“Seizing the Initiative” Round Table Discussion: analysis of speeches of world leaders at UNGA and the Syrian crisis

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The results of UN General Assembly underway in New York have once again confirmed that we are witnessing the formation of a multipolar world: This conclusion was made by the experts invited to a round table discussion hosted by ISEPR Foundation and the International expert centre Rethinking Russia.

The event entitled “Seizing the Initiative: Discussing the Speeches Delivered by the World Leaders at the UN General Assembly”, held at the Baltschug Hotel in Moscow on Wednesday, was attended by leading experts and political scientists, including Sergey Karaganov, Yevgeny Primakov, Tatiana Alekseeva, Leonid Polyakov and others.

Yan Vaslavskiy, head of Rethinking Russia think-tank, served as moderator of the round table. In his opening speech he noted the timeliness of the round table and the acuteness of questions offered for discussion. Then the floor was given to Robert Legvold, professor of political science at the Columbia University, who argued that the UN General Assembly and the meeting of the presidents of Russia and the United States should be interpreted as a breakthrough, which confirms the readiness of the two countries to cooperate. Leonid Polyakov, head of General Political Science Department at National Research University Higher School of Economics, noted that the world is on the verge of “cold civil war”, which is why a prompt dialogue between Moscow and Washington is now paramount.

Commenting on Vladimir Putin’s UN statement that “no one has to conform to a single development model that someone has once and for all recognized as the only right one,” head of the Department of Political Theory at MGIMO University Tatiana Alekseeva said that this criticism is based on the ideological model of democracy that the US has been trying to impose on others since the 1990s.

The date of the roundtable discussion coincided with a resolution on the use of Russian troops in Syria, which the Federation Council of the Russian Federation granted to the president. Thus, a significant part of the debate was dedicated to the discussion of the consequences of the Russian anti-terrorist campaign in the Middle East.

According to Ivan Blo, an unofficial advisor to Nicholas Sarkozy and Rethinking Russia Expert Board member, it will be impossible to reach significant progress in the fight against ISIS without continuous coordination between Russia and the United States. In his opinion, there is a need for a wider coalition, in which countries with different points of view could coordinate their actions in Syria. In this context the experts noted the parallel with the anti-Hitler coalition, which Vladimir Putin drew in his speech at the UN General Assembly.

Peter Schulze, political science professor at the University of Göttingen,who joined the discussion online said that years of US-backed bombing in Syria did not bring about any meaningful, which is why Putin made a wise, yet a risky decision. Konstantin Simonov, Vice Rector at the Financial University, expressed the view that by carrying out such a policy Vladimir Putin is attempting to save the United Nations and its credibility in the eyes of the international community.

At the end of the event, commenting on the title of the discussion, political analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky said that “seizing the initiative” is a short-lived period of time, durig which Russia has a unique chance to establish strong ties with its allies.

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