4 April the Center for International Studies of the Faculty of International Relations of the Belarusian State University held an international round table on innovations in international studies “Greater Eurasia: Challenges and Opportunities”.
The event was attended by international scientists from Belarus, Russia, Poland, Germany, representatives of the academic and expert communities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Belarus, the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in the Republic of Belarus, the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the Republic of Belarus, the media of Belarus.
The following reports were held within the framework of the round table program.
Vladislav Valerievich Froltsov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor of the Department of International Relations of the Faculty of International Relations of BSU, in his report “Formation of Greater Eurasia at the beginning of the 21st century: geopolitical challenges and geo-economic background” noted the following.
The emergence and actualization of the “Greater Eurasia” concept as a common economic and humanitarian space that is able to unite states with different political systems and economic models, historical and cultural traditions, is largely determined by the large-scale geopolitical challenges that these countries faced in the early 21st century. Among them, first of all, it is necessary to indicate an increasingly prominent manifestation of unilateralism in the foreign policy of the leading world powers, which leads to ignoring the interests of allies and partners and making decisions contrary to the basic principles of modern international law. Not less significant challenges were disintegration processes, which affected even stable and developed states, whose boundaries have not changed for centuries, as well as the spread of negative stereotypes about foreign policy interests and goals of other states, which has become comprehensive and global due to the development of mass media.
At the same time, important geo-economic factors, such as the need to move from a commodity to an innovative type of economy, relevant for most Eurasian countries, the relevance of new international transport corridors and means of communication, which can significantly speed up and reduce the price of interaction between leading centers of world trade in Europe and East Asia, influencethe rapprochement of the positions of the Eurasian statestoday.
Equal cultural dialogue, designed to overcome old stereotypes and misconceptions, is also of particular importance.
The Republic of Belarus, as an active participant in the Eurasian integration process, aims to bring a significant contribution to countering current challenges and is ready to share with the allies and partners all the tangible benefits that the implementation of the most promising trade, economic, infrastructure and humanitarian projects in the Greater Eurasia space will give.
Petr Sergeevich Petrovsky, Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, expert of the Regional public organization “Belaya Rus”, co-chairman of the Belarusian editorial board of the analytical portal “Eurasia. The expert”, in his presentation“Theoretical and methodological approaches of China, Russia and Turkey to the Eurasian integration processes”revealed the essence of the discussions around the integration models in Greater Eurasia among the academic community of three key countries: China, Russia and Turkey. The main feature of the discussions in three countries is the consideration of one’s own country as the dominant center of power and attraction in the Eurasian space.
It should be recognized that in China, Russia and Turkey, the task was to methodologically and valuably overcome self-isolation. This task has been completed. An example of the views of Zhang Wenmu, Ruan Wei, Vinokurov, Karaganov, Lisovolik, D. Perincek and A. Davotoglu illustrated the peculiarities of the discussions around Greater Eurasia in each of the countries. It is noted that, despite the awareness of the need for transcontinental integration, each state is infected with a complex of its own exclusiveness in its implementation. There is no understanding of the need for supranational integration tasks. There is no question of developing mechanisms for collective decision-making between the main actors of Greater Eurasia. All this testifies to the low level of elaboration of the ideas of integration in Greater Eurasia.
Sergey Anatolievich Kizima, Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor, Head of the Department of International Relations at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Belarus, stressed in his speech “Global Governance: the role of China as an ally of Belarus” that the growth of China’s power in the international arena leads to a discussion of the situation to what extent will it participate in global governance? From the point of view of the author, China will soon become the leader, replacing the United States in this role. Although many representatives of elites are not eager for this role, considering the development of China’s economy as paramount, China will be forced to take this step against the background of constant aggressive statements and actions by the United States against Chinese national interests. The growth of China’s power will have a positive effect on Belarus as its closest ally.
Arseny Vladimirovich Sivitsky, Master of Philosophy, Director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, in his report “Greater Eurasia: Interference (Convergence) or Divergence of Integrations?” settled on the following provisions.
Greater Eurasia is a concept that originated in the Russian political discourse in 2015–2016. in the context of the geopolitical confrontation of Russia with the collective West – on the one hand, and on the other – a turn to the east in Russian foreign policy (primarily understood as deepening the strategic partnership with China), which in the end did not meet the expectations of Russian elites. Aware of the asymmetrical nature of the hypothetical Russian-Chinese alliance, the Russian elites put forward the idea of creating the Greater Eurasia, or the Greater Eurasian Partnership, meaning under it the convergenceof various integration initiatives in the Eurasian space (EAEU, CIS, Belt and road, SCO) in the future open to EU accessions and any other interested parties. However, the analysis of these integration initiatives shows their multidirectional nature, which allows us to speak not about their convergence, but on the contrary – about divergence. This tendency was particularly evident in 2012–2013, when China was unable to implement a number of integration initiatives at the SCO site (including a free trade zone with the countries of Central Asia, the creation of the SCO Development Bank, the opening of the SCO special account, etc.) due to the blocking position of Russia, which at that time had already launched its Eurasian integration project (CU, CES, EAEU). In response, in 2013, China launched its own initiative, the Silk Road Economic Belt (later, One Belt – One Road), aimed at building cooperation with partner countries on a bilateral basis. This divergence manifested itself not only in Central Asia in 2012–2013, but also in Eastern Europe in 2014 (the Russian-Ukrainian conflict), where three integration initiatives compete today: the Eurasian (EAEU) and the European (Eastern Partnership) and Chinese (“Belt and road”).
