Albert Einstein famously said that "the release of nuclear energy has changed everything except our thinking." Indeed, major changes, sharp turns seem to literally change everything around, but the way people think often remains the same. February 24, 2022 obviously and powerfully changed our world, but the reasoning about where we are and what to do has remained largely the same as three months or six months ago. This delay of thought must be eliminated as soon as possible. From this point of view, Fyodor Lukyanov 's proposal to start discussing where and how Russia should move in the new conditions is absolutely timely.
The military operation in Ukraine was not caused by Russia's desire to break the world order. It pursued a much more limited goal: to solve by force a number of geostrategic, geopolitical, humanitarian tasks in Ukraine and, more broadly, in the European direction as a whole. Politically, Russia left the orbit of the West in the mid-2000s; The economic integration project of "Greater Europe" was finally buried in the mid-2010s, since then the situation has continued to deteriorate. In February 2022, a qualitative shift took place: the growing confrontation with the West took the form of a proxy war between Russia and the United States and NATO on the territory of Ukraine.
This war fits into a complex process of changing the world order, which is based on the shift of the center of economic activity and economic power from the Euro-Atlantic region to the Indo-Pacific. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, the West has been gradually losing ground to the Asian giants - China and India. Russia's military actions in this context, starting with the war in the Caucasus in 2008 and especially since the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, have played the role of a trigger that sets geopolitical shifts. The 2022 military operation has become a major frontier. The point of no return in Russia's relations with America and Europe has been passed. And it affects the global situation in many ways.
In fact, we are talking about the rejection of part of the legacy of Peter the Great - a three-hundred-year tradition of positioning Russia not only as a great European power, an integral part of the balance of power on the continent, but also an integral part of the pan-European civilization. The turn is fundamental: Russia has long wanted to "fit" into Europe, where not everyone was happy with it. Under Gorbachev , she gave a lot for the mere possibility of this, under Boris Yeltsin she began to reorganize in a Western European manner, and under the “early” Vladimir Putin, she solemnly proclaimed the “European choice”, put forward the project “Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” based on the merging of the economies of the EU and Russia and even knocked on the door of NATO.
As a matter of fact, the built house is essentially not pan-European, but pan-Western. The fact that there was no place for Russia in it is not surprising. The logical consequence of a divergence, parting, and then a complete break with the West, which stretched for a decade and a half, is the need for Russia to perceive itself not only as a separate political unit from Europe united on the Western platform, but also as an independent civilization, primarily in relation to Europe.
This conclusion is of fundamental importance. Modern Russia is no longer an empire, but it is also not a nation-state in the European sense of the word. Officially, our country defines itself as a multinational state. More precisely, however, would be to call Russia a power-civilization. This civilization has largely European roots, but these roots are Orthodox Christianity, adopted from Byzantium along with political culture and openness to Asia; Slavic origin, language and writing belong to the European East. Before our eyes, this most important component of historical Europe - with the exception of Russia, Belarus, Donbass and, for the time being, partly Serbia - was completely absorbed by the European West, which actually replaced the until recently two-part Europe. Russia, of course, is outside this new formation.
But Russia is not Europe No. 2, an alternative to the European Union. In terms of civilization, it is more than Europe. Stretching to the Pacific Ocean and occupying the entire north of the Eurasian continent, it included numerous ethnic groups, culturally and confessionally different from Europe and historically weakly connected with Europe. At the same time, these ethnic groups were integrated into a single Russian state over the centuries. This unified state differed in many ways from the classical European empires—whether overseas or continental—and is best defined by the word “power.”
The concept of power differs not only from the concept of empire, but also from the term "great power" as it is used in the literature on international relations. A state is not a hierarchy of the metropolis and colonies, and not a force that surpasses the potential of rivals, but, above all, the ability to keep heterogeneous elements in organic unity and equality. This retention is possible due to the powerful state principle, which plays the role of a rigid core and a flexible frame. It is no coincidence that during the upheavals of the beginning and end of the 20th century, practically the entire territory of the modern Russian Federation remained under the rule of Russian governments, and was not separated from Russia. In this regard, it is fair to conclude that a single power of such size and with such a degree of internal diversity as Russia is at the same time a separate civilization.
The core of the Russian civilization-power is the Russian people, with their language, culture and religion, but the ethnic moment within the framework of a single civilization is not decisive. On the contrary, the Russian community is open, freely and on an equal footing accepting not only individual representatives of other ethnic groups, but also these ethnic groups as a whole. Tatars, Yakuts, Chechens, and numerous ethnic groups of Dagestan can be and are Russians. Orthodoxy is the religion of the majority, but the tradition of religious tolerance allows the peaceful coexistence and interaction of the main indigenous faiths: Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. A single state ensures peace, prosperity and development in the vast territory from the Baltic to the Sea of Japan and from the Arctic to the Caspian. It is a common power that is the most important value for this complex civilization.
The state, however, is itself based on a system of values, without which it collapses. The Russian Empire collapsed not so much under the influence of the hardships of the World War, but because of the loss of faith and trust in the supreme power. The Soviet Union died not so much as a result of a shortage of goods in stores, but because of the deceitfulness of the official ideology, which was increasingly at odds with real life.
The sustainability of our current state requires its "re-edition" on the principles of freedom and responsibility, social solidarity, administrative competence, practical participation in management, including the adoption of major decisions.
In this regard, the people of modern Russia will have to rethink themselves and their country, deal with the basics of self-consciousness and worldview, and decide where the Russian path should lead. Only under this condition will it be possible to determine the objectives of the policy, as well as strategies and ways to achieve them. The totality of these goals, strategies and methods can be united by the concept of the Russian idea. In short, the Russian idea can be described as the Russian truth - the basis of the worldview and the set of fundamental principles, the central support of which is the imperative of justice.
Along with justice, the core of the Russian idea is the principle of equality. The Russians do not imagine themselves to be the chosen people, they do not have an idea of themselves as an exceptional phenomenon. Russians are not special, they keep themselves on the same level with representatives of other peoples, not higher, but not lower. The Russian colonial experience was fundamentally different from that of the Western Europeans. In the Russian Empire, the Russians did not stand above the “foreigners” in their position, and in the Soviet Union, the national republics enjoyed various privileges and economic preferences, which the RSFSR was deprived of. At the same time, the Russians are not ready to accept someone else's leadership. There is no place for racism in Russian culture, and anti-Semitism - state and everyday - was considered a shameful, condemned phenomenon. Russian culture itself is open to the outside world, its influences, which are creatively adopted.
Thus, justice, equality, openness and receptivity - while maintaining internal integrity - make the Russian idea a reliable spiritual guide in the development of a foreign policy strategy, especially in a period of changing world order. The Russian idea opens up the widest possibilities for mutual understanding, respectful dialogue and reasonable agreements in the presence of mutual goodwill. Other peoples and civilizations can perceive it as an idea of internal justice, external sovereignty and peaceful neighborly coexistence.
Here it must be emphasized that the Russian idea is intended specifically for Russian civilization, and not as an export product for the rest of the world. An attempt to formulate one's idea in a universalist way, as Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev's comrades-in-arms did, who developed new political thinking , is initially hopeless and therefore meaningless. The global world, in which the spread of the Western model has reached insurmountable limits, is increasingly diverging into civilizational platforms, where each civilization has its own idea. The Russian idea will influence the rest of the world by the very fact of its implementation in Russian society and in the politics of the Russian state.
The Russian idea does not need to be invented, it needs to be rethought for the current stage of development. German communism, and then American neoliberalism, for many generations of Russian people obscured the heritage of Russian philosophers, writers, historians - from Pushkin and Chaadaev to Slavophiles and Westerners to religious philosophers and Eurasians. Now this legacy of the past, largely unexplored by us, is especially in demand so that our reflections on the present and future gain depth. This is not about going back in thoughts and actions a hundred or two hundred years ago, but about finding a reliable foothold in our forward movement.
Equally important is the experience of practical politics in the 20th and early 21st centuries, stripped of ideology and political preferences. The rejection of the communist ideology and the condemnation of the crimes of the Soviet period should not interfere with the possible use of certain social practices of the twentieth century. A similar approach is applicable to historically closer epochs. It must be borne in mind that with the consistent denial of each of the main historical forms of the Russian state by its subsequent form (the Russian Federation - the Soviet Union, the USSR - the Russian Empire, the Europeanized empire of Peter the Great - the Russian kingdom, and so on), the key elements of the Russian idea were inherited within the framework of this historical continuum. The "reissue" of the current form of Russian statehood will probably not be an exception.
The re-edition of the Russian Federation will require, among other things, a serious and objective audit of the country's foreign policy, taking into account the results of the special operation in Ukraine and in the context of a hybrid war with the United States and Europe. The hot phase of the confrontation in Ukraine will end sooner or later, but it’s not worth waiting for peace with the West: if Russia resists - there is no doubt about it - then the specific conditions for such a peace will not appear soon. It will also require a critical analysis and comprehension of the experience of Russian foreign policy, starting at least with the reign of Gorbachev, and at the maximum, capturing the imperial period as well. An important goal of such an analysis is to provide material for the development of the theoretical foundations of Russian foreign policy.
During the last century, these foundations were based either on the rather narrow basis of proletarian internationalism as the main form of class struggle in the international arena, or - later - on borrowed postulates of various Western theories. Meanwhile, each political theory is created taking into account the values and interests of a particular state or group of states, and foreign theories, even rethought ones, are not enough. A Russian theory of international relations is needed, based on the interests and experience of our country and meeting its needs.
The task of theory is to ensure the meaningfulness of practice and increase its effectiveness. In the context of Russia's unequal confrontation with the united West, foreign policy must ensure the stability of the state in relation to opponents and partners, maintain balance against the backdrop of upheavals and contribute - even in adverse conditions - to the development of the country. How exactly to ensure this should be the subject of a fairly broad discussion."Foreign policy does not consist of special operations designed in secret (although sometimes such actions can be tools for its implementation), it requires a strategic approach."
Russian civilization is one of the important components of world civilization. It cannot and should not be removed from the world's systemic problems. At the same time, based on the Russian idea as the most important basis of the country's policy, including foreign policy, the establishment of one form or another of the world order should not be the main goal of Russia's foreign policy, as it was declared during the Soviet era. This element, central to Soviet strategy—be it Leninist, Stalinist, Khrushchev-Brezhnevian or Gorbachevian—must be abandoned. The world order is created - and changed - as a result of the interaction of many participants in the system, including those more powerful than Russia.
The idea of a power-civilization differs significantly from the idea of an empire. Economic integration and comprehensive cooperation with a number of former republics of the USSR are completely justified, but an attempt to restore a full-fledged center of power under Russian auspices within the former Soviet space is unlikely to be successful, since it is actively opposed by the forces of nationalism in the new states, also supported from outside. The main thing is that Russia does not need increments in order to act as a great power.
The very concept of a great power needs to be rethought. The fact that modern Russia is not a superpower has been officially recognized since the collapse of the USSR. In the modern world, however, a great power - not one that forces others to act according to its will, but exactly the opposite - does not allow anyone to dictate its will to itself and is able, if necessary, to successfully resist external pressure of superior power. Russia has such an ability, and it also has the necessary resources to implement an independent path of development and an independent foreign policy course. This is what makes Russia a modern great power.
The break with the West inevitably led Russia to severe trials, but, having finally freed it from the complexes of a follower and imitator, it opened up opportunities for the country to redefine its place, role and goals in the world. It is clear that in the face of massive Western pressure, the priority has become to maintain sustainability by mobilizing resources and releasing the creative energy of citizens. The focus on the pressing issues, however, should not detract from the elaboration of fundamental topics that must now be addressed in a new way.
