COVID, Politics and Post-Soviet Societies: StrategEast’s Westernization Report 2021

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: COVID, Politics and Post-Soviet Societies: StrategEast’s Westernization Report 2021

DATE: 3pm, 19 April 2021

VENUE: Online

SPEAKERS: Anatoly Motkin, Sam Armstrong



Samuel Armstrong  00:00

Well, excellent, I can see our numbers have mostly stabilized on zoom, and indeed on Facebook and YouTube, where many of you are joining us from whichever format you’re listening in, or watching, we’re very grateful to have you for what I think it’s going to be an absolutely fascinating event that couldn’t really be coming at a better time at all. Our speaker today is Anatoly Motkin who’s the founder and president of StrategEast. He’s a successful technology investor with years of experience in political consultancy, and media entrepreneurship in the Eurasian region. And he now leads strategies, which among other things, publishes the westernization reports, which comes along every two years. And it marks a bit of a report card for those former USSR states that are now going through the process of democratization and westernization or are not as the case may be. And what it does is it looks at them and sees who’s who’s up and who’s down. And this year, they’ve got a report as well as the index. And I know it’s got a number of fascinating findings within it. And I think, given the events that we’ve seen, in the last 24 hours alone, it couldn’t be coming at a more interesting time in the region. That is right now finding itself at the, at the heart of not just at regional geopolitics, but indeed global globally. So, so without any further ado, I’d like to say that Anatoly who, unless I’m mistaken, is goint to speak for about 10-15 minutes, then we’ll go into a session in which I’ll ask him some questions. I want to focus particularly on those countries that have undergone big changes this year, or have been at the center of the news. And then following that, we’re going to go for an audience question and answer session. So if you’re thinking about your question now, ruminate on it. There’s a question and answer function at the bottom of your zoom screen. If you’re watching via zoom, do go on to there, type in your question, our technical team who are great, we’ll go through those to select a bunch covering as many different areas as we possibly can. And you’ll have a chance to answer those asks those lie to Anatoly towards the end of the presentation. But without further ado, Anatoly, you have a presentation on your fantastic report.


