At the end of the second decade of the 21st century, problems of global security have become the main issues on the agenda of all regions of the world. Russia’s relations with the West have already entered the stage of the so-called new Cold War “with the elements of arms race, remilitarization and the split of the European continent, under the severance of political and economic contacts between the leaders of rival countries and the degradation of diplomacy”.
Today, the crisis of the accepted rules of the game is obvious, a crisis of the very logic of world politics, a crisis of the liberal world order, of Z. Bauman’s interregnum. Disputes around the characteristics of the new confrontation boil down to the idea that the current crisis is not as comprehensive as it was during the Cold War, but it is much more dangerous. In the political arena, this circumstance manifests in the reduction of dialogue at all levels and in all directions along with the extension of the sanctions and countersanctions regime. The process of ‘twisting the sanctions spiral’ around Russia, the United States, and the European Union has caused researchers to ponder the origins and expediency of such measures. Although sanctions have become ‘smarter’, the results of their impacts remain extremely difficult to predict.
At present, the value discourse in politics is becoming increasingly actualised, as evidenced by the expression of extreme opinions about the upcoming clash of civilizations, the third world war (in a hybrid form), the war of values or, as Sakwa noted, a ‘clash of narratives’. In practice, this represents the boycott of Russian and pro-Russian media, expert opinions, and limited means of dissemination of alternative information and variational points of view. Ischinger agreed with Sakwa, who believed that “The fundamental problem is in the narrative” , whereas Müllerson argued that a tension [exists] between two different understandings of the dynamics of changes in the current geopolitical configuration of the world.
Most researchers have agreed that the conflict between Russia and the collective West is neither ideological (Russia, in its economic development, is moving along the global rails of liberal capitalism) nor value-based (both regions share values of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights). The problem mainly concerns the difference between value-political projects and, in fact, their narratives. Moreover, these narratives have become increasingly ambiguous; they rather ‘tell’ about the realities of the past than the future.
New trends in US policy towards European partners suggest that the postwar architecture of Euro-Atlantic security is gradually coming to an end. The EU appears not to have been entirely ready for such transformations: Lukyanov sais there are no ideas about the basis on which Europe could consolidate, in addition to the usual transatlantic paradigm. There are too many lines of disengagement in the EU , and a sharp movement can lead to cracks in all directions. The behaviour of US President Trump has placed before Europe a serious challenge at a time when the European Union has no consolidated decision on the strategy for further development or a clear understanding of ways to resolve regional security problems in the post-Soviet space, the Middle East, and the continent as a whole.
Russia’s narrative, which seeks multipolarity in world politics, reliance on national sovereignty, and traditional values, is positioned as a global alternative for the entire non-Western world. Russia proclaimed its turn to the East but has not advanced far in this respect, having concentrated its foreign policy on the discourse around the polemics with Western countries. Loud voices speak on Russia’s strategic loneliness and orientation towards isolationism, which exemplifies the absence of a positive agenda that Russia can offer the rest of the world. That is, Russia’s narrative has moved farther away from Primakov’s idea of multipolarity and “a world without superpowers”, leading increasingly to self-isolation—and self-isolation leads to collapse.
A proposal was made during the Astana Global Challenges Summit in 2018 that “we all should talk not about ‘polarity’ – as this term implies confrontation – but, for example, about ‘polyphony’ or a polyphonic international system in which all voices, other than frankly extremist, will be heard”. This remark demonstrates the need for new concepts, another language for international politics, and reformation of the existing narratives.
The narrative of European security under these conditions first comes to mind. Security problems are becoming more urgent, and Europe, with the kindness of Trump, remains rife with them. However, Russia is not likely ready to reiterate the initiative once proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev (the Treaty on European Security) and unsupported by NATO member countries. This initiative of 2008 rather belonged to the ‘long 20th century’ (to borrow the terminology of Hobsbawm) than to modern realities.
