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1 – 3 ноября в Пекине состоялся юбилейный, десятый Пекинский Форум (Beijing Forum), организованный Пекинским университетом (Peking University) в партнерстве с Пекинской муниципальной комиссией по образованию (Beijing Municipal Commission of Education) и Корейским фондом продвинутых исследований (Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies). Пекинский Форум является одной из наиболее представительных площадок для экспертов в сфере гуманитарных и общественных наук, занимающихся проблематикой азиатско-тихоокеанского региона. Генеральный директор РСМД Андрей Кортунов, участвовавший в работе Форума, представил доклад на тему соотношения многосторонних институтов и международных режимов в отношениях между великими державами.

1 – 3 ноября в Пекине состоялся юбилейный, десятый Пекинский Форум (Beijing Forum), организованный Пекинским университетом (Peking University) в партнерстве с Пекинской муниципальной комиссией по образованию (Beijing Municipal Commission of Education) и Корейским фондом продвинутых исследований (Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies). Пекинский Форум является одной из наиболее представительных площадок для экспертов в сфере гуманитарных и общественных наук, занимающихся проблематикой азиатско-тихоокеанского региона.

В этом году общая тематика Форума была определена как «Гармония цивилизаций и процветание для всех: ретроспектива и перспектива».

В обсуждениях приняли участие более трехсот ученых из ведущих международных исследовательских центров, университетов, средства массовой информации и общественных организаций. Особое внимание участники форума уделили таким вопросам как формирование новой системы отношений между великими державами, глобализация высшего образования и науки, перспективы регионального сотрудничества и урегулирования региональных конфликтов в АТР, экологические проблемы в Азии и в мире, вопросы урбанизации и устойчивого развития, ресурсное обеспечение современной цивилизации.

Генеральный директор РСМД Андрей Кортунов, участвовавший в работе Форума, представил доклад на тему соотношения многосторонних институтов и международных режимов в отношениях между великими державами. Им также были проведены консультации с руководством Школы международных исследований Пекинского университета (School of International Studies, PKU) и Центра международных и стратегических исследований Университета (Center for International and Strategic Studies, PKU) по вопросам расширения сотрудничества РСМД и Пекинского университета.

Доклад «Institutions vs. Regimes in Great Power Relationships (the case of Russia)»

International institutions have become fashionable in Moscow. Not all of them, of course: within the Russian political mainstream today you are unlikely to find many committed champions of NATO or even of the European Union. Organizations like the Council of Europe and OSCE are often criticized for their alleged biases and unfair treatment of Russia. However, new constructions like BRICS, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the Eurasian Customs Union seem to be the flavor of the season. Not only they symbolize the new activism of the Russian foreign policy, but, more importantly, they are supposed to demonstrate a changing architecture of the international system – with new centers of regional and global power redesigning and restructuring what used to be the West centered world in the previous century.

According to this logic G20, for instance, definitely belongs to the cluster of “progressive” institutional innovations. Moscow pundits often compare G8 and G20, emphasizing evident advantages of the latter over the former. G8 is old, G20 is new. G8 is exclusive, G20 is inclusive. G8 is essentially Western, G20 is truly global. G8 is about general political declarations, G20 is about specific decisions on burning economic and financial issues. The recent G20 summit in St. Petersburg in September emphasized the importance that Russia attaches to this international institution. Not surprisingly that even bureaucratically G20 is placed by the Kremlin higher than G8: the Russian Sherpa to G8 happens to be deputy to the Russian Sherpa to G20.

It would be an oversimplification to argue that Russia always favors new intuitions over old ones. In certain cases, the Kremlin appears to be quite conservative in its attitudes to various initiatives aimed at a radical transformation of the international system. Probably the best example is the Russian position on UN reform plans. The shortcomings of the contemporary UN system are evident; the performance of the United Nations raises many questions; the reform plans are in plenty. Yet Russia, like other permanent members of the Security Council, is clearly not ready to lead a meaningful UN reform. In this particular case, the Russian policy favors status quo over change; any significant change in the UN system might be detrimental to Russia’s relative power within the organization or, at least, it might contain high risks and challenges that Moscow would prefer to avoid or to postpone.

