07.06.2009
Russia to Reinforce the Asian Vector
№2 2009 April/June
Alexander V. Lukin

National Research Institute–Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
Head of the International Affairs Department,
Head of International Laboratory on World Order Studies and New Regionalism

Аffiliation

SPIN RSCI: 6899-4298
ORCID: 0000-0002-1962-2892
ResearcherID: L-4986-2015
Scopus AuthorID: 7102949872

Contacts

E-mail: [email protected]
Address: Office 404, Bldg. 1, 17 Malaya Ordynka, Moscow 119017, Russia

Russia’s military action in support of South Ossetia and the
global economic crisis have created a new international situation.
Moscow’s response to Georgia’s actions in South Ossetia marked a
departure from its practices of the 1990s, when it had to abide by
the rules of the game that were incompatible with Russia’s vital
national interests. The world crisis has undermined credibility of
not only the foreign-policy patterns of the West but also of its
economic models. The world has turned its eyes to alternative paths
for modernization and national success, followed by some countries
and regions, for example, China, India and Southeast Asia
(Indonesia, Malaysia). The emerging paradigm can be described as
genuine multipolarity – meaning not only the plurality of political
centers of power, but also the plurality of development
models.

A world of true multipolarity offers new opportunities, but it is
fraught with dangers. The opportunities stem from the growing
realization that the globalization of the world means the
globalization of problems, many of which cannot be solved now
unless all powerful states and forces pool their efforts. If
centers of influence fail to find common ground and work out common
rules for international behavior, they risk dividing the world into
hostile and competing regions and thus recreating the situation
that earlier provoked the two world wars.

“THE GROUP OF TWO”

Two U.S. foreign-policy pundits, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry
Kissinger, have recently come out with programs for solving global
problems in the new situation. In fact, they have proposed to the
newly elected U.S. president, Barack Obama, changing the U.S.
foreign policy. The positions of the two policymakers do not fully
coincide; yet they agree on one thing: a stable future of the world
depends on whether or not the United States and China are able to
put aside their differences and launch constructive cooperation
between themselves.

Brzezinski, who served as United States National Security Advisor
to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, published an article,
“The Group of Two that could change the world,” in The Financial
Times on January 13, 2009, in which he called for establishing a
U.S.-Chinese strategic union or, at least, very close cooperation.
According to the author, rapprochement with China would help the
U.S. solve many international problems facing it. Brzezinski
believes that China could promote the solution to the North Korean
nuclear issue and help Washington cope with the global crisis.
Also, China could be a direct participant in the dialogue with Iran
and a mediator in the Indo-Pakistani conflict, and even become
actively involved in the Middle East settlement. Brzezinski invited
China to cooperate with the U.S. in coping with climate change, in
creating a larger standby UN peacekeeping force for deployment in
failed states, and in consolidating the nuclear non-proliferation
regime by encouraging states to adopt the zero-nuclear weapons
option. In conclusion, Brzezinski proposed expanding the current
Group of Eight to a G14 or G16, including China and other major
states in it, and creating an informal G2 of the U.S. and China,
paralleling relations between them with Europe and Japan.

Henry Kissinger, who served as National Security Advisor and as
Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon administration (1969-1974)
and who was the architect of the U.S. policy of opening to China in
the early 1970s, responded in his article “The World Must Forge a
New Order or Retreat to Chaos” in The Independent on January 20,
2009. At a time when the crisis has undermined many people’s faith
in American political recipes and in the Washington project for a
global economic system, Kissinger has called for more modesty in
U.S. conduct. He believes this modesty will help increase American
influence in the world where “every country will have to reassess
its own contribution to the prevailing crisis.” At the same time,
“each will be obliged to face the reality that its dilemmas can be
mastered only by common action.” In this situation, the U.S. needs
to “modify the righteousness that has characterized too many
American attitudes, especially since the collapse of the Soviet
Union. […] The result was … an insistent kind of consultation by
which nations were invited to prove their fitness to enter the
international system by conforming to American
prescriptions.”