Anatoly Motkin  02:44

Thank you, Sam. Thank you for having me here today. And thank you to Henry Jackson society for this event. My name is Anatoly Motkin and I’m a president of StrategEast and StrategEast is a US registered nonprofit with the regional offices in Ukraine and Georgia. And our mission is to assist the Eurasian countries to transform their economy from a natural resource, traditional and industrial model to a knowledge driven economy and also to assist them to a get better linked to develop their Western values in the their countries. So today, I would be happy to introduce you with our study, which is our reflection study, which is called westernization report, and westernization index, which is a also been released, two issues. StrategEast, westernization important index their annual products. And as you can see, the first index has been released in 2018. And the next one in 2020. Last year, and the reports were each following here. StrategEast, a personalization index was created with two goals in mind first, to assist the post Soviet countries by themselves to better comprehend the processes that happen there. And also what are the common challenges. And also, it’s being developed for the Western society and they also also the think tank community to understand the processes from the experts who come from the region. So the StrategEast, westernization index is the first of its kind in three ways. First, it is the only report to analyze the 14 countries of the post Soviet Eurasian region as a whole. Now, I should admit that we deal with the region which were called psnr, but Soviet non Russian, because we think that there are some common challenges which are not common with the Russian interest today. So that’s why it’s only for 14 countries. The second one, it measures each country’s wholesale integration into the Western world across many sectors. So we’ve measured the legal westernization, economic westernization, political culture and lifestyle. And that is prepared for the west by the experts from the region. And it’s not dedicated to one specific theme, like a I like economics or freedom or some others. Why this research does not include Russia. Now it’s like an elephant in the room. While academic and research interests in Russia has always been significant, such interesting other former Soviet states has been limited. The StrategEast index by focusing on old post Soviet countries, except Russia, is intended to help to generate a more balanced and multifaceted attention to the region. by excluding Russia, we do not assume that Russia is more or less Mr. Nice than other post Soviet states and societies. Rather, the objective is to draw attention to all other courses, so former Soviet countries and to development they have undergone since the collapse of USSR. So again, the index methodology, and you can find it on our website as well. Is, is very clear. And we measured a way assess the level of translation of those countries in five dimensions, again, political, economic, legal language and culture and visualization of lifestyle. Were the first three, we give them 25% Ah, the legal and culture it’s 15 and westernization of lifestyle, you just them, but we should remember that lifestyle is also very important. The McDonald’s and Coca Cola and other a Western i would say i symbols are more than lifestyle, and they actually influence the way that society consumes the goods in their own countries. The index shows that for groups of countries there can be a distinction and it’s important a to say that this index has been published a year ago before the elections last elections in Belarus, the fraudulent election there. So in this index, that Belarus was still in group three with a balancing pragmatists, so the first group is naturally Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which are members of NATO and members of EU that seven is pro Western fair said, we call them it’s Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Three of them have a association agreement with the EU and much more developed institutions or a of civil society institutions, both and governmental institutions in the in the countries with bouncing pragmatists, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and this in the last group is a fortress states, Turkmenistan Tajikistan and a, my feeling says that maybe next year, Tajikistan will try to get out of this group, upper to number three. So we can see the you can see the figures of Estonia getting 92.5 and which we say is in a, absolutely a, a, you know, scientific highest isn’t, typically the highest grade is 100, but it’s not achievable. So it’s 92.5. Lithuania is 90, Latvia is 87.5, which is natural. Number four is Georgia with 64. And Moldova is a above Ukraine, despite the all the what we know about the heavy corruption in Moldova. But we’ve also corruption in Ukraine and the but some reforms that has been performed there delivered the goods, we have Armenia number seven was the region number a number eight was 40, with Kurdistan of 39.5, for number 10, then Kazakhstan on 35. And I would like to show you that the if we compare it to the figures of 2018, we could see decline and number 10, in Kazakhstan. And maybe this is a result of so called peaceful transition of power there from Muslims by Mr. Tokayev. And they actually you could see afterwards, I could say show you the exact figures and you could find it. Also in our study on the website, you can download the PDF of the whole report and index, you can see in each category. So we could see also one important thing that in Economic Association is much higher than any other category, because it’s about economical. A relationship with investors like BP and other is not necessarily in hydrocarbons, but it’s always about money and money is easier. When we look on legal westernization. It’s always slower. Although we understand that fair GDP system is the key to prosperity in those countries or just in any country’s country because it’s also provides you with equality of opportunities for all. So, you can see also that political westernization is again predictably much lower than economic and the same you can see in language and lifestyle I for the obvious reasons especially for countries like Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and others. So, for mega trends of the region multispeed westernization has taken place across the region at the variable place base. In most cases, it is possible for the post Soviet Eurasian countries to westernize and adopt the values and practices of liberal democracies. However, most of the countries from the region prefer to take as much mistranslation as they can carry without damaging the power vertical. On the other hand, web multilit multilateralism refers to the tendencies of the countries, especially small ones, to live with other countries through membership in various organizations. And with a number of organizations in this region. One of them is Eurasian Economic Union, led by Russians with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and Russia obviously there. And other countries, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and to some extent Moldova are willing to join the EU and we have signed Association agreements in those countries. Now with multipolar in place. For years, the only game in town was the Kremlin. Over the course of the post Soviet period, the West