Abstract. The time that has elapsed since Russia officially proclaimed its “pivot to the East” warrants some tentative conclusions about its nature, achievements, problems, and prospects. Today, the qualitative differences between this current course and earlier stages of Russia’s eastern policy have come into bolder relief. In particular, it is important to note the structurally more complex character of the “pivot to the East,” as several components at the junction of domestic and foreign policy, as well as the regional and global dimensions of the Russian foreign policy strategy, have come into sharper focus. The first component lies in the realm of international political and economic relations, marked by the search for additional sources of economic growth, technologies and (since 2014) alternative energy markets and political and economic alternatives as a whole in the face of tightening US and EU sanctions. A contributing factor has been the fact that Russia’s key partners in Asia (China, India, the Republic of Korea, Southeast Asian states) refused to join anti-Russian sanctions, while Japan only paid them lip service. The second component has to do with internal political and institutional development and involves an attempt to revise the developmental paradigm and models of Siberia and the Russian Far East amid a dramatic transformation of the external situation and growing economic and demographic asymmetry between the European and Asian parts of Russia. The third component involves the development of a conceptual framework for Greater Eurasia that would enable Russia to retain and ideally enhance its integration potential as one of the leading states in the international system through institutionalization of political and economic partnerships, chiefly with Asian states. While transformations within the framework of the first component are already evident and ready for the qualitative and quantitative appraisal presented in this paper, the contours of the second and third are still in the making.
The Russian Federation has unique regional parameters which enable it to play an important role in Asia’s economy and politics. These include its geographical proximity to the economically dynamic Asia-Pacific Region (APR), its huge transit potential and the wealth of its natural resources. It commands well-deserved authority in the region, where it enjoys the status of one of the most influential powers. Evincing an interest in the development of regional multilateral formats of interaction, Russia is a member of most regional organizations and forums, both political and economic, and is active in political processes in the APR.
Russia’s pivot to the East was conceived to a large extent on the basis of geostrategic and geo-economic considerations. The world balance of forces today obviously depends in many ways on the situation in Asia, so Russia needs to rely on the region in which global economic and political processes manifest themselves in a concentrated form. Because East Asia is emerging as the main driver of global economic growth Russia’s status as a world power will depend heavily on the strength of its positions in the region. Geostrategically, the military-political dynamics in the Middle East and relations with India, the key partner in the South Asian region, are no less important. In other words, to preserve and increase its influence on the global level, Russia needs a quantum leap in its relations with the non-Western world in the broader sense.
The pivot-to-the-East policy declared by Russia in the second half of the 2000s was prompted by considerable economic, technological, administrative and political-strategic challenges. It has to be admitted that Russia’s positions in the APR are still not strong enough. The Regions of Siberia and the Far East (RS&FE) are among the less developed, if not depressed, parts of the Russian Federation compared to the European part: their economies suffer from depopulation, one-sided orientation toward the Chinese market, dependence on commodity production and lack of sources for innovation. All these circumstances until recently combined to determine their potential role in the economic processes in the APR as a fuel and raw materials appendage of the more developed economies in the region.
Meanwhile the geographical proximity of these territories to the burgeoning East Asian economies favors the development of trade and investment links between them. In other words, Russia’s eastern territories may be “points of entry” for capital, technologies, services and manpower from the dynamically developing East [1, p. 10] if the internal and structural tasks of their economic development are addressed.
The pivot-to-the-East policy also faces psychological problems. These include the orientation toward Europe characteristic of several generations of the Russian political elite and the business community, who at the turn of the millennium did not see the Asian countries as a serious and-most importantly, necessary-locus of foreign policy and economic efforts. Although three-quarters of Russia’s territory is east of the Urals, it is the home of less than 30% of the population, and for many Russians the problems of the country’s Asian regions remain “remote” and are not perceived as “their own.” The majority of the country’s people still think that Russia is closer to Europe than to Asia (55% versus 18%) . Until recently, structural problems were compounded by the lack of consensus on developmental models for Siberia and the Far East and the instruments of implementing them.
Against this background, the main goals of such a pivot are to eliminate the imbalance in development between Russia’s eastern regions and its European part, and to build those regions into the structure of economic relations of the APR with due account of current political and economic trends.
Russia’s policy in the region should be three-pronged:
(1) speeding the development of the Russian Far East by fully implementing announced government investment programs;
(2) building up efforts to promote economic integration of the RS&FE into the APR;
(3) deepening strategic bilateral and multilateral political interaction with partners in the region-and, ideally, implementing the Greater Eurasia idea together in a tangible way-while taking into account the specificities of competing and interacting macro-regional projects.
