Norms and Values
Values of Global Equality: Results of the Valdai Club Expert Programme

The problem of global inequality and the search for global alternatives to resolve it will not disappear in the coming 2024. Therefore, unless some “black swans” appear again, this will undoubtedly remain the focus of our attention next year.

Two years ago, we launched an expert programme at the Valdai Discussion Club called “Norms and Values.” In fact, it continued a previous programme, titled “Morality and Law.” The expert results for 2022 can be found here. It is clear that in past years, first Covid, and then February 24, led, among other things, to a kind of expert fever, which did not bypass the Valdai Club. Against this background, the year 2023, with its relative routinisation of the Ukrainian conflict, led to the fact that our expert work has become, to some extent, calmer and more systematic (with an understandable splash after the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the wake of October 7).

This year, two main topics were in the focus of our programme. One is the global inequality between the West and the Non-West and the value perception of this as neo-colonialism. The second topic, closely related to the first, is cooperation between Russia and Africa in the fight against neo-colonialism.

Africa has been one of the most important Valdai Club topics in 2023. On the eve of the Russia-Africa Summit, the Club held its own first Russian-African conference in St. Petersburg on July 25. About 50 experts from Russia and various countries throughout Africa took part. The conference discussed in detail the political, economic and humanitarian aspects of cooperation between Russia and the African countries, and became a kind of final synchronisation of watches before the Summit. Also, a separate session of the conference was devoted to the historical heritage of the Soviet Union in Africa and the possibility of using it in modern conditions.

Before the conference, the Valdai Club prepared a special report: “Russia and Africa: An audit of relations”. On July 18, an international presentation of the report took place. The team of authors included Nathalia Zaiser, Elena Kharitonova, Lora Chkoniya, Roger Tsafack Nanfosso, Israel Nyaburi Nyadera and Dmitry Poletaev. The main focus of the report was an analysis of the practical development of relations during the nearly-four-year-period between the First and Second Russia-Africa Summits, what was previously planned, and what has not yet worked out, and how this can be improved. Later, this Valdai Club report was presented at a briefing for Ambassadors and the diplomatic representatives of African countries at the Russian International Affairs Council.

African themes were also in the focus of the Club during the year. Pavel Kalmychek, Director of the Department for the Development of Bilateral Cooperation of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, analysed the results and prospects of trade and economic relations between Russia and the countries of the continent. Vladimir Shubin presented the article “Russia Never Left Africa” about the connection between the continent’s Soviet heritage and modernity. Mikatekiso Kubayi published a text about relations between Russia and South Africa, Nurhan ElSheikh – about what African countries expect from Russia amid modern conditions, Vadim Balytnikov – on the fight against neocolonialism in the political discourse of South Africa, Irina Kolgushkina – about Indian policy in Africa, Israel Nyaburi Nyadera – about the results of the Russia-Africa Summit, Nicodemus Minde – on the role of Africa in the modern geopolitical struggle, Ricardo Santos – about the specifics of Mozambique in Russian-African relations, Rasigan Maharajh – about the main tasks of Russian-African cooperation, Elena Kharitonova – about the consequences of the power change in Niger, and Konstantin Pantserev – on training highly qualified personnel for Africa. Also in focus were the tasks of Russia's African strategy.

During the year, the Valdai Club held discussions on relations between Russia and South Africa, about protests and coups in Africa, and about youth movements in Africa. The Club intends to expand upon the African theme next year.

Norms and Values
Russia and Africa: An Audit of Relations
Oleg Barabanov, Lora Chkoniya, Elena Kharitonova, Israel Nyaburi Nyadera, Dmitry Poletaev, Roger Tsafack Nanfosso, Nathalia Zaiser
The geopolitical landscape has changed beyond recognition in the time since the first Russia-Africa Summit was held in the autumn of 2019, laying the groundwork for an ambitious programme to expand Russia’s cooperation with Africa.

Another important topic in Valdai’s expert activities in 2023 was related to global inequality and the struggle to overcome it. The Club prepared two reports on this topic. Maria Apanovich, Ndivhukho Tshikovshi and Nirmala Dorasamy analysed the policies of the BRICS countries (including the new member states) to combat inequality. Radhika Desai and Alan Freeman examined the challenges (and failures) of the global anti-imperialist left at the present stage.

In addition to the reports, the topic of inequality and related issues was the focus of a number of expert articles on the Club’s website. Nivedita Das Kundu analysed India's presidency of the G20 and India's strategy to overcome global inequality in this regard , Mikatekiso Kubayi assessed the role of the countries of the Global South in international organisations, Jacques Sapir addressed the problems with global digital inequality, Vyacheslav Shuper wrote about global inequality in science and research policy, Vasily Koltashov drew the connection between neocolonialism and neomercantilism, Tatyana Gladenkova touched on problems of inequality in the Middle East, Dario Velo pointed out current global inflation trends and wrote about the building of a new world order, Anna Tsibulina reviewed attempts by Latin American countries to create their own payment system and de-dollarisation, Konstantin Pantserev focused on problems of technological sovereignty in developing countries and David Lane wrote about the problems of the global political class. The specifics of the voting of the “old” and new BRICS members in the UN General Assembly were analysed, as well as the fight against inequality on the agenda of international institutions, the problems of “digital neocolonialism”, and the dynamics of the changing structure of international relations. A review of Radhika Desai’s new book “Capitalism, Coronavirus and War” has been published.

