Evolution of the World Order and Russia’s Ideas About the Outside World

12:06 28.12.2023 • Alexey Bogaturov , Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Doctor of Science (Political Science) ; Olga Lebedeva , Professor, Department of Diplomacy, Moscow State Institute (University) of International Relations (MGIMO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Doctor of Science (History)

THE idea of the outside world and the role that Russia plays in it has undergone radical changes in Moscow’s official worldviews since 2014.

The degradation of the international security situation indicates a deep crisis in the existing world order, which was formed in the spirit of the US’s unipolar hegemony after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Attempts are being made to turn the UN, the only universal platform for reaching collective decisions on an inclusive and equal basis, into a tool of the collective West for pressuring “revisionist states.” The decline in the culture of global-level dialogue leads not only to the aggravation of military-political conflicts but also to the inability to effectively respond to new challenges and transnational threats.

Contrary to the predictions of the Western school, rulemaking involving “responsible players” and the promotion of a Western-centric system of international institutions did not lead to the “end of history.” New political and economic centers of power are defending their development paths, which involve rejecting the replication of the liberal-democratic model. The coalitions and partnerships created in the West fail to take into account the specifics of international interactions within the Asian-African system.

Against this backdrop, in Russia, China, India, and Japan, there is intensive absorption, rethinking, and rejection of Western models along with their practical application that has not always been successful in Asian regions. An Eastern principle is needed to solve Asian international relations problems and catch up with the current historical stage in Asian- African development.

Since 2010, there has been a need to incorporate new methods for addressing the challenges faced in the East into our scientific toolkit. Amitav Acharya, Barry Buzan, Paul Pillar, D. Shahi, and G. Atseone have examined the problems of India, China, Japan, South Korea, several

Southeast Asian states, and other eastern countries. Among Russian researchers of the East, Denis Degterev and Alexey Voskresensky1 stand out.

Studying the specifics of the Eastern development path will make it possible to determine the priorities of non-Western countries in the international arena in the context of the emergent multipolar world order. These characteristics, in turn, will help our readers gain a deeper understanding of Russia’s evolving views on the world outside its borders and the significance of the “pivot to the East” for Russian diplomacy.

Instead of universalizing Western concepts and theories, we should intensify work to develop a theory of international relations that considers the new realities of the emerging multipolar world order.

The East in Modern International Relations

THE abundance of natural resources in Asian countries has led to a fresh perspective on their economic potential and on the general trend toward increasing the role of Asian countries in the economic and military- political security of peace in the East.

The development paths of the West and the East differ due to climate specifics, historical and economic activities, as well as the influence of religions (Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Daoism) on the role of women in society. A subtle ambiguity was noted even in the meanings of “yes” and “no,” and the concepts of “rather no” and “rather yes” in Asian and North African usage, which may translate as “no” in the European-American paradigm. Hence the different interpretations of democracy as applied to economics and politics.

What factors have a particular influence on the foreign policy priorities of Asian and African partners? The answer to this question will provide insights into the prospects and priorities of strengthening Russia’s relations with its eastern partners.

In 2022, another crisis occurred in China’s relations with the US and Taiwan, sparked by the visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to the island of Taiwan. Such crises regularly occur in Sino- American relations. Where is the red line that, if crossed, would signify a shift from crisis to war in the eyes of both China and the US?

The question of the PRC’s position regarding the Ukrainian- Russian conflict is important from the perspective of the Democratic US administration in connection with Taiwan. The PRC understands this very well and tries to ignore this aspect of Washington’s position, causing irritation to American diplomats. China pursues policies independent of the US, defending its own priorities in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, the US, and Australia. Beijing observes and draws conclusions from political and military maneuvers aimed at China, including the US- Australia-UK Naval Agreement (AUKUS) on military cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, signed in September 2021.

At the present stage, China is strengthening its position not only as a regional center of power but also as a global player. High rates of economic development have contributed to China’s transformation into one of the world’s leading economies. China has become a leader in the technology race. In this regard, the need to transform the Western-centric Bretton Woods System, in which non-Western states are assigned a secondary role, has become more urgent.

In order to change the political and economic landscape of the Eurasian continent and strengthen China’s role in the global economy, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, which united two projects: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. In addition to transport corridors, financial institutions independent from the West are being created, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, and the SCO Bank. The Chinese initiative is focused not only on expanding sales markets but on transforming the global economic and financial order.