graded competition for Russia, it diluted its dominance, especially as a in the Western European countries, a in the western Pacific, Eastern European countries. The penetration of the West has been widely slow and has occurred at different speeds, mainly taking place in the countries that have been willing to reform. After 30 years of a bipolar region, there is another player emerging with a great force China, China has been quietly without fanfare, engaging efficiently with the governments of the region. The countries in China’s geographic proximity are the first to engage with Beijing on a series of projects of economic nature, especially countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and others. And we could talk on this more afterwards on q&a session, and mobility. There are a few countries in the post Soviet Eurasian region that offer the possibilities of developing western states. That is why there has been an intense outflow of migration and mobility in the region. The EU members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania enjoys the visa free regime and the EU labor market is open to these countries. There is a free version with you is also in place with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which has significantly increased the amount of travel to the EU states. And we know that also includes unfortunately illegal working immigrants to European Union. And now I owe this procedure. It’s not about a canceling visa, liberalisation with the with a with a waiver with Georgia and Ukraine, but it’s about checking each traveler by the countries themselves. Now about the a report itself, the last westernization report, so westernization report 2021, tracks changes and identify strengths. We have local experts from all countries, again, it’s that for each country, we have local experts, and not somebody who is expert in all all countries or leafs elsewhere. Some of them unfortunately had to, to a Not to mention their names, for the obvious reasons a or for the nature of the countries that there were writing about. And now, besides our experts, we also address some questions to the policymakers and government officials in those countries. And obviously, some of them did not answer, but many of them did. And it’s also interesting how the perception or what is the view from governmental perspective on the same issues that were described by our experts. And, and also we a you could, you could, as I mentioned, you could see that some trends are common to different countries, even from different regions of post Soviet region. Now about the main topics for each country, and it’s a the one slide before the last one. For Estonia, it was metal over family values. It’s although Estonia is a the list traditional country. But a the race of populism there in the parliament is talking about again, not recognizing the marriage between a same gender, people and then some other stuff that we got used to hear from other countries or from other ages. different times. And it’s a really frustrates but but today it’s a one of the challenges for the Estonian government. In Lithuania, the main topic was new female led government. And we know that the government there on 37% is consists of women, which is great achievement, because we’ve seen studies and it’s described also in our report, that it’s not easy for women to get high official positions in in Lithuania. And it was even proposed to introduce some quarters for women, for female in the government, in light that it failed to ratify the Istanbul convention. And Istanbul convention is a convention that I against the domestic violence. And unfortunately, Latvia, because of some, again, populist reasons, has not signed this convention. And some people think that it could be a threat to a to female in the families or to a weak people in the families. But it has been described by the, our expert. In fact, 80% of this convention was recognized by Latin Parliament as a loss is a stellar standalone loss. So it’s only about 20%. A as as it was not recognized there. But still, it’s it’s it’s very bad for them as especially as you remember, in Georgia COVID-19 ruined the tourism. And it’s something that we know that Georgia was one of the not only one of the beacons of democracy in the Eurasian region, but also their economy was heavily dependent on tourism, even their winery, industry and all other industries. Actually, they weren’t dependent on tourists who came and purchase those goods. In 2019, the number of tourists visiting Georgia that visited Georgia with 3.5 million population was 8.5 million people. You could just imagine yourself that in within the pandemic in 2020, it was just this several hundreds of 1000s in best case, and only in I think believe August in September. So in Moldova that I the most important event was election of my son is the president and we will show what importance but it’s a great signal from the society there. They are interested to a fight against corruption, which was actually and still is, unfortunately, systemic in Moldova, integrating it was negotiations on Donbass, and unfortunately these days we see that Russians are I brought a 100,000 troops a to Ukrainian warrior, but in 2020, those negotiations was still not necessarily positive. But a inevitably they were important to the next developments in Ukraine. in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Naturally, the word or the the conflict the armed conflict between them was the main topic in in Armenia was Azerbaijan reduced actually the level of westernization there and we’ll talk about this. in Azerbaijan, Russian peacekeeping troops are a with boots on the ground there actually increased the dependence of Azerbaijan on Russia, and they also obviously naturally decrease the future. westernization steps Ay, ay ay by this country. in Kurdistan, the most important event was the third revolution. And we’ll also discuss this in the in our report, saying that, hat not necessarily was positive, because also we could see some backslide in a democracy and institutional governance in Negril istan. in Kazakhstan. The most important issue was the China’s growing influence in Belarus, obviously, mass protests there after the federal elections. It was Pakistan countries, comprehensive digitalization, led by the president there and by the government in Tajikistan and pandemic aggravated economic crisis, and in Turkmenistan denial of Coronavirus would happen that happens in some other in some other authoritarian states as well. So you could see that we’ve just colored the positive negative and uncertain trend. And the unfortunately this year we have only four positives, which is Lithuania new female led government, the Moldova election of my assemblies, the president must process in Belarus as a next step in civil society development there and Uzbekistan countries comprehensive digitalization and you can see that the battle over family values in Estonia we don’t see still in we don’t know what will be the outcome. In Ukraine negotiations on Donbass, it was still unclear where it would lead the Ukrainian government and the governance and going to sound the third revolution still we try to keep optimistic and the To see where the new government would lead this country. So it’s basically about the report. And they I’ll stop the presentation here. And I’d be happy to keep the conversation with you, Sam.


