…And Russia Pivots too…И Россия делает поворот также

Russia too is aiming to pivot to Asia – or so it says. The Russian Federation hosted the annual APEC Economic Leaders Meeting for the first time in Vladivostok to underscore its presence in East Asia. But this isn’t the first time that Russia – and the Soviet Union before it – has launched a “go East” initiative, when in fact the country is more naturally focused on the West and Europe.

In this Global Times essay, Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes that “giving up on the [Russian] Far East is not an option, any more than ‘closing’ it from outsiders again. Asian dynamism will keep the Russian leaders awake at night. So much for the Asia-Pacific as a resource for Russia. What can Russia offer in return? Not much, for the time being. Russia’s share in the APEC members’ foreign trade is a puny 1 percent. Yet, it would be foolhardy to entirely discount Russia. Even in its present shape, the country is a repository of valuable natural resources: energy, metals and timber. These can and should be explored more widely and exploited more efficiently, as well as delivered to the prospective customers, but this will essentially be enhancing Russia’s “specialization” as a base of raw materials for both the developed and emerging economies. Russians need not be ashamed of their richness in resources, but they certainly ought to do better than just mining and chopping.”

He concludes:

There is a lot that Russia and Russians can do in the Asia-Pacific region. They, too, need to begin investing in the region. They need to consider joining free trade regimes with other countries. They need to see themselves in the 21st century as a Euro-Pacific country, and act accordingly.

Can Russia finally become a real player in the Asia-Pacific – rather than an interested bystander?


One thought on “…And Russia Pivots too…И Россия делает поворот также

  1. Megan Craighead (@MeganCraighead)

    In Vladimir Sorokin’s post-modernist novel, “Day of the Oprichnik,” he portrays a bipolar, authoritarian world controlled by Russia, and China. The West is in obvious decline, clinging to shreds of its magnificence while it watches its two former rivals control the world stage. One of the hallmarks of this post-American world is The Road, which “runs from Guangzhou across China, then winds its way across Kazakhstan, enters through the gates in our Southern Wall, and then traverses the breadth of Mother Russia to Brest. From there – straight to Paris. The Guangzhou-Paris Road. Since the manufacturing of all necessary goods flowed over to Great China bit by bit, they built this Road to connect China to Europe.” While China shares the stage with Russia, it is clear that China is the dominant force. However, later in the novel, the secret service decides to challenge this current state of affairs, “How long must our great Russia bow and cringe before China?! Just as we bowed before foul America during the Time of Troubles, so now we crawl hunchbacked before the Celestial Kingdom.”

    Pilling and Trenin both acknowledge that a closer relationship between China and Russia would be advantageous to both. However, the business climate in Russia is such that while it has large rewards, it can have equally large punishments. This is especially true in the Far East, where officials do what they want, and those closest to the Russian government cannot be challenged, by Russians or by foreigners. It is a bad place to do business, despite the abundance of resources. Dramatic political and economic reforms need to be undertaken if Russia is to become a great power, a warning given by both these authors and by Sorokin. Even though Russia may be great in “Day of the Oprichnik,” and the West has been defeated, it is held together by an authoritarian regime, beneath China, and distrusted by its neighbors. The West be sinking beneath its opulence, but Russia still has a lot of work to do.


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