Still, the emergence of new institutions is commonly regarded in Moscow as a generally positive phenomenon reflecting a historic shift of the contemporary international system to a more stable, more democratic and a more representative world order. The Russian foreign policy regards these new institutions as a priority, as an important opportunity to maintain and to consolidate the Russian great power status in the changing international environment. Indeed, Russia has been a driving force in launching and enhancing BRICS, it is the main pusher of the Eurasian integration projects; and SCO has initially emerged as a predominantly Russian idea shouldered by its Chinese partners. In 2012 the Kremlin did its best to reenergize the loose and ambiguous APEC system, and the year of 2013 has become the G20 year for the Russian foreign policy with the climax in St. Petersburg in fall. It is reasonable to suggest that the summit in fall was planned as a personal triumph of President Putin – the first international event of such a scale and importance after his reelection in March of 2012.

But how realistic are these expectations? Can new institutions become a true foundation for the Russian foreign policy? Is the emphasis on new organizations and alliances the right way to preserve the Russian stature and influence in the world? Are there potential downsides to this approach? The same questions can emerge before other great power leaders; most of them have to decide whether they need to invest their time, resources and political capital into constructing, launching and maintaining new international organizations as cornerstones of the new global order and stabilizing mechanisms in the great powers relationships.

In my view, there are at least a couple of caveats that great powers’ politicians should keep in mind while pursuing this strategy. First and foremost, new institutions are not coming as a replacement to old ones, but rather as a supplement. It would be a tragic mistake to believe, for instance, that Russia can arbitrarily choose between working with the European Union on the one hand, and consolidating the Eurasian economic space, on the other. The opposite is right: only through building an efficient and mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union Russia can become an attractive center of gravity for its immediate neighbors. Likewise, no attempts to empower the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on the territory of the Soviet Union can be regarded as an alternative to forging a stronger partnership with NATO. For many reasons, G20 cannot replace G8 – at least, in the foreseeable future, and BRICS cannot replace any of these organizations. The Russian comparative advantage is that it is the only country in the world that is a full member of all the three institutions; it would be shortsighted not use this unique position. The same is true for other “new” great powers – it would be at least premature to argue that for China, India or Brazil the XX century organizations are losing their importance.

Second, the future of new global and regional organizations is not clear. Many experts believe that BRICS is a tactical, not a strategic alliance; the development trajectories and foreign policy priorities of its member states are diverging rather than converging. And Russia is, no doubt, very different from the rest of the BRICS group; in terms of its social structure, demography, culture, etc. it is arguably closer to the European Union neighbors than to China, India, Brazil or South Africa. The future of G20 is not carved in stone either. Let us not forget that G20 emerged as an ad hoc institution to cope with the implications of the 2008 – 2009 global crisis. Yes, G20 is more representative and more democratic than G8, but this is exactly why it is often more difficult to reach a consensus within G20 than within G8. The fact is that G8 is based on common values, while G20 is not. This is not to say that G20 is doomed to fail, but, like any other alliance of nations it has its own institutional limitations and built-in deficiencies. If the major asset of international institutions happened to be their democratic nature and inclusiveness, WTO would be clearly superior to G20; however, the efficiency of WTO in liberalizing the global trade leaves a lot to be desired. In sum, political investments into new organizations contain risks and uncertainties, their sustainability depends on many independent variables that are hard to predict and even harder to control.

Third, in many of these new institutions Russia is not likely to become a deal maker; the odds are that it will play the role of a deal taker. If we look at the relative economic weight of participants to BRICS, the Chinese economic domination is staggering. In twenty or thirty years from now (if BRICS lasts for that long) India may become an economic rival to China, but Russia is unlikely to match these two economic giants even under the best possible circumstances. Nor can Russia play a central role within G20; in matters central to G20 (like the global financial architecture or trade liberalization) Russia is not a completely marginal player, but not the most important player either – its level of integration into the global financial and trade systems is not sufficient to set the rules of the game. To cut it short, the rise of new institutions does not necessarily mean the rise of Russia. But will these new institutions necessarily favor China or India? It cannot be taken for granted either. The last BRICS summit in South Africa shows that the overwhelming Chinese power might lead to implicit concerns of other member states; these concerns block important decisions (the “BRICS World Bank”) to the detriment of the overall efficiency of the multilateral organization.

