Many Russian participants contested the EU's and, more generally, the Western reading of multilateralism. They pointed out that "some countries present their definition of rules as legitimate", while not showing any restraint in violating international law and multilateral principles when it is in their interests. This, as one Russian speaker explained, referred mainly to the US. Because of US policy, "Russia now sees multilateralism as a place of deception." Russia had previously tried to adjust to the Western-dominated world order and, as a result, found itself in an outsider's position. Now that the world was becoming polycentric – as opposed to the unilateral global system of the 1990s and early 2000s – the main challenge was to replace the current, ideology-driven liberal world order with a truly rules-based order and the Western-dominated idea of multilateralism with a more democratic multilateralism, based on national security, sovereignty and equality.
Russian speakers deplored that multilateralism was currently being undermined by a stalemate between the different camps. The UN Security Council had become toothless because its members lacked common ground. The European/Eurasian continent was divided by a kind of "selective multilateralism" between two opposing projects: the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the US, on the one hand, and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), on the other. One Russian speaker somewhat contradicted this notion by stating that Russia remained a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker to this day, and was unhappy with this status.
The discussion about specific policy areas reflected the conceptual gaps that existed between Russian and EU participants. The most promising area for cooperation identified by the participants was the multilateral efforts to address climate change and protect the environment. Both sides are positively inclined to engage in this. The EU considers climate and environmental protection to be a key element of its internal and external identity, and there is a growing awareness in Russian society of climate and environmental issues. As a result, action is being increasingly taken on a political level. Moreover, Russia risks being excluded from the EU market if it does not comply with global and EU environmental standards.