For Those Who Like It Hot

10.02.2015

The back cover of this issue is also the front cover of the PIR Center 2015 Calendar. That makes perfect sense: this issue closes the 2014 annual cycle of the journal, and passes on the baton to the 2015 cycle. It is also entirely justified: even though the PIR Center Calendar has not earned the laurels of the Pirelli Calendar (people from our commercial department come up with all sorts of strange ideas), it has, nevertheless, become well-known, albeit only among specialists.

As I recall, one of the previous PIR Center calendars featured a Samoan pineapple on the cover. I think it was back in the “fat naughties” as the decade has become known in Russia. The 2014 cover showed a merry gathering of three South Africans rhinos. The Security Index has always been partial to rhinos – not so much because of their horn but because despite their thick armor, they have proved vulnerable and are now on the brink of extinction. That is why the rhino is an accurate reflection of the nature of security.

The cover of the 2015 Calendar, meanwhile, shows a woven basket full of red chili peppers left to dry in the sun on the roof of a hut, in a mountain village somewhere in the Golden Triangle.

Just like rhinos, red chili peppers have a dual nature. To some, they burn abominably and bring on floods of tears. To others, they give energy, pleasure, unforgettable taste, and a delicate aftertaste.

I am a big fan of red chili peppers, even if they do bring an occasional tear to my eyes. Many a PIRCentercolleague has shed tears with me as we munched on peppers at Thai eateries. I could not swear, however, that all of them truly share my enthusiasm for the sharp aftertaste.

Some like it hot. But the risk of overdoing it is obvious, staring you in the face, as it were.

Be that as it may, those who like it hot are unlikely to be disappointed by 2015. Different scenarios are still possible as far as the actual taste of it is concerned, but the aftertaste is not in any doubt. Hot and bitter contrasts sharply with icy-cold. What kind of heritage has the year 2014 left for us? Will it be chilly old peace, or a new Cold War?

Readers of the Security Index already know what I think on this matter. I formulated my opinion in June 2014, and it has not changed since then. I believe we are talking about a new Cold War. Some day it will be called Cold War 2.0 in history books. (Incidentally, have you ever thought why Cold War is always capitalized in English, but never in Russian? Does this have anything to do with a subconscious distinction between the victors and the vanquished?) It will also be a new Cold War in terms of its main distinctive features. In addition to traditional nuclear deterrence, we are going to have a no-holds-barred game in outer space and cyberspace. It will be a war in three dimensions, as it were – a 3D war.

But if someone wants to end it, taking the 3D glasses off won’t help. There is no Stop button.

“By the winter of 2014 the world had become substantially more real and operationally fit compared to the situation in the spring, when the Russian flag was raised over Crimea,” argues Dmitry Evstafiev, a Security Index observer. Another observer, Yuri Fedorov, disagrees: “Since the summer of 2014 world politics and public life in general have increasingly been shaped by uncontrolled, dark, and irrational forces and pathological impulses.”

These opposite views are irreconcilable, and can only be tested by the year 2015: operational fitness vs. infernal irrationality. Can the two coexist? That would be an excellent example of chili-like dualism. Alas, our iSi international Security index does not indicate a clear trend. It plunged in July and August 2014, “coming to the very edge of the abyss”, as our consultant Galia Ibragimova put it – but then halted its slide. It is now jerking up and down; the mathematical model that underpins it has accurately reflected the emotions of the year2014, a year of ups and downs, twists and turns.

Meanwhile, the dark forces are making use of this turbulence, and making themselves comfortable in the Middle East, as well as territories that directly abut Central Asia. Tensions near the borders of Russia and its (few) allies are growing not only on the western and southwestern fronts (where we have drawn fire upon ourselves, and where the spring could take no more pressure), but also in the south, where it was not us who let the genie out of the bottle (although we were prudently preparing for its eventual release). Now alarms are sounding along vast stretches of our borders. These threats are detailed by Ivan Safranchuk (Central Asia and Afghanistan) and Ekaterina Stepanova (ISIS).

In the global cyber-anarchy that is perversely called global Internet governance, the outlines of possible international solutions are slowly beginning to emerge. But those outlines are still blurred, and the mistrust is going off the scale (multiply what Snowden has said by what he has not said, and by what he does not even know). The risk of cyberwars, which now involve even first-echelon countries, and not just non-state actors, is becoming a global threat. This is the conclusion drawn by Alexandr Fedorov in his review of the book “Cybersecurity and Internet Governance”. It has been 15 years since he first contributed to PIR Center’s projects on information security as author and editor with his wealth of expertise in international information security and its international legal aspects. But now he confesses that the subject of his analysis is still “largely an uncharted territory”.

Here in Russia, turbulence in the global energy sector has been one of the most notable developments of the turbulent year 2014. The plunging prices for hydrocarbons are raising all sorts of economic as well as foreign-policy issues. In this particular area, the ability to catch a glimpse of tomorrow is especially valuable. In this issue of the Security Index, Andrey Shadursky offers an analysis of the so-called Shale Revolution, the new rules of the game, and the threat they may or may not represent for the Russian energy positions inEurope.

Against the backdrop of the oil-and-gas needle and amid the continued devaluation of the Russian currency, the Russian nuclear energy sector seems to offer what may well be the only tangible, comprehensive, and carefully thought-out answer to economic upheavals. This particular branch of the Russian high-tech sector is not a prototype but a working engine. “The caravan of the Russian nuclear energy sector is moving forward”, says Mikhail Lysenko. His conclusion is borne out (with specific international markets cited as examples) by Hoang Anh Thuan, Yuri Busurin, and Aleksandr Bychkov. Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador to Moscow, Mehdi Sanaei, paints a detailed picture of Iran’s expectations from a new wave of nuclear energy cooperation with Russia (which has already brought some early results). For now, it is not exactly clear how substantial those early results are. Russia and Iran would do well to pursue an ambitious and strategic-minded program, disregarding the critics. In nuclear energy, as in many other areas of cooperation, I believe that the two countries should aim high.

This issue of the Security Index also contains one of my own articles, headlined “Does the NPT have a future? Reflections ahead of the 2015 Review Conference”. I won’t give a preview of it here. Instead, let me recall a recent episode.

I was having a seminar with MA students at the Middlebury Institute of International Relations in Monterey, Ca. They had spent a term simulating the 2015 NPT Review Conference, studying its inner workings, and trying to predict its possible outcomes. I had a chat with guys from the so called Russian delegation. Their strategy at that simulated conference was assertive, in a sense that Russia has nothing to explain itself about, be it the Budapest Memorandum or Article VI. At some point, however, they felt that they could not fight that battle on their own, even if the battlefield is as comfortable for Russia as the NPT. They thought of turning to BRICS in search of allies. But India could not take part in the RevCon, for obvious reasons. Brazil and South Africa, meanwhile, chose a stonewalling tactic. They then turned to the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Russia’s CSTO allies proved more accommodating, but the weight and influence of that organization still leave much to be desired. The students then tried more creative solutions, and thought of new informal coalitions. The one they came up with was RICE: Russia, Iran, China, and Egypt. They believe that the agenda of all four countries at the 2015 RevCon largely coincides in many areas. As a result, that proposed coalition proved much more useful for the Russian delegation than the traditional P5. In some issues of major importance for our country, it even enabled our delegation to go on the offensive…

Unfortunately, I had to say good-bye to the students before their simulated conference ended, so I am not sure what came out of their RICE grain – if anything positive at all. For now, it seems, we have far more chili peppers than rice on the menu.

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