Fourth, working through new institutions is not likely to be much easier than trying to find accommodation with old ones. New institutions may have certain advantages almost by default: they are not saturated with legacies of the previous century like NATO; they are not yet heavily bureaucratized like EU and UN, they do not carry the burden of wide spread public disappointments and frustrations like IMF. But expectations raised by new institutions are high, and various setbacks appear almost unavoidable. Besides, new institutions are no less demanding in terms of political will, consistency, attention to details, and clear understanding of what Russia really aspires to accomplish through these institutions. Unfortunately, the attention span of the Russian political establishment has been remarkably short. In 2012 everybody was engaged in the preparation of the APEC summit in Vladivostok; this year the name of the game is the G20 summit in St. Petersburg; next year the attention will shift to the BRICS summit in Sochi, etc. The lack of consistency, the absence of a clear mid-term and long-term strategy for each of the new institutions can inflate the accomplishments achieved even at the most successful summits and ministerials. This liability of the decision making mechanism is not an exclusive Russia’s feature; it is more or less characteristic of any foreign policy bureaucracy.

Fifth, one can indicate a certain contradiction between the Russian attraction to international organizations on the one hand and the Kremlin’s obsession with the principle of national sovereignty. A truly powerful and efficient international organization would inevitably require delegating a part of the national decision making in a number of sensitive areas of security or development. This is, by the way, the reason why CIS structures have never become functional: Russia has not been ready to delegate a part of its sovereignty to any supranational structure (even to a structure, where the Russian positions would be by definition much stronger than these of any other member state). The emphasis on national sovereignty is typical for most of emerging movers; nationalistic sentiments are not likely to disappear any time soon either in India or in China; even in ‘old’ great powers like the United States one can record remarkable resilience of traditional suspicions regarding international institutions and their alleged encroachment upon national sovereignty; these suspicions and prejudices against any form of the global governance set limits for making new international organizations more powerful and efficient.

Finally, let us keep in mind that in the end of the day international organizations – old and new alike – are only instruments in hands of their constituent member states. There are many other instruments, which can be used to handle matters of mutual concern or mutual interest. Many observers of contemporary global politics argue that we are facing what can be called an ‘institutional fatigue’, when the public no longer believes that a new organization will make a difference.

International organizations are regarded by many as self centered strongholds of bureaucrats, completely detached from their original constituencies and not motivated to approach real problems. Even if such views were completely unfair and politically loaded (which is not the case), they could not be ignored.

International institution building is hard to sell these days. One should think about alternative instruments to provide for more efficient and less expensive global governance.

Among these alternative instruments one can refer to international regimes that are more flexible, more adaptive and often less politically sensitive than high profile international organizations. It does not at all mean that the existing international organizations should be consigned to the dustbin - they still have important roles to play. But a globalized world – if ever we achieve a globalized world – will probably begin as a tight network of mutually complementary international regimes. This approach, based on a network of separate but interconnected regimes, can be applied to both regional and global security as well as global and regional development. There are plenty of specific agendas for such regimes. They include joint measures against terrorism, prevention of nuclear and missile proliferation, cyber-security, managing migration, the future of energy, water, food stock and the environmental situation in various parts of the world, poverty alleviation, countering drug trafficking and transnational crime - the list can go on and on.

Efforts to establish such regimes should probably be made simultaneously in many areas; a breakthrough in one area can help us to succeed in several related areas as well. Each of these regimes should be based on its own procedures, its own individual list of participants, its own geography and principles of working out a common approach. The role of individual nations in the various regimes will be different: the problems of nuclear energy or migration are not equally pressing for all countries. In a way, the G20, BRICS, SCO and other institutionalized mechanisms can be used as a cradle of numerous international regimes: these regimes might be initiated within the institutional framework and after having matured can acquire their own momentum, develop their own traditions and their identity separate from initial structures that incepted them.

