Russia Seeks Global Integration Through United Cultures – OpEd


After disparaging the United Nations and its international affiliated institutions these several years, reports indicated that Russia would maintain its membership. As an advocate of multipolar order which is a new historical stage, Russia is not integrating, but rather consistently partitioning the world. On the opposite side, Russia has been extremely critical on ‘based rules and regulations’ dominated by the United States and Europe.

At the ‘United Cultures’ forum held November 17 in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphatically explained that Russia has no need to leave the United Nations and UN Security Council, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was the 9th St. Petersburg international cultural forum – Forum of United Cultures – held on November 16 to 18 after a three-year break.

“It’s a platform where people seriously talk and work. We have quite serious projects that are being implemented through UNESCO. I don’t see a need for that. Some say we need to leave the UN, it’s total nonsense because Russia is a founder of the organization. Why would we leave it?” Putin said at a cultural forum in St. Petersburg, speaking about the possibility of Russia leaving UNESCO.

At the same time, Putin further indicated that a number of international organizations created after World War II need changes. “The situation is, of course, changing. And it has changed seriously. New centers of power, new centers of growth have appeared and are appearing in the world. In accordance with new tendencies, in accordance with the changing world, international organizations such as the UN and all other agencies, of course, the structure and work at these institutions need to be adjusted,” he said.

During his speech, Putin also said that “Russia has carefully kept the languages and traditions of all peoples living in it and is a unique unity of a multitude of distinctive cultures. The experience of the millennium-old history of our country convincingly shows that cultural diversity is the greatest blessing while the interaction of cultures is one of the conditions for stable and peaceful development.”

As Russia is still a segregated society, most people learn about Russian culture from books, films, theatre, paintings, and music. Interestingly Russia aims at promoting its culture and yet there are limited instruments for this, and worse it falls short of the practical prerequisites of multi-polar. Sentiments and discussions throughout the forum pointed to the basic and curious question how, and to what degree, the northern capital is a unique example of the mutual enrichment of Russian and other world cultures. Where are the so-called creative works that have become an inalienable part of the cultural heritage of the world.

By the way, Putin stressed that domestic businesses are also playing a creative role in cultural development and great attention is paid to culture at the state level, as culture has ‘no borders’ and, a policy of canceling Russia is anti-cultural, neocolonial, and racist. 

With the emerging new global order and new centers of power recognizing civilizational and cultural diversity, therefore majority of global leaders, politicians, many proponents and experts are calling for reforms within international institutions. In practical terms and in order to lead multipolar system requires outward, broad and integrative approach. China always suggest ‘cooperation’ in approach toward multilateral and global issues while Russia has adopted confrontation.

In March 2023, Russia’s new permanent envoy to UNESCO Rinat Alyautdinov said he planned to focus on continuing Moscow’s policy in the organization and promote new projects and initiatives to further develop cooperation. “I believe my key task is to ensure the continuation of Russia’s line in UNESCO, to maintain consistent efforts to nail down serious achievements in our cooperation in the organization, to promote new projects and initiatives in education, culture, science, communication and information,” he said in an interview reported by the Tass News Agency from Paris, France.

Ukrainskaya Pravda reported on November 15, 2023 that Russia, for the first time, failed to be elected to UNESCO Executive Board. It was also reported by the European Pravda, quoted President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Twitter. Zelenskyy said Russia had been “ousted from the UNESCO Executive Board” for the first time in history. “The era of Russian influence is over, and rightly so: Russian terrorists have no place at the head of significant international bodies. Russia’s international role will only continue to weaken,” Zelenskyy added.

The Executive Board of UNESCO is one of the three key bodies of the organization (along with the General Conference and the Secretariat) and oversees its budget and programme activities. The board has 58 members, elected by the General Conference, an advisory body that includes all members of UNESCO. 

Members of the Executive Board are elected on a quota basis, with quotas allocated for each region by a relative majority of votes. Russia is a member of Group II Eastern Europe, from which Serbia (137 votes), Albania (134), Slovakia (117) and Czechia (99) were elected.

Russia’s representative was not elected to the International Court of Justice for the first time. He lost out to the Romanian representative, former foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu.

