INSOR Russia: Institute of Contemporary Development
Updated April 18, 2019

INSOR Chairman Speaks at Asia-Europe Foundation Seminar

April 28, 2011

Asia-Europe Foundation hosted the seminar, “Russia in the Next Decade and Cooperation with Asia” with the keynote speech given by Igor Yurgens, Management Board Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Development. Igor Yurgens shared his insights on the current thinking of influential policy makers in Russia. “Russians today crave stability…the nation is tired; it has lost its soul a little bit,” he said.

Yurgens explained that President Medvedev wanted Russians to aspire to become a great nation again, to capture at least the 4th or 5th highest ranking place in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product. Yurgens believes that if policy makers succeed with intelligent reforms, the Russian economy can grow steadily, and Russia can achieve this goal by 2020.

Yurgens highlighted the crucial significance of the upcoming 2012 Russian presidential elections, noting that the speed and success of Russia’s modernization may be closely tied to their outcome. Russia to needs to pursue “breakthrough” areas that act as Russia’s locomotive for growth. He named possible breakthroughs in the field of nuclear technologies, including the building of nuclear plants, aerospace industries, pharmaceuticals and the IT industry. Yurgens explained that all these initiatives were aimed at renewal of Russia through a systematic buildup of its human capital. Russia should seek to learn from best practices from abroad.

Russia is a “Eurasian country”, noted Yugens, and hence “Asia is existentially important for Russia.” At the same time, Russia founded its identity on the Judeo-Christian tradition and therefore identified with this cradle of civilization just as Europe does. He noted that after Russia had been subjected to some 300 years of Mongol rule in its history; it had also developed long and deep relations with its Asian neighbors.

According to Yurgens, there were currently three “mindsets” among Russian policy makers which could determine the pace of Russia’s future cooperation with Asia. The first concerned the leadership role that Russia sees itself playing in Central Asia. Traditionally, this has been Russia’s backyard where Russia has played a successful leadership role in the military, energy and even State sector.

The second concerns how Russia should develop further its partnership with Turkey, which is strategically located in West Asia. The third involves Russia’s ties with North-east Asia, where future cooperation projects could include building new ports around the Russian coast and land bridges linking this part of Asia to Europe for transport of oil and gas. With climate change causing a melting of the Arctic sea, Russia anticipates opening a northern sea passage from North-east Asia to Europe.

Yurgens noted that China, Japan and South Korea were all potential partners for Russia in this economic integration grand plan of modernization. ASEAN countries were also interested in this prospect. However Russia was not ready yet to make tangible proposals to countries more distant from its frontiers. When Russia takes over the Chairmanship of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), it will have the opportunity to put forward some of it proposals forward, said Yurgens.

About 40 participants took part in the seminar. They included members of the diplomatic corps, ASEF governors, representatives of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), INSEAD and ESSEC business schools, the Singapore Management University, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), APEC Secretariat and businessmen.