Samuel Armstrong  20:14

Well, thank you very much. Indeed. Anatoly, that was fascinating speaking for myself. We did a kind of veritable rapid tour there. I wonder if we could just drill in a little bit more detail into obviously, the the one country that we’ve been speaking about in most detail recently, is Ukraine. Now I know us you say that, at the time of publication, the the situation there was mixed, it was uncertain, we weren’t sure quite what was or wasn’t going to be happen. happening. Events, obviously, in recent days have taken another term. What do you see the sort of geopolitical events we’ve seen in recent days impacting on Ukraine’s broader westernization program? Is it? Is it going to be the owner’s step to move further faster? Or? Or is it gonna have a negative impact in the coming years?


Anatoly Motkin  21:18

I think that it’s, it’s interesting, but always in the green the waters with progression and progression inspirations, were almost 50, 50%. And all this, it was 1 million voters who actually decided who would be the president, either it will be progression abroad, progression, one, after Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea, and some regions of domestic Luhansk regions, actually, always now, the progression voters are minority. So sorry for this arithmetical and cynical approach. But today, they don’t have a just a medic, majority there. It’s first second. I think that Maidans in Ukraine, where they Maidan or uprising, for those who don’t know, integrating 2004, in 2013 14, work for European future of Ukraine. So in first instance, in 2014, and it’s and it’s interesting that the both of them were against Yanukovych, which is the same person. So in 2014, it was about a there Western choice for Mr. Yoshida, as you remember, the Orange Revolution. And in 2013 2014, they might they people came to the streets to the central square of Kiev to my dad, because they were promised by President Yanukovych the table. Sign on association agreement with European Union and last minute because of the Russian pressure, he refused to sign. So first were the students but you know, a some people in prevalent believe that they all those who were in the streets were paid for getting there. But we know that they The truth is that they actually the people in Kiev came to the streets of their own town to protest. So I think that the western agenda still gets a majority in Ukraine. A and it stands along from corruption issues, say, you know, lack of a proper judicial system there in Ukraine. But I still think that, even for a president Zelensky, who at the beginning of his career, he was true believer that it just a matter of his sincere conversation with Mr. Putin to get the occupied regions back. And it was very naive. And it makes a Mr. Zelensky just a good person who believes that others are also maybe with a good nature. But unfortunately, we understand that a Russian player is different. And they will never will never lead to Ukraine to stay as a prosperous independent state integrated into the Western economy and Western world. So they’ll do anything to adjust to that not to let Ukraine become sustainable. And that’s one of the reasons I besides the Nord Stream two and other issues that people speculate what is the reason of this 100,000 troops, a by Ukrainian border in the end of the military planes in Crimea, and they, you know, the military vessels there, but they but for you can mention different reasons, but the main one is that Russians, they demand that Ukraine will stay will stay loyal to Russia, and they will not tolerate independent Ukraine and in any price almost for them. So they think that today without any doubt the intention of Ukrainian government is progressing. Russians will bother. Another thing that was a described a in extremely precisely entered by a alumni good man shook in our report about Ukraine that the first stage. The problem of Mr. Zelensky thought that Mr. Poroshenko, his predecessor, had some kind of ownership on European and Western agenda. So he was like trying the thing that it will support vocally the western agenda. He will, like become a supporter of his predecessor. But then the polls and surveys showed that actually, even the majority of his own voters are supporting that close to 75%. They are supporting that Ukraine will join that, sorry, au, and more than 50% joining NATO. So I think that without any doubt today, the agenda in Ukraine is progressing.


Samuel Armstrong  25:46

The one question I have just briefly before we move on to other issues in recent weeks, and you know, even from our perch here in London, we’ve noticed that a sense in in Ukraine, both from within the administration and from the wider society, and indeed the public that this degree of frustration that the West has not stepped in to support Ukraine at the moments of national crisis and particular needs. All the world Germany in particular, of course, plowing ahead with Nord Stream two, with 20 cent is is there a risk in Ukraine scenario that if the West is not vocal in its support, it’s not necessarily the case that Ukraine will turn back to the nearby aggressor. But it is the case that there might be a stalling in westernization as the West is perceived to have let Ukraine down.


Anatoly Motkin  26:43

Thank you for this question. So basically, our Russians understood at some stage that if they will ask Ukrainians, what do you choose the broad Western vector of development operation, they’ll choose progressive, so they’ll they’re trying to play on what they call the external influence, and external influence? They mean that Russia that Western companies are coming to extract natural resources from Ukraine, but they are not doing nothing in exchange. And what in Russians and some people even in Ukraine believes that Americans are pushing Ukrainians to find to find a story to fight against Russians with a grain enhance, which is absolutely, you know, not precisely say it this way. But, but I think that there is no way that what is the alternative? The alternative to westernization in Ukraine is actually Russia or China. There is no third player. It’s not Turkey, it’s not Iran. Right. So I don’t think that, that Ukrainians are eager to work with Russia today, and they don’t have this option. And even if there’s frustrated the West is not vocal enough. I think that today, the first US Congress provided a more than $200 million of funding for weapons, and including the lack of weapons. And today they’re developing the United States at least developing training programs for a Ukrainian soldiers and officers. So I think that the mistake of Obama administration was to try not to, to frustrate Mr. Putin, I think that Biden’s administration is not the position of trying to be gentle with Mr. Putin. And the last steps just demonstrated more than anything else. So I think that they’ll get more support. And the support of Ukraine in the United States is bipartisan. It’s not just Republicans or Democrats. So you can see on the hill, absolutely support and also think that the new administration will do more steps in the near future. The question is what will do Germany? And it’s a great question, because it’s the the most important player in in Europe, in theory don’t have a clear answer, but I’m concerned.


Samuel Armstrong  28:54

Well, yes, I think that’s my views there. And like you not have don’t have the solution. But do you have the same concerns? The other country that that I suppose in, in geopolitical terms that most resembles our Ukraine, and in that it’s lost portions of its territory to Russia is Georgia. Georgia, as you say, was one of the countries that had a very negative outlook over the last year as COVID hit its tourism revenue. We’ve seen the political turmoil that it’s faced in in recent years. What next with Georgia and in particular, I think Georgia is a country to which West feels an obligation to provide security investments betterment. How can the West supported in its in its journey towards westernization as it feels the pain of economic disruption?


