Outlining 2016
RIAC forecasts on key global challenges
2016: Will There Be Order?
2016: Growing Terrorist Threat
2016: Asian Big Guns
2016: Partial Cooperation between Russia and the West
2016: In Search of Identity
2016: The Middle East Vortex Is Growing Bigger
2016: Fear of "Aliens"
2016: Central Asia – Survival is the Name of the Game
2016: Where China will Clash with Russia
2016: The Arctic Cooperation
2016: Time for Pragmatic Approach
World Order
2016: Will There Be Order?
PhD in Political Science, Head of Department of Strategic Assessment, Centre for Situation Analysis, Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC expert
It is extremely difficult to define the structure of the future world order in just a few words. In fact, it is unlikely that in 2016 the new world order will be so formalized as to warrant a distinct name. Neither should anyone attempt to shape it in the near future. The structure is likely to be more flexible and complex, and ultimately prove to be more resilient and able to adapt to conditions often out of international players' control. The emerging world order must meet the challenges of the most unpredictable reality.

The system of rules will see further development. Today, we can observe a rather interesting system of rules in trade relations associated with the advent of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. While the latter has already been signed, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is still negotiated, which, according to most experts, will be signed successfully. In the macro-regions of the world, new rules are being developed on the trans-regional and inter-regional basis, rules that no one has seen before.
Previously existing rules will remain in force. The European Union will maintain its role in Europe as the generator of rules, and NATO will continue to ensure certain rules for mutual relations in the transatlantic region.
Assuming that the Western countries in the future will not be able to successfully cope with the challenges that they are facing at present, it is likely that the number of those seeking other ways to the Western path of development will only grow. However, it is possible that other regions will look up to the European Union's experience. This is already happening, but bearing in mind Europe's past mistakes this path may be erroneous. This will determine the structure of the emerging regional arrangements. For citizens of certain countries, it may prove that these regional agreements will largely determine their lifestyle and their perception of the international environment. In those areas where chaos rules, especially in Syria, Afghanistan and North Africa, the question will be whether the international players are able to coordinate their efforts to change the situation for the good. In general, however, the situation in conflict zones will normalize in the longer run.
Ultimately, the path of compromise for all parties to the conflict unfolding in this region will prove more acceptable and even desirable.
At present, a more just construct of international relations is actively forming, the rules of which will satisfy all players. However, it is futile to hope that Russia will play a leading role in this new order due to the lack of necessary resources. The rules that are emerging at the regional levels, or which have already formed within the integrational groupings and the emerging free trade zones, will serve as the basis for the future system of international behaviour. The likelihood of a new global agreement like the Helsinki Agreement is negligible. Such megalomania and a global approach are ephemeral.

From the standpoint of resources and actual weight in world politics, Russia could be more proactive in using the already tried-and-tested forms of cooperation, rather than trying to invent new mechanisms all too similar to old ones. If Russia sees itself as part of the global world and the emerging regional agreements, if it is looking for a possibility of using the new rules, then, given its geographical location, demography and military potential, it has very good prospects. However, if Russia strives to formulate some kind of alternative to the new rules, it should be prepared for the possibility that its capacity to achieve results may not be enough.

There are countries that do not possess the necessary resources to pursue an independent policy. In most cases, they understand this. For such countries, integrational associations are a way to express themselves and voice their opinions. For example, the European Union enables small countries, while coordinating their position with larger neighbours, to significantly strengthen their voice in matters of economics and politics. Similar processes are taking place in Latin America, where a region-wide UNASUR association is being formed. UNASUR unites the previously existing Mercosur, the Andean Community and other sub-regional groups. Latin America, comparable in population to the member states of the European Union, will develop a common approach in the future to coordinating its policies and voicing its proposals on the world stage.
The US and China are unlikely to lose their roles in the international arena and in addressing global issues. India, in the long term, will be increasingly noticeable, despite its many unresolved domestic problems.
As for ASEAN, it can become a player relatively equal to the European Union and Latin America. If its member states can manage to overcome internal contradictions, the organization can become fairly independent in the region. The success of these integrational and regional structures depends, among other factors, on the developments within their large member countries.

In cases where countries are able to achieve the same speed of internal development, we can expect regional associations to be able to formulate their opinion on global matters and speak with a single, independent voice in the process of coordinating key decisions.

Global decision-making forums, such as the Group of Twenty (G20), have good prospects. The G20 is an organization that has combined the lion's share of global economy. If in the long run the countries manage to reach compromises on the many pressing issues, then the G20 may transform into one of those institutional structures (in addition to the traditional United Nations, which, contrary to some forecasts, is highly unlikely to become extinct any time soon) that will play a key role in the global decision-making process.
Gleb Ivashentsov
Toward a Peaceful Eurasia
Tatiana Deich,
Vyacheslav Usov

Africa – BRICS common ground

2016: Growing Terrorist Threat
PhD in Political Science, Associate Professor at World Politics Department, MGIMO University, RIAC expert
According to Global Terrorism Index, the world saw 16,800 terrorist attacks in 2014, which is a 9-fold increase as compared to 2001, when an unprecedented large-scale international fight against terrorism broke out following September 11 attacks in the U.S. Moreover, terrorism rate has tended to increase annually over the last few years. 2015 is highly likely to set a new record when the bottom line is drawn.

Terrorism victims number is also increasing – it hit the mark of 43,500 people in 2014. The majority of people killed in terrorist attacks (82%) were in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria.

According to Global Terrorism Index, 16 countries are in the high terrorism risk area. Those are: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, India, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Russia, Kenya, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, and Colombia. Islamic terrorism is the main threat in all of these countries, except for Colombia with radical left-wing rebel groups.

The Islamic State (also known as ISIL and Daesh), not officially recognized by Russia, was behind almost every tenth terrorist attack (1263) in 2014. 9596 people were killed in these attacks (179% more than in 2013).

Unfortunately, even the statistics do not give us any positive prospects in terms of reducing the scope of radicals activity in 2016.
It is clear, that terrorist activity will continue growing, and Islamic terrorism will remain the key threat.
The Middle East, and Syria and Iraq in particular, will continue receiving closest attention of the global community. However, even a number of international coalitions will not be able to win the fight against this deadly threat in 2016.

Firstly, certain countries will go on supporting IS fighters unpunished. The situation will remain unchanged at least until all the countries involved work out and support the plan for transfer of power in Syria. Otherwise, the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" concept will prevail.

Secondly, the IS may be defeated only through a ground operation, which no country has yet agreed to carry out.

Thirdly, it must be strictly agreed upon, that petroleum products supply from the IS-controlled territories should be prevented. At the moment, the Western countries do not attach much importance to oil being smuggled to Turkey (another consumer being Iraqi Kurdistan). It is, most probably, a part of the financial compensation for the "inconvenience" in the form of large numbers of refugees.
Local Islamic groups will present another threat, as they may open a new terrorism front, if need be.
Such a possibility exists on several continents – in Africa (Nigeria, Mali, Egypt, Kenya, etc.), Central Asia (Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan), Southeast Asia (Thailand, the Philippines). In this scenario, the global community is unlikely to pay equal attention to all the hotbeds of tension, which will expand covering new territories.

Moreover, the terrorist threat will remain high in the U.S. and Western Europe, especially so in the countries hosting large numbers of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. High profile terrorist attacks are very likely to target cultural, sporting and other public events. A new wave of aircraft terrorist attacks is likely to come, too. A plane with Russian tourists on board was blown up over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, and a fake bomb was found on board a French plane en route from the Republic of Mauritius to Paris on December 20. Thus, the new tough aviation security measures taken in the aftermath of September 11 attacks and the failed shoe bomb attempt of December, 2001 (explosives were hidden in the shoe sole) may still falter. No system is stronger than its weakest element. We need to work out security measures that will be enforced unconditionally and universally. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will probably need a new scope of authority.

Terrorist groups funding is another important issue. The IS profits immensely from petroleum products sales. The Colombian FARC is known for its drug lords patronage. Illegally mined diamonds were used as a sort of currency among the warring parties in a number of African conflicts. Moreover, terrorist groups resort to kidnapping, extortion and other illicit enrichment methods, including those making use of modern technology. Drug trade is the only unacceptable means of profit, as viewed by the Islamic terrorists. Thus, the spread of Islamic terrorism around the world is unlikely to bring along an increase in drug trafficking. Though we cannot rule out the option of production and distribution of drugs aiming to undermine Western societies. It is the only way to justify this activity in the eyes of their supporters.

It can be generally noted that 2016 will definitely be quite a difficult year in terms of terrorist activity, not least since all the countries are currently fighting terrorism manifestations only, paying no attention to its root causes. And no anti terrorism campaign will succeed not having eliminated those.

2016: Asian big guns
Head of 'security agencies' department at Lenta.ru, RIAC expert
Speaking about big contracts, in 2016 India and Russia will sign another range of big arms contracts. It is likely that there will be agreements on the supply of a pilot batch of fifth-generation jet fighters for the Indian Air Force. An agreement on their joint development has been signed.
India is likely to sign an agreement with one of its foreign partners on designing an aircraft carrier.
It may be a group of partners or a single firm. Russia, Italy and the United States are the main bidders. Russia is far more willing to share technologies than the US and it gives her a slight advantage.

Right now Russia and India are discussing the supply of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. An official deal is to be signed within a few months, probably in early 2016.

Several agreements may be struck with Iran, which is following closely the use of Russian weapons, including in Syria. Russia already supplies air defence systems to Iran, and I do not rule out supply of ground-based systems.
Russia will step up its arms supply to Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states.
Speaking about the CSTO, Belarus is an interesting case: it wants to modernize national army, something it can only do with the Russian help. Nobody will supply Minsk with western weapons and besides, they are more expensive to maintain. I think next year will see major bargaining over a Russian military base in Belarus.

Among other big contracts, I would mention increased military and technical cooperation between Russia and China. China will have to continue buying modern fighter jets, as its own copies of Su-27 and Su-30 do not meet all of the country's needs. So they will have to turn to Russia for additional supplies, or support in developing new planes.

I would mention North Africa as another promising market for Russian arms, because Algeria and Egypt are already receiving weapons and are currently negotiating new supplies.

Russia will hardly land major contracts in Latin America though if there were any military demand from those countries, especially major ones, it would be a pleasant surprise.
The main Western powers are not likely to modernize their armies this year. The only European power that supports a full-scale rearmament program is Russia.
Next year, the Admiral Kuznetsov is to be docked for repairs, which will take several years. This will extend the service life of the Russian aircraft carrier by 25 years. It will also pave the way for a new aircraft carrier to be built, if Russia wants one. In any case, the Kuznetsov needs to be repaired and kept in good fighting trim.

Because of the cooling relations with Ukraine, a country that used to fulfil a large body of military contracts for Russia, the Russian side is starting to repair and build engines for the Navy and Air Force. Russia is launching its own production of turbines for modern Admiral Gorshkov-type Project 22350 frigates. Russia has already learnt how to repair engines without Ukrainian help, and it has always produced diesel engines itself. It is the same situation with nuclear power plants. Formerly, gas turbines were produced at Ukrainian plants. That is a problem, but it is fixable. There will be a pause in the delivery of new ships to the Navy, but it will not be critical.

Speaking about documents, the most anticipated one is the Russian White Paper on Defence, the publication of which has been promised for several years now.

The biggest naval power, the United States, will commission the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier in March 2016.

Japan is building up its Navy. It is also developing its own fifth-generation jet fighter program, scantily and reluctantly covered in the press – Japan is one of the most secretive countries in that respect. Japan continues to develop its Navy, its pivotal program on new helicopter-carrying destroyers, which are in fact light aircraft carriers capable of carrying vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Japan is likely to build a fully-fledged aircraft carrier, because China is building its own aircraft carrier and Japan is concerned about Chinese growing naval capacity. We should bear in mind that the Japanese naval development program is in many ways a copy of the US program, where deck aviation is a very important naval asset. With Japan's widening interest, it needs its own tools to meet them.
The balance of military power will not change: Russia will still be number two behind the United States and followed by China.
Speaking about overall trends, we are going to see further growth of Asian countries' military capabilities, above all in Southeast Asia, and a gradual decrease of NATO's military strength and the European powers' in general.

Russia - West
2016: Partial Cooperation between Russia and the West
PhD in Political Science, Senior Lecturer, Department of Applied International Analysis, MGIMO University, RIAC expert
The cooling relations between Russia and the West in 2015 was the result of trends that had manifested themselves over the course of several years before reaching a new high in 2014 in the context of the Ukrainian crisis. While Russia from the start perceived the Ukrainian situation as a symptom of the contradictions that had been building up over the past decade, for the West, Russia's reaction to the events in Ukraine came as something of a surprise and were largely seen as a trigger. The international community has been growing weary of the Ukrainian crisis in recent months.

The settlement of the situation in Eastern Ukraine and restoration of the country's territorial integrity is the maximum the European Union and Russia can hope to achieve. But this looks like an impossible task. That is why the two sides have concentrated on achieving the minimum – putting an end to armed clashes in the region. As the situation in Eastern Ukraine becomes relatively stable, the Ukraine crisis is becoming increasingly peripheral for the European Union.

At present, the situation in Ukraine is following the "frozen conflict" scenario, which means that the Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics are set to become politically independent from Kiev. Because Kiev may end up having to finance the rehabilitation of the region, something it would like to avoid, a consensus between the sides is not unrealistic. Although Ukraine does not, at this stage, seek to comply with the Minsk Protocol and reintegrate the Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics, it will try to direct Western criticism of non-compliance with the Minsk Protocol towards Russia, while Russia, for its part, will seek to demonstrate that it is the fault of Ukraine. The success or failure of each of the sides in selling their policy will go a long way to determining what will happen to a large part of the European Union's sanctions.
The odds are that Europe and the United States will not lift the sanctions during 2016.
They may be eased over time, but for now the situation looks fairly stable.

The Ukrainian crisis significantly changed the perception of Russia in the Western community – not the part that was sceptical about Russia all along, but the part that took a more pragmatic stand. Mutual mistrust between Russia and the West has increased gradually over the past two years, and this trend that is likely to prevail in the future. This is not to say that we are in a state of confrontation. Interaction and cooperation in some areas will continue, though against the backdrop of mutual mistrust. Russia's recent attempts to mend fences have met with no response from Western partners.
The international political context in 2016 will be determined by the US election campaign.
The upcoming presidential elections are significant for the Obama Administration, which wants to take stock of its work over the past eight years and deliver a positive result by the end of its term. It is thus forced to take the conflict in Syria and the fight against Islamic State very seriously and work hard to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The United States and Russia may move towards a settlement of the Syrian crisis. They have diametrically opposite views on the current Syrian government – Washington regards the current regime in the country as a problem, while Moscow sees it as the key to fighting Islamic State. 2016 may see a political solution to the Syrian problem, which would put a political process of reconciliation among various Syrian factions in place for a joint fight against Islamic State.

Considering all these problems, relations between Russia and the United States would be largely confined to cooperation on a limited number of issues that the two countries need each other to solve. There is no agenda for broader interaction with the United States. The chances for improving relations with the European Union are greater. However, because of the high level of mutual mistrust, the United States is unlikely to agree to the lifting of sanctions or move towards agreements, for example, on arms control.
The report is a project of the Atlantic Council, the European Leadership Network (ELN), and RIAC

Post-Soviet Space
2016: In Search of Identity
PhD in History, Associate Professor, Department of Regional Studies and Foreign Policy, Russian State University for the Humanities, RIAC expert
Russia's actions in the post-Soviet space will take three main directions: Ukraine, Asia and the Caucasus. Moldova and Transnistria will also be in focus, but mostly in relation to the Ukrainian crisis.

Background factors play a key role in each of these vectors.
A surge of activity with regards to Ukraine will come after the New Year.
In the immediate future, however, we should expect a decline in activity from all parties due to the New Year celebrations.

The key components of the crisis – the status of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, the status of a united Ukraine (without Crimea, which is not part of the discussion), and the question of lifting the sanctions – are unlikely to be resolved in the coming year. A positive scenario can be achieved by freezing the conflict, if Ukraine, backed by the West, and Russia and the republics it supports, do not try to destabilize the situation. This would be a best-case scenario.

As for the worst-case scenario, we could see an attempt to test the limits of the situation towards the end of January, which has the potential to escalate the conflict to a new stage.

The Middle East remains another important background factor for the post-Soviet space. A successful resolution of the Syrian crisis, one that suits both Russia and the West, will influence the situation around Ukraine as well.

Regarding Russia's relations with Turkey, a confrontational scenario is highly likely, and the Turkish factor is crucial for the post-Soviet space.
I believe that the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh will be tested in the coming year. Previously, an arrangement existed between Russia and Turkey: Russia did not interfere in the affairs of the Middle East, while Turkey stayed out of the post-Soviet space. Now this arrangement is void.
I would say that Nagorno-Karabakh will be the most dangerous area in the Caucasus in the next year.

As for Russia–Georgia relations, a new status quo has been established. I do not see a serious commitment or a great desire on the part of Georgia to carry out any action in relation to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The end of 2015 saw the development of a very interesting situation regarding visa issues, when the European Union backed Georgia's bid for visa-free access. Prior to that moment, the European Union had avoided making concrete steps in that direction, other than making promises.

The Transnistria question will be connected with the Ukrainian crisis. If the Ukrainian crisis is frozen, the situation around Transnistria will be also relatively quiet.

Another important issue concerns the future of integration associations in the post-Soviet space. The CIS is a dying project. And it is not just that the Commonwealth was conceived as a tool of a "civilized divorce" after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The CIS made sense while the free trade agreement functioned, a visa-free space existed, university degrees were recognized and uniform tariffs remained in force. Since 2005, preferential tariffs started to be abolished and a gradual transition to market principles began. In 2000, visas for Georgia were introduced for the first time. Now we see that the free trade agreement with Ukraine will become a thing of the past, and the CIS will continue to die. In terms of content, the CIS has nothing to offer. It is an outdated product.
It is my belief that integration projects in the post-Soviet space, whether they are pro- or anti-Russian, will not be successful.
Countries in the region are just shaping their identities, honing them. They have not yet determined who their "friends" or "foes" are. Until this crucial issue is resolved, it is impossible to create a stable association. Integration will continue for tactical purposes only, such as lending or security issues.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), it seems to me, has very difficult prospects. Currently the CSTO consists of three interest groups: the Central Asian club that is of no interest to Belarus and Armenia; the Russia–Armenia club that does not interest Kazakhstan, which has its own agenda with Azerbaijan; and the Russia–Belarus club. Is the latter important to Tajikistan? Not in the slightest.

The escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh could prove to be dangerous as well, because it would cast doubt on all the integration projects in the post-Soviet space, demonstrating a lack of consolidation within the CSTO. However, this does not mean that integration projects will be dissolved. They may continue to exist, but their effectiveness will not exceed that of the CIS.

With the Eurasian Economic Union, I am afraid, the picture is similar in many respects. Russia is exposed to economic sanctions, and has its own history of confrontation with the West. However, this is a conflict in which the leadership of Belarus and Kazakhstan have no desire to be involved.

It seems that serious integration projects in the post-Soviet space will emerge only when each country in the region fully develops its national identity, solidifies the shape of its nation state, and frames its foreign policy.

Middle East
2016: The Middle East Vortex Is Growing Bigger
Professor at the Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia, MGIMO-University, RIAC expert
Making forecasts is an unrewarding business, especially when it comes to the world's most turbulent region. The Middle East vortex keeps growing bigger. The region will not be calm and peaceful any time soon. In this context, the year 2016 will have a lot in store.
Syria and Iraq — more precisely, what is left of them — will play the leading characters in the play.
Without an offensive land operation there is no crushing ISIS (the organization is banned in Russia), and we will likely see that quasi-state persist and even develop — it may withdraw from some areas only to grow stronger in others.

Afghanistan and Central Asia are the sweet spots for ISIS and its supporters. The Central Asian countries are facing a growing social and economic pressure, which may bring about destabilization. Moscow has been anxious about possible growing tension in the regions for at least five years. No one has doubts that Russia will have to interfere should negative scenarios unfold in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The ongoing Russian military operation in Syria irritates Bashar Assad's adversaries in neighboring countries. Efforts to overthrow Assad, including many years of supplying weapons and financing of jihadists, have not brought desired effect.
The Vienna process is going someplace they do not want it to go. The crashed Su-24 is a result of this irritation, and new provocations cannot be ruled out.
The Russia–U.S. co-sponsorship of political settlement in Syria is becoming more tangible. At the very end of 2015, the UN Security Council passed a resolution that will form the legal framework for crisis settlement, whose practical aspects remain quite ambiguous. Nevertheless, internal Syrian groups will have to fit into that framework one way or another, while interpreting it the way that suits them the most. Outsiders — and there can be no settlement without any —will have reasons to hope for prolonged foreign support. There is no undoing the fragmentation of the Syrian and Iraqi territories, which has de facto taken place, and channeling it the way they can benefit the most is the external players' obvious wish.

Turkey is getting increasingly aggressive. The Turkish administration can be expected to make most unconventional moves, even annex the territories adjacent to the Turkish border that are of political or military importance to Ankara. The process may take any form, but the substance remains the same.

The Kurds, who seemed among the very few beneficiaries of the Iraq–Syria spat, as they were looking to achieve their own statehood, are still far from their ultimate goal, at least if we assume they want to have the united Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurds flaunt their friendship with Ankara, including against Baghdad, turning a blind eye to Turkey's activities against their compatriots who live in Syria. The latter can count on having their own autonomous enclave in tomorrow's Syria, though; however, their status will hardly be determined in 2016.

The ISIS units that must be feeling increasing pressure from the West and the East (strikes by the Russian aerospace force and US-led coalition) can choose the South to be their new migration route.
Lebanon is probably threatened the most. The country lives in conditions of a permanent political crisis and is tempted to deliver a strike against Hezbollah. This temptation is shared by ISIS and the al-Nusra Front (which is also banned in Russia), and some other groups.
The fact that Lebanon, which has become home to the largest proportion of refugees and that looks a lot like Syria in terms of its ethnic and religious structure, has preserved relative stability over the past four years of the Syrian civil war is a miracle. Jordan and the Persian Gulf states should also have concerns about threats to their security.