As for India, New Delhi maintains its customary approach of balanced development of relations with Asian countries. Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, the US, and Britain are cornerstone partners of Indian diplomacy. At the same time, India and Pakistan are de facto nuclear powers that have not received universal international recognition within the UN but have already obtained it at the SCO level.

In its relations with Russia, India is interested in developing energy cooperation and completing the construction of the Astara-Rasht- Qazvin railway section of the North-South Transport Corridor to create a transportation link to India and Pakistan. Russian-Azerbaijani-Iranian companies are responsible for this project. For India, it would be an important step in securing oil supplies in the near future and gaining independence from American, British, and French oil exporters. Additionally, for Pakistan, it would enhance coal imports. Jointly resolving this issue with the efforts of India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia would significantly increase trade freedom for both South Asian countries.

Visits by senior US officials to India indicate Washington’s desire to pause and replace Indo-Russian cooperation with Indo-American cooperation. Speaking in April 2023 at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to discuss the US State Department budget for the 2023 fiscal year, [US Secretary of State] Antony Blinken talked about a strategy for bringing the US closer to India in Asia,2 alluding to the trilateral US-Australian- British agreement on cooperation in building nuclear submarines (March 2023). 3

In Southeast Asia, ASEAN crucially contributes to the formation of the regional system. It is important to note the significance of this platform as a tool for overcoming disagreements and conflicts between states in the region. ASEAN’s achievement lies in bolstering the economic unity of the Southeast Asian states, as well as in its unique model of interstate communication and interaction. Despite territorial disputes, trade and economic disagreements, as well as ethnic and religious differences, the countries have managed to find a common denominator in the concept of the ASEAN Way. It is based on the observance of such principles of international law as noninterference in internal affairs and respect for national sovereignty. When making decisions, the principle of consensus, which reflects the sovereign equality of states, is recognized as the cornerstone element.

Today, ASEAN plays a central role in strengthening multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region aimed at both developing economic ties between states and maintaining peace and security. The ASEAN-centric model is reflected in the work of the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting with Partner States (ADMM+). Additionally, interaction with external partners is pursued within the framework of dialogue partnerships. Thus, ASEAN is a tool for consolidating member states by promoting regional development. At the same time, the association serves as a platform for promoting a unique vision of the global world order, with the ASEAN Way concept as its foundation.

In modern international relations, the Islamic world plays an independent role. It includes the Arab states of the Middle East, Turkey, and Iran (Islamic East), as well as the countries of North Africa (Islamic South), Central Asia (Islamic North), and South and Southeast Asia (Islamic Southeast) – members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The religious factor occupies a special place in shaping the foreign policy of these states; the natural resource potential also plays a role in the countries of the Islamic East. In addition, pan-Arab and pan-Turkic approaches influence the foreign policy strategy of certain states.

Religious, cultural, and traditional spiritual and moral values determine the culture of communication between states within the region and with external players. Due to the significant politicization of Islam, ideas about a just world order are also linked to the dogmas of the Koran. The dominance of Islamic ideas in the sociopolitical life of Muslim countries reduces their receptivity to the moral and ethical principles and political values of Western-style liberal democracy. In particular, the significance of collective principles and willingness for self-sacrifice stand in opposition to the ideals of individualism.

In the context of security, the establishment of a comprehensive collective security system in the Persian Gulf region and the subsequent expansion of this system to the entire Middle East, creating a zone free from nuclear weapons, can be viewed as the main vector of regional development. The implementation of both tasks is fraught with certain difficulties. In the first case, the high level of conflict in the region is the problem. Numerous sources of tension persist, including the Palestinian- Israeli and Indo-Pakistani conflicts, as well as the crises in Afghanistan,

Sudan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The transnational threat of terrorism also continues to escalate. In the second case, the difficulties are associated with the presumed possession of nuclear weapons both by Israel (the main antagonist of the Arab world) and by Iran (an active participant in the Shia-Sunni confrontation).

The economy plays an important role in shaping the foreign policy agenda of states in the Islamic East. [Their] control over about two- thirds of the world’s high-quality oil and gas reserves, along with the low cost of their production, necessitates the development of logistics and transport corridors to support energy exports. Cooperation within OPEC is focused on ensuring stable oil prices and the predictable functioning of the oil market. Consequently, energy-exporting states are becoming global players in worldwide economic, monetary, and financial processes.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its five observers serve as a mechanism for strengthening Islamic solidarity. The OIC is an example of a platform for cooperation among countries with radically different approaches to many foreign policy issues. Despite these significant differences, several important agreements and conventions have been adopted, including the General Agreement on Economic, Technical, and Commercial Cooperation (Tripoli, 1977); the Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (Cairo, 1990); the Convention on Combating International Terrorism (Burkina Faso, 1999); and the Charter on Food Security (Astana, 2013); among others.