Anatoly Motkin  29:51

Thank you for this question. I think that Georgia, especially after the Armenian Azerbaijan conflict became much more vulnerable than it was before. So even after the Russian invasion to South City, and we should see 10 Valley region of Georgia and the plaza, we know that this region’s, in fact, were occupied by Russian say, started in 1992. And it’s not a new one. But today, it’s like became they became recognized as independent states by Putin. By Russia. But let’s get back to the this a last visit of Mr. Pompeo to Georgia and happen just the number of months before he left the office. And it was absolutely formal visit unfortunately, without meeting in person with people from civil society and the opposition. And I think it’s a wrong signal. I think that in Georgia, it’s important to show that we have interests there. And our interests there is much higher than just a comic once a year and the to shake hands of the government officials. Without a making a strong statement and putting boots on the ground in Georgia in any capacity. It could be military base, it could be also some a you know, a economic interest by Western countries have investment there. I think that inevitably, it will become part of this a Turkey, Iran, Russia, divided region and Rand region. So today, we have Russian troops deployed and Turkish troops deployed in Azerbaijan and the Russians in Armenia. And you know, that FSB officers because the border control fresher FSB officers, a, they’re controlling each track, a moving there. So it just a matter of time that they the Georgia will inevitably economically will become part of this alliance. And they think that it’s important that a random shell today supported the conflation between the opposition and the government in Georgia, because as you might know, a since the elections in October 2020. The opposition refused to get their seats in the parliament. They claimed that the elections were fraudulent. And they there were many accusations of fraud in those elections. But still, it was nobody I mean, there was no facilitator and negotiator strong enough to put them around one table to get some, some solution and some formal, and I’m happy that they apparently today they both sides sign this, and the opposition in Georgia will become part of this political process there.


Samuel Armstrong  32:39

Look, very good, long country for which we’ve got a bit of recent good news. We, you touch there on Azerbaijan and Armenia. Putting asides to one moment that the consequences of the of the conflict. Obviously, we now see some form of proxy war there. What does that mean in terms of the long term westernization of both countries? Are we going to see a two tracks? Are we going to see a divergent future between the two countries? Even a moment you can answer that but but just before I turn to that, just to Ladies and gentlemen, in the audience, we’re very keen to get you into ask your questions. The only way I can call on you to ask your question to Anatoly is if you ask one. So the question and answer function is down there at the bottom. If you do want to ask a question, please do say I think it’s a strong chance to get to call on you today. So we’re very lucky to have somebody here who’s done all of the research on this great question. So please do please do ask a question by that format. But Armenia and Azerbaijan, what what holds for the future for them?


Anatoly Motkin  33:54

I think that in Armenia, understand that they end, remember that Nikol Pashinyan came as a result to the power as a result of peaceful uprising there. I think it was the least violent revolution in the in this region. And the maybe partially also because it was led by IT guys, and they’re not, you know, too violent. And, and He always was frustrating Russians, and his, you remember Putin explicitly asked him not to put in jail for corruption. One of his predecessors, predecessors, and the some days after he was arrested in Armenia, and they and he was like, you know, pro Western freak. And the problem with Russians is that they prefer that countries will be run by personalities and not institutions. And when they’ve seen that Mr. pashinian, trying to set up some proper institutions in Armenia that just may make them mad and they One of the reasons that a for not interfering on the Armenian side within the conflict was just also to punish also to punish a budget misimpression. But on the other hand, Putin was also is very cautious each time, it’s about Turkey. So when he saw that a turkey is too engaged on Azerbaijan site, he decided that it would not be Turkish army against Russian Army. So he decided just to see. And moreover, I don’t want to make, you know, to frustrate some of our Armenian listeners, but part of those regions, even according to Armenian perception, we’re about to get back to the budget. It was never about the military conflict, and whenever support military conflicts, but there was there’s supposed to be some kind of reconciliation between the two countries that included some territory is getting back to Azerbaijan. But getting back to what happened in Armenia today, Russians are absolutely controlling what have happened there. And after they, you know, the Minister of Defense Minister of Economy, or the heavy ministers of Russian government getting through Armenia and saying to push down, what from starting now and on will happen in Armenia. Today, they have absolute control and what happens there, it’s a if they would like, I would like to set up some straight events that will remove personnel from power, they’re able to do it. in Azerbaijan, it’s different. But still, with the Russian troops there. They’re controlling their a the way between the Haven region, and they care about region and others. And it’s, again, it’s FSB officers, and in some other issues of Azerbaijan, economy and politics. I think that the, let’s say, a projects of Western integration or westernization would be I think, stopped or put on hold, unfortunately.


Samuel Armstrong  36:55

Thank you for that. The the next one I’d like to cover I know, we’re just scratching the surface with all of these issues. And we’re sort of describing a country’s whole future in  50 words or less. Obviously, this year, we’ve seen huge turmoil in in Belarus. Undoubtedly, it feels from the outside that that better research has taken a step backwards, that there was hope, revolution of a political change, that that would deliver a different future for Belarus. The moment came and and it faultered. Is that right? Is the future bleak for Belarus should we should we hold out very little hope for the future there.