We are talking about maximum diversification of economic and geostrategic partners in Asia to include its major economies: China, Japan, South Korea, India, ASEAN and others. While the first task is internal, the second and third ones, being profoundly interconnected, are external. Because of the constraints imposed by the scale of this paper, the authors deliberately put aside Russia’s relations with the Muslim world countries, although their active development in recent years is certainly a significant part of the Russian pivot-to-the-East policy.
Historical Background to the Pivot-to-the-East Policy
Historically, Eastern policy has occupied a special place in the domain of the Russian identity. The intellectual elite in Russia have argued for decades about the extent to which Russia’s destiny is connected with the East and its future depends on the state of affairs in Asia.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Russia pursued its policy in Asia with the sense of being “a European in Asia,” to use Fyodor Dostoevsky’s expression. He wrote: “Russia is not only in Europe, but also in Asia; because the Russian is not only a European but also an Asian. Moreover: there are probably more hopes for us in Asia than in Europe” [2, p. 504]. Russia was advancing to the East based on a messianic idea whereby the Russian Empire was performing a great civilizing mission in Asia.
In the late 19th century, many Russian thinkers believed that Russia’s future was connected with the East, which included the Muslim world and especially Central Asia. Later, in the 1920s and 30s, the idea was reflected in the activities of the founding fathers of Eurasianism: Pyotr Savitsky, Nikolay Trubetskoy, Georgy Vernadsky and others. After the formation of the USSR, the Leninist ideology was based, among other things, on solidarity with the colonial and enslaved peoples of Asia. Propagating the ideas of “national liberation,” Russia was to set an example to the peoples of Asia in the quest of paths toward socialism.
In the post-Soviet period, Russia sought to remain a key regional player in addressing Asian issues while remaining a global power. Russia’s search for common ground with many Asian countries was largely based on taking advantage of their discontent with the West-centric institutional architecture of world governance formed in the era when the West had unlimited dominion over the global economy.
The Eastern vector of Russia’s foreign policy was articulated in the late 1990s at the tail end of the Yeltsin era. It is strongly associated with the name of Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s foreign minister in 1996-1998 and prime minister in 1998-1999. Primakov challenged the dominant role of the USA in world affairs and advocated a multilateral world order. He came out for a balanced foreign policy aimed at maintaining a friendly atmosphere in the relations with the West while simultaneously developing cooperation with the Asian countries, especially China and India. Primakov put forward the idea of a Moscow-Delhi-Beijing strategic triangle. In his speeches he argued that Russia should give priority to the development of friendly relations with East Asian and Middle East countries by embracing a multi-vector strategy and rejecting unipolarity [5, pp. 145-205].
With the start of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in 2000, Russia stepped up its Asian diplomacy, stressing the need for closer economic ties with the Asian countries: China, Japan, South Korea as well as ASEAN states. In the early 2000s, Moscow put forward the idea of a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, whereby Russia would play a geostrategic role as a transcontinental link between the Atlantic and Pacific “wings” of Eurasia. In 2001, in response to the proposal to create a common economic space made by European Commission President Romano Prodi, the Russian leaders at the Russia-EU summits stressed their wish to accelerate the building of a Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok [3, p. 87].
The pivot-to-the-East policy gained added relevance in the late 2000s when, in light of the lessons of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, trade and economic relations with the Greater East Asia countries became key [11, pp. 16-17]. The Kremlin realized the need to maintain mutually beneficial partnership relations with both the West and the East.
A milestone in implementing the pivot to the East was the APEC summit in Vladivostok in September 2012, where Russia, as the host country, positioned itself as a full-fledged member of the Asia-Pacific community capable of setting a regional agenda at such a representative forum [8, p. 8]. On the eve of the summit, The Wall Street Journal published Putin’s article in which the Russian president thus outlined Russia’s position in the APR: “Our country is an inalienable part of the APR historically and geographically. We see a full-scale entry into the Asia-Pacific space as a key guarantee of a successful future for Russia and the development of our Siberian and Far Eastern regions” . In his traditional address to the Federal Assembly in December 2013, Putin declared the development of Siberia and the Far East to be “our national priority for the whole 21st century” .