Artyom Shraibman, political observer of TUT.BY, in his speech “The current fork in the Russian-Belarusian integration: causes and scenarios for overcoming” concluded that Belarus and Russia came to a historically important point in the audit of bilateral integration. The reasons for this lie both in the weakened Russian economy, its greater inclination to rely only on its capabilities, to reduce dependence on others, including allies, and to more actively distancing Minsk from a number of Moscow’s foreign policy decisions in recent years. Today’s revision will not end with the immediate collapse of the union project or its accelerated implementation. Most likely, we are moving along the rut of slow suverinization, the separation of the two countries from each other, which will be accompanied by ups and downs in an atmosphere of dialogue, possible emotional disputes. However, the vector of movement is obvious – two independent countries are gradually getting rid of those vestiges of the post-Soviet relationship matrix, which are less compatible with their sovereignty.
The report of Rosa Muratovna Turarbekova, candidate of historical sciences, senior lecturer of the Department of International Relations of the Faculty of International Relations of BSU, Director of the Center for Eurasian and European Studies, “Institutionalization of the EAEU: Belarusian-Russian disputes” refers to the genesis and evolution of the EAEU, which take place in difficult external economic and political conditions. Emphasis is placed on internal challenges that also worsen the climate of relations both within the Union and at the bilateral level.
A significant part of the report is devoted to the dispute that broke out at the end of 2018 – the beginning of 2019. The chronology of public disputes was considered in detail: from the discussion on December 6, 2018 to the sharp interview of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Belarus M. Babich. The conclusions reached by the speaker are as follows: there is a problem of competition in two formats – the EAEU and the Union State. Relations between Belarus and Russia can be considered at several levels. At the bilateral level of the Union State and the level of the EAEU. The lack of clear boundaries between formats makes it difficult to analyze disputes only at one level, but it is obvious that a growing number of issues, areas, and competencies are becoming the subject of controversy. At the EAEU level, such a dispute may give impulse to further institutionalization, including the formal one. On the other hand, excessive tension within one level motivates to move to another in order to resolve disputes.
Vladimir Anatolievich Olenchenko, candidate of historical sciences, senior researcher at the Center for European Studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted in his report “The Role of the Digital Agenda in the Integration Processes in Eurasia” that the Greater Eurasia project is multifaceted and requires considerable effort for its implementation. At this stage, the key tool, applicable in almost all areas of the project, is the digital agenda. It refers to the digital transformation of the economy and social life. The digitization of the processes taking place in Greater Eurasia opens up opportunities for their deeper understanding, optimization and making timely decisions. The source of digitalization can and should be the EAEU. Its constituent countries have already engaged in digital transformation at the national level. Now the development and launching of a mechanism for their joint actions is becoming topical. The digital agenda of the EAEU will be one of the driving forces behind the unification processes in Greater Eurasia.
Political analyst Alexander Pavlovich Shpakovsky, director of the Information and educational institution “Actual Concept”, member of the Scientific Expert Group under the State Secretariat of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus, in the report “Eurasian Integration and Relations with the European Union in the Foreign Policy System of the Republic of Belarus” focused on the need to study the conceptual foundationsof Belarusian foreign policy, in particular the multi-vector principle, as well as the statements of the top state officials about the role of Minsk in the integration processes. The peculiarity of the foreign policy of Belarus is that domestic diplomacy rejects the choice of “either – or”, that is, it offers its partners relations not “against”, but “for the sake of”, which allows to establish close ties with states that are mutually unfriendly or openly hostile each other, such as India and Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia, Israel and the countries of the Arab world, etc.
At the same time, the Belarusian multi-vector policy in foreign policy is not situational balancing between the centers of power, but is a strict system of partnership relations of Belarus with different states and supranational blocs, where the Russian Federation is the most important strategic ally of Minsk.
At the present stage, the Union State of Russia and Belarus represents the most deeply developed integration format in the post-Soviet space, where, despite some disproportion of the union, Minsk enjoys greater independence in its relations with Moscow in comparison with most NATO countries in their relations with the United States. Further development of the Union State is possible through economic rapprochement, ensuring equal conditions for business entities, the implementation of a coherent agro-industrial policy. Otherwise, all proposals for deep integration in the form of a political superstructure, the allied authorities will be a bureaucratic fiction, devoid of practical meaning.
The Center for International Studies thanks the speakers for interesting informative presentations and all the participants in the round table for their active discussion.