Experience shows that the effectiveness of international regimes depends on a whole number of factors. First, such regimes appear only in areas where there are significant shared interests – and these interests must actually be perceived by the participants as shared. That perception is the key to the success of many sub-regional or regional formats of cooperation. The same applies to various specific international regimes that serve a clear function, such as the international regime of civil aviation safety. Such regimes would obviously be easier to build in technical, politically neutral areas, gradually moving on to more sensitive subjects. This constitutes a major difference with the G20 or G8 approaches – both institutions have to address areas where interests of participating players differ quite significantly.

Second, the efficiency of international regimes depends in many important ways on the involvement of the international expert community. Joint political declarations mean little unless they are built on a solid foundation of expert analysis and proposals. There needs to be continuous and very practical dialogue between the experts in every single area of cooperation. It would be no exaggeration to say that international regimes only become successful when the experts and specialists representing the member states start to speak the same language. Of course, most of ‘mature’ international institutions have their own expert component – like the so called T8 and T20 (T standing for think tanks), but T8 and T20 have never played a central role in shaping the G8 and G20 agendas respectfully. The role of the expert community in specific areas can and should be more proactive and more functional than it usually is in general matters of global governance saturated with political considerations.

Third, one clear advantage of regimes compared to a rigid institutional system is their openness and flexibility. We should make use of that advantage by inviting all the interested parties to join in. As a rule, regimes do not give their participants the right of veto; they do not make a clear distinction between the great powers and all the other nations. Indeed, in some cases they even include non-state actors which have a role to play in world politics. In other cases, they may involve the private sector to forge private – public partnerships in specific areas. Again, G8, G20, BRICS, etc. are experimenting with both civil society institutions and the private sector, but these experiments do not so far look like an organic component to the political level of the multilateral relationships. Besides, claiming to be more democratic and inclusive than old international institutions, newly born organizations still remains close shops of self selected leaders of the global economy; for example, it is hard to explain to the rest of the world why we have G20, but not G25 or G30.

Fourth, regimes are an effective instrument of reducing uncertainty in the relations between the key players. Trust and channels of communication established in one area reduce the risks and uncertainties in other areas. In that sense regimes are a more flexible but still very effective instrument of neutralizing the anarchic nature of international relations compared to institutions. Unlike G8 or G20, international regimes can generate a thick fabric of permanent contacts, consultations, information exchanges, best practices sharing, etc. without being chained to a limited number of high profile events like yearly summits.

Fifth – and this, perhaps, is the greatest difficulty – while recognizing the general principle that security and prosperity are indivisible in the XXI century, we must learn to isolate and shield the successful international regimes from problems, crises and conflicts in other areas. Our world has become interdependent - but we must not allow our cooperation to be limited to the lowest common denominator. We must not allow another crisis in our relations – and such crises might yet break out from time to time – to throw our cooperation in all areas back to square one. The practice of linking progress in one area to concessions in other unrelated areas must be abandoned. The principle of indivisibility must strengthen the overall level of regional and global security rather than undermining it.

To the romantics dreaming of a globalized world all these proposals will probably seem too uninspired and down-to-Earth. Yet it would be logical to prefer slow but steady progress on the long road towards resolving practical problems of international security and development to overly optimistic goals dictated by short-lived political considerations. Such goals would only freeze the whole process of building a new architecture of regional and global security, social and economic development. The regime-based path towards a new system of global governance will require persistence and many years of painstaking work. But in the end it will probably prove more productive than the ambitious plans of the past two decades which remain firmly on paper.

This does not mean, of course, that the existing or future institutionalized mechanisms have no value or that great powers should not invest their political capital and expert knowledge into turning G8, G20, BRICS, SCO, CIS, etc. development plans into a success story. However, international organizations – old ones and new alike - will become efficient only if it is complimented by consistent, steady and high precision efforts in launching and cultivating specific international regimes. One of the main functions of international organizations is to identify the most attractive opportunities for regime building, to create a positive political background for going after ‘low hanging fruits’ in global governance.

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