Authors: Anton Bendarzsevszkij, Ráhel Czirják, Viktor Eszterhai, László Gere, Péter Klemensits, Eszter Polyák, Fruzsina Simigh, Zita Vajda
It is remarkable how differently the foreign policy thinkers living in different regions and countries view our world and international affairs. The place of origin, as a kind of initial stigmata, determines the way we look at the globe around us. A geopolitician grown up in the United States—and in its imperial shadow—looks at everything through an American prism, through America’s supremacy. Russian thinkers, having survived the fall of a great empire, believe in a multipolar world, while East-Asian thinkers, witnessing the fabulous rise of China, talk about entirely reforming the existing world order. We intend to present these exciting and very different thoughts and geopolitical concepts to our readers. We have selected six significant geopoliticians, the well-known geopolitical thinkers of the early 21st century: Henry Kissinger, Aleksander Dugin, Yan Xuetong, Sanjaya Baru, Robert D. Kaplan and George Friedman.
Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, who used to actively shape foreign policy and international affairs, has already explained his views on geopolitics, history, economy and politics. His most recent work, discussing the challenges of the world in the 21st century, was published in autumn 2014.
In World Order, the renowned author endeavours to analyse the challenges threatening our times, also drawing on his own experiences. By providing an overview of historical examples, he also makes geopolitical predictions. In his opinion, it is necessary to build a shared international order, despite divergent historical perspectives; at the same time, it can address risks that violent conflicts, proliferating technology and ideological extremism pose.
Kissinger thinks that world order describes the concept held by a region or civilization about the nature of just arrangements and the distribution of power thought to be applicable to the entire world. A successful world order must be based on the combination of power and legitimacy. To his mind, there has never been a “true world order”, since in history civilizations defined their own concepts of order, considering themselves the centre of the world and envisioned its distinct principles as universally relevant. Today, due to the collision of these divergent systems caused by globalisation—without a consensus on rules—tension is mounting in the world. The veteran diplomat thinks the only way these divergent systems can found common ground is to create the fundamentals of a new order and a “global secondary culture”.
In his book, he describes the examples of four world orders: the European (the Westphalian one), the American, the Chinese and the Islamic one. In Europe, following the Peace of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years’ War, the principle of sovereignty of nation-states evolved, as a result of which legally equal countries had fair chances to create a pluralistic international order. The integration of diverse societies in the Westphalian system was definitely a positive development, the author notes. He depicts the Islamic world order as one in which Islam represents a religion, an ethnically divided superstate and a new world order at once. Iran adopted this concept long ago, and has favoured spreading Islamist governance. Its rivalry with the United States is not only a conflict between nations, but can also be regarded as a combat determining the “nature of the world order”. As for Asia—although an Indian as well as a Japanese world order exist—, Kissinger, hardly surprisingly, focusses on China. There is an ancient concept that China is the only sovereign power in the world, with the emperor at its pinnacle. The author thinks this concept persisted in the Communist era, although today’s China may be regarded rather a sovereign nation-state in a Westpahalian sense.
Kissinger also expresses criticism when it comes to the word order of the United States. Although the country served as a role model to the majority of the world due to its democratic principles and the American culture, “the conviction that American principles are universal” has introduced a challenging element to the international system, creating considerable tension. He thinks the USA cannot maintain its role as a leader; nevertheless, it is an essential actor of global security. In order to avoid decline, it must refrain from unilateral actions and consider a multilateral solution.
The lack of international cooperation, aggravated by the lack of appropriate historical and geographical knowledge, has had an adverse effect on America; suffice it to think of Iraq or Afghanistan. Initially, Kissinger supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but has revised his position, arguing for the failure of the operations in Iraq, since this country of the Middle East is far from being a real nation-state, where democratic transformation would be possible. He also highlights that since the second world war, four or five of the USA’s wars ended with withdrawal, and only the Gulf War resulted in a decisive victory.
While analysing events of history, Kissinger pays particular attention to the actions of the Nixon and the Reagan administrations, emphasizing, if applicable, his own role. After having presented post-Cold War events, he focusses on the present and then offers compelling insights into the future.
