1) The Development of the Russian Far East as the integral part of Asia Pacific region
The development of the Russian Far Eastern territories and its’ full-fledged integration to the Asian markets now stand at the core of the Russian policy in Asia Pacific. It has been well underway since President Putin’s approval of the establishment of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the APEC meeting in Vladivostok in 2012. Now this policy is somehow refined in the context of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the idea of co-development of the Eurasian Economic Union and Chinese initiative, South Korea’s Eurasia Initiative, Russia’s strained relationship with Europe and investor interest from China, South Korea and Japan.
The Russian Far East has already been an integral part of regional cross-border trade with China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan for many years. The new projects now give the way for the new opportunities for both economic and political cooperation in the region. The outcomes of the 2nd Eastern Economic Forum showed it well.
2) Some Eastern Economic forum outcomes
This year the city of Vladivostok hosted the 2nd annual Eastern Economic forum on September 2-3, 2016. 214 agreements for RUB 1.85 trillion were signed at the Forum. The biggest among them were: an agreement between the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Sibur Holding concerning the intent to implement the Amur Gas Chemical Complex investment project, an agreement on the construction of a mineral fertiliser complex in the Primorsky Territory between the Far East Development Fund and National Chemical Group, an agreement on the development of the Natalkinsky gold deposit between the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Polyus Management Company. Other significant agreements include an agreement between the Far East Agency for Investment Promotion and Export Support and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) on the establishment of a Russian-Japanese platform to promote priority development areas and attract Japanese investors to such areas, the two first investment agreements signed by the Russian-Chinese Agricultural Development Fund Management Company and an agreement on technological cooperation between RusHydro and Japan’s Mitsui.
The Forum also showed that deep economic cooperation could be the basis for the political ones, as it became a platform for high-profile political meetings of President Putin with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea.
3) Common threats in Asia Pacific: the view from Russia
Still while talking on the economic issues we should consider that investors and business always need guarantees of security and stability. And in Asia Pacific region there are still many unresolved problems in the security sphere, which affected Russia, China and other countries of the region.
Terrorism, transnational crime, nuclear proliferation, maritime security, territorial disputes, ecological challenges compound the security environment in Asia Pacific. The resolution of these challenges within the existing frameworks (e.g. ARF, EAS, APEC, etc.) is now faces a lot of obstacles, such as the lack of homogeneity in economic development of regional countries, the lack of confidence, various historical claims and so on.
It’s obvious that one of the main points in security issues now is the development and promotion of confidence-building measures. Still in a turbulent world, where we’ve seen during last months the process of elite transition and somehow the rise of protest movement like Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, the internal political problems in South Korea, the development of confidence and trust between states is now at risk.
The most impressive recent example of the elite transition is the D. Trump’s election. Last years American experts often point out among common threats in Asia Pacific the so called “rise of China”. What will be American policy in Asia Pacific look like within the next years under Trump?
4) The American alliances and regional security
Bilateral military and political alliances the US has with Asia-Pacific countries have been for a long time referred to as one of the most effective and stable regional security system models during “cold war” and after. The US-oriented security model in Asia showed a sufficient stability – formed in the years of the “cold war”, it preserved after the bipolar system of international relations collapse. But there is still no direct connection between all the American partners within the model (usually named “hub-and-spokes”), which remains to be its disadvantage.
Thus, last years were marked with Washington’s ongoing efforts to establish some multilateral security cooperation frameworks in Asia-Pacific, primarily based on the US–Japan security alliance. This includes US–Japan–India, US–Japan–Australia, and one of the most favorable for Washington US–Japan–South Korea close cooperation.
According with the US efforts to establish multilateral partnerships in Asia-Pacific proposals of more close cooperation between the regional countries and NATO, as well as the assumptions of establishment of NATO-similar organization in Asia has been outspoken recently.
It’s not surprising that development of NATO’s program “Partners across the globe” includes cooperation with highly dynamic Asia-Pacific region. Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programmes (IPCP) were adopted for Republic of Korea, New Zealand and Mongolia in 2012, for Australia – in 2013 and for Japan in 2014. Asian partners actively contribute, for example, to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, mostly financially and by providing logistic support, humanitarian assistance, civil reconstruction and some of them by deploying national troops.
The main reason for such cooperation – are the close ties of these countries with the United States. Nevertheless, Asia-Pacific partners’ involvement in the Afghan operation, as well as anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, to some extent could be determined by the US desire of fair contribution of burden between its allies across the world, not only within the North Atlantic alliance, as the European countries’ resources are limited.
Therefore, the cooperation between Washington and its Asia-Pacific partners has the certain limits. First of all, it concerns the interests of the United States adhering recently to the policy of “fair distribution of costs and expenses for security” in relations with its allies in Europe and Asia. And the election of Donald Trump for the next American president will only deepen this tendency.
The American “rebalance” strategy and the US-oriented security order in Asia Pacific is now focused on China deterrence. And this is one of the main point of D. Trump program also. But such policy may cause high expectations among US partners who have tense relations with China and fragment the region on the basis of the relations with China, not to mention the fact that Russia in the US-based Asia architecture is not considered at all.
The point, which is expressed in some reports of the American think-tanks, that the main problem in the U.S.–China relations now is the disparity of key goals. For the U.S. the main goal is the stability, defense and security. Consequently, we could see so much effort for maintaining the American defense alliance architecture in Asia-Pacific. Still for China the key interest, according with the American experts, is the stable economic development. And it’s practically true.
5) The goals of the key “players” in the region
The security problems are on the first place for the U.S. foreign policy practically in every region of the world. Even concerning the economic interest at first they try to establish the desirable security order.
As for China and other Asian states the economic stability and comprehensive development are on the first place. It could be called the Asian feature – the economy on the first place. Consequently, this could explain the presence of the so-called effect of “cold politics, hot economy” in Asia – when the close economic ties prevent the overall escalation of various regional conflicts occur due to territorial, historical and other issues.
And what is about Russia? On the one hand the Russian government demonstrates the high-level involvement in security issues and peace resolution processes in the Middle East and Europe.
Still, concerning the Asia-Pacific shift, the economic cooperation and the development of the Russian Far East is in the high priority for our government. At the beginning of this report some point on the Russian Far East development were mentioned. As the result in Asia-Pacific our goals and interests coincide with those of the Asian partners, and that fact enhance the possibility for cooperation in the region.
Specifically, the economic cooperation based on the development of truly open, comprehensive architecture that does not exclude any actors should be at the core of Asia-Pacific interstate relations.