Constituent Assembly in 2008, Nepal-China defense co-operation has increased significantly.

Being landlocked, Nepal has suffered many trade embargoes for political reasons. The Indian hegemony has made Nepal turn to China for trade diversity, which has been wrongly interpreted by the Indian establishment as Nepal playing China card. With India too facing the same adverse situation of salami-slicing tactics by China on its Ladakh border, it has been a realization for both countries that relations had to be prevented from going down further.

Military diplomacy is a very important concept for the Nepalese Army especially in the Buffer zone of Nepal. When it comes to Nepal’s military diplomacy towards the neighborhood and beyond, it’s better to acknowledge the fact that Nepali Army has been conducting joint military drills with different countries, most importantly with the USA, India, and China for many years. Essentially, Nepal’s vibrant role in exercising military diplomacy with the great and emerging powers is immensely triggered by neutrality and non-alignment, which are also the foreign policy objectives of Nepal. Unforgettably, having almost six decades of experience in peacekeeping operations around the world, the Nepali Army has effectively enhanced the image of Nepal through the UN peacekeepers.

*Ananya Shukla is a penultimate year law student of Chanakya National Law University. She is an executive member of CNLU Pro Bono Club which provides legal support to the underprivileged and underrepresented. 

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Where Have The Soft Powers Of Western Nations Gone?

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Labeled as ‘soft power’ and measured in terms of “culture, politics and foreign policy” within a given nation; Joseph Nye introduced the concept of “soft power” in the late 1980s. Today, where have all the soft powers of Western nations gone? Which free democracy or Western nation is a shiny example? 

The term, “culture” already in the meat grinders, squeezing out into casings of ‘political correctness’ sandwiched between mesmerized and hypnotized folklores in styles of riots or metaverse

The term, “Politics” mostly about licking self-inflicted fresh wounds of mismatched promises, costumed and rehearsed leadership parades in the house of cards.

The term, “Foreign Policies” mostly about how to crush down local citizenry or how to hurt overall humankind when proclaimed as vision.

Ignoring humanity, diversity and tolerance, without civility and respect while dancing in costumes is not culture, it is circus. Ignoring citizenry while selling national policies to highest bidders is not politics, it is tyranny. Ignoring humankind, while destroying other nations is not foreign policies it is stealing, where deception rules and fakery respected. 

New definitions and new measurements are now mandatory; after all, when dumbness silences the smartness but accepted as social victory, when critical analysis becomes offensive, as it demands comprehension, when visible idiocy refuses to dialogue or discuss options to change, a global transformation must occur.

There are 36 nations having a National Election in 2022… a new world with unstoppable new economic thinking is emerging.

As a new world is awakening, the “soft power of a nation” is now melting into “people power of a nation” it is all about real value productivity, national grassroots prosperity in hands of local citizenry, where governments have already let them down. People Power is the most valuable power of any nation.

Within the earlier decades of this century alone, in places, culture, like a historic pearl, nicely saved inside an oyster, politics like a library of manifestos and institutionalized practices, and foreign policies designed to expand national and global prosperity. Is there where all the soft powers of the western nations and free democracies disappeared?

In time, masses treated as herds, populations as hungry mouths, and local public opinion only as noise. Just observe how such thinking helped Machiavellian fantasies morphed into constant live streaming of chaos, fragmented tribalism, divide, and conquer doctrine to shakedown the foundations of humankind.

Observe the proclaimed hallucinations of creating global democracy during the last century. Nations must align their priorities and declare their own nation building as top priority over exporting armed-democracies to disturb other nations.

The “soft power of a nation” now melting into “people power of a nation” but how? 

As technology advances, nations surrender to digital intellectualism and virtualization of economies, as the digitized 24x7x365 live platforms forcing bureaucracies into meritocracies. The citizenry starts to turn into trained armies of entrepreneurial out of box thinkers with the job creator mindsets. The world already have enough resources for every single person, it is the fair distribution this is jammed.

After all, nations with most digital platforms on global highways, upskilled government agencies, and talented entrepreneurial citizenry, with upskilled manufacturing and high-speed create the citizenry to cope with the future with productivity power to claim ‘people power’ as their biggest assets.

Never imagined before, now, growth hidden in digitization, robotization and commercialization, along with liberalization of borderless human talents create brand new models. Especially, when multiplied by five billion connected alpha dreamers, eager to form the largest group of informed mindshare ever assembled, such triangulations become the more powerful reservoir greater than of all the soft powers of the world combined.

How does this translate into simple applicability? What such ideas translate into national prosperity? What it takes to mobilize national entrepreneurialism on digital platforms to upskill exporters and reskill manufacturers and quadruple small medium business economy. Study more on Google. The rest is easy

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