The back-to-back international summits of the G20 in Rome and COP26 in Glasgow in late October brought together dignitaries and hordes of activists, but one world leader was clearly absent: Russian President Vladimir Putin. A week earlier, at the annual Valdai Club gathering (October 18-21), he not only denounced the apparent crisis of Western capitalism, but also dismissed the search for global solutions to global problems as unrealistic (Kremlin.ru, 21 October; see EDM, October 25). His recipe for meeting the challenges of global disorder is based on strengthening the centrality of the state, an old idea that would have been potentially more convincing coming from Putin if the Russian state had succeeded in countering the double disaster of climate change and COVID-19. pandemic at home. However, this was not the case (see EDM, May 26, July 6, September 30, October 28); and this dismal failure gives new energy to the cause of strengthening the unity and leadership of democratic states, as championed by United States President Joseph Biden.
Biden’s positions are far from solid, and Russian commentators are quick to attack his domestic issues and massive US resistance at every step to advance the “green agenda” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 28). At the same time, the debates in Rome and Glasgow over the urgency and costs of measures to reduce carbon emissions were, indeed, fierce. Thus, Putin is clearly seeking to moderate his climate skepticism and adopt a more pleasant rhetoric, while blaming the European Union for unrealistic aspirations and unfair competition (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 30). Igor Sechin, the boss of state-owned oil giant Rosneft and longtime confidant of Putin, tried last week to rally European opinion makers around Russian proposals for greater use of natural gas (preferably imported from Russia) as an alternative to coal (Kommersant, October 28). This argument is not without merit, but plans to expand oil and gas production come up against the obvious fact that Russia, with melting permafrost, is at the top of the list of most vulnerable states in the world. climate change (Izvestia, October 28).
As for the second key theme of last weekend’s global talks – the continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic – Putin didn’t have much to say except for the pronounced trend of many States to close their borders and focus on domestic needs. This platitude cannot hide Russia’s double failure: its “vaccine diplomacy” is undermined by the inability to provide reliable data for the international certification of the Sputnik V vaccine (see EDM, March 25), and the vaccination campaign. hit a wall of mistrust among Russians because of the unintended consequences of state propaganda (TASS, October 22; Republic.ru, October 27; see EDM, August 2). The strength of the current fall wave of the pandemic has shocked authorities so much that an extra-tight lockdown is currently in place in Moscow, St. Petersburg and many other areas (see EDM, October 28). Demographers put the excess mortality for October at 100,000 lives, and they expect it to exceed 120,000 by November, putting Russia at zero point in the current stage of the pandemic (Svoboda.org, October 28) . The economic costs are carefully hidden by official statistics and partially offset by additional oil revenues. But a particular hard-hit area has been Russia-China economic relations, which Beijing deliberately cut to prevent the importation of the coronavirus it failed to contain in Wuhan in the fall of 2019 (Carnegie.ru, 20 October).
A global problem that significantly agitates Putin is the uncontrolled dissemination of information via online social networks, of which he remains remarkably ignorant and invariably outraged. The responsibility of tech giants such as, for example, Facebook for disseminating information inciting violence and fake news is, indeed, a major international controversy; but Putin’s prejudice goes far beyond the self-regulation that these platforms are ready to execute (Kommersant, October 27). He wants full control over Russia’s information space, similar to what China has steadfastly maintained within its virtual borders. However, Russian special services have much less technical capacity for such removal of rapidly evolving social networks and can only impose selective sanctions on certain bloggers who dare to challenge the growing bans (RBC, October 29). These harsh persecutions produce more indignation than fear. Thereby, Novaya Gazeta, led by 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, has transformed from a small-circulation newspaper into a hard-hitting media platform that can expose such ignominious features of Putin’s power system as torture widespread in Russian prisons (Novaya Gazeta, October 29; see EDM, October 21).
Protecting media freedom is, in fact, a major theme in the current phase of globalization, which has moved away from the basic agenda of boosting international trade and investment – but Russia can do little to help. of significant contribution, even on these questions, if not to induce the price of oil to reach the bar of 100 $ per barrel (Rosiyskaya Gazeta, October 31). Moscow is absent from key trade negotiations and instead insists that the central role in regulating and directing globalization must lie with the United Nations, where it enjoys the privilege of a permanent member of the Security Council but contributes little to the functioning of many United Nations agencies, including those preparing the climate agenda for COP26 (Russiancouncil.ru, October 25). It was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who targeted this position, claiming that the fate of mankind could not be left to the mercy of a handful of countries that won World War II (RIA Novosti, October 19). . This criticism deeply angered Putin because he regards Russia’s veto power as “sacred” and because strengthening the heroic memory of the Great Patriotic War is the central part of his selfish ideology (RBC, October 21). .
Globalization is a dynamic, extremely complex and often painful process that can no more be disrupted by the objections of a particularly obnoxious world leader than capitalism can simply be undone. Putin is irritated that he is irrelevant in crucial global discussions, but it is his leadership that has brought Russia to the position of irrelevance in the most important international interactions. He can’t even count on his long-standing partnership with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as China’s global interests are focused on sustaining its phenomenal economic growth as the Russian economy stagnates. The Kremlin makes the issue of the decline of the West and the erosion of American leadership the central premise of its attack on globalization, but the constant turmoil that Russia is so eager to create in Ukraine, Syria and even in Africa create an imperative for the West to restore its unity.