MGIMO Hosts “International Uncertainty 2021” Conference

MGIMO Hosts “International Uncertainty 2021” Conference

4 December 2020

On December 4, the Laboratory of International Trends Analysis (LITRA), the Institute for International Studies (IIS), and the Eurasian Strategies consulting agency held “International Uncertainty 2021", the Fifth Moscow International Conference on Political Risks and Forecasting.

Over 200 experts from six Russian cities – Moscow, Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, as well as from Armenia, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, United States and Turkey participated in the conference onsite and via Zoom.

In his opening remarks, MGIMO Rector Anatoly Torkunov noted the importance of forecasting in today's unstable world. Torkunov believes that “despite the fact that the pandemic has become the most severe challenge in recent years, we should not conclude that the entire international architecture has collapsed. History repeats itself, and the main systemic trends had emerged before the pandemic and still remain in place."

Oleg Stepanov, Director of the Foreign Policy Planning Department of the Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, paid heed to the friendly relations between the MGIMO University and the Ministry, noting that Russian diplomats give a high appraisal of the forecasts prepared by MGIMO. “Further formation of the multipolar world will be a major international trend. Russia’s foreign policy rejects zero sum games, has no hidden agenda and does not resort to double standards, with most states of the world sharing the same principles,” the diplomat said.

Sergey Pospelov, Acting Executive Secretary of the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly also attended the conference, signing an Agreement on Cooperation between MGIMO and CSTO Parliamentary Assembly in the margins of the conference.

The first session of the conference was focused on false certainty and the spontaneity in forecasting international relations. Kirill Petrov, Senior Research Fellow at the IIS Center for Political Elites Studies, examined different models of political leadership in the time of uncertainty. Leonid Bliakher, Head of the Department of Philosophy of the National University of the Pacific (Khabarovsk), outlined the correlation of global and regional trends in foreign policy of different states. Alexander Iskandaryan, Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, explained how the pandemic affected the situation in the Caucasus. Ivan Zuenko, Research Fellow of the Department for Chinese Studies of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology under the Russian Academy of Science (Vladivostok), analyzed how Beijing managed to make the most out of the pandemic in order to strengthen its central power. Azat Ahunov, Leading Research Fellow of the Ibragimov Institute of Language, Literature and Art (Kazan), shared the results of field studies conducted in the Central Asia, while Andrey Teslya, Senior Research Scientist of the Institute for the Humanities of the Kant Baltic Federal University (Kaliningrad), examined the challenge of the pandemic through the lens of the IR theory, emphasizing the collision of rational and natural origins. LITRA and ISS Director Andrey Sushentsov moderated the discussion.

The second session was devoted to long-term trends, such as climate change, migration, and technology. Ivan Danilin, LITRA Senior Research Fellow, analyzed the influence of modern technological progress on international relations. Yana Leksyutina, Professor at the School of International Relations at Saint-Petersburg State University, assessed future implications of the US-China trade war. Ekaterina Arapova, Director of the IIS Center for Sanctions Policy Expertise, highlighted new trends in the sanctions policy. Alexey Bezborodov, CEO of InfraNews (Saint Petersburg), predicted how logistic and transport trends will affect geopolitics in the years to come, Artem Lukyanets, Assistant Professor at the MGIMO Department of Demographic and Migration Policy, and Ivan Loshkarev, Research Fellow of the IIS Center for Sanctions Policy Expertise, discussed key modern migration risks. LITRA Senior Research Fellow Maxim Suchkov moderated the session.

Next session saw a discussion on how the rise of middle powers will affect global governance, with keynotes presented by Sergey Markedonov, Senior Research Fellow of the IIS Center for Euro-Atlantic Security Studies and Chief Editor of the International Analytics Journal, Adil Kaukenov, Director of the Center for Chinese Studies "China Center" (Kazakhstan), Nandan Unnikrishnan, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (India), Yauheni Preiherman, Director of the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations (Belarus), LITRA and ISS Director Andrey Sushentsov, and Kerim Has, independent political analyst on Russian and Eurasian affairs. The session was moderated by Nikolay Silaev, LITRA Senior Research Fellow.

At the closing session, MGIMO experts presented key points of their annual "International Threats 2021" forecast. William C. Wohlforth, Professor of Government in the Dartmouth College and LITRA Research Director, Igor Denisov, Senior Research Fellow of the IIS Center for Studies of East Asia and the SCO, Artem Sokolov, Research Fellow of the IIS Center for European Studies and LITRA, Michael Kofman, Fellow at the Washington-based Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center, and Evgeny Minchenko, Director of the IIS Center for Political Elites Studies, shared their forecasts of how the most significant international trends will unfold in the following year.

The results of the conference were summarized by LITRA and ISS Director Andrey Sushentsov. “Five years ago we launched the project as an experiment, and today’s sessions once again confirmed the relevance and importance of such discussion platforms. All experts agreed that the pandemic seriously affected the international situation, but the nature of the tendencies has not changed and general contours of the world have remained the same,” said Andrey Sushentsov.

The conference was held as part of a large-scale research project "Transformation of the system of international relations in the context of a change of technological order" supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Broadcast recordings are available on the MGIMO YouTube channel in English and Russian.

Such high-profile events are an important component of the MGIMO Development Strategy for 2020-2025. By involving leading Russian and foreign scholars and experts in the dialogue, LITRA and ISS elevate the international prestige of research conducted at the University.

Laboratory of International Trends Analysis
Institute for International Studies