Russia is a great power, and its determination to remain one is well understood by the countries that border it. But Russia’s interests also connect with the challenges and problems of an often disordered world. A brief glance at Khabarovsk, Belarus and the South Caucasus is reminder enough that Russia also has problems of its own.
We invited James Sherr OBE, Senior Fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS and Professor Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow to discuss these issues in the third session of the Lennart Meri Conference Talks, entitled ‘Russia’s Place in the Evolving International Disorder’.
James Sherr OBE:
- Russia has habitually learned to incorporate the history and the identities of other people into its own. And this is the issue. Because the issue, as understood, in Ukraine and in many other places is, ‘you are denying our identity’, and this is a far deeper, more existential type of threat, than simply geopolitically motivated imperialism.
- Russia’s fundamental attitude towards the West has not changed. There is no narrowing of the values’ gap taking place.
- This also becomes part of a bigger Russian strategy of decoupling Turkey not only from the West but from NATO and turning its membership of NATO into something purely pro forma.
Professor Dmitry Suslov:
- Russia is becoming more tolerant towards more proactive role of the non-Western players in the former USSR, including China and Turkey.
- Very few people among Russian officials consider the Ukraine battle to be lost. No, they think that the situation might change in the middle and longer-term prospect.
- Turkey would have engaged [in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict] much greater if Russia had helped Armenia. This is precisely what Turkey wanted. Turkey wanted 2 + 2. Russia and Armenia on the one hand, Turkey, and Azerbaijan on the other hand. That would have institutionalized Turkey’s presence in the South Caucasus. And that would have put Turkey at the same level to Russia. That was unacceptable. It was much more important for Russia to avoid that scenario. And we succeeded in avoiding that scenario. And the current resolution makes Russia the central player in the South Caucasus, not Turkey.
- Russia needs dialogues with Europe, preservation of Russia’s dialogue with France, with, Italy, with Austria, are regarded as very important dimensions of Russian policy towards Europe.
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