He thinks the coalition formed against the Islamic State is capable of defeating the terrorists but he also warns that an air campaign alone will not be sufficient; the deployment of special land forces is also required. The “victory”, however, won’t change the extremely complex geopolitical situation of the region, which Is akin to the Europe of the Thirty Years’ War. Since the borders of Iraq and Syria have been drawn by European major powers, these countries are not viable as real nation-states. Regarding the Eurasian landmass, the West must be very cautious, especially with Russia and Ukraine. Kissinger suggests that the fact that Ukraine is perceived by Russians as an inextricable part of their own patrimony should always be remembered. The crisis can easily be escalated if both parties make their decisions on a rational basis. Although Putin has engaged in an adventure beyond his strength, the West should not make the same mistake, otherwise it would shove Russia into the arms of China, creating a significant vacuum of power on the Eurasian landmass.
Kissinger’s World Order, in addition to summarising and analysing historical and current processes—without any bias—identifies several new factors of geopolitical thought. He has been among the ones to notice how much technological development, the Internet and the power of information alter decision-making and the course of events. During the Arab Spring technology helped and at the same time impeded the transformation of power; in the next presidential elections of the USA, internet communication experts will undoubtedly have a distinguished role, he concludes. Therefore, Kissinger emphasizes the necessity of wisdom and foresight, which is not an issue for technology only.
Aleksander Dugin is one of the most known figures of contemporary Russian geopolitical thought, and one of the creators of Neo-Eurasainism. At the beginning of the 2000s, in 2001, the “Eurasia” movement evolved and later transformed into a political party called “Eurasia”.The party, however, was short-lived: it was transformed into the “International Eurasian Movement” in November 2003.
The International Eurasian Movement, still in operation, officially is a non-governmental platform, having branches all over the world and Dugin as President. His public career started after 1990, when he was given a show on Russia’s Channel One (he prepared documentaries on declassified KGB archives); then he worked for newspapers and published books. In 2008 he became a professor of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, and was Head of the Department of Sociology of International Relations from 2009 to 2014.
Aleksander Dugin’s Eurasianism is deeply rooted: the concept has its origins in the Russian émigré community in the 1920s, although to some extent, Eurasian ideas were suggested by the Russian Slavophil movement in the 19th century (by Danilevsky, Klyuchevsky, Fadeyev and Mendeleyev).
In 1925 Nikolai Trubetzkoy argued that Russia was not an heir to the Kievan Rus but the Mongolian Monarchy.He even observed that the state of Moscow was continuously forced to defend itself from western conquest, which, he believed, Ukraine and Belarus failed to do and were taken under the rule of Catholic Poland. As it seems, the idea that the Principality of Polotsk, situated in the territory of present-day Belarus, voluntarily integrated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century did not occur to him. He thought, nonetheless, they could return to the Eurasian world of “ancestral Eurasian and Russian lands” under Moscow’s rule “with great difficulty”.
Interestingly enough, Eurasianism had different meanings and was associated with different values in different periods. According to the representatives of the Eurasian thought in the 1920s, it meant that Russia was different from the western system of values, and its mercantilism, and the Asian culture, which they identified with some degree of heroism, was much closer to it. therefore, according to the Russian Eurasianism of the early twentieth century, Russians are rather descendants of the Asian culture and not that of Europe. By comparison, the Eurasianism of the twenty-first century has adopted an aggressive orientation: denying western values has become its most important factor, replacing the emphasis on the proximity to Asia and the Asian relationships. Neo-Eurasianism, nurtured by an anti-western mindset, views the decades of the Soviet Union with tragic nostalgia, contemplating the Soviet community in a positive light, and dreams of creating a new post-Soviet empire.
Aleksander Dugin, as opposed to those who saw the end of the Cold War as the dawn of the era of global piece, believes that the opposition between the West and the East is permanent. Since their geographical conditions and features are permanent, conflicts will also persist. His views spread in the late 1990s, when Russia was in a state of shock due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and consequently losing its status of a great empire. Conspiracy theories were rampant: someone had to be found to be blamed for Russia’s problems.The Foundations of Geopolitics can be regarded Dugin’s most important work: it has been published four times since its first publication in 1997, and has been adopted as a textbook at universities.The ideas Dugin formulated has had a large influence within the Russian military, national security and the police. Conspiracy theories have found fertile soil within the Russian Silovik elite, who already thought that the West and the United States had a hand in all the problems of Russia.
