New Russian Government's Foreign Policy towards East Asia and the Pacific

By Efremenko, Dmitry V. | The Journal of East Asian Affairs, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

New Russian Government's Foreign Policy towards East Asia and the Pacific


Efremenko, Dmitry V., The Journal of East Asian Affairs


Abstract

Russia's chairmanship of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has coincided with the shift of the world policy focus on that region. As a Euro-Pacific nation, Russia needs a sustainable presence in the Asia-Pacific region - a key part of the world in the 21st century. However, it is still early to say that Russian political leaders have a holistic view of the role of Russia in the Asia-Pacific region. Rather, the perception of the increasing importance of the Asia-Pacific sector of Russian foreign policy is a kind of puzzle, shaped by such components as a general understanding that the center of world economic power is shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, fears and hopes related to the rise of China, reliance on potential improvement of Russia-U.S. relations, the need to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula as well as a number of other problems. At the same time Russia's "turn eastwards" will require resolute internal political action.

Key Words: Russia's "Turn to the East", APEC, China-Russia Partnership, US-Russia Reset, North-Eastern Pacific Arc of Instability, ASEAN, Korean Reunification

In 2012 Russia is chairing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum for the first time and is receiving in Vladivostok the heads of the states and governments of the forum member countries. The Vladivostok Summit which was held in early September may be regarded as a milestone in Russian policy toward the AsiaPacific region. Remarkably, Russia's chairmanship of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has coincided with the shift of the world policy focus on that region. If the struggle for global leadership between the United States and China is to become the key factor in the transformation of the system of international relations, then the expanses of East Asia and the Pacific are bound to serve as the competition field. This is even more so since the center of gravity of world industrial and financial activity is moving from the Euro-Atlantic area to the Asia-Pacific region. A realignment of forces is afoot, and Russia is not taking an active part in it yet, reluctant to get involved in any politicaleconomic configuration prematurely. However, despite the growing tensions caused by this realignment, the Asia-Pacific region still remains a fairly stable and economically safe part of the world, and presence there is a basic condition for Russia's successful development in the 21st century.

GUIDING VISION: RUSSIA AS A EURO-PACIFIC ?????

At the conceptual level, in the post-Soviet era ideas on the development of the Asia-Pacific sector of foreign policy began to be actively expressed when the turbulent period of the 1990s came to an end and Russia was looking for a new place for itself in the post-bipolar world. In 2003, political scientist Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center coined the term "Russia- EuroPacific power." Trenin's article.1 reflected the specific situation of the relations between Russia and the West in the period between September 11 and the beginning of the campaign against Saddam Hussein, when a qualitative breakthrough was expected in those relations, to be followed at least by sustainable partnership, if not genuine alliance. In the mentioned article Trenin pays tribute to the illusions about the possibility of Russia being admitted as an equal into the community of industrialized democracies. In fact, according to Trenin's logic, it appeared that Russia would make part in a new global North, which would also include the European Union, the U.S. and Japan. And the key to the emergence of this new configuration would be the formation of the RussianJapanese partnership in the region. Identifying itself as a EuroPacific nation, Russia was to make a choice in favor of one of the strategic partners in the Asia-Pacific region, whose role could be claimed by China or Japan. Trenin argued that China, despite the importance of Russia's relations with this country, cannot be considered a priority partner. …

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