Sunday, August 8, 2021

Empires More Progressive than Nation States, Valdai Club Director Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 2 – Vladimir Putin may want to restore the USSR, but he has not gone to far as to call for a return to a world run by empires. Now, however, Timofey Bordachev, the head of the Moscow Center for Complex European and International Research and the program director of the influential Valdai Club, is making precisely that argument.

            Today, on the map of the world, there are “too many states,” Bordachev says, although resolving this problem easily is “completely impossible” unless there is a change in view about how best to organize the world. Indeed, around Russia alone, there are several states who can’t function effectively (

            More broadly around the world, “there are several dozen countries which as a result of their circumstances cannot take responsible decisions” because they lack “the necessary resources” to do so. “Even the better off states of Central Asia cannot defend themselves on their own against Afghan militants without the help of one of the great powers.”

            But overcoming this situation is impossible because it is also “impossible” to do away with the various international structures which have been left over from the 20th century, like the UN, which protect the existence of all states and in effect promote “an exclusively egotistical” approach by every one of them, the analyst says.

            “Such an unimaginable number of states arose within the framework of the quite simple international order of the second half of the 20th century,” Bordachev continues. Then the USSR and the US “ruled their satellites quite effectively.” They had the resources and reason to do so, but then the USSR collapsed.

            “Now, the great powers have to spend much more of their resources on the resolution of domestic problems.” That is true even of China, and so they have not been willing to provide leadership and resources to other countries. “As a result, ever more states are becoming unsupervised.” They lack resources to solve their problems or a source of outside aid to do so.

            And even Russia which would like to take back some of its neighbors under its wing is “not at all eager to take responsibility for their fates.” As a result, most of the talk about restoring the USSR or a new Russian empire remains just that, “empty talk,” Bordachev argues.

            But he says, there is increasing appreciation that “empire is a much more progressive form of political organization of society than is the nation state” because it forces larger countries to provide more assistance to others because their own fates are tied up with what happens in their “colonies.”

            According to Bordachev, “representatives of the metropolitan center understand that justice for the other peoples is an obligatory condition of the survival of their states,” something those who lead nation states never assume and thus do not provide the assistance they should to those in trouble.

            Russia is where this situation has become the clearest, he suggests, and “already in the coming years if not the coming months,” Russia will have to “find a compromise between eh restoration of direct control over certain neighbors and flight from them into the turtle shell of national egoism.”

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