After 2002, Dugin got increasingly engaged in the concept of Eurasianism, which could be called Neo-Eurasianism, very different in nature and values from the above-mentioned Eurasianism of the 1920. It was Dugin who infused the original Eurasian ideas of Russian historian, anthropologist and ethnologist Lev Gumilyov with geopolitics and the idea of the Soviet Union as a Eurasian superpower. Dugin, who supports Putin and advocates an active foreign policy, sees the world in black and white. He can see hostile, destructive forces even in the circles of the Russian elite: he thinks Russian political elite is full of spies and saboteurs working on the collapse of Putin’s Russia, and one of their toolkits is spreading liberal views.
Apparently, Dugin’s views have been very influential on the leading Russian elite, and perhaps the Russian President, Vladimir Putin himself, although the Russian Silovik elite, who perceived the collapse of the Soviet Union as a great shock, has brought along ambitious empirical ideas into power. Several theories of the foreign policy pursued by Putin’s Russia, however, resemble Dugin’s major theses. With centralization launched in the early 2000s, Vladimir Putin consciously started to build a Eurasian empire based on post-Soviet fundamentals. In an interview given at the beginning of the 2000s, the Russian head of state dubbed the Soviet Union’s collapse “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, also indicating the long-term goal that he had set.
The goals were defined in an article published at the end of 2011. “We are not going to stop there, and are setting an ambitious goal before ourselves – to get to the next, even higher, level of integration – to a Eurasian union. (…) We are not talking about recreating the USSR in one form or another. It would be naive to try to restore or copy that which remains in the past, but close integration based on new values and a political and economic foundation is imperative.” (…) We propose a model of powerful, supranational union, capable of becoming one of the poles of the modern world. (…) The Eurasian Union is an open project. We welcome the accession of other countries, primarily that of the CIS countries.”
Not only did Putin mark a Eurasian roadmap for the region, to be implemented—naturally— with Russian leadership, but he also circumscribed the circle of those whom are welcome in this new formation. Putin, on the other hand, went into battle against the unipolar world dominated by the USA, and made clear that Russia believes in a multipolar world and develops its geopolitical aspirations accordingly. It is much harder to decide what role Aleksandr Dugin and his ideology played in this.
Yan Xuetong, Professor of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, calls attention to the oddities of our reflections about the international order. He says we often talk about the challenges that the current international order must face, but fundamentally it has never been clarified what we mean by “international order”.
In Yan’s interpretation, international order basically consists of three elements. The first element is a set of generally accepted values, upon which international rules are built. These values serve as a system of reference to decide whether there is order in the international state of affairs or not. If there is no consensus on values, disputes evolve. For example, the United States is concerned that China’s further strengthening poses a challenge to the United States and the international order. On the contrary, in China the USA is generally perceived, by having deployed 60 per cent of its navy forces in the Pacific region within the framework of the so-called Pivot to Asia, to have fundamentally altered the balance of power in the Eastern Asian region
The second element of international order is normative regulation, which determines the behaviour of states and ensures a pacific solution of conflicts. It is a source of conflicts if there is no norm in some international areas, such as cybersecurity, as we can see that in the case of Chinese-American relations. Since there is no requirement, the parties cannot be sure whether the other party has understood the norms or not. Thus, clearly established norms are required to create an international order.
The third factor is the institutional system which forces states to respect the rules. On the one hand, it rewards the country for respecting the norm; on the other hand, it penalizes their violation. Unfortunately, the existing institutional forms—including the United Nations—currently do not have adequate capacity to ensure compliance with international rules. The United Nations for example adopts several resolutions but cannot enforce them.
