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Geopolitics on the Move is a podcast series hosted by Sean Guillory and Fyodor Lukyanov and is produced by the Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Russia in Global Affairs and the Center for Russian, Eastern European, & Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Carnegie Corporation of New York provided funding for this project.

The world will never be the same! Really? Yes. Maybe. Or not. The initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic is waning as global life gets back on track. Change is inevitable. But it might be less profound than initially assumed. Force majeure did not disrupt the global agenda—it only exacerbated existing trends. The list of challenges intensifies: nationalism, the clash of identities, the fragmentation of the world economy, and the erosion of the liberal economic model. As do the responses: demands for greater sovereignty, dismantling arms control regimes, and escalating competition among major powers, especially between the United States and China. COVID-19 didn’t create any of these. It only reinforced them. Perhaps the pandemic’s most profound impact will be on relations between people, society, and the state.

COVID hit Russia at a domestic crossroads. As the virus began to ravage the world, Russia started to reform its constitution and modify its state system. Like elsewhere, the pandemic didn’t torpedo this agenda. It simply complicated the path forward. Even without the unexpected upheavals it was clear that Russian politics was entering into a new stage. Now, the search for a new balance of forces will occur in completely different conditions.

What does Russia think? How much do Russian perspectives on international issues in this new moment differ from those of the United States? Are convergent—if not common—perceptions of the future possible? Or will our views of one another continue to diverge?

Coming episodes:

  1. “After Europe, Before What?” (Timofei Bordachev) October 1
  2. “The UN at 75” (Dmitri Polyanski, Tom Graham) October 8
Pictures of Anatol Lieven and Andrei Kortunov

The Geopolitics of Nationalism

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The era of universalism is receding; the time of fragmentation and selfishness has arrived. Nationalism, in the broad sense, has returned. This worldview is already widespread, and the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized it. What does international cooperation look like during the triumph of national interests? Is it possible to realize these interests without interaction? We turned to Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, and Anatol Lieven, professor of Georgetown University in Qatar for their insight.


Picture of Ivan Safranchuck and Vassily Kashin

The Sino-American Rivalry

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Just ten years ago, pundits predicted that a future Sino-American G2 would govern the world. Today, the relations between Beijing and Washington is more often described as Cold War 2.0. The disappearance of Chimerica—a symbiosis of China and America—represents, in fact, the ongoing crisis of globalization since the end of the 20th century. What does the U.S.-China confrontation mean for Russia? Will Moscow take sides? Or will it be able to skillfully maneuver between the two powers? We discuss these issues with Ivan Safranchuk, an associate professor of MGIMO University, and Vassily Kashin, a leading researcher at the Higher School of Economics.

Picture of Ivan Krastev

Crisis of Liberal Democracy?

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At the end of the 20th century, liberal democracy appeared to triumph. History as a story of political evolution was over. But today, many point to a crisis of liberal democracy and fret over whether it has enough dynamism to shine again. Why has such a promising beginning turned into a whimpering finale? Is democracy really at an end? We asked Ivan Krastev, a leading researcher at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, for his thoughts.

Picture of Alexei Miller and Thomas Sherlock

Memory Wars as the New Reality

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There’s a common joke that Russia is a country with an unpredictable past because it rewrites history to fit the present. Paradoxically, this joke is now becoming relevant for much of the world as well. What does the battle for history mean for the present and future? And where will memory wars lead us? Here’s Alexei Miller, professor of the European University at St. Petersburg, and Thomas Sherlock, professor at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, on the politics of history and memory.