However, the crisis in the relations with the West over the repossession of Crimea in 2014 forced the Kremlin to make substantial adjustments to its Eastern policy. While previously the pivot to the East was prompted more by Moscow’s forecast that Asia would be the main driver of economic growth and therefore mutually beneficial relations with it should be sought, now one of Russia’s main motives was the wish to diminish its economic dependence on the West as a whole (especially Europe) and diversify the destinations of Russian energy supplies [7, p. 111]. Part of the reason for this reappraisal was that Russia’s main Asian partners (China, India, the Republic of Korea and Southeast Asian countries) refused to join the anti-Russian sanctions, while Japan went through the motions of joining, causing little damage to the Russian economy.
Simultaneously with the revision of the inner content of foreign policy priorities in the wake of 2014, the Russian pivot to the East acquired yet another dimension because Moscow had launched its own integration project in Eurasia called the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). By 2015, the EAEU had united Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and the key partners in Asia were invited to work out formats of mutually beneficial cooperation .
In the post-Crimea period, Russia made an effort to attract investments from Asian countries, above all from China, in the development of new oil and gas resources in Siberia and the Far East. In his public speeches the Russian president stressed the role of the Asian vector in Russia’s foreign policy priorities. For example, in the foreign policy part of his presidential address in February 2019, Putin mentioned the Asian countries ahead of Europe and the USA .
Russia’s pivot to the East was manifest not only in the economic but also in the financial sphere. In 2018, The Bank of Russia slashed the share of its assets in the USA from 29.9% to 9.7%, simultaneously increasing its assets in China (from 2.6% to 14.1%) and Japan (from 1.5% to 7.5%). The share of the Bank of Russia reserves denominated in dollars dropped from 45.8% to 22.7%, while its yuan-denominated Chinese assets jumped from 2.8% to 14.2% [13, p. 95].
The priorities of the pivot to the East that had to do with the development of Siberia and the Far East were also gradually adjusted. The pivot to the East was originally seen in terms of attracting Asian investors to major infrastructure and energy projects, which would help the resurgence of the region. Now it became clear that such projects have a limited impact on the regional economy, above all because they made little difference to the interests of the majority of the region’s population [4, p. 162]. The problem with these projects was that many of them were politicized from the start and that the foreign partners’ interest in them had been overestimated. This was true especially of infrastructure development projects (for example, the building of a trans-Korean railway or a trans-Korean gas pipeline, or a pipeline and railway bridge between Sakhalin and Hokkaido).
Such projects had some commercial prospects but failed to take into account all the political risks, and thus failed to attract due attention from would-be partners. Where such projects materialized (for example, the Eastern Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline or the Power of Siberia gas pipeline), the economic benefits flowed mainly to Moscow, while the benefits to the region were limited, failing to kickstart an economic resurgence. Now the emphasis was on attracting foreign investors into high-tech areas with a high added value, using tax, visa and administrative inducements. To accelerate economic development and improve local living standards the Russian government in 2015 began creating Advanced Special Economic Zones (ASEZs) in Siberia and the Far East.
Russia’s Pivot to the East: The Far Eastern Vector
The most noticeable part of the pivot to the East was the increased role and significance of China in the Kremlin’s Eastern policy. The period since 2000, when Putin came to office, has seen qualitative improvements in Russia’s relations with China. In 2001, the two countries signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. The tensions inherited from the period of Sino-Soviet confrontation were gone, and all border issues were settled by 2004, making the world’s longest land border with China (4,200 km) a zone of good-neighborliness and cooperation. A major achievement of Russia-China relations in that period was the formation of a common security space on the perimeter of the Sino-Russian border , sealed on a multilateral level in the 2001 by the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Cooperation between Russia and China got a boost after the 2008 crisis revealed the inadequacy of largely Western-regulated global governance. During his 2011 election campaign, Putin called for catching “Chinese winds” in the “sails” of the Russian economy. The course for priority development of Russia-China partnership got a fresh impetus after Putin’s return to office in May 2012. In his speeches, the Russian leader stressed that economic and strategic partnership between Russia and China was based on their shared approach to the transformation of the world order and international institutions.
The partnership soon began to bear fruit: Russia received substantial funding from China for the construction of a new oil pipeline in the eastern direction. In early 2014, Russia made an exception for China by allowing it to be the first foreign investor in the extraction of oil and other resources. In the same year, amid the deepening political and economic crisis in the relations with the West, Russia signed a $400 billion 30-year agreement on annual supply to China of 38 billion cubic meters of gas from fields in Eastern Siberia. The Sila Sibiri (Power of Siberia) pipeline built to implement the agreement was launched in December 2019. and is expected to hit design capacity by 2024 . Russia has become the main supplier of crude oil to China, ahead of Saudi Arabia.