Anatoly Motkin  37:40

I think that inevitably, are Belarus will have freedom to choose their own government. The question is when and you should also people when they’re estimating how many people will get to the streets in a normal way. For example, you should take into account that close to 300,000 – 250,000 Belarusians, left Belarus, and most of the I mean, within the last half year, it means that most of them are those who are either protesters or in some degree to some degree, they were concerned about their future and maybe they they afraid they will be detained in Belarus. So the most active people in Belarus these days are residing in Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and other countries and Czech Republic by the way. So I think that it will take some time, but we should remember that. The The, the, the, the process is in Belarus, with not only civil societies and stakeholder but also Russians and Russians putting in person a, he is interested to remove Lukashenko from power, but not as a result of a uprising, because it would be become a bad example for his own population. But still, as we can see about a according to, you know, very nervous reaction of Mr. Lukashenka, to some signals from Russia, about the constitutional reform and other stuff. I think that they’re trying to significantly reduce his power in Belarus. And and for Mr. lukashenka is, you know, the his power is his absolute value. And I don’t see him I don’t see him going to to get less power than he has today. And the so it would be interesting also in terms of confrontation between the Russian authorities and Belarus and we can see that when he asks for new funding for his special services for his budget, a they’re not so fast and allowing him with new funding. So it would be interesting not only in civil society side but we should watch also what happens on Russia Belarus relations.


Samuel Armstrong  39:59

Fantastic. We’re beginning to get a couple of questions in please do send some more in the more the merrier. But I’m going to ask my last question now before we turn to turn to audience questions, at least for a little while, which is of those who were leading westernization. Amongst these states, there’s in the Baltic Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. The first is to say, How are they doing? What’s their report card? God, you’re very good at very high scores. But the second is, is there a leadership role that they’re playing in the region? And could our friends and allies in the Baltics do more to help lead other post Soviet states in the in the near Russia region? on their journey towards westernization? Should we should we be asking more of our friends there as regional leaders?


Anatoly Motkin  40:55

I yes, I agree with you, we do as we should ask them, and it works. A one of our programs that we conduct together with open world, the congressional agency of for international exchange, is the young leadership program for young deputy ministers and English speaking under 40 from the Eurasian region. And we always take people from from the Baltics, with people from, you know, Central Asia, Caucasus and Eastern Europe. Because for us, the Baltic states are the role model. And and we always try to prevent from people you know, not to allow them to reinvent the wheel. That means that next time they face some challenges, they could ask their colleague in Tallinn in Estonia, what have you done 25 years ago, maybe we should replicate the same. So I think that the story is the most my feeling, and I also visit almost all of these countries besides Turkmenistan, that if thought study is the only non post Soviet state it’s absolutely western country. When you get there, you don’t have this feeling of you know, this a fight this depressing neighborhoods. Like even today, we have some envious suburbs you can meet them. Like it wasn’t this isn’t Germany, by the way in the beginning of 90s. But Estonia today is absolutely western country, more similar to a to a static states rather than to a to the A their neighbors, Lithuania and Latvia are more complicated, because lots of you know, they have 42% of Russian population there and majority of population in Riga, and, and the these people are a influenced by Russian television in Latvia. And it’s it’s huge a issue there. I think the integration of Russian population and study is much more successful, as I have seen it there. And, and Lithuania is also I think it’s there. They need to work hard because of their economical issues, but their Western, without any doubt western country, and I and they actually all three of them, express their will a to join a both not an EU and they got this and they they they it will take some time. You know, it always take some time. And moreover, we see some backslides, like we see in Poland and Hungary. But But we know that the rectory still record to the rest of nowadays.


Samuel Armstrong  43:17

You couldn’t have moved on better there to one of our first questions which has been sent in anonymously, so I can’t call them to ask it live. So I’ll do it on. On your own behalf. You can do that. By the way. If you’re shy of coming on on camera, you can send in a question anonymously. And I’ll read it out for you. So please do those as well. Just and the question reads, how do you expect the Lithuanian economy to develop its point you’re just touching on they do not have substantial resources? What can they develop? And the one the one point I would add to that is I know Lithuania has had some challenges with corruption recently, particularly at the regional level. And whereas the central governments have been making great steps to eradicate that out clearly there are parts of the economy that that are still more post Soviet and orientation. How can the Lithuanian economy develop more broadly? resource what the opportunities and how’s it tackle today’s this post Soviet corruption issues?