"Russia's place in the world is a large independent value at the global level."
Geographically, Russia is not part of Europe or Asia. On the contrary, the fact that the eastern part of geographic Europe and the northern part of Asia are part of Russia makes our country an important factor for its immediate and more distant neighbors. At the current stage of Russian history, the balance between the two main directions of the country's foreign policy - Western and Eastern - has clearly and unambiguously shifted in favor of the latter. This situation is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
In order to maintain balance in the conditions of a hybrid war with the West, Russia will have to rely more than ever on the countries of the East for the foreseeable future - primarily on China, but also on India and, if possible, on other countries of Asia and the Middle East. These countries, to varying degrees, are becoming Moscow's most important foreign policy and foreign economic resource in the international arena. In order to use this resource to compensate for the break in ties with the West and the development of the country, Russia must seriously turn its face to non-Western countries not only in Asia, but also in Africa and Latin America, strengthen existing partnerships and establish new ones.
The recent mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from European and American countries indicate the path to follow. The end of normal relations with Western countries means a sharp decrease in the need for efforts - with the exception of the military and intelligence agencies - and for the corresponding specialists. Instead, a significant increase in expertise and practical competencies is required in neighboring countries - the Transcaucasus, Kazakhstan and Central Asia, Turkey, Iran, the Arab East, South and Southeast Asia - not to mention the world giants China and India. Non-Western organizations and forums of the EAEU and the CSTO, the SCO, the RIC and the BRICS should become priority centers for multilateral diplomacy for Russia.
The role of Russia in the new international context could consist not only in defending sovereignty in confrontation with the united forces of the West, but mainly in building new models of relations within the non-West. There is already a good foundation for this - strategic partnerships with global powers China and India, as well as with other important players such as Vietnam. There is a practice of difficult, but generally positive relations with the regional powers Turkey and Iran. There is experience of cooperation with the ASEAN regional organization. A significant volume of cooperation has been created with the countries of Africa and Latin America. These until recently minor areas should now come to the fore.
Russia, of course, needs to use every opportunity to compensate for the damage caused by sanctions, but its role in the non-Western world should not be narrowly utilitarian, focused on finding ways to circumvent sanctions. It is more important to develop economic, financial, scientific, technical, cultural cooperation - given that the leading non-Western countries are historically on the rise, and also that in cultural and psychological terms, non-Western societies are in many respects closer to the Russian people and national culture than most modern societies of Europe and North America.
Cooperation with non-Western countries is of great importance for the formation of common positions and broad public opinion on a large number of global problems: security, economy, trade, finance, ecology, information, culture, and so on. In many of these areas, Russia can make a significant contribution to the overall work. Russia's active and constructive role can make the country one of the world's intellectual and political leaders.
Russia's behavior in the international arena should, to the maximum extent possible, correspond to Russian traditions and values, and not be a semblance of the policy of the European powers in the past, the EU or the US in the present. Russia does not seek world domination, exploitation of other countries and peoples, does not impose its system of values on anyone, does not interfere in the internal affairs of other states, but at the same time resolutely defends its sovereignty, national interests, is true to its international obligations and strives for the harmonious coexistence of various states and peoples, cultures and civilizations within the global community.
In these notes about the need to put in order foreign policy thinking, in essence, only one aspect was discussed - the formation of the ideological and intellectual basis of Russia's foreign policy. This problem has many other aspects. We need to learn to adequately look at the rapidly changing world and understand its development trends, including in the areas of information, technology, climate, and so on, which are non-traditional for international affairs specialists; carefully study the strategy and tactics of the enemy, as well as partners and neutral states; learn to fight better in the information field, including on your own territory. But with all this, you need to start with the basics: who we are, where we are, what we are for - and why.