As early as 2011, China overtook Germany to become Russia’s biggest trading partner. In 2018, China-Russia trade reached $100 billion. The two countries’ leaders promised to double that figure by 2024. Qualitative changes in the structure of foreign economic relations have to be noted. In addition to the traditional Russian exports to China-arms, minerals, timber, machines and equipment-Russia has increased its agricultural supplies to the Celestial Empire, gaining a foothold as a key supplier of soybeans to the Chinese market .
At present Chinese partners and Chinese capital are engaged in some 30 investment projects worth $22 billion. A large chunk of Chinese investments-$3.5 billion-is in projects in the Russian Far East .
Another track in Russia-China cooperation is the pursuit of agreements to coordinate efforts within the framework of two macro-regional projects they have initiated, the EAEU and the One Belt One Road Initiative, whose launch was announced by PRC Chairman Xi Jinping in 2013. The result of this pursuit was the 2015 agreement on the conjunction of the two projects. The “conjunction” terminology is a compromise formula, which implies that Russia is an object or part of the One Belt One Road Initiative, but will have a say in implementing it.
The good personal chemistry between President Putin and PRC Chairman Xi Jinping is an important factor in promoting cooperation projects, especially in such politically significant sectors as energy and national defense. The latter has been the most dynamically growing area of bilateral relations in recent years. For example, in 2016-2017, the two countries held a number of joint anti-missile defense exercises, and in July 2019 joint air patrolling of the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea . In October 2019, Putin announced that Russia would help China to develop an early rocket launch warning system.
At present, an objective factor that prompts Russia and China to seek common approaches to military security is their shared awareness of the need to preserve strategic stability now that the USA has, to all intents and purposes, unilaterally withdrawn from all the key treaties of the system: the ABM Treaty, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), and the Open Skies Treaty.
Symbols of Russia-China cooperation were the inauguration in March 2019 of the first railway bridge over the Amur River, which linked the cities of Tong-jiang in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang and Nizhneleninsky in the Jewish Autonomous Area in Russia. In November 2019, construction was completed of an automobile bridge between the city of Heihe in northeastern China and Blagoveshchensk. The opening of the two bridges was symbolic because they were the first permanent bridges across the Amur, which had been a natural border between the two countries for centuries.
Following PRC Chairman Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia in June 2019, a joint statement on the development of a comprehensive strategic partnership for collaboration in the new era was signed. It set new ambitious targets and laid long-term guidelines for cooperation . From the Russian perspective, these relations accord with the long-term goal of putting an end to US dominance and the Western-oriented world order Putin spoke about at the Munich Security Conference in early 2007 [23, p. 4]. Relations between Moscow and Beijing are at an all-time high. Although these relations do not depend on external circumstances, their intensive growth in recent years owes much to the tensions in US-Russia and US-China relations, which have increased since 2018.
At the same time, looking at these relations from Russia’s point of view, one can see trends that give cause for reflection. For example, the structure of trade and economic links falls short of their inherent potential. Because energy accounts for about 70% of Russia’s exports to China (2018 data) , Russia is increasingly worried about the prospect of becoming overly dependent on the Chinese market and becoming a raw materials appendage of China. This makes Russia extremely vulnerable to fluctuations of demand on the part of Chinese enterprises and affects the volume of Russian exports, in which China is already dominant. Calculations show that the target of increasing trade set by the two leaders is only realistic if its structure remains unchanged, i.e., if Russia’s commodity exports to China and China’s exports of equipment to Russia increase simultaneously. However, for the reasons mentioned above, China does not relish this prospect, which is why Moscow is pressing for a qualitative upgrading of the innovation component of cooperation, speeding of integration in the framework of production models, and intra-firm cooperation. The links of the production process scattered on both sides of the border presuppose the creation of substantial added value on each side.
Russia has also to be mindful of the fact that the structural features of its economy prevent it from playing the key role in the region as a whole, especially in the context of the ongoing economic and technological development of Asia. Considering the global scramble for Chinese investments, Russia cannot expect “easy money” from China. Thus, the search for promising projects that would attract Chinese investors remains one of the key tasks.