Africa is another region with an increasing role on the international stage. The continent is characterized by internal political instability and interstate conflicts of varying intensity. Thus, African countries are interested in enhancing military-technical cooperation with foreign countries and developing tools for preventive diplomacy.

The continent’s potential markets and vast reserves of natural resources enhance its importance as a significant economic partner. The fundamental elements of international cooperation include preventing the revival of colonial practices and ensuring independence and national sovereignty in developing economic ties. Therefore, special attention is paid to the diversification of external contacts that would contribute to Africa’s transformation into a self-sufficient region.

The Non-Western Vector of Russian Diplomacy

FROM 1991 to the present day, Russian diplomacy has undergone significant changes, affecting both the mechanism of strategic planning and the hierarchy of global and regional priorities in Russia’s foreign policy. In the 1990s, the primary task of the Russian Federation was to strengthen the liberal-democratic foundations of development within the country, relying on the experience of Western states. The term “national interests” was not used in official discourse, and the foreign policy doctrine of 1993 did not present a system of priority areas for Russia’s international activities.

A change in foreign policy guidelines began to occur after Yevgeny Primakov became Russia’s foreign minister in 1996, and then under his successors Igor Ivanov and Sergey Lavrov. The emphasis was placed on the need to diversify the country’s foreign policy in consideration of the national interests of the Russian Federation. Later, these ideas were enshrined in the Foreign Policy Concept of 2000. Until 2016, strategic planning of Russian diplomacy was carried out on the basis of consolidating goals, objectives, and the resulting global and regional priorities. In the updated Foreign Policy Doctrine of 2023, a new component appeared – a system of national interests that reflects Russia’s ideas about long-term global development trends.4

By the mid-2000s, the failure of the unipolar world order had become evident. Attempts at unilateral domination by the US found no support even among its NATO allies. A telling example in this regard is the special position of Germany and France during the campaign in Iraq, which began in 2003. This period saw the strengthening of new political and economic centers of power, including Russia, China, India, Japan, Southeast Asian states, and so on. The shifting balance of power on the international stage heightened the relevance of the following trends:

  • the strengthening of the role of the UN as the sole universal mechanism for regulating international relations based on the collective consensus of its member states
  • the transformation of the economic and financial world order currently oriented toward protecting Western interests (primarily the US)
  • the scientific and conceptual reevaluation of approaches to solving global and regional issues while paying attention to the specific needs of affected states.

Today, the effectiveness of the UN is being challenged as the organization’s decision-making process is coming under pressure from states that prefer to replace universal multilateral institutions with a “rules- based order.” As Lavrov noted, there is an evident desire to “privatize the UN Secretariat” and introduce into its work a “neoliberal discourse that ignores the cultural and civilizational diversity of the modern world.”5 The work of the UN Security Council disregards the new realities, since the states of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are not adequately represented. The veto power of permanent members of the UN Security Council, which certain states find inconvenient, is being replaced by “rules of responsible players.”6 The pursuit of global dominance based on neocolonial methods

is met with disapproval by the global majority. Countries that refuse to acknowledge the shift toward a multipolar world employ coercive measures (sanctions) against “disloyal states.” These measures contradict the principles of free competition and pose a threat to the economic sovereignty of states. The dependence of national economies on currency and financial institutions controlled by the US and their allies continues to increase.

Global economic development trends have dominated the world, but since 2014, Moscow’s policy has shifted toward Eastern, Eurasian, Latin American, or African political development trends. Consequently, there has been a reorientation of relations from the West to the East over the past 10 years.

On one hand, Moscow is constrained by its self-conception as part of Europe; on the other hand, the objective presence of natural reserves and the location of a significant part of the country in Asia are increasingly leading it to commit to joint economic development with eastern regions of the world.

In this context, the agenda of cooperation between the Russian Federation and friendly countries – new centers of world politics – is expanding to include issues related to adapting the world economy to modern realities. The transformation of the economic and financial world order involves creating institutions and implementing initiatives aimed at improving infrastructure and reducing the dominance of the US dollar in global trade.

During interaction in bilateral and multilateral formats, priority attention is given to the development of international payment infrastructure.

Leaders in the number of transactions in national currencies include the Republic of Belarus and the Central Asian republics – members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).7 The creation of a special currency for mutual settlements is being discussed within BRICS, as well as by Turkey, Egypt, and Syria.

Russia’s new perception of the external world is reflected in the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. This integration project, first presented by Putin in 2015 in his Message to the Federal Assembly of the Federation Council, aims to strengthen the foundations of a multipolar world through diversified interaction with the support of the EAEU, SCO, and ASEAN.8 The primary task is to enhance the infrastructural interconnectedness of the continent, including through the alignment of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative and the EAEU. This is an open initiative that involves intensifying dialogue with various international organizations in Asia and Europe, as well as with individual states in the region.

A peculiarity of Russia’s modern perception of the world is the importance of cultural and civilizational factors. Priority attention is given to safeguarding the traditional spiritual and moral values that form the foundation of statehood. Preservation and popularization of cultural and historical heritage, and the preservation of the traditions and foundations of Russian society are viewed as tools for creating a favorable image of the Russian Federation abroad. At the same time, Russia’s approach is based on respect for the political, economic, and cultural identity of other states. This factor allows us to win over friendly countries, creating opportunities for the mutual enrichment of our cultures.

The trends and tendencies in the evolution of Russia’s priorities and positions in the international arena, as outlined above, were enshrined in the basic strategic foreign policy planning document of the Russian Federation. It is important that efforts undertaken at the official level, including diplomatic efforts, are accompanied by the development of the domestic school of international relations. Just as there is no single model of political development of a state, it is impossible to develop a formula that would reflect the essence of a particular global or regional process. Instead of universalizing Western concepts and theories, we should intensify work to develop a theory of international relations that considers the new realities of the emerging multipolar world order.



1 Degterev D.A., Ramich M.S., Tsvyk A.V. SShA-KNR: “‘vlastnyy tranzit’ i kontury ‘konfliktnoy bipolyarnosti.’ ” Vestnik Rossiyskogo universiteta druzhby narodov. Series: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, No. 2 (2021), pp. 210-231; Degterev D.A., Butorov A.S. “Mezhdunarodnyy status stran postsovetskogo prostranstva: traditsionnyy i relyativnyy podkhody v ierarkhii,” RAMI. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, No. 4 (2018); Degterev D.A., Khudaikulova A.V. “Balans sil v mezhdunarodno-politicheskoy nauke: teoreticheskiye kontseptsii i prikladnoy analiz.” RAMI. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, No. 1 (2018); Non- Western International Relations Theory: Perspectives on and beyond Asia. A. Acharya, Buzan. L. Eds.; N.Y.: Routledge-Taylor and Francis Group, 2010; Voskressensky A.D. Non-Western Theories of International Relations: Conceptualizing World Regional Studies, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

2 Karpov A., Medvedeva A. “V poiske soyuznikov: kak SShA planiruyut stat’ klyuchevym partnerom Indii vmesto Rossii.” April 28, 2022, https://russian.rt.com/world/article/996436- ssha-indiya-rossiya-partnyor (Retrieved on July 30, 2023).

3 The White House. FACT SHEET: Trilateral Australia-UK-US Partnership on Nuclear- Powered Submarines. March 13, 2023, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/03/13/fact-sheet-trilateral-australia-uk-us-partnership-on- nuclear-powered-submarines (Retrieved on July 30, 2023).

4 Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept, 2023, https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/official_documents/1860586 (Retrieved on July 30, 2023).

5 Speech by Foreign Minister S.V. Lavrov at the 77th UN General Assembly session. September 24, 2022. “V proshloye ukhodit odnopolyarnaya model mirovogo razvitiya,” https://news.un.org/ru/story/2022/09/1432361 (Retrieved on July 30, 2023).

6 Lebedeva O.V. “Priorities of Modern Russian Diplomacy: Between the UN and a ‘Rules- Based Order,’ ” International Affairs, Vol. 69, No. 3 (2023), pp. 8-17

7 Kyrgyzstan has completely switched to payments in national currencies with Russia.

8 “O rossiyskoy initsiative Bolshogo yevraziyskogo partnerstva.” https://www.mid.ru/ru/activity/coordinating_and_advisory_body/head_of_subjects_council/materialy-o- vypolnenii-rekomendacij-zasedanij-sgs/xxxvi-zasedanie-sgs/1767070 (Retrieved on July 30, 2023).


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