The Palestine–Israel track has remained virtually unnoticeable for the past few years overshadowed by abovementioned regional conflicts. Attempts to resolve the conflict came to a deadlock again, which compromised the security status in the region, including skirmishes, shelling of the Palestinian territory, and attempts to organize a third intifada. So far, Israel has limited its involvement in the Syrian events to surgical strikes on the targets that presented potential danger, including when Palestinian groups could have taken hold of weapons. The possible deterioration of the situation in Lebanon and/or Jordan may cause Israel to increase its presence; however, we are running a risk of dealing with too many what-ifs.

Finally, the Egyptian administration will have to work very hard to tackle internal and external threats. The first stretch of the presidential tenure of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi can be considered quite successful, but many pressing problems still remain, including in Sinai, where the Russian passenger aircraft was brought down.

Overall, the Middle East will remain among the top news stories globally, as in previous years and decades. However, the local dynamics has moved exclusively into the military and political dimension. The economic track has become almost non-existent. The issues of refugees, rearrangement of borders, and expansion of conflict zones remain central and most important.

Central Asia
2016: Central Asia – Survival is the Name of the Game
Dr. of History, Senior Research Fellow at the RAS Institute for Oriental Studies, RIAC expert
In 2016, survival will be the top priority for all the Central Asian countries – and not only for them. Both for the states and for societies the priority will be to find ways to provide the minimum socioeconomic conditions. The possibilities and methods for doing this vary from country to country. Kazakhstan, for example, has opted for external borrowing: its parliament has already approved the draft law On Ratification of the Loan Agreement (Ordinary Operations) (Counter-Cyclical Development Support) between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Asian Development Bank to the tune of $1 billion to finance the budget deficit in 2016. At the same time, Kazakhstan has the resources to support a number of development programmes without falling into total stagnation

The situation in Uzbekistan is more or less tolerable, as the strong role of the state as regulator and a fairly diversified economy make it possible to redistribute resources. Tashkent's foreign policy does not tie foreign economic relations to any single power centre in international politics, which in turn offers new investment opportunities.

Turkmenistan is in dire straits. About 90 per cent of its export earnings come from gas exports, mainly to China. Apart from natural gas production and gas-related enterprises, the republic has no economy to speak of. All the other sectors are at an inadmissible minimum and the situation in the social sphere is downright critical. There are no anti-crisis programmes in sight.

The situation in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is not much better. In addition to the traditional sources of income – that is, remittances from labour migrants, gold mining in Kyrgyzstan and aluminium production in Tajikistan – no new sources are envisaged. World prices, be it for gold or aluminium, are in steady down trend. Kyrgyzstan hopes that joining the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc) will stimulate some sectors, for example, agriculture. But, as the past agricultural season has shown, the EurAsEc market is not all that simple. The lack of structural changes in Kyrgyzstan's economy, the poorly developed production sector, low profitability and competitiveness, and of course competition with Kazakhstan producers are all having an impact. Things are even worse in Tajikistan.
The coming year is unlikely to bring anything new to the standard set of contradictions. There are border and territorial issues, problems with water and energy and the use of cross-border communications.
There are still latent ethnic and religious problems, and I would not rule out the possibility that they may erupt into the open in some places.

As for EurAsEc enlargement, the only possible candidate is Tajikistan, but it is unlikely to join. But if this does happen, it would be a fairly expensive political PR exercise for Russia, and yet another source of foreign trade preferences in exchange for demonstrating loyalty for Tajikistan. EurAsEc is becoming less and less attractive because of excessive politicization and diminishing interest in economic integration, a process that was in evidence throughout the past year. EurAsEc is losing out in terms of information support. Real integration, of course, is impeded by the difficult times – the economic crisis, the sanctions against Russia, Russian sanctions against countries that are not EurAsEc members, but have bilateral relations and common interests with member countries. These sanctions have direct or indirect negative consequences for Kazakhstan, for example. There are no grounds for believing that there is resistance to integration in Kazakhstan, but there is growing caution among various social strata.

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are not even considering the issue of joining EurAsEc. Tajikistan has several motives for joining EurAsEc, just like Kyrgyzstan did in the past. One of the main motives is the liberalization of the rules governing how long labour migrants can stay in Russia. Kyrgyzstan's limited experience shows that there have not been very many changes, and the demand for this category of the labour force in Russia is tapering off. Kazakhstan, incidentally, is not even contemplating liberalizing the rules of the stay of Kyrgyzstan citizens.

I am afraid that interaction between EurAsEc and the Silk Road Economic Belt has never got off the ground. Each country in the region prefers bilateral relations with China, or rather, China prefers this pattern of relations. This applies to EurAsEc members and non-members.
China will relentlessly increase its dominance in the economy of each country in the region in various forms and at varying speeds.
Beijing's economic potential is, of course, affected by the economic crisis, but it is still ample to meet the demand that exists in the region. Nobody but China is prepared to be a donor for the region. During the year, the countries in the region were visited by Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The results were nothing but protocols and statements of intent or politicized and economically vague promises.

Uzbekistan takes a more cautious approach to interaction with China, while Kazakhstan's cooperation appears to be better planned. As for Kyrgyzstan (a EurAsEc member), as well as Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (non-EurAsEc members), their dependence on China is already going off scale. China accounts for more than half of Kyrgyzstan's foreign debt, which is 70 per cent of its GDP. The terms of the loans are tough enough to enable Beijing to dictate its will on many issues.
EurAsEc and the Silk Road Economic Belt are not compatible, however shocking it may sound.
Especially if you consider that the potentials of the leaders of these projects – Russia and China, respectively – are incommensurate. This is the key factor directly influencing the behaviour of EurAsEc members and all the other countries in the region.
Kazakh Experts on the Eurasian Economic Union
Aligned Competition or Aligned Stagnation?