A further issue is respect for each other’s national interests, which do not always coincide on pressing issues of the international political agenda. Moscow is fully aware that China will not necessarily side with Russia on all the issues in its conflict with the West. Taking China’s economic and military-political rise as a given, Russia has its own views on the emerging world order, and does not want to be China’s “junior partner” as a result of the widening gap in the economic might of the two countries.
With China involved in a number of border conflicts with its neighbors, Moscow would hate to face the need to take sides in such conflicts because of its special relationship with Beijing. One thinks, for example, of India and Vietnam, which are Russia’s time-tested partners and major buyers of Russian arms; as well as Japan, with which Russia is trying to forge mutually beneficial relations worth regard to investment in the Far East. Russia is pursuing its relations with these countries on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s positions on key regional issues, and does not want to see their territorial disputes with China affect its relations with these states.
In order to avoid falling into the trap of bilateral relations in which China may happen to be the dominant power, Russia should develop durable partnerships with all the Asian countries, offering them equal access to its big internal markets and natural resources. Equal opportunities and competition between rapidly developing Asia-Pacific countries for such access is objectively good for Russia, which may feel more confident in the region’s markets and have more room for diplomatic maneuver in Asia.
In this context, Russia should continue to seek support from India, which is already included in many multilateral formats involving Russia and China (SCO, RIC, BRICS). Economically, Russia’s key partners in East Asia are Japan and the Republic of Korea, although their bilateral trade with Russia ($21 billion with Japan and $25 billion with the ROK in 2018) is well below that of China.
Although geopolitically Japan is Russia’s adversary under its security treaty with the USA, that is no obstacle to mutually beneficial economic and political relations. Russia sees Japan as an important Asian partner, with which stable relations are key in the context of the pivot to the East. These relations have been on the rise since Putin was elected president for another term in 2012.
Russia is interested in attracting Japan to the projects of social and economic development of Siberia and the Far East as a potential source of technologies and investments. Stable partnership relations with Japan, from which Russia has repeatedly benefited in the past, strengthen Russia’s position in the world and in the region, helping it to avoid a “China tilt” in its Asia policy.
Strong personal relations between leaders are important factors in bilateral relations. Putin and Shinzo Abe have met 27 times. On Japan’s initiative, an eight-point plan of economic cooperation between the two countries was launched in May 2016. About a hundred investment projects are currently under way.
For Russia, partnership with Japan has chiefly economic significance. Russia is making inroads in Japan’s energy market, especially in light of Japan’s need to fill its energy gap in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011. In 2019, Japan acquired a 10% stake (over $2 billion) in the Arctic LNG 2 project, and an agreement has been reached on the participation of Japanese companies in the building of an LNG facility in the Russian Far East with a capacity of 6.2 million tons a year. According to investment plans, the project will meet about 10% of Japan’s need for natural gas.
An obstacle in the way of stable relations with Japan is still the unresolved issue of the peace treaty, which reflects the fundamental differences in the two sides’ approach to the results of World War II. No wonder the Russian president described this situation as “not normal.” Even so, the two sides continue to engage in constructive dialog on the issue, and the absence of concrete accords is no obstacle to the development of bilateral relations in other areas.
Economic and political ties with the Republic of Korea form an important part of the pivot-to-the-East policy. It is particularly important that the New Northern Policy proclaimed by the Moon Jae-in administration, which is part and parcel of Seoul’s vision of cooperation with Russia, opens up vistas for “conjunction” with the pivot-to-the-East policy [6, p. 166]. In addition to economic benefits, trade and economic relations between the two countries contribute to the lessening of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to regional stability in Northeast Asia. Another promising area, which combines the potentials for the development of bilateral as well as multilateral relations, is Russia’s interaction with ASEAN, which was elevated to a new level of strategic partnership in 2018. ASEAN as a collective partner enables Russia to participate on an equal basis in all the key multilateral formats centered around it. These include the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on security, the East Asian Summit and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting with the main dialog partners (ADMM Plus). Since 2016, Vietnam and Singapore have been economic partners of the EAEU in the free trade area, and negotiations have started with Thailand. Russia and ASEAN also have shared views on the Indo-Pacific region (IPR) idea. Both sides see the opportunities for its implementation from a politically and economically inclusive angle, not a military-strategic one [15; 12].
The pivot-to-the-East policy that Russia has been pursuing since the 2010s has turned out to be a more enduring and content-rich phenomenon than Russia’s Eastern policy in previous historical periods. In the longer term, this policy is based on the priority of its economic interests over political ones and the link between diplomacy and internal needs. What makes it different from earlier stages is that it is being implemented against an increasingly hostile foreign policy background. Confrontation is prevailing over cooperation; the security situation is becoming more complex in the Euro-Atlantic region and in the APR, which is influenced by the main driver of world economic growth; and confrontation between Russia and the West is sharpening on key issues of the world order.
