On International Security in the Trend of Anti-Globalization

-- Address at the 6th World Peace Forum

Igor Ivanov , Former Foreign Minister of Russian Federation

It is my privilege and my pleasure to take part in the Sixth World Peace Forum here in Beijing. Over years, the Forum has evolved into a very prominent and distinguished location to discuss both Asian and global security matters. We should congratulate our hosts at the Tsinghua University for this remarkable accomplishment and wish them all possible success in future.

These days, a professional, candid and in-depth discussion of burning security problems is more important than ever before. The world is entering a very volatile period, and all of us should be interested in managing risks and in avoiding security related crises to the extent possible. The World Peace Forum offers an ideal opportunity for an innovative, out of the box thinking on how to deal with security challenges of today and tomorrow.

The topic of my presentation is International Security in the Trend of Anti-Globalization. Before approaching the anti-globalization trend, let me briefly approach the phenomenon of globalization itself.

Globalization is one of the most contradictory and ambiguous phenomena that characterize the world politics of the XXI century. Of course, globalization as such appeared much earlier, its roots lie deep in the past. However, it was not until fifteen – twenty years ago that the process of globalization became so visible, causing heated academic debates and no less passionate political battles.

It is understandable and natural that the process of globalization attracts so much attention all over the world. We all observe the growing unity of humankind in the economic, social, security and humanitarian spheres. Foreign trade and investments are actively developing. Almost all layers of society around the world instantly become more mobile. The internet has appeared in the lives of ordinary people, giving them unprecedented access to information and communications. The global digital revolution today affects each of us. At the same time, globalization affects security by merging local, regional and global security problems and shaping an entirely new global security agenda. For the first time in history, security becomes truly indivisible.

There never was, nor could there ever be, a consensus on globalization.

As Chairman of China Xi Jinping wisely remarked in his speech at the Davos Economic Forum in January of this year, “globalization was once viewed as the treasure cave found by Ali Baba in the Arabian Nights, but it has now become the Pandora’s Box in the eyes of many”.

While the first decade of the XXI century was marked by the assertion and widespread dissemination of the ideology and practice of globalism, the second decade has seen an equally resolute and all-pervasive anti-globalization counter-offensive. Anti-globalism has appeared in all kinds of countries, from Russia to Brazil, from the United States to China. What is more, this counter-offensive against globalism is being carried out on a wide front – in economics and politics, sociology and cultural anthropology, through art and through religion.

As for Russia, criticism of globalization runs much deeper than it does in many other countries.

Some believe that it would be preferable for Russia to follow a strategy of economic, financial, political and cultural isolationism in the near and longer term. This approachimplies that in order to reduce possible geopolitical and geo-economic risks, it is both possible and desirable to move towards a system of “self-reliance”.  This “self-reliance” would reduce the number of foreign actors in the Russian economy, limit political, educational, scientific and technical and even humanitarian contacts with the outside world, or at least with Russia’s opponents.

The slogan of the Russian International Affairs Council, which I represent, is “Together into a Global World”. This does not mean that in our work we ignore real problems that are associated with globalization. However, we proceed from the fact that these processes are historically inevitable and irreversible. The experience of different countries – from Singapore to Finland, from China to Chile – clearly indicates that national modernization projects can only be successful if they are accompanied by consistent and persistent efforts to integrate the country into the world economy and the international financial system, as well as global technological and educational cooperation. Despite all the potential risks and possible expenses associated with such integration, alternative development options in today’s global world simply do not exist.

Therefore, the task is not to “abolish” globalization, but rather to minimize the possible negative consequences of this phenomenon – both for Russia and for the rest of the world, as well as to make maximum use of new opportunities that may present themselves during the process of globalization.

Unfortunately, the current globalization process coincided in time with a profound restructuring of the international system at large that started after the end of the Cold War. This transformation turned out to be very painful and its final outcomes are not yet clear.
Western counties led by US considered themselves to be the winners in the Cold War and tried to impose on the rest of the world economic development and security models that served primarily their own interest

The results of these attempts are well known by now.

