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After Primakov readings (Part 2)
23 December 2016

The international conference “Primakov readings” took place on the 28-30th of November at the World trade center where the leading Russian and foreign politicians, academics and experts gathered. 

Panel session 

“New norm of international security for polycentric world order”

Amb. Wolfgang Friedrich Ischinger is a German diplomat, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference since 2008. From 2001 to 2006, he was the German ambassador to the United States, and from 1998 to 2001, he was Deputy Foreign Minister. Leading German expert in world politics.

“Global governance has more or less collapsed. When was the last time the U.N. Security Council was capable of ending a conflict, or taking effective decisions on issues of war and peace? Trust between Russia and the West has fallen to a low point. The rules based international system is at risk. Whose rules are we talking about? The West? Chinas? Does everybody set his own rules? Is our idea of creating a more stable rule based national system crumbling? There aren’t any rules yet for cyber world.”

“For Europeans, for Germans, all three pillars of what we have been thinking is the essential components of our stability, are currently with a question mark. European integration, is it going to continue to function? The idea of a social market economy, the classic liberal idea of the social model. Is that going to be beaten by other models, and what is going to happen to the idea that the United States is a power in Europe. It’s been that way for 70 years. Is that over?”

“Our collective inability, between Russians and Westerners to overcome this enormous gap in our narratives. I listen to you, Russians, telling me that you think that you are maintaining stability in the middle east by what you’re doing there. And we in Berlin, and in Brussels, and elsewhere, and certainly in Washington, we think of Russia as bombing innocent civilians in Aleppo, and destroying hospitals. That is about as far apart, an evaluation, as I can imagine. That is part of our current problem. If we can’t close that gap, getting our act together, and rebuilding trust, which is going to be, as always, the essential currency of international cooperation, I think we’re going to have a continuing, huge, international problem.”

“We have not had a meaningful US-Russian Summit meeting in years. I think that is absolutely, definitely, in the European interest. I’m not afraid, quite frankly, of Mr. Trump approaching Mr. Putin, or vice versa. However… such a US-Russian resumption of summitry, must be preceded by a clear act of reassurance by the incoming US administration… A new round of new US-Russian Summit diplomacy could take us a long way in getting rid of the problem in Ukraine and hopefully ending this terrible war in Syria.”  

Dr. Richard Sakwa is professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent at Canterbury and an Associate Fellow at Chatham House. His latest book (2016) is «Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands». He is currently working on «Russia against the Rest: Problematizing the New Cold War».

“On one side, we have far more than a Russian question, and on the other side, we are far more than an individual question of whether it’s Clinton or Trump. It’s a systemic question in which there has been a failure to establish a mode of reconciliation, a language of engagement, and the institutions of cooperation for the last 25-30 years. We don’t have the institutions.”

“An idea was for Russia to join the historic West and by joining it, it would be become a greater West. This was a Gorbachev’s  idea, this was a Yeltsin idea, this is a Putin idea and I’m sure that it will remain on the table until it’s finally achieved, in one way or another. The idea is that Russia joining that historical West, by joining it, all those members of that community change. There is a dialogical relationship. Dialogical means that all who engage in it, are changed by the encounter with the other, the other no longer becomes a stable, but they change by interacting with each other. This is an aspiration that was deeply imbedded at the end of the cold war, and it still hasn’t been achieved.”  

“The idea of this transformation, this enlarged community, there are good reasons why it didn’t happen. Of course, fear from the Western side of normative dilution, institutional incoherence, and the fear of weakening US leadership. As a subset of this, there is also a greater European idea that Russia joining it would achieve some new community on the European continent. Gorbachev called it ‘The Common European Home,’ today it’s called ‘Larger Europe.’ … instead of which, we have the European Union that claims to be the only major integrator force in Post-Cold War Europe.”

“On a simple level, politics 101 would tell you that allowing a military alliance to the boarder of country and country X would obviously respond in one way or another. It’s a powerful, yet simplistic argument. On the other side, you have the liberal internationalist view, the rules based order, sponsored by the US since the second World War. Has provided enormous public goods in the form of peace and development... And indeed, some of you have seen Robert Gazanzar’s article in the International Times a few weeks back, in which he argues that the US was not a normal power because it was actually not committed to a normal US Foreign Policy goals, but it was committed to maintain the stability of the hegemonic system in which it was the heart.”

“In structural terms, what we’re entered into is far more than just a new Cold War, but a changing nature of the international system. On one side, we have this hegemonic alliance system, the liberal internationally order, conventionally called the west… but it has it’s own disciplinary mechanisms, that since the end of the Cold War, this hegemonic system has radicalized itself in both ideological and military and other terms… because without a competitor, it’s claims have become bigger than itself and this is a dangerous incompatibility.” 

Mathew Burrows - director of the Atlantic Councils Strategic Foresight Initiative. In 2013 he retired from a 28-year career in the CIA and State department, the last ten spent at the National Intelligence Council, where he was leading the preparation of the Global Trends Report Forecasts. 

“In my mind, there are now 3 revisionist powers, no anchor of stability and a permanent source of instability coming out of the middle east and pouring into the international system. When I say 3 revisionist powers, I mean the US, China, and Russia. And now I think that the US is now a revisionism of it’s own international system design, suddenly, and it has crystalized with the Trump presidency… and this is a much longer trend. Part of it is the backlash against globalization, so those areas of the US that were really hurt through globalization, were the ones that supported Trump the most. It was also result of the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. I belief that Trump is able to crystalize the rest of the world owes the US, and that now the US is really going to be the normal great power, pursuing nakedly, its own interests.”

“The biggest threat in my mind is with the Chinese-US relationship. China is that Frankenstein that the US created in a sense, so it’s the biggest beneficiary of globalization. It is one that is very closely interdependent with the US and at the same time, there is a sense, this is what Trump did bring to bear this new narrative about the fact that China ripped off the US economically.”

“China has a narrative about the century of humiliation, and I think that now, that increased tension, plays right into that narrative. And there is a feeling for a long time that the US really would allow China to rise, that at some time, it was going to bat it down because that it was great powers do. What I fear is that you have 2 narratives feeding in on each other and that you also have 2 sectors that see an advantage in building up the tensions. In China, the military, the elites, in the US it’s the pentagon. Budgets can all be rationalized on this increasing threat.”

“We do have an opportunity because Donald Trump sees everything through an economic lens, so it’s to Russia’s advantage to want this great economic power that China is. And there is an opportunity to open that channel that has deteriorated, actually in the past 15-20 years, but most of the American elite, is more and more anti-Russian. This is just a fact. The degree to which Trump can actually develop a relationship with the Kremlin, and ease the tension is, what I think, is an open question.”

“I think that Europe has fallen the most. From what the ambitions were in the 90’s, its vision of a post- modern world, in which there would be no conflict. They now play, could play, an element of mitigating the tensions between the US-China, US-Russia, but Europe really doesn’t want anything to do on the Asia side and in terms of US-Russia, I think that Europe is too divided and is going through an identity crisis about whether it wants the federalist vision of the EU anymore.”

“The middle east is where you’re seeing the negative forces on the non-state side and that is going to continue. We talked yesterday about the fact that we haven’t hit rock bottom yet. There is still a lot left to go. There is an opportunity, and I think we could see US-Russia, US-Europe-Russia get together on some, but I don’t see any power that wants to really go in and manage and invest the way you need to. It’s not going to be another Bosnia. Nobody has those sorts of resources to pour into the middle east and certainly the Chinese, who keep repeating about the middle east being the graveyard of empires, not wanting to step into that.”