Moscow’s de­vel­op­ment needs make East Asia a vi­tal in­gre­di­ent of Rus­sian diplo­macy

Global Times US Edition - - ASIANREVIE­W - By Cui Heng The au­thor is a PhD from the Cen­tre for Rus­sian Stud­ies, East China Nor­mal Univer­sity, and a mem­ber of the In­no­va­tive Tal­ent pro­gram un­der the Rus­sian School, Dalian Univer­sity of For­eign Lan­guages. opin­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at­tended the East Asia Sum­mit ( EAS) for the first time, while Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev is go­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) meet­ing. The pres­ence of the Rus­sian lead­ers at the cru­cial gath­er­ings sug­gests a steppedup pri­or­ity for East Asian coun­tries in Rus­sian diplo­macy.

EAS is a re­sult of close in­ter­ac­tion and re­gional in­te­gra­tion among East Asian na­tions. Started in 2005, the EAS has de­vel­oped into an open, in­clu­sive and trans­par­ent fo­rum. The is­sues dis­cussed at the EAS rep­re­sent a push for de­vel­op­ing East Asian re­gional co­op­er­a­tion.

Driven by the rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries such as China, Ja­pan and South Korea, the fo­cus of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics and econ­omy has shifted from both sides of the At­lantic to the two flanks of the Pa­cific since the be­gin­ning of the 21st cen­tury. The Asia-Pa­cific re­gion has been play­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in Rus­sian diplo­macy, em­body­ing the Krem­lin’s pol­icy shift to Asia.

In­te­grat­ing into the Asi­aPa­cific eco­nomic process and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the re­form of gov­er­nance in East Asia is of vi­tal sig­nif­i­cance to Rus­sia.

In­ter­act­ing with Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries com­ple­ments Rus­sian ef­forts to de­velop its Far East. The key to Rus­sia’s reemer­gence lies in ef­fec­tive uti­liza­tion of re­sources in the east­ern re­gion where de­vel­op­ment is im­pos­si­ble with­out co­op­er­a­tion with Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries in econ­omy, trade, in­vest­ment, tech­nol­ogy and mar­ket. Un­der the pres­sures of ex­port diver­si­fi­ca­tion and the need to de­velop its Far East, Rus­sia’s pivot to the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion is ac­cel­er­at­ing.

By ratch­et­ing up in­te­gra­tion into the Asia-Pa­cific econ­omy, Rus­sia will have an im­por­tant role to play in re­gional gov­er­nance, thus al­low­ing the Krem­lin to boost its in­ter­na­tional stand­ing in re­gional and global af­fairs. As global power is shift­ing to Asia, some Asian economies, with di­verse de­vel­op­ment pat­terns, are col­lec­tively emerg­ing. Given frag­mented re­gional gov­er­nance mech­a­nism, cou­pled with nu­clear risks in the re­gion, East Asian coun­tries are un­able to pro­mote re­gional in­te­gra­tion on their own. This pro­vides Rus­sia with op­por­tu­ni­ties to play a role in East Asia’s re­gional gov­er­nance, get rid of its marginal­ized sta­tus over the years and ex­pand its ef­forts to in­te­grate into Asi­aPa­cific af­fairs.

Since the be­gin­ning of the new cen­tury, Rus­sia and ASEAN coun­tries have in­ten­si­fied in­ter­ac­tions. There are var­i­ous rea­sons be­hind the close re­la­tions.

Above all, through co­op­er­a­tion with ASEAN, Rus­sia in­tends to main­tain its geopo­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in South­east Asia es­tab­lished dur­ing the Soviet era. Al­though Rus­sia with­drew from its Soviet-era naval base in Cam Ranh Bay af­ter the end of the Cold War, it’s still a ma­jor weapons sup­plier to coun­tries such as Viet­nam and Malaysia. With Western coun­tries con­tin­u­ously try­ing to erode Rus­sia’s geopo­lit­i­cal clout, South­east Asia be­comes one of the few re­gions where Moscow can ex­er­cise its in­flu­ence.

China, Ja­pan and South Korea cur­rently are main in­vestors in the de­vel­op­ment of the Far East. Moscow wants a spread­out foot­print for for­eign in­vest­ment in its un­der­de­vel­oped re­gion, hence it seeks to reach out to South­east Asian coun­tries.

ASEAN is an es­sen­tial part of the Greater Eurasian Part­ner­ship, which was pro­posed by Putin and in­cludes the pur­suit of a new re­gional pat­tern and transna­tional eco­nomic and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion. In essence, it is Rus­sia’s strate­gic de­fense lay­out in re­sponse to eco­nomic cri­sis and diplo­matic isolation. Rus­sia would fo­cus on ASEAN coun­tries to seek diplo­matic break­throughs. The co­op­er­a­tion be­tween ASEAN and Rus­sia-led Eurasian Eco­nomic Union has made the Greater Eurasian Part­ner­ship more achiev­able and also con­tributed to Moscow’s ef­forts to in­crease its in­flu­ence in the re­gional in­te­gra­tion process.

It can be seen that Putin’s pres­ence at the EAS is not im­pul­sive. Putin’s choice to at­tend the EAS in­stead of the APEC Sum­mit in­di­cates that Rus­sia will at­tach more sig­nif­i­cance to East Asia in the fu­ture.

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