Over the past years, Russia has lost its membership from a number of international organizations. In March 2022, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and even the Group of 20 were prepared to kick Russia out of these prestigious global organizations due to its “special military operations” aimed at – as President Vladimir Putin says – “demilitarization and denazification” in Ukraine.

In the early years of Putin’s presidency, communist-oriented Russian business saw the WTO as a threat in the system of global trade instead as an instrument to stimulate the economy further for foreign investors. Russia’s leaders did not really understand the benefits of its membership but have a clear vision of the limitations that the WTO imposes in terms of public procurement and transparency.

In fact, Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in April 2011 after almost 18 years of persistent efforts and multiple negotiations, to fulfil stringent membership requirements, apparently because the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and replaced by the Russian Federation. Average accession period is five to seven years. The WTO has 153 members and it is the only international body now supervising world trade.

In another case, Russia was a member of the Council of Europe (CoE), an international organization that focuses on the promotion of democracy and human rights, since 1996. It was suspended from voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) from 2000 to 2001 because of the second Chechen war. After the Russian annexation of Crimea and now the recognition given to Donbas region of Ukraine, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned the crisis of aggression and demanded its withdrawal in a non-binding resolution.

Russian Foreign Ministry indicated at the time that Russia had no intention of holding on to the membership of the Council of Europe. It published a statement that Russia was not going to participate in the Council of Europe anymore because EU and NATO countries were unfriendly to Russia. 

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had suspended Russia and Belarus from any participation in that organization. The OECD is one of the world’s major multilateral economic bodies with a membership of mostly of the rich, highly developed countries. The exclusion of Russia and Belarus implied that both countries have been barred from participating in negotiations on issues including taxation, international business regulations and trade.

Besides exiting from international organizations, many Western companies and enterprises were forced to suspend their business operations in the Russian Federation. Reports, however, show that United States and European Union bloc were taking systematic and well-thought-out measures to destabilize the economy of Russia. 

United Russia – the largest political party in Russia, which supports President Putin’s policies  – has proposed to nationalization of the enterprises of those Western companies that refused to operate in the Russian Federation. Back in March 2022, Secretary of United Russia’s General Council Andrey Turchak said that United Russia was proposing to nationalize the enterprises of those Western companies that refused to operate in Russia.

According to him, in all cases this is a purely political decision by the foreign business organizations. The state legislative commission approved the initiative providing for the possibility of nationalizing the property of foreign corporations leaving the Russian market.

Late February, the entire membership of the State Duma appealed to the Russian President to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) as sovereign and independent states. Without any further hesitation, Putin signed documents on DPR and LPR recognition, arguing that was the only way to protect Russian-speaking citizens, stop the fratricidal war, prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and bring peace.

On February 24, Russian President Putin said in a televised address that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had decided to carry out a special military operation to protect people “who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years.”

Following this, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and several other countries announced the introduction of stiff sanctions against Russian legal entities and private individuals. These sanctions have still remained in the system.

Nevertheless, Putin in the course of the discussion admitted that it was necessary to adopt ‘a neat, polite and diplomatic way’ of handling controversial issues, especially when there are different approaches and different opinions. “This is a very good example of how it is possible and necessary to seek a compromise and achieve it without imposing some view on others. This is how BRICS is built in general. It is not some bloc, especially not a military bloc, but it does create conditions for reaching mutual understanding,” underlined Putin.

In the end, Putin reiterated – the goal is to make the world more just. Multipolarity is one way to do this. It should consider the interests of all countries and peoples, take diverse interests into account, but are arranged in such a way as to balance all interests.

Russian and foreign policy experts, and academic researchers noted that Russia has had a chequered history of ‘on and off’ membership of international organizations. But the desire for building polycentric system of world order basically requires serious dialogue and negotiations over the new directions of the new architecture. In attempts doing this, well-refined appreciable approaches should be adopted rather than confrontation, in the vision for the future international partnership. The focus primarily have to be on cooperation, the need to reach a consensus and ability to secure a balance of interests within the framework of a revised charter of the United Nations.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *