The 10-th anniversary meeting of the international discussion Club “Valdai” will take place in the Novgorod region from September 16-19. The conference is dedicated to the subject of “Diversity of Russia for the modern world.”
According to the honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Politics of the HSE and co-chairman of Club Valdai, Sergei Karaganov, over 200 experts, politicians, scholars and public figures from different countries (Russia, but also UK, France, Germany, US, China, Iran, Malaysia, Singapore and Arabian countries) are participating in the conference. They ”will discuss components of the national identity of the Russian Federation and will attempt to form a vision for Russia as a strong and successful country in the ever-changing highly competitive world”.
Member of the Consultative Council “Valdai” and research-director of the German-Russian Forum, Alexander Rahr said that ”this year a lot of attention to the search is focused on a new Russian identity, and how the West should actively participate in its formation”.
To the meeting also are attending members of the Russian opposition, politicians, newly elected mayors of Moscow and Yekaterinburg, Sergey Sobyanin and Evgeny Roizman, representatives of the major religious institutions, and of course, President Vladimir Putin, whose speech is scheduled on September 19 at the session plenary of Valdai Club members.
Of course, the Russian president comes to meeting with Valdai Club experts crowned with the laurels of what many analysts considered a real diplomatic success – postponement of military intervention in Syria, passing its stocks of chemical weapons under UN control and possible return to the negotiating table. This cumulated with less visible successes of BRICS meetings (in margin of G20) and SCO (Bishkek). All added to his much-discussed New York Times editorial. As recently I noted, Vladimir Putin is always in good shape when it comes to foreign policy, even if Russian nationalism is not too radically different from American exceptionalism attributed to leaders in Washington. Thorniest problems arise when it comes to the realities of his country. Because otherwise, I’m sure that the Kremlin leader’s talent as columnist, would have been promoted on the front page of Kommersant or on the headline of website of Echo Moscow with a letter addressed to the despairing Russians, despoiled to their savings from entire lifetime by the Amur floodwaters. Or one to the pensioners, or even to the teachers and parents dissatisfied with education reform. And examples could go on.
Right, the current problems of the Russian Federation are generated not only by the poor competence of a government and a Prime Minister – Dmitry Medvedev – increasingly less visible and with unspectacular results, but also by so debated diversity of contemporary Russia. Well, to talk about diversity and multiculturalism sounds good and adds high rank PR. Anywhere in the world! But, what will tell Vladimir Putin on Russia experts gathered in wonderful view of Lake Valdai?
Possible about the challenges posed by the multi-ethnicity of Russia, in the context of a revanchist nationalism (that just waiting for a favorable reason to show his fangs) and an increasingly visible divisions between center and regions? Or maybe he will talk about religious diversity, given being a more striking affirmation of the Orthodox Church as a player with political ambitions (especially at center) and an pronounced islamization in some regions, with all the consequences, cultural, social, which arising from here, and recrudescence of extremist rebels in the North Caucasus.
Also Russian President could successfully talk about the phenomenon of migration – annual, thousands of Russians leaving the Federation seeking welfare on other meridians of the planet, and annual thousands of immigrants from Central Asian countries direct their steps and hopes to Russian Federation, which entitle the expert Mikhail Delyagin point out that ”The future existence of the Russian nation is at stake. One gets the impression that the authorities are consistently, though perhaps unconsciously, replacing the indigenous population with people of other cultures. Officials find it much easier to deal with diaspora that consider bribery a normal business transaction”. Or after the anti-gay law passed this summer (and that has given enough ammunition to his complainants), Putin can to talk about diversity and the rights of sexual minorities in Russia (especially because the Russian president announced several days ago that is ready to meet with representatives of LGBT community, but they have not made any such offers yet).
I am sure that regardless about what will speak to the anniversary meeting of Valdai Club, Putin will be successful. It remains to be seen if the West can help to solve the inherent challenges due to the diversity of modern Russia. But, if you look the cover of the recent number of the publication Time, seems rather the opposite: that superpower status and pride of the U.S. was drowned in the waters of Neva and actually Russia – valued as a high ranking power of the new multipolar world – is determined to make its voice heard and contribute promptly and decisively to solve the major problems of the international community. Really it?!
PS: Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he would not take part in the 2018 presidential elections. “I am not going to run,” he said at a meeting with Valdai International Discussion Club members, where some of the experts suggested he could compete for the top post next time. In change, I think that he would accept appointment as prime minister.