The pivot-to-the-East policy is inevitably influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which poses a major challenge to the entire global governance system. The pandemic has convincingly demonstrated to the world the danger of non-military threats, especially those fraught with the risk of fresh flare-ups of infectious diseases, climate change, natural disasters and other unforeseen natural emergencies.
The pandemic has highlighted the weakness and inefficiency of the global and regional institutions called upon to counter these threats, and has sharpened the sense of the common destiny of the human race. It has reasserted the principles of indivisible security, an area in which there can be no winners or losers, and has demonstrated that the strategy of blocs cannot be relied upon in international politics. The pandemic, which ignores national borders, even if they are closed, calls for concerted efforts from the whole world community, a competent and inclusive system of managing global ties.
And yet, even before the pandemic broke out, there were signs of a growing geopolitical confrontation between the world’s two biggest economies, the USA and China, which prompted talk about “a new bipolarity.” The report United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, released by the Trump Administration, signals a qualitative and irreversible shift from containing China to rejecting it. The chances are that the post-COVID era will see further exacerbation of the ideological and military-political confrontation between the US-led West and China, which the US is trying to blame for withholding information about the pandemic at its initial stage. Russia should not allow itself to be dragged into this confrontation. Russia’s strategy should seek to promote its vision of the world order based on the accumulated positive experience of international interaction and to preserve its position as an independent pole in the international system. Such a strategy will increase trust in Russia among those Asian countries, which do not wish to take sides in this confrontation.
The objective reality is, however, that Russia’s biggest success in its pivot-to-the-East policy has been achieved in promoting economic cooperation with China, which in 2010 became the world’s second biggest economy after the USA. For Russia, the priority of its China policy is the key element of the foreign policy part of its national security strategy, aimed at neutralizing the West’s efforts to isolate Russia internationally and mitigating the consequences of economic sanctions. At the same time, one-sided orientation of economic flows toward China is fraught with the risk of increased dependence on the Chinese market and strategic vulnerability of the Russian economy. Such dependence may (if desired) be used for political purposes, which threatens Russia’s national security. Thus, Russia faces the need to diversify its economic partners and join multilateral projects of mutually beneficial cooperation in the APR.
Its resources in the Asia-Pacific region being limited, Russia is interested in a stable political and economic environment and stable rules of international behavior. This makes Russia here a largely status quo power that opposes any attempts to revise the established rules. Russia’s “anti-revisionism” performs a balancing function in the system of regional relations, enabling it to play a much bigger role in the APR’s security and diplomacy. To preserve its balancing role, Russia needs to make a sober assessment of the main trend of the regional dynamics in recent years, and that is the shift of focus from the Asia-Pacific toward the Indo-Pacific region. Distancing itself from the military-geopolitical aspects of this construct, it makes sense to seek a more productive dialog with those regional forces that are really at the center of the region and want it to be inclusive, above all ASEAN, India and Japan. Addressing the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June 2016, President Putin articulated the concept of Greater Eurasia partnership as a way to develop Eurasian integration and extend Russia’s influence to Asian countries. The partnership is called upon to consolidate Russia’s status as a key player on the continent, not just on the territory geographically linking Asia and Europe. The aim of the Russian initiative is to provide a platform for effective cooperation among all the countries and regions on the Eurasian continent, including Russia, the countries of Eastern, Southeastern and South Asia, and the center of Eurasia, as well as the countries of the European subcontinent and their organizations to the extent that they are committed to constructive cooperation. By taking into account the key role of India in the IPR and China in the Asia-Pacific, and recognizing ASEAN’s central role in the institutional organization of this vast emerging political-economic space, Russia would be able to win support for its macro-regional projects. With respect to Russia-China relations, the Greater Eurasia concept enables the partners to avoid competition and develop cooperation in a strategically important direction by harmonizing the Chinese and Russian projects, the One Belt One Road Initiative and the EAEU. The above initiative is still at the conceptual stage, suggesting a direction in which interaction among Eurasian states can develop. However, in seeking to turn Eurasia into a center of world economy and politics, it holds great attraction for the less developed and smaller countries in the region, enabling them to accelerate their development while remaining in the non-confrontational paradigm.
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