According to Kissinger, the new role of the United States is to
“shape the common concern of most countries and all major ones
regarding the economic crisis, together with a common fear of
jihadist terrorism, into a strategy.” Kissinger names China as the
main (and the only one mentioned in the article) object of
historical compromise, relations with whom need to be taken to a
new level. “What kind of global economic order arises will depend
importantly on how China and America deal with each other over the
next few years,” he writes. “A frustrated China may take another
look at an exclusive regional Asian structure, for which the
nucleus already exists in the ASEAN-plus-three concept,” while “if
protectionism grows in America or if China comes to be seen as a
long-term adversary,” the world could be divided into competing
regional units with dangerous long-term consequences. Kissinger
proposes that the new generation of leaders shape Sino-American
relations “into a design for a common destiny, much as was done
with trans-Atlantic relations in the postwar period.”

The two veteran policymakers build their reasoning on different
logic. Kissinger follows up on his own geopolitical concepts, while
Brzezinski apparently remains committed to the dominating dream of
his life – creating a widest possible anti-Russian coalition. Yet,
for various reasons, there is much in common in their
recommendations.

First, it is the understanding that the foreign policy pursued by
the previous administration failed and that it needs to be
changed.

Second, it is the awareness of the growing role of alternative
models, including the Chinese one. Western economists have dubbed
it Beijing Consensus, by analogy with the Washington Consensus, to
which it is an alternative.

And third, it is the recognition of China’s increased role in world
politics, which is based on its real economic achievements and on
expectations that China will be able to overcome the crisis with
fewer losses than many other major economies. The latter statement
rests on serious grounds.

CHINA AND THE CRISIS

Like all countries with an export-oriented economy, China has been
seriously hit by the crisis. The decline in foreign demand for
Chinese goods has dealt a serious blow to its economy as its
uniquely high growth rate was largely due to exports, which
accounted for about 40 percent of GDP. It was the essence of the
economic breakthrough planned by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s.
The plan worked properly until the end of 2008, but now it needs to
be adjusted.

The crisis has affected the more developed regions of China,
especially its southern coast, to which major countries of the
world for decades moved their industrial production, reserving for
themselves the role of service and finance centers. Millions of
people from China’s inland rural areas moved to those regions in
search of jobs. Now, local enterprises are closing, and people have
to return to their native places, where there are no jobs and where
they are not welcome. According to official figures, the number of
these new unemployed has reached 11 million people, while
unofficial figures estimate their number at 20 million.

The Chinese authorities are aware of the danger posed by this
situation and from the very beginning of the crisis they have been
working on measures to cope with it. The positive balance of trade,
which China has enjoyed for many years, has enabled it to
accumulate huge hard currency reserves of about U.S. $2 trillion,
of which about $700 billion ($696 billion as of the end of 2008)
are kept in U.S. Treasury bonds. These reserves can be used to
support anti-crisis measures.

Interestingly, these funds are not decreasing, despite the decline
in exports. One of the reasons is a decline in imports, which is
accompanying the export slump. According to official figures,
Chinese exports fell by 17.5 percent in January 2009, compared with
January last year, but imports fell by as much as 43.1 percent. As
a result, the trade balance ended up with a surplus of $39.1
billion.
Last autumn, the Chinese government announced that it would spend 4
trillion yuan (about 586 billion dollars) on anti-crisis measures
within the next two years. These funds will be spent on the
development of infrastructure, including airports, railways,
subways in large cities, nuclear power plants, etc., as well as on
public health, education, housing subsidies, and social benefits,
in particular unemployment benefits. The government had long
planned an accelerated development of the social sphere, which was
neglected during the years of reforms, and the crisis has only
given a boost to these plans. The increased spending on social
programs, in particular on health and education, is intended to
cause the Chinese to stop saving money for a rainy day and to spend
more instead, thus stimulating economic growth.

