What implications will this speech have on the relations between Russia and the West? Tune in to the discussion between Joseph Mifsud, the head of the London Academy of Diplomacy and Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director for Center of Comprehensive Europe and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
Speaking in Sochi Vladimir Putin expressed concern that “the existing systems of international relations, international laws, the system of checks and balances have been declared useless, obsolete and ready to be torn down”. Putin’s speech has been described as the toughest since his address in Munich in 2007 where he criticized the policy of double standards in international politics.
You both were in Sochi and you heard President Putin firsthand. What did you personally take away from the Valdai Conference?
Dmitry Suslov: My take is that we are really at the turning point. And this speech by Vladimir Putin has been anticipated by the Russian analysts and it was not a surprise. I mean, maybe, for the West his both Munich’s speech and Valdai’s speech was a surprise, but for the majority of the Russian analysts it wasn’t. Putin just sharpened and expressed in a very comprehensive and concentrated way what has been here in the minds and in the atmosphere for years.
The key in this speech and message was that – please, take us seriously, there is a strategy behind our actions. From time to time, and actually very often, the Russian international steps are explained by domestic politics, something is explained by Putin’s personality. This is why t triggers so much surprise. What lacks in the Western understanding in the vision of strategy. And Putin’s point was that there is a sound strategy behind what Russia is doing. And this strategy goes as far as how the international order should be designed, what should be the rules of behavior of great powers. I hope that this kind of conclusion will be made in Europe.
And why Russia is not taken seriously?
Dmitry Suslov: Because in the minds of the majority of the American mainstream, first, Russia is the looser in the Cold War, secondly, Russia’s rise in the recent years has been one-sided and based on petro-money and quite artificial. President Obama himself was very blunt several times on this matter, when he said that Russia is a fake great power. And this is why they think that even if Putin says that way, he will be not able to implement this. And thus, if Russia in their opinion is doomed for failure, they will continue this strategy of containment, isolation, weakening Russia economically and so on.
The US does play a strong role in shaping the relationship between Russia and the EU, the EU does give in. But why is that so? The EU has a lot to lose.
Joseph Mifsud: I think President Putin was extremely disappointed on this point. He expected more from the West in terms of the European side to it. And it is interesting that the speech comes before the inauguration of the new European Commission. The new European Commission will be looking at things in a perhaps different way. I think the US will have to work much harder, if it wants to keep the same kind of stance with Russia with the support of Europe, because some of the people who have been put into place inside the European Commission are more diplomatically inclined to build a real dialog with Russia, more than their predecessors.
Is the US interested in strong Russia and in a good relationship with Russia?
Joseph Mifsud: I think the US is interested, but at the same time is extremely skeptical about actually having this kind of relationship. With its relationship with China, the stronger economic links through the BRICS, I think that there is a major concern that Russia is going its own way and that the no-rules-game is played by the Russian Federation.
Will the spiral of mistrust be reversed?
Joseph Mifsud: I think the key word which President Putin used was interdependence. The global security and the economy are part of this interdependence. I believe that whatever the US, the EU, Germany, Russia, China, all the others might decide and wish to do, it is all tired also to the fact that there are these two pillars. I believe that we cannot risk 5-10 or 15 years to put things in order or to come up with new rules. There isn’t that time, the global security and the economy will be continuing to deteriorate. I believe that people will actually see the sense.
One of the other perceptions, that was also mentioned, was – can the US continue with the world policing or with the Monroe doctrine. This is something which is extremely important. I don’t think that the US has the energy to continue with this. So, the global security and economy needs partners and who is better in this than the Russian Federation.