2016: Fear of "Aliens"
Ekaterina Demintseva
Ph.D in History, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for the Management of Social Processes, Higher School of Economics, RIAC expert
In 2015, the attention of the European media was focused on the flow of refugees into Western Europe. That the flow went via the eastern part of the continent came as a surprise. The uncontrolled flow of migrants and the corrupt schemes for transporting them, which at times led to tragic consequences, were alarming. European governments were worried about the lack of coordination among countries and the different ways in which refugees from different states were treated.

It is hard to predict the situation several months from now. Much depends on the policy of European countries, the situation in the regions from which migrants come, and the circumstances on the Syrian borders where the majority of migrants settle. In my opinion, a lot will depend on the development of the situation in Turkey, where many Syrians have found refuge over the past two years. The exodus of refugees from strife-torn countries follows a simple formula. The first to leave are those who can afford it, those who have money. These refugees move to the most comfortable countries and regions. But the majority of refugees settle along the borders of their own states. They do not have the luxury of being able to choose where their new home will be.
Today, most of the poor refugees – the ones who need financial aid and support on the part of the host states – are in Turkey.
Will Turkey be able to cope with the refugees who have flooded the country? Will refugees be able to stay in the border areas where there are no jobs, dire living conditions and where their presence is resented by the local population? I think the issue of resolving the situation in the region, including with the support of the European Union, will now come to the fore.
Another mass inflow of refugees into European countries is unlikely.
It is too expensive for those who have stayed in Syria or neighbouring countries. Even illegal migration costs refugees a tidy sum of money, and the majority of them do not have those kinds of resources.

As for European states, it is possible that the refugees may circulate between countries in search of the best conditions. The countries have a chance to limit the stay of refugees in their territories without sealing their borders. For example, a state may offer permanent asylum only to those for whom it was the first country when entering the European Union. Or it can toughen the rules for accepting foreign citizens. Refugees will look for countries where they can acquire legal status, live and work.

Many of the refugees who have arrived in Europe belonged to what might have been called the Syrian middle class. Some have university degrees. Before the start of the war, most of these migrants had jobs and their children went to schools and universities. Before the war, these people had living conditions that were similar to those of Europeans.
The current xenophobia with regard to these refugees arises from the fear of the unknown, the fear of "the alien".
First, European countries already have experience of coexisting Muslim migrants. These migrants live in the suburbs of Paris, Berlin, Lille and Vienna. And many inhabitants of these neighbourhoods have never become integrated into European society. This is a major topic that merits serious discussion. However, in a nutshell, it can be described as follows: in the 20th century, most of the migrants who came from Northern and sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey did not even have a secondary education. They were mostly rural folk who were first exposed to the European way of life when they became immigrants. They had no wish to become integrated into society, and society had no wish to accept them. Their children also became outcasts. They had become citizens of European countries, but they lived in their own "no go" areas. They became "aliens" in their own state. European society today does not want a repeat of that situation. It is important to understand, however, that this flow of refugees also includes a different social category of people.

The second cause of the "the alien" fear is not knowing who the refugees are. Reports from Syria today often speak only about the war against Islamic State. The media reports the flows of refugees, but it is unknown who these people are and why they are heading for Europe. It is the fear of "the dangerous alien", or rather, an anonymous mass of "aliens". Today, it is important to tell us about these people, for us to get to know their history. It is important to give the European people a chance to understand who these people who seek refuge in their country really are. An example in point is the story of a boy whose father was tripped up by a journalist. The father of the boy who was running across the border turned out to be the Syrian football team coach. He was offered a job in Spain. Hopefully, there will be more cases like this.

2016: Where China will Clash with Russia
Alexander Gabuev
Senior associate and the chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, RIAC expert
Friction between China and Russia is possible in three areas. The first of these is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). A meeting of the heads of state in December 2015 led to a series of consultations on the creation of a free trade zone being set up. The situation is made all the more complicated by the fact that Russia, China and the Central Asian countries are pursuing very different goals. The flagging Russian economy, coupled with the fact that a number of private companies are heavily reliant on government contracts and the state budget, has meant that the country is intent on protecting its domestic market from strong competition, especially from such a competitive country as China. Russia has no intention of opening its markets, including as part of the SCO. This is why the Kremlin torpedoed the initiative for such a long time. Now Moscow has agreed to the establishment of a free trade area because it does not want to appear as if it is opposed to the idea of trade liberalization.
Russia wants to give the SCO additional weight, as Moscow sees it as acquiring geopolitical significance. China is interested in using the SCO to expand into new product markets.
Meanwhile, a number of countries in Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan, are hoping that a SCO free trade area would allow them to sell more of their traditional export goods, namely hydrocarbons, metals and, to a lesser extent, agricultural products.

The second possible source of tension is concerned with the creation of a "mega economic partnership" – the Eurasian Economic Union, the SCO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Vladimir Putin declared this in his message to the Federal Assembly. It is not clear at the moment what the initiative will include, only that it is supposed to be some kind of response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The details of the project are unknown, but judging from statements made by government officials, it is not about signing a contract on lowering duties on traded goods. In other words, it is not a free trade agreement in the classic sense of the term. Russia sees the partnership as an agreement to trade services, protect investments, simplify customs procedures and establish technical standards. However, trading services rather than goods is perhaps the most exotic decision in the history of global trade.
What is more, the initiative should combine very different economies: it is quite difficult to ensure cooperation between Belarus and Singapore, not to mention the fact that the majority of potential participants have not signed agreements on a free trade area.
This is why China is unlikely to actively support Russia here. Beijing will not necessarily torpedo the process, but it will certainly drag it out, because the initiative is still poorly understood and it is not clear what benefits can be derived from it.

