Fyodor Lukyanov: “Russia is ready to fulfill its promises on development of its Asian territories”
Interview by Maria Sidelnikova, editor-in-chief of Vestnik Kavkaza
In 2014 the Ukrainian events led to significant changes in the geopolitical balance of international forces. The role of the Russian economy decreased, and Moscow blames foreign forces for the troubles. Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the role of Russia in the world.
- Do you think one of the reasons for the Ukrainian conflict was a desire to expel Russia from the Middle East and other directions and making it concentrate on one thing only?
- I don’t believe in such clear and simple schemes, as the world does not work in such a way today.
Of course, objectively the U.S. and Europe want to drown Russia in its own problems, while Ukraine has turned from an external into an internal political problem in a broad sense. And this could prevent Russia from turning to the East successfully.
But I don’t think there are people who are able to build such schemes archly and in cold blood.
We all are smart post factum. The Ukrainian issue wasn’t resolved in 1991, it was delayed. Everybody pretended that it didn’t exist. But at the time there were people who said that the issue would become acute one day. The fact that it appeared at a bad time, when Russia, according to Gorchakov, needed to be concentrated for a breakthrough, was a concourse of circumstances and someone’s bad will. But in general the transformation of Russia into a new identity which wouldn’t be imperial, but partially ethnic and national, was inevitable. Some say that all empires are inevitably turned into normal national states. Russia cannot do this. If it does so, it will become much smaller in size. It can be reborn, but it will have a different size. So, there is a big problem, and Ukraine has made it more acute. There is a discussion in the Russian world which has many instrumental components – what the consciousness of the nation is, what our nation is, where the borders which we consider our own are. The answers to the questions depend on our own will and foreign circumstances. But I am afraid at the moment we have no answers to the questions yet.
- The world is changing, the center is shifting. What is the role of Russia in the new Asian world? It is not the main one, but what is it?
- It is not the main one. The perfect scenario for Russia is to be number three, after the U.S. and China. The U.S. won’t disappear anywhere. They are as legal an Asian and Pacific power as a European-Atlantic one. The Pacific Ocean is not about regional politics anymore, it is about global politics. If it wants to play the role of a world power, Russia has to fulfill its promises on development of its Asian territories. The serious shift toward the East in a form of programs is right. Unfortunately, our government and our mentality stridently and the content is growing deliberately. It not only slows down processes of equalling, i.e. turning Russia into a Pacific power, but it also undermines trust.
If we talk to the Chinese at a broad level about resistance to American hegemony and stability in the world, everything is great. When we talk to them about real economic opportunities, the Chinese openly express dissatisfaction: “When will you start do something? What are you talking only?” The gap between desires and capacities to fulfill ideas is turning into a purely geopolitical factor. The Eurasian Union was initiated for involvement of Ukraine there, but today obviously Ukraine won’t be integrated either into the West or into the East.
And the Union is becoming really Eurasian. Where can we develop? Only to the East. And I think we should realize a simple thing, despite our ambitions, that in the context of competition with Chinese projects for Central Eurasia, we will lose, as we have fewer opportunities and resources. The Chinese are actively developing the project declared by Xi Jinping a year ago. It is an economic belt of the new Silk Road, which actually coincides with our Eurasian Union. We can try to fight, but we can be smarter and offer cooperation, combination. It is very difficult, as the misbalance of our economic potentials is obvious. At the same time, it gives an opportunity to improve our potential with the help of a stronger partner.
The second direction which Russia should develop intensively is the SCO. Next year Russia is a chair of the SCO, and the summit will take place in Ufa, and it is expected that India and Pakistan will join the SCO there. If they do it, it will be a breakthrough, as China wasn’t really enthusiastic about the organization previously, and Russia will have more opportunities for maneuver.
The current SCO is an organization where China plays a dominant role. But if there are two major powers, and one of them is friendly to us, there will be combinations, coalitions; plus we have Central Asia which tries to maneuver. So it is in our interests that the organization turns into the main structure in Eurasia. If countries continue to join it, it will be a very powerful instrument.