What challenges does global order face? First and foremost, global order is not coherent and homogeneous. In one part of the world (e.g. North America), stability is full, while other regions (such as the Middle East) are on the brink of chaos. Europe and East Asia are situated between the two extremes. If we compare the order in East Asia and Europe, we can notice a very interesting phenomenon. On the one hand, the rise of China represents a serious source of tension in East Asia; but we can also see that no war has broken out in the region since 1991. In Europe, on the other hand, there is much less tension, but minor wars often break out, e.g. in Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine. Thus, East Asia and Europe have different orders.
Yan considers the definition of order very simple: settling disputes by peaceful means, to avoid wars. Thus, if we want the existing order to meet the challenges, first we need to accurately define the challenges that different regions must face. The number of these challenges is relatively low. Most likely, the most widely known problem threatening the world order is terrorism. But does terrorism mean the same thing to each and every region? Different values, norms and institutions exist in different regions, and their security architecture might also be different. The same framework cannot be expected to meet all challenges.
Consequently, if the United States intends to establish an Asian version of NATO in East Asia to counterbalance China (as it was expressed in the Pivot to Asia programme), this pursuit is doomed to failure, Yan believes. In his opinion, if we want to maintain global order—with the objective to prevent the outbreak of wars—it is necessary to build security architectures that embrace various, regional peculiarities. Although the security situation in East Asia and Asia Pacific is burdened by tensions (because of the South China Sea, the North-Korean nuclear issue or Taiwan) but Yan thinks they are of no great significance. Although they generate pressure in the relations between China and the USA, as well as between China and other countries, the regions remain to be able to avoid wars. The strategy of nuclear deterrence prevents the outbreak of any major war in the region, primarily between the USA and China. There might be so-called proxy wars but Yan still thinks that as long as it is in the interest of both China and the United States, tensions remain manageable in the Asia Pacific. Furthermore, the two major powers can take a balancing role, which prevents war between smaller states in the region.
The Chinese-American strategic and economic dialogue, however, must advance to create an important mechanism which enhances the principle of transparency and regulates the behaviour of states. Yan thinks China conveys the message of establishing regional order to the USA. If the parties can accept and are able to create a transparent mechanism that sets the rules, it might prevent the escalation of tensions into wars. The mechanism itself will not necessarily reduce tensions, but it might be adequate to help the world avoid wars resulting in disaster.
Sanjaya Baru is one of the most influential and renowned opinion makers of India on politics and economy. He has been an advisor of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) since 2008, and is currently serving as Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy.
One of the starting points and the most important fundamental thesis of Baru’s views is the fact that today we are living in the age of geo-economics. In this respect, he is of the same opinion with Edward Luttwak, author of the now classical work of geo-economic thought, in many aspects. In his essay From Geopolitics to Geo-Economics – Logic of Conflict, Grammar of Commerce published in 1990, Luttwak observes that commerce is displacing military methods, with disposable capital in lieu of firepower, civilian innovation in lieu of military technical advancement, and market penetration in lieu of garrisons and bases.
In his ideology, Baru also reflects on this thought. One of his governing principles is that today economic activity is a source of power, and the power of military activities is replaced by commercial activities. Economic power will be increasingly important in determining the primacy or subordination of states, which is evident in the current processes of world politics. The number of tanks, missiles, weapons and the size of the military are no longer the instruments of power; production efficiency, supervision of markets, strong currencies, currency reserves, ownership of foreign companies, factories and access to resources are.
Baru adds that the Cold War was not ended by a military action, either; the USA was continuously defeated (e.g. in Vietnam), but due to its leading role in economy, triumphed over the Soviet Union. Furthermore, in the future military conflicts are unlikely; however, geo-economic ones, incurring similarly grave geopolitical consequences, such as new alliances between specific countries, are alarming.
Baru’s another often voiced concept is the opposition between globalisation and regionalism in today’s world. Earlier we could talk about a bipolar world order (the Cold War era), or a single global power (today’s several thinkers confer this title on the USA), but this is not the “natural” state, but the existence of the regional powers is. Globalisation was exceptional; he even dubbed it as deviant. Conversely, he regards regionalism a normal, regular world order. Three hundred years ago, there were no superpowers in the world. He thinks today a re-balancing, a kind of regionalism of the global world order is taking place, that is regional powers, including his country, India, and Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa are gaining power. He also regards Germany and Japan successful examples of regional powers, as countries that recognized the importance of economic power and the access to resources (the importance of a geo-economic mindset).
Baru highlights that previously all international systems were established by the West, and the rest of the world complied with the rules of the founders. These international systems, however, are not capable of adequately responding to developing economies, therefore they are creating their own systems. That is what he means by the regionalism of the global world order.
In the twenty-first century, we are returning to an earlier, multipolar system, in which multiple centres exist, not just one. In fact, he regards the economic crisis of 2008 the failure of the globalized world, and regionalism can be a way out. Great multilateral institutions are going to be replaced by regional cooperation, and he believes the new world will be the world of developing economies, which have considerable economic potentials. The fundamentals of Sanjaya Baru’s concept of world order are heavily influenced by the fact that he comes from India, one of the developing economies of the world. His thoughts, however, are worth considering, since there is every chance that the economic weight of the BRICS countries for example will become increasingly significant in the economic and political processes of the world.
Robert D. Kaplan
Robert D. Kaplan (born 23 June, 1952 in New York City) is the author of fifteen best-selling books on foreign policy and travel translated into many languages. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and co-editor of The Atlantic, which has been publishing his works for three decades. He was chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor (between March 2012 and December 2014), a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Foreign Policy magazine twice named him one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”
Besides The Atlantic, Kaplan’s essays have appeared on the editorial pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times, as well as in all the major foreign affairs journals, including Foreign Affairs. He has been a consultant to the U. S. Army’s Special Forces Regiment, the U. S. Air Force, and the U. S. Marines. He has lectured at military war colleges, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, major universities, and global business forums. He has briefed presidents, secretaries of state, and defense secretaries, and has delivered the Secretary of State’s Open Forum Lecture at the U. S. State Department. He has reported from over 100 countries.
Center Stage for the 21st Century (2009)
In his work entitled Center Stage for the 21st Century, written for Foreign Affairs in 2009, Robert D. Kaplan explores the pivotal nature of the greater Indian Ocean region to the geopolitics of the current century.
Kaplan explains that even in this era of globalization, “politics is still at the mercy of geography.” A map of the region accompanying the article shows why the greater Indian Ocean will likely define global geopolitics for the foreseeable future: the rising powers of China and India are vying there for influence and power. The region also hosts the heart of the Islamic world as well as the energy resources of the Middle East-Persian Gulf area. Equally important are the waterways and strategic chokepoints that dot the region (such as the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Bay of Bengal, the South China Sea, Bab el Mandeb, the Strait of Hormuz). The Indian Ocean, writes Kaplan, is “the world’s preeminent energy and trade interstate seaway.”
“The old borders of the Cold War map are crumbling fast, and Asia is becoming a more integrated unit, from the Middle East to the Pacific.” If Kaplan is right, Southern Eurasia, which borders the greater Indian Ocean, may become the new “Heartland” of the continent (Mackinder in 1904 and 1919 identified northern-central Eurasia as the “Heartland”. /In Mackinder’s Heartland theory, Heartland is the area the control of which ensures a hegemonic position for the conquering power/).
Kaplan characterizes the India-China naval rivalry in the region as a “maritime Great Game,” and he recommends that the United States should rely on its naval power and “multiple regional …alliances” to act as a “stabilizing power.”
Kaplan’s article does not outline an entire world order, but he places a new centre of power onto the map. His above proposal suggests that the USA remains to be a superpower on the global stage, and even a re-evaluated and strengthened Indian Ocean region does not threaten its position, and is still capable of acting as a “stabilizing power”.
This view is similar to the new bipolar world order that Dominique Moisi described in his essay Renovating the World Order: an Asian power rises to serve as world leader alongside the USA (the article names China), but their relationship is lopsided, the USA still possesses important advantages.
Hungarian-born George Friedman is one of the most renowned geopolitical forecasters of the world. His books have ranked on top of best-selling list in recent years. In his analyses, he forecasts for even a hundred years ahead, predicting the rise and decline of states.
The mentality of the world is always determined by the hope that after a major war the era of peace comes, when nations, recognizing their shared responsibility, cooperate to create and maintain a world order to prevent future wars and conflicts. The idea driving it is that one coalition has won the war, thus in the system following it everybody wants to participate assuming equal privileges and duties. This happened also after the Cold War, when the common thought was that the only threat would come from rogue states and nonstate actors such as North Korea and al Qaida. This is what George H. W. Bush talked about to the Congress in 1990, but Friedman thinks the real New World Order, which determines the geopolitical system of our times, commenced on 8 August, 2008.
It was on this day Russia, a nation-state attacked Georgia, another nation-state, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States.
He thinks the new twenty-first century, with all its conflicts and peaces, will be no different than any other century, whatever our hopes might be.
This system is suffering from two imbalances. First, one nation-state, the United States, remains overwhelmingly powerful and no combination of powers are in a position to control its behaviour. Despite of all its economic problems and deficiencies, the reality is that the American economy has remained the largest, the U.S. military controls all the world’s oceans and space, thus its military supremacy is also unquestionable. The second imbalance is within the United States itself, precisely due to its enormous political capacity: its ground forces and the bulk of its logistical capability are committed to the Middle East, considerably limiting its ability to exercise that power in the short run. This creates a window of opportunity for other countries to act, consequently the United States is frustrated.
This internal frustration, however, does not originate only from the committed resources, but also from a paradox that the USA, the superpower of the new world order, must resolve, otherwise it might contradict itself. The United States is the youngest major power (which is hard to tackle, since why the citadel of democracy would label itself an empire?), hardly a generation old. Friedman compares the USA to a fifteen-year-old teenager, who falls from one extreme to the other as a maniac in depression while trying to cope with responsibility and power that it received and would happily give to someone else. However, thanks to its capacities and its undoubtedly overwhelming power, it is obviously the one that must bear these burdens. It must adapt to this new environment, to make the twenty-first century actually the American century.
What about the other actors of the global scene? It is Russia that launched the new world order, but Friedman thinks its military power will collapse by 2020, and the country will re-sink onto the level of a regional middle power, despite all appearances. Many see China as the next challenger and the superpower of the future, but Friedman warns that China is struggling with extremely grave internal social, political and economic problems, and its room for manoeuvre is also very limited geographically. Europe has been past the zenith of its power since the second world war, when the right to make decisions about war and peace shifted to Moscow and Washington. The sole powers that can influence the course of the twenty-first century, alongside the American one, are Poland, Turkey and Japan.
First and foremost, however, the United States remains dominant. It was the first state to recover from the economic crisis, disappointing all who were counting the last hours of the superpower and capitalism. The American century is yet to begin.
 Gerdt, Jana: „ИСТОКИ РОССИЙСКОЙ ГЕОПОЛИТИКИ”. In: Вестник Челябинского государственного университета. N12 / 2012.
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 Friedman, George: The Real World Order. In: Stratfor, 2008. augusztus 18. https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/real_world_order
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- CLOVER, Charles: In Moscow, a new Eurasianism. In: The Journal of International Security Affairs, Number 27, 2014. Autumn/Winter
- DUGIN, Alekszander: Osznovi Geopolitiki: Geopoliticseszkoje Buduscseje Rosszii.
- Friedman, George: The Real World Order. In: Stratfor, 2008. augusztus 18. https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/real_world_order
- Gerdt, Jana: „ИСТОКИ РОССИЙСКОЙ ГЕОПОЛИТИКИ”. In: Вестник Челябинского государственного университета. N12 / 2012.
- Monmaney, Terence: George Friedman on World War III. In: Smithsonian Magazine. 2010. augusztus.
- Trubeckoj, Nyikolaj: Взгляд на русскую историю не с Запада, а с Востока. http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/TNS/tns11.htm (2016. 06. 06.)
- Trubeckoj, Nyikolaj: Взгляд на русскую историю не с Запада, а с Востока. http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/TNS/tns11.htm (2016. 06. 06.)
- Vlagyimir Putyin: “A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making.” In: Izvestia 2011.10.03.