Founded in 2004 with the support of the Russian government, the Valdai Discussion Club bills itself as a forum that “aims to promote dialogue of Russian and international intellectual elites.” But the club’s 13th annual gathering, held in Sochi in late October, at times felt more like a shouting match than a measured debate.
The widening divide between Russian and Western values was on full display at the meeting. Some of the sharpest exchanges focused on the past, including contentious claims about the consequences of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Throughout the conference, Russian speakers criticized the United States and its Western allies for missing an opportunity to create a stable geopolitical framework for the 21st century by failing to embrace Russia after the Soviet collapse in 1991. In the view of many Russian participants, a stable new pan-European democratic order could have been created, based on principles of mutual respect, equal security, and non-interference in internal affairs.
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Richard Weitz is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute.