Debates: Experts at the 13th Valdai Discussion Club meeting discuss what recommendations they would give President Putin in order to stabilize the world order.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, watches celebrations of the Day of the City in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 10, 2016. Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/Pool Photo via AP
Many experts see Russia becoming more and more aggressive in its foreign policy and many blame it on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ambitions to return global power status to the country. Others view Russia’s policy as a vivid attempt to accelerate deconstruction of the unipolar world that formed after the end of the Cold War and secure its place in the newly formed multipolar world order.
With that in mind, Russia Direct approached international Russia experts on the sidelines of the 13th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club and asked them what would they recommend to Putin if they were a foreign policy advisor to him. Given that the Russian president is going to visit the Valdai meeting this year, deliver a speech and take questions from the Valdai Club experts, it is quite revealing to learn what is on the experts’ minds.
Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European Politics at University of Kent and associate fellow at Chatham House
What needs to be put forward is a clear strategic plan. There are a few main elements in it. First, a commitment to the institutions and practices of international society (the UN, international law, etc.). Clearly all the great powers sometimes abuse the system.
The second thing is that while Russia and China are working together, this is very important as it is basically an establishment of a set of alternative relationships with the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Russia is working with all members of those institutions to develop a normative model of how the alternative politics could continue. So this one is about global pluralism. This pluralism must be based not only on the normative values of non-interference but also on the development of cooperation.
And the third thing is that all the mentioned above is not intended to be anti-Western, that it is basically an attempt to establish a non-Western, but not anti-Western, parallel structures that can actually help the West to work with non-Western states.
So, if I were to advise Putin I would suggest this three-fold strategy: first, a clear commitment to international society; second, a commitment to establishing a pluralistic world order and thirdly, this pluralistic world order must be non-antagonistic and based on cooperation and trust.
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Richard Weitz, senior fellow and director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute
The first one would be this: I hope that as Putin did in 2002, he will again decide to put less emphasis on the potential threat of U.S. missile defenses.
The second suggestion is I would hope that even as Putin lived through some of the older U.S.-Russia nuclear security projects, he will consider cooperating with the U.S. on nuclear threats from other countries. Russia-U.S. cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program and on North Korea is still good and everyone would like this to continue.
So, those two I see as the most important areas where the Russian president needs to be more cooperative.
Sheng Shiliang, research fellow at the Global Issues Research Center of Xinhua News Agency
I would recommend to improve Russia’s relations with all countries, including Ukraine and the United States. Current tensions between Russia and the West, between China and the U.S., are to no one’s advantage. It is a headache for Russia, China and the U.S.
From the Chinese point of view, we would like to see Russia having good relations with Europe, the U.S., Ukraine and other countries. We all would benefit from that.
In general, I should say, Vladimir Putin did a lot to increase Russia’s power and to improve China-Russia relations, which made him a highly respected politician in China. He has many fans in China among almost all groups of the population.
Robert Legvold, Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University
The U.S. and Russia are in a new Cold War, which is very different from the original one. But it is serious enough that I believe this is a new Cold War. So the question is: How do we begin escaping that, how do we begin climbing out of the hole we were digging? And the first step in doing that is to examining the false stories we are telling one another.
That can only be done if we re-engage, if we begin a serious dialogue, not merely practical discussions about de-confliction agreements on Syria or whether or not we are able to make progress on sharing the space station, but when we really try to get to the bottom on serious issues and be willing to do that.
But the negative atmosphere right now is that each side does not believe that there is any point in doing that. It’s not worth it. And what drives that impression? The wrong stories we are telling each of us about the other side. So, begin addressing these questions.
And if you begin clearing away these obstacles, clearing away these negative features, then you have a chance to begin thinking about an agenda that is positive: What are the areas we can cooperate? What is that agenda? Let’s begin thinking about that agenda in a broader sense.
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Piotr Dutkiewicz, professor of Political Science and co-director of the Center for Governance and Public Policy at Carleton University
My first suggestion would be, let’s think about how to reconstruct the rules of the game and how to reconstruct the institutions that will provide a certain level of global stability. Here I am speaking about the United Nations, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), etc. and how to make them work not only on their own interests but on behalf of the most important players, including China and Russia.
The second, I would suggest to form a permanent mechanism for consultations not within the G20 or G7 but within the G3 (the U.S., Russia and China). The dialogue on the key elements of the world stability is badly needed. If it happens, the chances of stabilization of this extremely unpredictable situation increase.
Wolfgang Schussel, former federal chancellor of the Republic of Austria
This is going to be important advice not only for Russia but for all of us, including the U.S. and China: We are currently living in a global village and the idea to return to the old glorious days of the dominance of the past is outdated. The good days are now. The old good days of the U.S., the Soviet Union and China were in fact not that glorious if we compare them with today.
So I would advise everyone to stop the propaganda wars and to stop the arms buildup, which provokes a useless waste of money. Look how the military budgets have risen over the last years: Chinese raised it fourfold in the last 15 years, Saudi Arabia threefold. The Iranians doubled [their budget], Russia almost doubled, the U.S. increased by about 50 percent — that should be stopped.