ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.16

This Thursday ROAR offers a variety of articles published recently in the op/ed section of the VREMYA NOVOSTEI daily newspaper.

Nikolay Khorunzhiy writes in an article titled ‘The world’s gone mad: the US as the leader of nuclear disarmament?’ Seven years ago, when he offered an article saying that the US may some day in the near future become the leader and locomotive of nuclear disarmament, the article was rejected. The point of the article was that the US has developed high-precision conventional weapons to the extent that they can replace nukes as the main strategic tool of war and politics.

Today, when the fantasy of seven years ago has come completely true, many analysts say that total nuclear disarmament and destruction of nuclear weapons as a containment factor will lower the barrier for conventional arms usage, which will end in the US practically owning the world in the military sense.

The author says that only if nuclear disarmament will be accompanied by significant reductions in conventional, especially high-precision weapons, that process may be truly beneficial for the world.

Natalia Petrova reports on experts’ opinions on media wars expressed at the conference ‘The revival of media wars and the transformation of methods used in them’, which has been held recently in Moscow. The experts stated that media wars are back on the Russian informational stage, but they are waged with more sophisticated and less dirty means than in the 1990s.

The author says the experts agree that there are hot topics that simply come into the Russian media space from abroad, like the Somali pirates, and stay there, not because someone is paying for it, but because of deep human interest in such topics. Nonetheless, there are other topics that are definitely held in place for weeks by hefty payments, and those appear mostly in the sector of domestic politics – no matter where the sponsorship comes from, even if it originates abroad (which, as experts say, is often the case).

The writer says that the experts named several media campaigns related to local elections and the conduct of regional authorities – campaigns that were about major business deals or government taxation. Some of these campaigns were successful, some not. The experts’ opinions divided concerning the role media wars play in modern Russian politics, some of which include:

- The Head of the ‘St .Petersburg Politics Foundation’ Mikhail Vinogradov says that with nearly everyone doubting that Russia has any politics at the moment, the media wars actually play a positive role promoting diversity of opinions and peaceful competition of ideas, which are elements of a civilized political struggle.

- Dmitry Orlov of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications says that the media wars also bear a huge negative potential. They deconsolidate the elites, both locally and on the national level. It sharpens the arguments, but complicates the process of reaching compromise and agreements. He says media wars are more destructive than useful for the promotion of democracy.

The author also says the experts conclude that the media wars of today in comparison to those of a decade ago use less aggressive rhetoric and are more sophisticated in general, because their target audience this time is not the general public but the elite.

Alexandr Lukin, the Director of the Center for East Asian and SCO Research, Moscow State University of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia writes in VREMYA NOVOSTEI and the RUSSIA IN GLOBAL AFFAIRS magazine that the leading powers of the world have long since developed their Asian policies to adjust to the trend of Eastward movement in the global economy while Russia is still behind in this sense.

The academic writes that there are several reasons calling for the strengthening of the Asian vector in the Russian foreign policy: the fact that the US is seriously considering closer strategic partnership with China which can create a tandem with global reach and global ambitions; the possibility that China will emerge from the global economic crisis as the leading economy of the world; and the increasing Chinese influence in South-east Asia and other regions of the world.

Lukin says that for Russia it is important to assume a more active role in Asian affairs. He suggests that it can be done through strengthening Russia’s dialogue and partnership with China on the basis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Here Russia should make sure that the Organization does not turn into another talk shop, but develops as a full-fledged international body.

Apart from that, writes the academic, Russia should actively participate in the BRIC group to promote its interests and develop closer partnerships with other members of the group, especially China and India, eventually turning BRIC into an alternative to G8. ASEAN is another stage where Russia should start performing as a genuine economic partner. The political relationship with ASEAN has been maintained for over 20 years, he says, but the economic cooperation hasn’t taken off so far.

ASEAN nations, says Lukin, still look upon Russia as the adversary of the US in the Cold War, and so they are cautious about building a cooperation which could exceed their cooperation with the US, which has been in decline in the past years. We should explain to them, says the academic, that the Cold War has long since ended. The Soviet Union is gone from the world map and Russia, which replaced it, does not present any danger to anyone. Simultaneously, Russia should point out its status as an Asian power, as more than half of its territory is situated in the Asia-Pacific region.

In South-east Asia, as well as in East Asia, concludes the academic, many understand now that Russia can be a partner who could prevent relations between the countries in the region and China from becoming too one-sided.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT