Russia and the post-COVID World. Fifth online session of the Primakov Readings

On Thursday, June 25, at 12:00 an online session of the Primakov Readings on the topic "The USA in the Crises Swirl: Strategic Consequences" was held within the framework of the joint project of IMEMO and Interfax.


  • Feodor Voitolovsky, Director of IMEMO, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, D.Sc. (Politics);
  • Valery Garbuzov, Director of the Institute for the US and Canadian Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences;
  • Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

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

Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, will take part in the discussion.
The key topics for discussion:

  • Have the democrats managed to ride the wave of protests in the run-up to the elections?
  • Is a strategy for overcoming the domestic political crisis being envisaged?
  • A factor of force in US foreign and domestic policy: what are the prospects?
Opening the new online session, A. Dynkin reminded that the next day it would be 5 years since E.M. Primakov passed away. "Primakov Readings" is a tribute to this "great citizen of Russia", as President V.V. Putin called him. The topic on the agenda of this discussion is the United States of America. The speaker noted that he did not see great prospects in the establishment of Russian-American relations. Former US Secretary of State Dr. G. Kissinger has approximately the same opinion, considering the discussion of improvement of the bilateral relations premature. Today, only in one area — international space research — cooperation remains between Roscosmos and NASA.

The United States is currently experiencing a set of crises that act as multipliers for each other. Long-term structural crises (exhaustion of liberal consensus, growing polarization of incomes, health care decline, systemic and racial contradictions) are accompanied by short-term crises, which include COVID-19, upcoming presidential elections, etc. The Democrats will certainly try to use this situation in their election campaign. The question that usually arises in such conditions: is it possible to say that a country that is experiencing a domestic political crisis, one may call it an "American spring", reduces its foreign policy activity? On the American side, such a trend is not observed today — US activity in the international arena is not declining. A. Dynkin asks all the panelists why this is happening.
According to F. Voitolovsky, it is necessary to pay attention to the most important thing — the economy. The processes are very ambiguous. On the one hand, the dynamics of the US economic development, the labor market, the dynamics of GDP growth and the state of the household economy before coronavirus looked very positive. Economic growth allowed many problems to be overcome. But the coronavirus and the socio-economic impact of the epidemic raised serious questions for the Trump administration. So far, the administration has shown effectiveness in responding, though it sounds strange now. Yes, we see African-Americans protesting and sympathizers from other racial groups joining them. Indeed, American society has been severely affected by the coronavirus. Now, almost 2.5 million people have fallen ill during this period. Of those, one million have already recovered. 120,000 people have died. This is a very serious loss, a huge tragedy. The dynamics are such that in the states where the pandemic began, in the east, the situation has now noticeably improved. But unfortunately, the situation in the southern states and on the west coast is difficult. The disease rate is higher among the non-white population, the death rate among the non-white population is higher. If we look at the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus, we can see that industries in the US economy have suffered unevenly. Industries that employ people with low levels of education, such as the service sector, suffered a significant 37% decline. Transport — 19%. This has affected the well-being of Americans, and the income of all households has fallen. In 10 years there was a huge increase in jobs, but in March and April the loss of the American labor market amounted to 2 million jobs. This is a huge loss. May statistics show that the measures taken to save the economy are already beginning to bear fruit. Targeted assistance has been provided to people and businesses.
V. Garbuzov agreed that the economy is the main point. Forecasts are looking at the elections through this prism. But it is also necessary to look at the situation that has developed in politics. The presidential election in the USA is a "planned crisis". American society is a segmented society of group interests. The peculiarity of this day is that under the threat is compromise, the very instrument of achieving social harmony. This can be seen not only in Congress, not only in the media, but also in the street. These factors are not intertwined in every company. In addition, there are some unexpected factors. An economic crisis has come. It manifested itself unexpectedly, not as expected. The second unexpected factor is the pandemic. These two factors have greatly shifted the focus of the campaign for both Democrats and Trump. Finally, the third factor — street protests connected with robbery and pillaging — brought to light another factor — the theme of racism, which is dormant in the USA in normal times.
To the crises listed by A. Dynkin, we must add another one — of foreign policy, said D. Trenin. In the first decades of the XXI century, the US saw or began the transition from an approach of Americanization of the world to a concept that implies adapting America itself to world realities. Among the most important things that worry Washington today is the return of the confrontation of the great powers — the United States, Russia and China. The US, in response to this factor, is reshaping its policy: losing its position of hegemon, it seeks to maintain its position as the strongest country compared to its other two rivals. This is the essence of the foreign policy crisis and the intention to adapt to the changing environment.

Does the factor that the country is internally "paralyzed" reflect on foreign policy? D. Trenin believes that it does not, and gives a number of arguments in favor of this judgment. The activism that characterizes American foreign policy has been preserved, though not in "big forms" (wars, interventions). It has simply shifted to the background. Next point. Relations with Europe were reformatted. The US is trying to shift the burden of spending on the shoulders of its allies.
S. Ryabkov agreed with the previous speakers' assessment of the internal situation and the pre-election struggle in the USA, and noted its consonance with the assessment of his ministry. It was noted that Russia as a negative factor in the US domestic context is an undeniable fact in Russian-American relations of the current period. The anti-Russian consensus has deeply rooted in the US elites. They are united in their rejection of Russia as a "hindrance" to the continuation of American dominance and the course towards the solution of geopolitical problems under the conditions that suit the US. Russia can do business with the current administration, but there is not a single area in the bilateral relations and approaches of Moscow and Washington to international issues where visible progress has been made in recent years. This is a unique period in the long history of US-Russian relations, in which Russia is perceived not as a partner, but as an object of politics. This is how Russia will be seen on the horizon and during the upcoming US elections.

Answering the question of how the US accent on forceful solutions to foreign policy problems contributes to the rapprochement of countries and what role NGOs can play in the rapprochement of Russia and the EU, S. Ryabkov noted that this is not an accent, but a desire of the US to preserve and strengthen its dominance in various areas. The US foreign policy is focused on sanctions as an effective and important tool to promote its interests in various directions.
"Primakov Readings Online" is a new joint project of IMEMO named after E.M. Primakov and Interfax. Within the framework of the project, a series of online meetings of experts, political and public figures are held at the agency's platform, discussing topical problems of international relations and world economy in the period of 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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