China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), approved
this plan in March 2009. Addressing the Congress, the Premier of
the State Council, Wen Jiabao, set the goal of maintaining the
economic growth rate at 8 percent. China had long planned to slow
down its growth, which was overheating the economy, but the fall
from 13 percent in 2007 to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of
2008 was too great and could bring about social instability.

To all appearances, this plan has already begun to yield results.
In January 2009, banks issued loans to the tune of $237 billion,
which is 101 percent more than in the same period last year.
Infrastructure projects have begun to be implemented, among them
the construction of housing in Shanghai and Shaanxi Province, and
railways in the province of Shandong.

Nevertheless, some economists criticized the government plan,
arguing that the infrastructure was already in normal condition, so
its development could not produce the desired effect. They proposed
stimulating domestic demand as an alternative to foreign demand. As
a result, a 10-point state program has been adopted to stimulate
domestic consumption. The program provides for raising the minimum
purchasing grain prices, increasing government allocations for the
purchase of equipment, raising the subsistence level, raising
pensions for former employees of state-owned enterprises, and other
social benefits. In addition, on December 1, 2008, the government
starting selling consumer electronics in rural areas at a
13-percent discount subsidized from the state budget. Following the
example of some East Asian states, the administrations of some
Chinese cities and provinces have begun to distribute consumer
vouchers among the population (e.g., vouchers for purchases for the
Chinese New Year, for travel, etc.).

While addressing social problems, Beijing does not forget about the
future. The government seeks to take advantage of the fall in the
prices of basic natural resources, which China lacks, to build up
their strategic reserves for a new economic growth. Thus, in early
February Beijing announced the construction of eight storage
facilities for strategic oil reserves. Four of these repositories
were built as of the end of 2008, and 100 million barrels of oil,
purchased at reduced prices, have been pumped in there. China is
actively working in Africa and the Middle East, from where it
imports the bulk of its oil, and is making strategic investments in
Russia.

China has given an estimated 25 billion dollars in loans to
Russia’s Rosneft and Transneft oil companies in exchange for oil
shipments. The oil will be delivered via a newly built oil pipeline
that will run from the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline.
Commercially, the deal, which was finally agreed during a visit by
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to Beijing in February
2009, is not advantageous to China. But it is intended to help
fulfill two major tasks: a strategic task (providing an additional
source of oil and diversifying its import) and a social task
(preventing mass unemployment at oil refineries in the
north-eastern city of Daqing, where a local oil field is
depleting).

Apart from raw materials, China is purchasing assets of mining
companies. For example, on February 12, it was announced that the
state-owned Aluminum Corporation of China (Chinalco) became the
largest shareholder in the Rio Tinto British-Australian mining
group. Chinalco, which already owned 9 percent of Rio Tinto shares,
has bought another 18 percent of its shares, as well as bonds worth
$7.2 billion and shares in projects for mining copper, iron ore and
aluminum, totaling $12.3 billion. This was the largest investment
transaction abroad for Chinese businesses. At about the same time,
China Minmetals Corp announced its plans to buy Australian mining
firm OZ Minerals, the world’s second-largest zinc miner, for $1.7
billion.

If Beijing has enough money to both reduce social tensions and
provide raw materials for its economic growth, China will come out
of the crisis a leading world economy.

PLANS AND REAL LIFE

The announcement that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would
make one of her first foreign visits to China, along with three
other Asian states – Washington’s traditional allies Japan and
South Korea, as well as Indonesia, added fuel to discussions about
a possible U.S.-Chinese union. Not everyone agrees with Brzezinski
and Kissinger. A cold-headed analysis suggests the conclusion that,
despite the undoubted growth of China’s political and economic role
in the world in the future, the emergence of a U.S.-Chinese
alliance is not at all a necessity.

Naturally, Beijing welcomed the recognition of its increased
international importance, especially Brzezinski’s praises of the
Chinese leadership’s policy of building a “harmonious world.” But
it is difficult to imagine that Beijing, which conducts an
independent foreign policy, would suddenly rush into the U.S. arms
and would start solving Washington’s problems around the world in
exchange for hollow promises.