During the year, the Valdai Club held discussions about neocolonialism in the modern world about de-dollarisation and the new economic order, and about global digital inequality. 

The problem of international migration is closely related to inequality and is another common topic for analysis among Valdai Club experts. Examples include Rashid Alimov’s piece on the adaptation of migrants from Tajikistan in Russia, Gulnara Gadzhimuradova’s article on Russian policy in the field of educational migration, Dmitry Poletaev’s piece about African migrants, and Natalia Rutkevich’s article about migrant protests in France.

Norms and Values
Global Inequality: Will the BRICS Countries Succeed in ‘Steering’ the Global Economy
Maria Apanovich, Ndivhuho Tshikovhi, Nirmala Dorasamy
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are important in the context of addressing global inequality. Together, they occupy a huge proportion of the Earth’s population and geographical space. Therefore, “inequality” and “equality” within the BRICS have global significance.

Another topic regularly covered by the Valdai Club is the politics of historical memory and its impact on modern times. For the centenary of the USSR, Travis Jones prepared an article about the perception ofthe Soviet Union as a “favourite villain” in the USA; texts were also published “History and tasks of geopolitics”, “Images of the past for the image of the future”, about the historical memory of the First World War in Russia and, in this regard, about the roll call ofpast and modern conflicts, as well as about the perception of Nobel laureates in the USSR and Russia. The connection between history and politics was analysed in the context of the new official concept of “state-civilization” in Russia.

Naturally, the Valdai Club experts also responded to current events on the global agenda. On the first anniversary of the Ukrainian conflict, a text was published about the “semantics of words and deeds” as perceived in Russia; Boris Perius Zabolotsky prepared an article about thetime factor in the evolution of the conflict and its transformation into a long-term and protracted one. A special expert discussion took place following the meeting of OSCE foreign ministers and was dedicated to the political and value gap between Russia and the West. In the context of this value gap, the semantics and structure of the new edition of the Russian Foreign Policy Concept were analysed, as well as its differences from previous versions. Another text was dedicated to the memory of “Russia’s last friend” in the West – Silvio Berlusconi.

Norms and Values
The First World War in Historical Memory
Oleg Barabanov
The politics of historical memory is evoked to comprehend those political failures in our history that seriously influenced its course. These failures might not have happened if not for the arrogance and irresponsibility of the rulers of the time. The First World War provides an example which is significant for historical memory in Russia, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

The escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has also come into our focus. The Club held two special discussions on this topic – one in the very first days of the conflict with the participation of both Israeli and Arab experts, and another about the perception of this conflict in various Asian countries. A text was published about the specifics of voting by various countries in the UN General Assembly on Israeli-Palestinian resolutions in recent years. 

A separate block of the Club’s expert materials was devoted to relations between Russia and Serbia. Articles on this topic were presented by Alexandar Rakovich and Milana Zivanovic. Kirill Yakovlev turned to the analysis of the political strategy of Aleksandar Vucic during the pre-election period. Valdai held two discussions on Serbian topics: one on bilateral relations, and the other on the topic “National identity and geopolitical struggle" with the participation of Serbian philosopher Misha Djurkovic.

The results of the presidential elections in Argentina and the phenomenon of Javier Milei were analysed by Boris Perius Zabolotsky. At the beginning of the year, Juan Gonzalez Cabañas had predicted the upcoming “political earthquake” in that country. The Club held a discussion about the results of the presidential elections in Turkey; the text “Elections in Turkey and anxiety in Russia" was published on this topic.

The dynamics of relations between the countries of the political West and the Non-West in Asia were addressed by Gleb Makarevich, who turned to the example of the Russia-China-India-USA quadrangle, Igor Istomin explored the USA-Japan-South Korea triangle, and Roman Romanov looked at the China-Taiwan-USA triangle. Andrey Lankov examined the history and current state of attracting North Korean workers to Russia, as well as the political symbolism associated with the public role of Kim Jong-un’s daughter.

Two texts were devoted to nuclear policy: Kubatbek Rakhimov and Alexey Mikhalev raised the question of the feasibility of the Eurasian Nuclear Consortium; a text about shutdown of nuclear power plants in Germany was also published. An article was published about the unsuccessful outcome of the next stage of the lunar race for Russiaand the politics of symbols associated with this .

In general, we can note that the problem of global inequality and the search for global alternatives to resolve it will not disappear anywhere in the coming 2024. Therefore, unless some “black swans” appear again, this will undoubtedly remain the focus of our attention next year.

Norms and Values
Images of the Past for the Images of the Future
Oleg Barabanov
Now that Africa is becoming one of the clear priorities for Russia not only in geopolitics, but also in the economy, the communities of Soviet and Russian graduates can provide serious assistance and support to Russian companies, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.