Under conditions of not diminishing interdependence and shifting the centres of economic and political influence towards the East, it is appropriate to discuss the transition from the Euro-Atlantic to the Eurasian world or, more importantly, from Euro-Atlantic to Euro-Asian security architecture. The interregional agenda in the formation of the contours of regional security architecture is replacing the global agenda. First of all, it must be emphasised that we understand Euro-Asian or Eurasian security not within the post-Soviet space, as it is often interpreted, but much broader than Europe + ‘Greater Eurasia’. Only on this scale can security issues be addressed effectively. It is also necessary to outline the circle of contemporary participants in this process: on one hand, Russia is cooperating increasingly with global actors (e.g., China, Iran, and India), and on the other building relations with all regional players (e.g., Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Israel). However, the breadth and diversity of partnerships does not always allow us “to fill the content with the concept of a comprehensive partnership of Greater Eurasia”, although it could be seen quite definitively.
The essential content of Russia’s foreign policy narrative should not be based so heavily on the idea of protecting the sovereignty and status of a military superpower, which is the main image for the moment. Karaganov asserted, “The cornerstone of the Russian strategy should be a conscious leadership in preventing a new big war, turning into a leading exporter of security.” Security, in a broad sense, is understood here as the result (i.e., product) of the interaction of the subjects of world politics, as a situation in which the subject survives and remains identical to himself (i.e., he does not undergo essential changes under outside influence an integrated approach makes it possible to combine so-called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security, which is especially important in the case of the dual phenomena of increasing violence and the expansion of the number of subjects in international life who compete with nation-states and destabilise the international community.
As Lebedeva noted, the Russian initiative of President Medvedev in the Treaty on European Security was criticised in the West for focusing on matters of “extremely tough security”. Since then, Russia has come a long way; threats of ‘soft security’ are paid no less attention, thereby facilitating “multifaceted negotiations on various aspects of the architecture of European security, including it in a broader world-wide context”, namely to build the macro-regional security of ‘Greater Eurasia’. In practical terms, this approach, proposed by the Institute for Contemporary Development (INSOR) in 2009, is based on elaborated agreements between NATO and the CSTO.
Regarding the macro-regional nature of Eurasian security, the extremely broad list of actors without whom the security architecture would be impossible (and the efforts of Russia in their integration). Eurasian security in today’s planetary conditions presupposes from Russia a flexibility in alliances including the EU, BRICS, CSTO,CIS and others.
In such a wide geopolitical space, the architecture of Eurasian security can only be based on a serious foundation, for which Karaganov proposed “[reviving] the legalistic tradition of adherence to international law” and the existing international institutions. Besides this foundation, the respective pillars for each of the directions of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ integrated security must be clearly defined. While they are framed, however, the main features of this architecture are outlined: There are several security pillars In Eurasia. First, the Eurasian triangle of stability between India, China and Russia in different dimensions: political, economic, diplomatic, and military. The second pillar is the CSTO. The third pillar of Eurasian security comprises cooperation between diverse international groups, along with new and promising institutions for international cooperation, their rapprochement, and coordination of common actions. One of the latest initiatives of this kind is an agreement between China and Russia to finance the interface of the EAEC and the ‘Belt & Road project’.
A strategy for developing the concept of integrated Eurasian security and a narrative based on this concept should be developed in a matrix where components of the narrative (i.e., actor, action, circumstances, tools, purpose, and difficulties) will be taken into account, and all aforementioned security dimensions at the scale of the macro-region of ‘Big Eurasia’ would include the EU countries. This is cautiously stated in the Report of the Valdai Club, which explained, the partnership or community of Greater Eurasia is, firstly, a conceptual framework of geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-ideological thinking, which sets the vector for the interaction of the states of the continent. To create this mood, Russia must devote concentrated efforts to forming and actively broadcasting a corresponding narrative on macro-regional Eurasian security in the context of a reconfiguration of the world order.
Daria Kazarinova – PhD, Associate professor of Comparative Politics Department, RUDN University