So far, the essence of Beijing’s foreign policy has been as
follows: ensuring a peaceful environment for the country, creating
favorable conditions for its economic development and not
interfering in international conflicts that do not directly affect
its vital interests. China will undoubtedly continue to play a
positive role as mediator (rather than a conduit of U.S. interests)
in addressing the North Korean nuclear problem. China’s
interdependence with America (the U.S. market has great influence
on the Chinese economy, while much of China’s hard currency
reserves has been invested in U.S. Treasuries) will make Beijing a
constructive partner in overcoming the global financial crisis.
Yet, it is highly unlikely that China will intervene in the
Indo-Pakistani, or the more so the Arab-Israeli, conflict,
particularly as an American agent or ally. Beijing will unlikely
send large forces to remote troubled areas (small Chinese
peacekeeping forces already operate under UN programs).

A U.S. attempt to establish a union with China would immediately
draw fire from human rights activists, supporters of Taiwan’s and
Tibet’s independence, and other anti-Chinese groups in the U.S.
itself. Washington’s NATO partners and other allies (for example,
Japan) would not approve of its too close rapprochement with
Beijing, either. The U.S. would be accused of wishing to sacrifice
the ideals of democracy for the sake of dividing the world with the
largest authoritarian regime. The creation of NATO after World War
II was aimed at containing the totalitarian Soviet Union and
proliferating democracy in Europe, whereas an alliance with China
suggests something quite different. Finally, geopolitically, a U.S.
shift towards China would create favorable conditions for the
fulfillment of a daydream of many politicians in Moscow: the
separation of Europe from the U.S., its rapprochement with Russia,
and the creation of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Ocean. Realistically minded policymakers in Washington are unlikely
to be delighted by the prospect.

In general, the idea of a U.S.-Chinese alliance is unfeasible, but
it may be useful for sounding out the Chinese position and gaining
some concessions from other interested parties. For example,
speculation about a U.S. rapprochement with China may serve as a
lever of influence on Russia.

Nevertheless, a certain shift in Washington from the ideologization
of its foreign policy to pragmatism would inevitably lead to closer
cooperation with China. Circles close to the administration are
actively discussing the idea of establishing a U.S.-Chinese
cooperation commission, to be led by Vice President Joseph Biden
and Premier Wen Jiabao (similar to the former U.S.-Russian Albert
Gore-Victor Chernomyrdin commission). The two countries have agreed
to broaden their bilateral strategic dialogue on economic issues
and include security issues in it. They have also announced plans
to start discussions on global warming. In addition, shortly before
Clinton’s visit, they declared the resumption of consultations
between their defense ministries, which had been suspended by China
last year after the George W. Bush administration announced plans
to sell large quantities of armaments to Taiwan.

Clinton expressed Washington’s interest in working together with
Beijing but played down the human rights issue, saying on the eve
of her visit that pressing on the human rights issue “can’t
interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate
change crisis and the security crisis.”

In an interview on China’s Dragon TV, Clinton said: “We are truly
going to rise or fall together. By continuing to support American
treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing our
interconnection.” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was more
evasive on this issue, saying only that his country would seek
safe, high-value and liquid investments for its foreign currency
reserves. Several days later, Wen Jiabao explained that Beijing was
primarily concerned about the welfare of Chinese citizens, rather
than about saving the global financial system and the U.S.
economy.

Speaking upon conclusion of the Chinese parliament’s session on
March 13, the Chinese Premier even expressed concern about the
safety of Chinese investments in the U.S. and called on the United
States to “maintain their creditworthiness, keep their promise and
guarantee the safety of Chinese assets.” Apparently, China fears
that the U.S. dollar may collapse owing to excessive budget
spending in the U.S. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs even
had to reassure Beijing, saying that investments in the U.S. are
the safest in the world.

MULTILATERAL COOPERATION

Why has the development of Russia and China resulted in Moscow no
longer viewed as a privileged partner of Washington? Why was
democratic Russia not offered a new trans-Atlantic partnership
after the breakup of the Soviet Union, which is now actually
offered to authoritarian China? And how can the emerging
U.S.-Chinese rapprochement affect Russian interests?

