This is the first in a series of articles exploring major Russian and American think tanks. The goal of the series is to give a history of the think tank and highlight its areas of expertise.
Photo source: Kommersant
Name: Russian International Affairs Council
President: Igor Ivanov, ex-foreign minister of Russia
Just three years into its existence, the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) has become one of Moscow’s best-known and authoritative think tanks. Founded in 2010, RIAC now boasts a long list of achievements, ranging from hosting international conferences and publishing reports on important international issues to holding contests for young experts, scholars, diplomats and journalists. With former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as its president, the council boasts extensive connections and a unique insight into the world of foreign affairs.
According to the 2012 edition of the Global Think Tank Index, an annual report produced by the University of Pennsylvania, Russia ranked eighth in terms of numbers of think tanks. Additionally, the study notes that with a total of 122 think tanks, Russia has more than any other country in Central and Eastern Europe.
When it comes to foreign policy, however, few Moscow-based institutions made it into the ranking of the world’s top think tanks. Only the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP) and the think tank at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) appeared on the list.
For its part, RIAC was ranked 60th among leading Eastern European think tanks.
The Russian International Affairs Council was founded on orders of then-President Dmitry Medvedev with the goal of contributing to Russia’s soft power efforts.
During a conference entitled "Euro-Atlantic Community of Security: Myth or Reality," which was organized by RIAC in March 2012, Medvedev said he "supported this initiative" and expressed hope that "the civil society representatives, scholars, diplomats, and military people on the council feel the real demand we have for their views and contribution."
According to RIAC's Program Director Ivan Timofeev, the council's strategic mission is to facilitate communication between government officials and the expert, business and civil communities when formulating foreign policy decisions.
"In our memos and reports we aren't replacing academic institutions and universities, because all of our white papers tend to be very practical and mostly consist of analytics and recommendations for our target audience," Timofeev said.
Though there are currently no foreign experts among RIAC's full-time staff, the organization does have interns from the international community. An intern from Poland has already worked at the council's Moscow office and a Japanese scholar is scheduled to arrive in August.
"Currently we are consumed with a very interesting project called the ‘Roadmap for International Cooperation in the Arctic.’ Later this year we will be holding an international conference on Russia's policy in this region," Timofeev said.
RIAC also has projects focusing on EU-Russian and U.S.-Russian relations, as well as on Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific regions.
In May 2013, RIAC joined with the Washington, DC-based Atlantic Council to prepare a report made up of proposals for improving relations between U.S. and Russian leaders.
RIAC has an impressive list of Council Corporate Members, including Alfa Group, Lukoil, Severstal and other leading Russian companies.
Thanks to the generosity of these partners, RIAC is able to manage several educational projects, including twice-yearly workshops for young foreign policy professionals.
"We organize summer and winter schools, which are basically short-term education programs for young Russian and foreign scholars. Our internship programs, workshops and master-classes, conducted by renowned politicians and diplomats, spur the development of new Russian textbooks on international relations and university curricula, and incentivize academic mobility and exchange programs,” said RIAC’s spokesperson.
RIAC also organized Russia’s first nationwide contest for young foreign affairs journalists. Nominations were accepted in the categories of "best analytical article on foreign issues," "best interview on foreign issues" and "best report on foreign issues."
Foreign affairs experts in Moscow are convinced that RIAC has already established itself as an important institution within the community and there is no doubt that the council’s influence on Russia’s foreign policy decision-making will only increase with time.