Fifty international experts from Russia and the Asia-Pacific Region gathered in Singapore this week for the inaugural session of the joint project, entitled “Developing the Asia-Pacific’s Last Frontier: Fostering International Cooperation in the Development of Siberia and the Russian Far East.”
The conference featured a consortium of leading think-tanks and research centers, including: The Valdai Discussion Club Foundation; The Center for Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; The Department of World Economy and International Affairs at Russia’s National Research University – Higher School of Economics; The School of Advanced International and Area Studies, East China Normal University; The Japan Institute of International Affairs; The Center for Research in Emerging Economies, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy; and The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
The aim of the conference was to analyze practical steps of the recently adopted “go-east” strategy to develop Russia’s Far East and to strengthen Russia’s interest in the Asia-Pacific Region. With its rich natural resources and geopolitical importance, the Asia-Pacific Region is regarded as the “last frontier,” and its development will reshape the economic and political landscape of the entire region.
Participants from the above institutions, and also from Australia, India, Thailand, the US, the UK and Vietnam, presented their opinions on energy, the environment and food security in the region, international law and maritime development, and international cooperation between major national players, and shared their thoughts on geostrategic and international perspectives of the Far East.
Professor Sergei Karaganov, Dean of the Higher School of Economics National Research University, stressed that development of Siberia and the Russian Far East is a primary and unique goal of Russia’s turn to Asia. Considering the implementation of the new Russian national policy towards the Asia-Pacific Region, Russian experts emphasized the need for administrative, political, legal and social measures to ensure a true “eastern pivot” of Russia. This strategy serves to achieve Moscow’s main goal: to establish Russia as a Pacific and global power.
Russia’s Far East and Siberia are starting to play a more important role in the East Asian market due to its energy resources. The importance of diversification from the European gas market for this region proves that the economic profile of relations between Russia and the Asia-Pacific Region is surpassing geopolitical interests in importance. The successful implementation of these plans will have a positive influence on the future of bilateral and multilateral relations in the region.
Paul Dibb, Professor Emeritus at Australian National University and former Director of the Defense Intelligence Organization, drew public attention by describing some of the geostrategic similarities between Russia and Australia: the challenges of developing large and rich in resources continents. “Today’s Russia needs to pay more attention to the possibility of looming geopolitical threats on its distant eastern flank. The solution is to much more rapidly develop the economy of Siberia and the Russian Far East and to demonstrate more emphatically Russian peoples’ interest of this distant land and its ability to defend it in the event of future geopolitical challenges”, concluded Prof. Dibb.
Experts noted that the increased interest in the Arctic region by the Asian states could also have an impact in the future as an “international controversial playground,” which is becoming more and more important on the international agenda requiring development of resources and control of business in the region.
Professor Jing Huang from the Center on Asia and Globalization, which hosted the conference, underlined the importance of the Russian track to deal with countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, proposing “multilateralism with a bilateral approach for every country of the region.”
All the participants agreed that the Valdai Discussion Club and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy provided a great opportunity for experts all over the world to discuss such important issues of the future development of the Russian Far East in its bilateral and multilateral dimensions. Each of the sides presented arguments for its interests and possibilities in relation to the future of the region. The consensus was that it is a time to develop Russia’s Far East even if there remains a lack of awareness about the importance of this region. Finally, the participants concluded that some of the issues need to be resolved quickly, taking into consideration the potential geostrategic vulnerability due to the resource and energy hunger in the 21st century.
This conference continued the Valdai Club experts’ focus on this topic, starting with the Moscow conference in 2012 and the analytical report Toward the Great Ocean, or the New Globalization of Russia, which underlined that the opportunities offered by Asia give Russia the chance to become a peaceful global power, a Euro-Atlantic-Pacific power.