Modern Diplomacy
Multi-Vector Policies and Diversity in the Post-Post-Soviet Space
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On January 26th, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion titled “Foreign Policy of the New Eurasian States: Was the Experiment Successful?”, during which the report “Coming-of-Age Stories: Foreign Policy as Formative Experience for New Eurasian States” was presented. The discussion was moderated by Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, one of the authors of the report and acting Dean of the Faculty of International Relations, MGIMO, MFA of Russia.

The co-author of the report, Nikolay Silaev, Director of the Laboratory for the Analysis of International Processes at the Institute for International Studies of the MGIMO under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, emphasised the importance of the diversity of the post-Soviet space; the countries are very different from each other and it is difficult to classify them. He noted that it makes sense to move away from the usual, “automatically arising” catastrophic thinking and recognise that, by world standards, the former Soviet republics are relatively prosperous. In general, they arrived at independence in much more favourable conditions than most of the countries of the world that were “liberated” from colonial dependence in the second half of the 20th century, and those which inherited a significant legacy managed to use it wisely, based on the goals that they set themselves. According to Silaev, one should be more attentive to the peculiarities of the post-Soviet countries and not rush to apply terminology that has arisen in other historical eras.

Alexander Iskandaryan, Director of the Caucasus Institute in Armenia, pointed out that the former Soviet republics have diverged so far from each other in various aspects that it makes sense to talk not about the post-Soviet space, but about a post-post-Soviet one. At the same time, countries are very different from each other outside the context of the Soviet past. “It is not their foreign policies that are different, but the countries themselves are different,” the expert emphasised. Russia stands out from the general row, with its centuries-old state traditions, unlike its neighbours, who had to create many of the elements of statehood from scratch. He places special importance on the relative success of the states that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as evidenced by the very fact that they continue to exist thirty years later. This makes a strong impression when you consider how other empires collapsed.

Kubatbek Rakhimov, Executive Director of the Public Foundation "Applicata Centre for Strategic Decisions", compared the Soviet Union with a huge split magnet, where some of the fragments have oriented themselves towards the opposite poles and begun to repel each other. At the same time, he noted that excessive rapprochement in such a situation can also be uncomfortable. “Nobody has cancelled the right to integration at different speeds,” Rakhimov said, recalling the experience of the European Union and adding that the situation with the continuing interconnection of the former Soviet republics needs to be resolved throughi the creation of regional associations dedicated to specific issues and “stitching” the space. “There must be priorities within a multi-vector approach,” he said. “We must adhere to a simple but very important concept: not always together, but never against each other.”

Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Centre for Eurasian Studies at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, pointed to a paradoxical situation related to the fact that accession to Russia has always been influenced by regional dynamics and regional circumstances, while when the Soviet Union collapsed, the republics tried to not return to their regions, but to the globalised world, guided by universal recipes. However, these recipes did not work, and everyone ended up in the same regions from where they left, and many faced the same problems. Against this background, multi-vector policy has become a way to compensate for state weakness within the framework of regional equilibrium. In addition, according to Safranchuk, properly this situation can become a test of the aptitude for sovereign existence among most post-Soviet countries. It is becoming more and more difficult to combine regional security challenges with development requirements, which are still connected one way or another with the globalised world, and it is difficult to say unequivocally whether everyone is able to cope with this.