Finally, the third area where Russia and China may find themselves at odds is the plan to connect the economies of the Silk Road Economic Belt project and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). A document has been signed to the effect, yet it remains unclear just how these two projects will be melded together.
A roadmap is set to be worked out by mid-2016.
It is clearly more beneficial for China to actively develop bilateral cooperation with individual EAEU countries, before Russia defines its position and starts controlling China's interaction with other countries, particularly those in Central Asia.

Beijing has already launched bilateral projects with individual EAEU member states (particularly Kazakhstan), much to Russia's displeasure. At the EAEU Summit in October, Moscow was able to coordinate the relations of the member states with China within the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt project.

In terms of politics, friction between Moscow and Beijing is unlikely. Russia and China follow very similar positions in the UN, unless the topic of the Ukrainian crisis is up for discussion, in which case China prefers to maintain its neutral stance on the matter. Beijing will tread carefully around any other conflict that might break out in the post-Soviet space. Should the situations in Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia or Abkhazia worsen, China will probably avoid taking any action, as it does not have any interests in the region.

Russia and China have identical positions on cybersecurity. Cooperation in this field will develop at an even faster pace in 2016.

In addition to Russia, China will work with Central Asian countries in 2016. This will include securing the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in to create an area of regional development where it can export its production overage in infrastructure facilities. China will attempt to actively cooperate with the ASEAN, partly because of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and attempts to increase trade in the region (all the more pertinent now given China's recent economic slowdown), and also because of the South China Sea.
China will take a cautious stance in its relations with the United States: 2016 is an election year in the United States and Taiwan.
The Taiwanese opposition, which is opposed to rapprochement in the mainland, has a real chance of winning. This would serve as another source of irritation in U.S.–China relations.

The role of regions as suppliers of raw materials has become less important, as the price of raw materials which themselves have become more readily available, has fallen. Nevertheless, China is still dependent on the import of raw materials. This is why relations with Latin America, Africa and the Persian Gulf states will stay as they are.

China will try and develop relations with a number of international organizations in the coming year, primarily with the African Union and Mercosur, as well as with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf in the Middle East. However, we cannot say at this stage whether a real breakthrough will be made, or whether China will even exert a significant amount of effort on developing these relations.
International conference materials
Russia and China: Towards A Bright Future?
Natalya Stapran, Alexander Gabuyev, Sergey Luzyanin, Won Dong Cho
Will the TPP rupture Asia Pacific

2016: The Arctic Cooperation
Doctor of Political Science, professor at Saint Petersburg state university, RIAC expert
Doctor of Political Science, professor at Saint Petersburg state university, RIAC expert
Russian strategy in the Arctic in 2016 will focus on ensuring sustained development of its Russian sector and improving social, economic and environmental conditions in the region. The Russian leadership – and society as a whole – is well aware that the future of this strategically important region hinges on making the Far North an attractive place to work and live for the indigenous and non-indigenous population. Therefore, 2016 will be a milestone year in terms of implementing Russia's strategy in the Arctic as defined in 2013, as well as the State Programme of the Russian Federation for the Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation until the Year 2020 (2014).
It is safe to say that in 2016 the issue of the continued use of the Northeast Passage as an internal Russian transport artery and an international route linking Europe with East Asia will again be at the focus of attention of experts and the general public.
In spite of the sceptical forecasts of some foreign analysts in connection with the economic sanctions against Russia and the undeveloped infrastructure of the Northeast Passage, local and international cargo traffic has been increasing along this route. Foreign shipping companies are interested in using this route because the climate in the Arctic continues to warm, prolonging the navigation period. Besides, Russia is actively developing the Northeast Passage's infrastructure, creating new search-and-rescue centres and improving navigation, communication and weather-monitoring facilities.

The growing availability of Arctic mineral and biological resources and the increased opportunities for using the Northeast Passage (and potentially the Northwest Passage controlled by Canada) will inevitably stimulate the activities of Arctic and subarctic states in the region, as well as those of external players (notably Germany and the United Kingdom, but also China, Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore which recently gained observer status at the Arctic Council).

Pressure from non-Arctic states will come in many forms, from challenging the special rights set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of coastal states to set national rules for carrying out economic and nature conservation activities and navigating in their exclusive economic zones (especially areas that are covered in ice for most of the year) to demands for upgrading their status at the Arctic Council.

The geopolitical situation in the Arctic will be marked by a combination of contradictory trends of rivalry and cooperation between the leading regional and external players.

On the one hand, the coastal Arctic states (the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia) will continue to strengthen their military infrastructure and expand their military presence in the region. These activities involve the creation of communication, observation, control and logistics systems; the adaptation of weapons systems and troops to operating in Arctic conditions; and regular exercises and patrolling of air, marine, submarine and land spaces.

It should be stressed, however, that these activities do not signify preparation for a military conflict in the region and are prompted by other – often pragmatic and routine –considerations. First and foremost, it is the wish to protect the economic and environmental interests of these countries against poaching, smuggling, illegal migration, environmental damage, etc. Accordingly, the most important areas of activity are monitoring transport links and the environment, developing search-and-rescue and emergency-response services, protecting "critical" economic facilities and tightening border control.

The armed forces and military infrastructure of the coastal states are seriously outdated and are unable to fulfil the above-mentioned functions without substantial modernization.
It should be noted that Russia will remain the most sensitive country with regard to military security in the Arctic because of the length of its northern borders and because the other four coastal states are members of NATO.
The policy of U.S.–Russia strategic containment in the Arctic will continue, especially considering that the United States is refusing to curtail its missile defence programme in Europe. In this regard, Russia has to modernize its strategic nuclear potential, including submarine-borne potential in the Far North (on the Kola Peninsula and in the arctic zone of the Kamchatka Peninsula).

