Bucharest Forum Speakers

George Friedman
Chairman and Founder, Stratfor
Question: The New Silk Road would bring a lot of benefits and opportunities for EU, the US and China along with the implementation of the strategy. Please name 3 actions needed to secure and stabilize the region.*

Answer:
"1. The EU must end its fragmentation in order to take advantage of the opportunities, otherwise benefits will flow to various countries. In addition, the EU must relax rigid rules and regulations to facilitate the new dynamic.
2. The Chinese must develop a foreign policy that makes increased dependence on China non-threatening. Trade is addictive, and to become addicted to a partner that is unreliable in other aspects of its relations is dangerous.
3.  The United States must not see the growing relationship between China and Europe as a threat, but as an opportunity."
 
Edward Chow
Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
 
Question: The Russian Federation, one of Europe’s main energy providers, regularly threatens to cut off gas supplies, and seems more determined to do so in connection to the events in Eastern Ukraine. Could the Russian Federation be pushed out of a zero sum game into a win-win one?
 
Answer:
“I don’t believe it is accurate to say that Russia “regularly threatens to cut off gas supplies” to Europe.  Russia’s gas dispute with Ukraine frequently threatens to disrupt gas supplies to Europe.  The Russian/European energy relationship is a natural one between neighbors, which should benefit both sides.  It is the terms of trade that is troublesome, not the fact it exists.  Until recently Europe has ignored the anti-competitive business practices used by Russian and European energy companies.  It has also ignored the failings of Ukraine, which remains a key energy supply vulnerability for Europe.  I hope the ongoing Ukraine crisis, caused by Russian aggression, will finally lead Europe to address these fundamental weaknesses.”
 
Charles Ries
Vice President, the RAND Corporation
 
Question: The Russian Federation, one of Europe’s main energy providers, regularly threatens to cut off gas supplies, and seems more determined to do so in connection to the events in Eastern Ukraine. Could the Russian Federation be pushed out of a zero sum game into a win-win one? 
 
Answer:
"As it would be for any other commodity, the keys for Europe in managing its dependence on imports of natural gas from Russia are to develop alternative sources of supply, build and fill storage capacity, and foster the integration of national gas markets.  Using the European Union’s competition law to act against actions by suppliers that abuse a dominant position, and ensure gas pipelines provide for fair third party access will help as well.  At present, the Russian Federation is as much or more dependent on sales of gas to Europe as a whole as European countries are individually on Russian gas imports.  The more the European gas market becomes an integrated, open and competitive market for gas, the less scope there will be for the Russian Federation or its companies to retaliate against individual European countries or companies and the more compelling the case will be for approaching the gas trade on a win-win basis."
 
Dr. Shashi Tharoor
Member of Parliament, Indian National Congress; fmr. Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs
 
Question: In your opinion, which are the geopolitical constraints and opportunities that shape the interest of India, Japan, South Korea and Iran on the New Silk Road?
 
Answer:
"Europe and Asia are the only two continents not separated from each other by water. The existence of land routes between us point to the obvious opportunities and advantages of cross-continental trade and people-to-people exchanges. 
But if geography is our ally, geopolitics has not always permitted the kinds of mutually beneficial exchanges between the continents that offer evident scope for progress. Political divisions within Asia have impeded trade co-operation; so have the "Iron Curtain", the "Bamboo Curtain" and other legacies of the unlamented Cold War era. With the subsiding of the civil conflicts that erupted after the Berlin Wall fell, and the emergence of peaceful and tranquil relations amongst all the key players, the New Silk Road seems set to become a reality.
India has been reaching out to China, Japan and Korea in the last few years, a process that has accelerated in recent months. The prospects for accelerated trade relations amongst the three can only be augmented with the involvement and co-operation of Europe. This is a situation in which clearly the earth is open and the sky is the limit."
 
Ian Bond
Director of Foreign Policy, Centre for European Reform in London
 
Question: 25 years ago Eastern Europe has emerged from the total paralysis of totalitarian thinking and entered the difficult path to political, economic and social reforms. A quarter of century later, we talk about a New World Order after the Ukrainian crisis. Please name 3 possible scenarios for the future relations between Russia and Ukraine and Russia and the West.
 
Answer:
"The optimistic scenario is that Russia understands the benefits of a stable, prosperous and democratic Ukraine, anchored in the EU and NATO; stops fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine; and returns Crimea. Ukraine becomes a successful modern state; the Russian authorities conclude that Russia also needs modernisation. Economic reform makes Russia less dependent on the export of primary commodities and puts more wealth in the hands of ordinary Russians. The population benefits from a political shift to genuinely free and fair elections. Unfortunately, there is no indication at all that the current Russian leadership sees the world in this way, or that they are under any pressure from the Russian population to introduce reforms of this sort.
The pessimistic scenario is that President Putin sees the West’s weak response to his annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine. He concludes that there is no barrier to his project of creating a ‘Russian World’. He intervenes in the Baltic States to ‘protect’ Russian minorities, and works to establish ‘Novorossiya’ in eastern and southern Ukraine. Some NATO and EU countries take the view that Russia has legitimate grievances and refuse to defend the Baltic States. European borders are redrawn; in some places local populations fight against Russian occupying forces; NATO and the EU collapse as effective international institutions because of the divisions among their members; the US abandons Europe, refusing to ‘die for Narva’ when half of Europe will not; the rules-based international system in Europe is replaced by the rule of the strongest – in this case, Russia. This is more likely than the optimistic scenario, but carries high risks for Russia. The West might cripple the Russian economy with sanctions, thereby provoking social unrest; and a coalition of the willing might confront Russia militarily in the Baltic States, with the possibility of escalation to full-scale warfare.
The middle scenario, and the most likely, is that Russia continues to act as both a partner and an adversary for the West. The EU and NATO, not wanting to isolate Russia, remove some sanctions, leaving a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine, but no outright combat. They continue to depend on Russia for gas, and allow the South Stream project to go ahead despite its geopolitical disadvantages. Ukraine is not offered any perspective of NATO or EU membership, and receives only non-lethal assistance from the West. It can prevent Russia from seizing more territory in the east, but cannot recover its losses. Domestic politics in Ukraine is dominated by recriminations over who is to blame for the loss of the Donbass and Crimea, while necessary political and economic reforms are ignored. Corruption continues to flourish in Ukraine and Russia. Putin rides a wave of domestic popularity to a further term as president, but undertakes no reform, entrenching the system of kleptocratic personal power and condemning Russia to economic decline. He continues to destabilize his neighbors, both as a way of distracting attention from his domestic problems and in order to weaken NATO and the EU. Europe, including Russia, ends up poorer and less secure, but not at war."
 

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