This week the main attention of Russian media was focused on the Davos Economic Forum, where the Russian delegation was surprisingly underrepresented. In its foreign policy, Moscow is increasingly demonstrating a greater willingness to develop the bilateral format of relations with all partners, rather than participating in multilateral political processes.
This focus on bilateral ties has been demonstrated by the recent meeting between the top two Russian and American diplomats – Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry – in Zurich, as well as the visit to Moscow of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim al-Thani.
Instead of going to Davos, Russians decided to work at home
During the business forum “Support of Russia,” Vladimir Putin joked:
“Everyone is here, so I do not know who actually went to Davos.” And then he added: “OK then! Let us get busy working at home!”
The Russian delegation was surprisingly underrepresented at this year’s economic forum in Davos. Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev, whose tasks in the Russian government are mainly related to the development of Siberia and the Far East, headed the Russian delegation.
Among Russian representatives, the weightiest delegation was that composed of bankers, which included German Gref (Sberbank), Andrey Kostin (VTB), Vladimir Dmitriev (Vnesheconombank). However, at the last moment, the governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, cancelled her planned visit. This was the case when it really was necessary to work at home.
Much was said at the forum about the need to normalize economic relations between Russia and Europe. In particular, an interesting statement was made by the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger:
“I know the position of the German business circles, and these are all in favor of lifting sanctions against Russia today, not a year from now. Germany wants to see Russia as a stable economic partner.”
In general, such statements are not binding on politicians, but recently they have been sounded more often than ever before.
Finland’s Finance Minister, Alexander Stubb, noted that relations between Russia and the West have become much warmer than they were a year ago, and the head of French diplomacy, Laurent Fabius, stressed the need to work together to improve mutual relations. The desire to reduce tensions with Russia was also voiced at the forum by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
The one piece of good news from Davos was the latest results of international rankings of competitiveness, in which Russia made it into the Top 50. On the eve of the forum, Bloomberg had published its international innovation rating, in which Russia was listed in 12th place.
The meeting of Lavrov and Kerry in Zurich
The talks between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in Zurich became the first meeting between this pair in 2016. The discussion agenda included Syria, Ukraine and the North Korean nuclear program.
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For its part, Russia wants to increase its regional presence and overall weight in the Arab world, and having Egypt share the Russian narrative of regional dynamics is a way forward. There is another strategic calculation for Moscow: While it balances relatively productive relations with Iran, the Palestinians and Israel, the only real Russian ally in the region is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose own position may not be so secure in the long run.
Americans will not find it difficult to give up the feeling of chosenness and superiority in case the situation pushes them. The space for missionary-style democratization initiatives will sharply narrow in a post-ideological world guided by pragmatism. Mankind will stop perceiving democracy as a uniquely American feature.
If Russia holds out until 2020 and all attempts by its enemies to bring it to economic collapse, chaos, and disintegration fail, then we can be certain that the era of Western dominance has ended. Thus, international relations will officially enter a new era.
A number of major international summits were held last week, the most important ones being the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris and the OSCE meeting in Belgrade. In Russia, however, all eyes were on President Vladimir Putin's annual address to the Federal Assembly, which traditionally contains important statements on the country's domestic and foreign policies.