PUTIN’S WINDOW ON ASIA

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Russia is starting to act as a full-fledged Eurasian power

Russia is now paying consistent, serious attention to the eastern direction in foreign policy. The western direction has brought us many letdowns over the past two years, but in the South and the East we have met with increasing success, which President Putin is entrenching still further.


President Vladimir Putin’s presence at the ASEAN summit in Malaysia underscores the fact that Russia is now paying consistent, serious attention to the eastern direction in foreign policy. The western direction has brought us many letdowns over the past two years: confrontation with America across the former Soviet Union, problems with Europe (for example, our friend Schroeder being replaced in Germany by Angela Merkel, who makes no secret of her disaffection for Russia), the collapse of the Paris-Berlin-Moscow “Iraq axis.”

Now Russia has decided to turn to the South and the East. And here, oddly enough, we have met with increasing success, which President Putin is entrenching still further. Contributing factors include the following: Russia’s participation in the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Russia’s increasingly active involvement in resolving diplomatic problems related to unifying the two Koreas, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons; rapprochement with India. Now there is also Russia’s participation in the ASEAN summit, and, more importantly, President Putin’s participation (as a guest, so far) in the East Asian Summit. This organization, initiated by Malaysia and China, is aimed at countering U.S. dominance in the Asia-Pacific – one of the world’s key geopolitical zones. (This is where most of the world’s population lives, and where most of the world’s goods are produced.) And the fact that Putin was invited to make a brief speech at this event serves to multiply Russia’s geopolitical role as a player in world events. While the West disputes and constantly downplays that role, the East is evidently starting to back Russia.

In the past, Russia’s foreign policy suffered from an excessive slant to the West. We didn’t even study the East properly. Now Putin is not only studying the East, but hammering some new strategic rails into geopolitics for the new Russia. And as we can see, this is producing some stunning results. Russia’s global role has been enhanced over the past six months, entirely due to this demarche to the South and East. Putin doesn’t even need to take any outward action; he just says “yes,” nods, keeps silent, and smiles – but all analysts of any substance understand the significance of those smiles and nods.

If Russia is starting to act as a full-fledged Eurasian power, acting against American dominance or in favor of a multi-polar world, then all these regions – the Far East, the Pacific, and the South-East, all the way to the Arab world – are gaining a colossal ally, capable of changing the balance of power in their global configuration.

What’s more, Russia’s present weakness compared to the Soviet Union and our lack of a universal ideology turn out to be advantages, not disadvantages, because now we are less feared. It’s obvious to everyone that we aren’t about to move in and colonize those territories, since we lack the required resources: demographic, economic, military, and will. And we don’t have an ideology to be imposed on others or serve as a constraint on us. So we can get along with democracies, and socialist countries like China and North Korea, and Islamic countries as well.

Thus, an unprecedented opportunity has opened up for Russia to play an active geopolitical game. And Putin seems to find this to his liking. Increased activity to the East served to multiply our geopolitical resources. Of course, our relations with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region are still underdeveloped; trade turnover between us is very small. But if we imagine what kind of market Russia could gain for its products (primarily energy resources, since all those countries are experiencing serious energy supply shortages), it becomes clear that our country’s role will be practically decisive in many of the region’s friction points – such as those between China and India, India and Pakistan, Indonesia and China, Malaysia and the United States. We stand to gain a vast field of action, where our resources will be welcomed – especially since the Asia-Pacific countries have no complaints against us. We find ourselves in a situation that is ideal for us. And in that respect, Putin’s current visit shows that it’s not just a matter of routine diplomacy, but a matter of Russia waking up to the East. And the East discovering its relevance for Russia.

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