Anatoly Motkin  44:18

So first, it’s worth talking about the economy, rather than about politics. So let’s let’s start with the corruption. I think that the digitalization is, you know the answer to accountability and transparency. And I had a conversation with former  president of Estonia Thomas Silvus. And he told me that one of his friends told him that it’s more expensive. He prefers to travel through that fee, not to Estonia because it’s more expensive there. And he asked why gasoline is more expensive. No, no, it’s the same. So what’s what’s more expensive, he told me that look, in Latvia, you still have the penalties issued by the policeman so you could break And then it’s cheaper in Estonia everything is you have all these cameras and surveillance so you have nobody to negotiate with. So it’s more expensive. So, once you do things digital, I think that the digital dividends as a you know a, they were important by the World Bank digital dividends, you get the dividends by reducing significantly the level of production. And it what actually happened in on a Ukraine was the prozorro, the local procurement blockchain procurement system for government, government offices, and they the corruption in procurement integration reduced significantly. So actually, I think digitalization is anti corruption because we do not believe the EU could change in one or 10 years, the nature of people, but we are able to just exclude them from the process. And it’s the first one and it was the second one the first one was about Lithuania. Look, it’s it’s true that Lithuania should work harder than Latvia For example, when they had the banking thriving bank sector. Unfortunately, it was also a engaged in the money laundering schemes with the with the passivity big personality countries. But also they had a this a ports that the the the actually the the transferring commodities from Russia or Kazakhstan or other countries to the Baltic Sea. We have almost the same in climate in in in Lithuania. But still, I think that the future is not about commodities, the future is about services and knowledge. And they think that when you look even on authoritarian Belarus, and you have 50,000 tech developers who generate $2.5 billion to Belarusian economy, I think $2.5 billion for this webinar is significant amount of money. And I know that already we have a number of startups and the more I developed it industry in this way. But I think that the key is is is knowledge based economy, and not the fertilizers, no other stuff that we knew from 90s. That worked actually.


Samuel Armstrong  47:05

Fantastic. We’re going to take a question live now if we can. It’s from Fiona. I think you’ve unmuted yourself good to go ahead and ask your question.


Fiona McWilliam-Free  47:19

Thank you very much. Kind of looking back out from a research perspective. And with regards to report as a whole. How was this other methodology? How did that come about? What was the marking criteria? And how will the individual researchers chosen please? Yep,


Anatoly Motkin  47:36

So it’s, it’s, it’s different between, we should distinguish between report and index in index. You could see the methodology up to each single point and how it’s been built up. And you could find it in, and you can find it under the reports, you can find it’s just the beginning of a mistranslation index. So there is a way clear, with the experts, we work with a different emphasis a mainly us or Western European emphasis, and also our partners knowledge partners in this survey, or a new Europe center from Kiev, and they work a lot with the European Union and other Western institutions. So they were also in charge of calibrating the results, and not to get different grades for the same result in different countries. So a methodology for the index in their methodology for the report was first to pick up the experts and then each expert should describe the most important event in his country, a course of the last year that will significantly influence or inevitably influence the results of next year’s index.


Samuel Armstrong  48:54

Fantastic if I may, I might turn back to a to a question of mine, which is with relation to moldaver that’s that’s a country that that you’ve pointed out is sort of is not quite there yet. It seems to me neither making progress nor moving backwards. What do you think Moldova has stagnated where it has and how can the West helps me that forwards.


Anatoly Motkin  49:27

Look the problem is Moldova is not only corruption of the problem with Moldova is the 70% of their population if we just say I’ll simplify and 70% of the population are above their 50s so that’s country with most of their youngsters as left because a absolutey legally because their Romanian passports and other means of you know, that allowed them to move. But I think that I we have two main challenges mulled over, the key one is called corruption, heavy corruption they made in Moldova one day, for some period of time Russian laundromat in the region, they when they were laundering 10s of billions of dollars. And the second one is a Russian, Russian theory, Transnistria, Russian troops are there and the Transnistria became region where you could smuggle any, any any goods and commodities, unfortunately, and they could they conduct any fraud and there are some people who are controlling this region. So a Maria Sandra, when she, when she got to the office a she called for two things first, for Russian troops to get out of Moldova, because they were not invited by model. The second one was trying to use the Security Council in that’s exactly what the landscape is doing these days. And, by the way, in the Ukraine, do use the Security Council, the only executive branch of the GSA under the president’s office, because you know, Moldova is a prime minister and has more authority than president. So she tries to use the the Security Council to struggle against the corruption there. And I hope that the first it’s very strong signal for many people who are living in Moldova that they have a chance to get a better country. And second, you should know one more thing. She was in second pool a in the election there. And she mainly one, thanks to the Moldovans residing abroad 260 people 260,000 people living abroad voted for her, it means that maybe that it will become better place to live, maybe they’ll get back.


Samuel Armstrong  51:48

Well, there we are. That’s an incentive. Right at the beginning, you said we’ve got another few questions that will come over in a minute. But right at the beginning, you said you thought Tajikistan this year, might be in a position next year or by within two years time to move up a wreck?  What’s the reason for your optimism, and, again, we should wish to be doing in attempting to support it.