In the economic domain, despite a huge grown potential unleashed by globalization, the gap between the rich and the poor people, counties and regions over last 25 years acquired an unprecedented scale. The ever-growing inequality has become the main challenge to stability in the world. Former US President Barak Obama has to recognize this in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last year, when he stated: “The world, where 1% of the population owns the same amount of wealth as the rest 99%, can never be stable”.

The colossal gap in development between various counties and regions leads to negative consequences in state-to-state relations, creates fertile soil for international terrorism, extremism, illegal migration.

Unilateral actions by Western countries have grave consequences for the whole system of international security. The US policy under President George W.Bush is a graphic example of such an approach. The concept of the ‘unipolar world’, which the United States tried to impose on everybody else at any costs, implied that in the age of globalization the only superpower could define the rules of the game for the rest of the humanity, without taking any responsibility for its actions. The US leadership considered globalization as a global extension of American led institutions, American interests and American values. No wonder, that this model met a universal resistance and rejection,and was ultimately rejected by the United States itself.

Unfortunately, the repercussions of this policy are still with us. We encounter new and new so called “alternative” concepts of world order based on religious fundamentalism, aggressive nationalism and primitive populism. We see a gradual erosion of the international public law, paralysis of major international organizations, failure of many integration projects, the rise of mistrust and mutual suspicions and, in the end of the day – a decline of the global governance at large. Moreover, instead of focusing on common threats and challenges, many countries focus on confronting each other. 

Let me refer, as an example, to the situation in the Middle East today. All major players operating in the region – Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States, etc. – understand the danger of international terrorism and the need to fight against it. However, some of these players spend more energy and resources at competing with each other about influence in the region.

We cannot ignore some signals that we receive from the new US Administration. The slogan “America First!” can mean in reality that the United States will focus primarily on its immediate, short-term national interests, without paying much attention to global commons. If so, who is going to take care of the climate change, global trade, the future of the United Nations and other burning international problems? If the United States is no longer interested in managing globalization, other powers – big and small, Western and non-Western, developed and developing – should fill the vacuum left by Washington.

If this is the case, does it make any sense to continue talking about the US leadership in the world? Probably, not. What we see today, is an evident decline of the US authority, above all – the US moral authority even among the most loyal and committed American allies and partners. And moral authority is not a small thing in our world – it is directly related to political and security choices that nations make.

I am convinced that to counter resurgent nationalism, populism and xenophobia we need to come up with a new vision of globalization. This vision should take full account of the ‘dark side’ of globalization, should not ignore or discard many negative side effects of this fundamental economic, social and political transformation of our world. Still, we should focus on the ‘light in the end of the tunnel’ - on our common ability to overcome the current complications and to move ahead to a new system of global governance. This new system has to me more inclusive, more democratic than the one we had before; moreover, it has to be attractive to many various constituencies, which are now receptive to most archaic and disruptive ideas about the world. In a way, you can call this vision a new globalist ideology, but this ideology should be universal, not sectarian, it should be inclusive, not excusive, constructive, and not destructive.

Is it a realistic goal to set for ourselves? I think that the answer to this question is “yes”. In the contemporary world, one can find samples of the new approach to globalization and multilateral cooperation. I have in mind such projects as One Belt, One Road, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union, BRICS and many others. These are the building blocks of the new globalized world. With all their imperfections and deficiencies notwithstanding, they offer more democratic, inclusive and pragmatic models for managing globalization. Even if not all of them succeed, their combined experience is of exceptional importance for all of us.

Let me end with another quote from Chairman Xi Jinping keynote at the World Economic Forum. He spoke of the global economy, but the same approach, in my view, we should apply to global security: “World history shows that the road of human civilization has never been a smooth one, and that mankind has made progress by surmounting difficulties. No difficulty, however daunting, will stop mankind from advancing. When encountering difficulties, we should not complain about ourselves, blame others, lose confidence or run away from responsibilities. We should join hands and rise to the challenge. History is created by the brave. Let us boost confidence, take actions and march arm-in-arm toward a bright future”.

(24 June 2017, Beijing)