Russia and the post-COVID World. The first online session of «Primakov Readings»

On Friday, May 29, at 12:00 an online session of the Primakov Readings on the topic "World order: the structural transformation" was held within the framework of the joint project of IMEMO and Interfax.
Speakers of the event:

  • Alexander Dynkin, President of IMEMO, Academician of RAS;
  • Alexey Arbatov, Head of Center for International Security IMEMO, Academician of RAS;
  • Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, Chairman of the Presidium of the NGO Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.

Moderator — Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation.

М. Shvydkoy noted that this series of conferences will deal with the most relevant and most important problems of our today’s life, which are more connected with political, economic and to some extent humanitarian problems. But, of course, the platform of Primakov Readings suggests that these are, above all, political and economic problems, which concern us today as much as the pandemic.

In A. Dynkin's opinion, the pandemic has revealed many asymmetries of the world’s leading trends and sharply accelerated changes in politics, economics, technology and social processes. The key event in world politics is a sharp aggravation of US-Chinese relations. Already before the Corona crisis, China had changed its rhetoric and politics to a great extent, and more and more claims were made not only for economic, but also for technological and, partly, military and political leadership. Symmetrically in the United States, with the arrival of Donald Trump, the emphasis on America’s greatness increased.

The pandemic has struck a certain blow to China’s prestige. The United States has also suffered severe image losses. Is such a bipolar disorder of the world order advantageous for Russia? The United States and China will come out of the crisis heavily weakened, like everyone else. These two countries have lost their soft power potential. Russia, with 3% of world GDP, of course cannot claim global leadership, although it maintains strategic parity with the United States and leadership in most defense technologies with respect to China. Our relationship with China can be defined by a formula: "Never against each other, not always together".

А. Arbatov stressed that now all the attention of the world community and world leaders is drawn to the pandemic. But the pandemic will pass sooner or later, and nuclear weapons will remain, the threat of nuclear war will remain. The epidemic has already had a negative impact on the situation concerning the control over nuclear weapons. For example, the inspection visits related to New START have been temporarily suspended. The Conference to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been postponed for a year. There are 191 States members of that Treaty. Thanks to this Treaty, we now have 9 nuclear powers, not 30, as predicted in the early 70's. A new crisis is emerging because the United States has withdrawn from the agreement on closing the Iranian nuclear program. The US has announced its withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies.

F. Lukyanov confirmed that all destructive and centrifugal tendencies that existed long ago, from the first years of the XXI century, have sharply worsened. National interests stop using supranational structures, it is no longer profitable. The main topic is the transition of the confrontation between the United States and China to a new level. The bipolarity that may occur is very alarming. It is not the bipolarity of the Cold War era, when competition and rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States were a factor of relations stabilization. Now, China does not represent any ideological or existential challenge to the West; it acts in the same paradigm of the global capitalist economy.

А. Torkunov drew attention to the fact that the current crisis has shown that the UN is not capable of solving, even discussing such issues, and requires very serious and rapid reforms. Almost all basic international legal documents were formulated after the war by the UN. We should highly appreciate the UN and do everything possible to preserve it. Today, the WHO is criticized, but we understand that without such international organizations the world may end up in total chaos. An important topic is the creation of a full scale system of treaties that would ensure medical and biological security. This danger is no less serious than the danger of a nuclear collision, and we must pay special attention to it.

In A. Chubaryan's opinion, there is no clear picture of the social consequences of the pandemic. The consequences will be long-lasting. We must minimize the damage to Russia. It is necessary to depoliticize history as much as possible, to become more active in the European course. In Europe, there is obvious disappointment in integration associations. National directions are being strengthened. Countries are going through the pandemic with the help of their national organizations and governments.
Over 140 experts from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Germany and China watched the discussion on the online platform.

The sixth Readings were to be held on June 15−16, 2020, but due to the current situation with the coronavirus infection, the Forum’s Organizing Committee decided in early April to postpone the annual Readings to June 2021.
"Primakov Readings Online" is a new joint project of IMEMO and Interfax. Within the framework of the project, a series of online meetings of experts, political and public figures will be held at the agency’s platform to discuss topical issues of international relations and world economy during the crisis.

The project is carried out with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, Gorchakov Fund and World Trade Center of Moscow.
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