Anatoly Motkin  52:16

I think that the most important thing that the West can do. And that’s thanks to the World Bank’s efforts there. And the World Bank conducts the digital cast is not the house in Spanish, it’s Central Asia, South Asia, they have a project that assists to develop digital economy and digital infrastructure in Central Asia. And they think that an opportunity to any Tajikistan guy in rural area to get access to any information is actually inevitably develops first his knowledge, but also it makes disinformation competitive with the what he shows on the official theory. But also I see some signals from the government that they are also interested in developing that knowledge driven economy there. And they understand that it’s inevitable. The a, you know, five years ago, they used to think that if they have 1000 people collecting Cotton’s it’s great because they have 1000 jobs. And when I asked them, but what why don’t you have one machine and two people? They asked me Yes, but we need to feed 998 more people. So we prefer to leave it this way. I think and my feeling and then we’ve briefed a Tajikistan government board, together with the World Bank, my feeling and the feedback that they got from them that they are motivated to be able to set up a Nigerian economy. Moreover, they have a new position since November, I believe, last year of Minister for innovation and industry, innovation and industry, which is fine. But But I think that they’re trying to do their best now, because they see what happens in Uzbekistan. And what happens, because time is really impressive. I mean, in terms of reforms of transparency, of freedom of not using the kids labor in a you know, in a cotton harvest and other stuff.


Samuel Armstrong  54:05

That that is deeply positive. Interesting in the same local region, we’ve had a question from, again, aluminum is question, but it’s a very good one, which is that it says that Kazakhstan has had substantial investments in its oil and gas sector by Western companies such as Chevron, and shell that resulted in huge economic developments and technological advances. It appears to be buying away from the west and getting towards China and Russia. Why is this happening?


Anatoly Motkin  54:37

I think that China is much bigger, it’s much bigger challenge for Kazakhstan rather than Russia. And the A because a China are hardly investing there. Moreover, there you can see in our report that their ambassador in Kazakhstan allows to himself to criticize the local Government officials to say that you are right, and you’re wrong. And, and the reason is very simple. They thought in 90s, that the hydrocarbons is something that they is any commodity, they sell it. But it’s not alone, they have something that the West needs, and the West is able to buy. It never was condition by the Western companies not by should run by anybody else. For let’s see overall rule of law or private property protection or, or other values that are important to us. I think that the reason that they’re now still working with Western companies, but moving to China, because China is bigger, China’s closer and and the one last thing we have a couple of minutes. We should not forget that even if because authorities are working and collaborating with China. There is way deep protests against China among Kazakhstan population against too many service and assessments have been done within the last year. So I think it’s it’s not a it’s not an absolute matter of collaboration between those countries. But I think still that a that China thinks that color Stan Pakistan and all these countries are a part of single world. And they actually have a priority in a toward Russia and the moreover West influencing in this region.


Samuel Armstrong  56:31

Yes. And if I might close with with one question in my mind, which is the Belton road initiative? Obviously, all of these countries we look at in the context of where Soviets now westernizing or could be westernizing. And Russia is this big break that could be holding it back. The BRI as I see it has a potential to to change all of that in that you add in this third character, an anti westernized force different answer question, I suppose. But that’s us most was nevertheless tempting through massive investment, massive, a massive corporate involvement exports, whatever, to get involved in all of these countries. G7 are obviously talking about their alternative, much smaller, it must be said. But is that the big lurking Dark Horse on the on the horizon is that casting a shadow over the region’s Western eyes, westernization prospects,


Anatoly Motkin  57:27

I think that look to contradict a too Belt and Road initiative, you should propose some alternative, it doesn’t work otherwise, you can say don’t take it. But I’ll not give you anything. So either you will think about some kind of, let’s say Marshall Plan for the former Soviet Union. Or you should just watch this. And it was just my conversation with somebody about the a how to convince some specific government not to purchase a Chinese 5g equipment, but rather to deploy the trust vendors, like Ericsson or Nokia or Samsung. And they told them, at least you should be put them in equal conditions. I mean, if it costs 10 cent from Chinese, you should pray provided for 10 cents you couldn’t force them to buy for $1. So I think that a get it started as political initiative. But now it’s it gets traction and in the Belt and Road initiative. And I think that if we do care about this region, we should propose something, which would be a would develop an alternative also in terms of knowledge and IP, and not only in terms of money.


Samuel Armstrong  58:29

Well, fantastic. That’s that’s the solution to a great geopolitical problem. We are out of time. But thank you so much, to our audience. Thank you and Tony, for joining us. This has been fascinating. I’ve learned a lot I hope many other people have learned a lot. Thank you. If you are joining on the YouTube or Facebook live streams. Thank you if you watch those later. All that remains for me to say is thank you very much to our entire audience, for coming. We do have another event coming up on the 26th of April. That’s next week on Iran from the center of this tension, human rights abuses in Iran. If you’re interested in the question of Iran and human rights there, please do come along to that for the rest of you. If you’re in London, enjoy the good weather, if you’re joining us from elsewhere. Have a lovely rest of the day. And thank you very much for coming. Excellent


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