As for the prospects of militarizing the Arctic – a big talking point in the media – this is possible only if relations between Russia and the West cool even further (for instance, if the Ukrainian crisis worsens). Then it would take the shape of involving NATO in Arctic politics, more active cooperation among Nordic countries under the NORDEFCO programme, drawing Finland and Sweden into NATO, deploying missile defence elements in the Baltic countries, Norway and the contiguous seas, and the mutual strengthening of the strategic deterrence forces of the United States and Russia.

However, such a development is not very likely because confrontation with Russia in the Arctic does not have much support in Europe. And such a policy makes little sense from the military point of view, because the risks will grow both for Russia and for the West. As for the United States, it is unlikely that the Obama Administration will become involved in yet another regional conflict during the 2016 presidential campaign, as it already has its hands full with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.
All the actors in the Arctic policy understand that there is no alternative to cooperation in the Arctic, and that attempts to increase tensions in the region, for example, in connection with the Ukrainian crisis, would be counter-productive for all concerned.
In addition, the United States holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015–2017 and will want to be seen as a successful leader of that highly regarded regional forum. Thus, Washington seeks Moscow's support for its idea of signing a global agreement on reducing ash and methane emissions to reduce the greenhouse effect and prevent further climate warming in the Arctic. It also needs Russia's support for other U.S.-led initiatives in the region: introducing environmentally friendly technologies in industry and transport; cleaning up polluted areas; assisting the indigenous peoples of the Far North; promoting scientific cooperation in the study of the Arctic, etc.

At the same time, we should keep in mind the ambivalent position of the United States with regard to the Arctic Council. On the one hand, it wants its chairmanship of the Arctic Council to be a success. On the other hand, however, it does not share the position of Russia (and some other members of the forum), which seeks to turn the Council into a fully-fledged international organization authorized to take binding decisions and include security issues within its competence. The reason for this is that the United States is afraid of finding itself in the minority within the Arctic Council on most Arctic issues. In this case, it would no longer have a free hand in the region and would have to comply with the organization's decisions. Therefore, a serious breakthrough in the Council's activity under the United States' chairmanship is unlikely.

Latin America
2016: Time for Pragmatic Approach
Academic Editor of Latin America Journal, RIAC expert
For Latin American states the year 2016 will become the year for making pragmatic decisions whose general tone will be in marked contrast with the "romantic" rhetoric of sovereignty and independence that dominated the region during the past decade buoyed up by the commodity boom in the period between 2000 and 2014.

The dramatic fall of world commodity prices coupled with the slowdown in the growth of world trade that took a toll of Latin American economies, will put a brake on the movement of Latin American countries toward overcoming economic and technological dependence, socio-economic problems and regional integration.

For its part Washington will take advantage of the situation to boost its influence in Latin America undermined in the 2000s and to vie for dominance in the region with such out-of-region actors as China and Russia which have substantially increased their presence there over the past years.

In this context the start, in 2015, of negotiations on restoring relations with Cuba – the symbol of anti-American resistance in Latin America – provided the Obama Administration with a key to the region because the blockade of the island had long developed from a bilateral problem into a source of tensions between the USA and Latin American countries. The negotiations are sure to continue and, although an immediate result is unlikely, they will lower the pitch of the confrontation between Washington and Latin America.

Internal problems are likely to weaken somewhat the integration groups such as the Common Market of Southern Cone Countries (Mercado Común del Sur, or Mercosur) and the left-radical Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples for Our America (Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de Nuestra América, ALBA), which adheres to the policy of protectionism. As a counterweight to them 2016 is expected to see the rise of the Pacific Alliance (Alianza del Pacífico, AP) comprising Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile which embrace the policy of attracting investments and the free market.

The trend of "pivot to the left" which Russia is watching closely owing to the contacts with Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador which have picked up in recent years is likely to weaken.
The wind of change in the region has brought to power in Argentina a pro-American opposition leader Mauricio Macri in November 2015 and delivered a convincing victory for the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de Unidad Democrática, MUD) in the Venezuelan parliamentary elections in early December of 2015.
At the same time Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Working People's Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) faced impeachment.

While in the case of Dilma Rousseff impeachment is not very likely, in Venezuela, considering the radical nature of the opposition there, the Bolivarian government has reason to be worried: in early 2016, when the first half of Nicolas Maduro's presidential mandate runs out the opposition-controlled National Assembly may initiate a referendum on confidence in the President. However, Nicolas Maduro has two factors going for him: one is the motley composition of MUD which may prevent it from working out a common platform and the other is the fact that with Venezuela experiencing a severe economic crisis this is a highly inauspicious time for the opposition to come to power. Therefore a more moderate outcome is probable, with the Chavez supporters conceding some political space to the opposition paving the way for a more open political process and real dialogue in which the opposition will look more convincing.

Against the background of left-wing Latin American regimes Bolivia under President Evo Morales presents an island of economic and political stability other countries in the region cannot boast, least of all the ALBA members. According to ECLAC forecasts, in 2016 Bolivia will be the fastest-growing South American economy with 4.5% annual growth (against 3.4% in Peru, 3% in Colombia, 2.1% in Chile, 0.8% in Argentina and 0.3% in Ecuador).

All this suggests that Russia, after a long period when there was practically no serious dialogue with Bolivia, will focus on that country, as witnessed by the recent agreements between Vladimir Putin and Evo Morales on cooperation in oil-and-gas and nuclear industries.

It's going to be OK
Let all you dreams come true and all ideas and plans become as real as they can be.
The slogan "Here we Go, Economy!" will not lose its relevance even in the age of politics."
Ivan Timofeev
RIAC Program Director
Produced by Daria Khaspekova, Maria Gurova, Irina Sorokina, Alexander Teslya
and Dmitriy Puminov
© 2015 Russian International Affairs Council, russiancouncil.ru