Modern Diplomacy
The Ukrainian Crisis as a Laboratory of World Politics of the 21st Century

It is difficult for us to conduct a dialogue with Westerners and more and more often there is nothing to talk about at all: they use clichés and ideological theses, stubbornly try to promote their narrow-mindedness, and are completely unprepared for a reasoned discussion, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.

In modern Russia, students at international affairs universities are taught that the present international crisis is, in fact, a full-scale experiment in world politics. What was previously studied in the history books is beginning to happen before our eyes. Ten years ago, our graduates, international affairs specialists and future diplomats, when leaving MGIMO university, said that all bilateral relations, all institutions of international cooperation had already taken shape, all crises had occurred — there was no more room. There was a feeling prior to 2022 that for the past 30 years, the protracted “end of history” had been going on. However, now, when receiving their degree, the graduates understand that they are entering a busy life, where there are more opportunities, including career-wise, albeit with higher risks. Of course, we are witnessing one of the most significant, interesting and exciting periods of world history from a research point of view.

Russia’s break with the West is not a short-term phenomenon. Perhaps we are at the beginning of a long crisis that could last a decade or more.

The British historian Edward Carr once retrospectively described the 20-year period between the world wars as a “long crisis”. I admit that we are also at the beginning of a “new long crisis”, of which the Ukrainian crisis is only a part. It is also completely open whether or not everything will be limited to the conflict in Ukraine. A decisive change in the history of international relations over the past 500 years is in that the West has lost its status as the only centre of power: there is a flow of power and influence to the East, the emancipation of an increasing number of states, the search for their independent place. For the first time, they are firmly declaring what constitutes their interests and the goals of international cooperation.

Modern Diplomacy
Is Strategic Empathy Necessary in the Era Of Information Wars?
Andrey Sushentsov
It is necessary to strengthen the ability of young professionals to interact in a new information environment, where you need to take the initiative, to defend convincingly and firmly your own position; to conduct a discussion in such a way that your point of view looks like the closest approximation to the median of common sense: to be able to press the buttons of the interlocutor’s emotions, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.

The loss of political initiative by the West was not only due to the economic and technological growth of the non-West. The Valdai Club and MGIMO are currently conducting a research project in which analysts study the curricula of 20 leading Western and Eastern universities in international relations and analyse what courses they provide to future diplomats. The researchers noted a sharp decrease in the number of hours taught on the history of international relations, foreign languages, and regional studies. So, if a foreign university trains specialists on Russia, an ideal option could be at least 8–10 courses, for example, about history, the political system, its foreign policy, economics, society, etc. However, in Western countries, the study of Russia is reduced to one small course, a minor one. Therefore, it is difficult for us to conduct a dialogue with Westerners and more and more often there is nothing to talk about at all: they use clichés and ideological theses, stubbornly try to promote their narrow-mindedness, and are completely unprepared for a reasoned discussion.

On the contrary, in the East there are significantly more interested interlocutors: as opportunists, the local elites are looking for opportunities for themselves in the current crisis, trying to understand how they can strengthen their position in international relations and what they will get from relations with Russia, China, the BRICS countries or the West.

The international crisis has demonstrated the urgent need for training specialists in regional studies. Hans Morgenthau, another prominent realist of the first half of the 20th century, wrote that war will not end until human nature is imperfect.

International relations are still well explained by the metaphors and maxims used in the History of the Peloponnesian War by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, when he commented on the rivalry between Athens and Sparta.

In the Russian tradition of training diplomats and analysts, disciplines are emphasised to make it possible to understand the true needs and interests of opposing partners. It is not necessary that if you understand them well, you will agree with them. This means that in the event of a conflict, you can, first, find a weak spot in the positions of the counterparty, and, second, let him understand that his needs can be satisfied in another acceptable way.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.