The articles by Brzezinski and Kissinger made no mention of Russia.
Whereas Brzezinski apparently did not want to speak
straightforwardly about an anti-Russian nature of the proposed
union, Kissinger proceeded from the real role of China in the
present world. Washington, which is now seriously discussing the
need for establishing cooperation on global issues with various
countries, including Russia, will hardly want to build its
relations with Beijing on an anti-Russian basis. China will not do
it, either, as it views Russia as an important partner in many
areas. Yet, this factor is no reason for complacency.

Considering the possible U.S.-Chinese rapprochement, Russia will
have to act in two areas simultaneously: to actively look for
points of mutual understanding with Washington and, regardless of
this, develop cooperation with China, both on a bilateral and a
multilateral basis. It also needs to intensify its bilateral and
multilateral relations with non-Western parts of the world.

Russia now has stable political and economic contacts with states
in South and East Asia, even with those that are U.S. allies (Japan
and South Korea). It has built a system of bilateral exchanges with
India and China and has given more emphasis to its relations with
Latin American countries.

In these circumstances, Russia should focus its efforts on
enhancing its role in such organizations and groups as the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization, RIC (Russia-India-China), BRIC
(Brazil-Russia-India-China), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the six-party talks
on the North Korean nuclear problem (especially in the working
group on security in Northeast Asia). These organizations and
groups must become an essential structural element in a world of
real multipolarity.

SCO AND BRIC – ALTERNATIVES ON THE RISE

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), officially established
in 2001, has now become an influential regional structure. A
conference on Afghanistan, held under its aegis in Moscow in March
2009, was attended by representatives of several international
organizations. This was an indication that problems of the region
cannot be effectively solved without the SCO.

The significance of the SCO for Russia is that it was the first
platform for harmonizing Russian-Chinese interests and approaches,
especially in Central Asia, within the frameworks of an
international organization that does not include Western countries.
This platform is highly important also as a basis for deeper
cooperation with other non-Western actors, above all India which
has observer status in the SCO. Characteristically, the first
official summit of the BRIC will be held later this year after the
completion of a meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of State in
Russia’s Yekaterinburg.
Unlike the RIC and BRIC, the SCO is a full-fledged international
organization, and it is in Russia’s interests to prevent its
becoming yet another discussion forum. To this end, SCO
institutions, especially the Secretariat, must be developed more
actively and given more powers, so that institutional logic would
let them show greater initiative.

Another way to strengthen the SCO is the development of real
multilateral economic cooperation among its members, which now is
actually non-existent. Such cooperation can provide a basis for the
organization’s stable operation and create an alternative to
foreign forces’ plans with regard to Central Asia. A SCO Energy
Club could play a special role in harmonizing interests between the
world’s largest energy-producing, transit and consuming countries
from among SCO members and observers. The club’s establishment was
declared more than two years ago, but it has never started
operating.

The BRIC or BRICs is an example of an idea turned reality. The term
was coined by Jim O’Neill, global economist at Goldman Sachs, to
refer to the fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and
China. The aggregate economic might of the four countries may soon
surpass that of the West. According to the International Monetary
Fund, the total share of the BRICs in world GDP has been growing
fast: from 8 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2007. The Goldman
Sachs report, entitled “Dreaming With BRICs: The Path to 2050,”
said that economically the four nations complement each other very
well: China and India have strong light industries, while Russia
and Brazil can become the main suppliers of raw materials for them.
At first, however, all these considerations were purely
theoretical.

Unexpectedly for many, the four countries accepted O’Neill’s term
and decided that they really had common interests and reasons to
coordinate their efforts. In May 2008, Russia’s Yekaterinburg
hosted the first meeting of the BRIC foreign ministers, while the
first meeting of the BRIC finance ministers was held in November in
Sao Paulo, Brazil. The forums discussed various international
issues, including joint efforts to overcome the crisis. The top
leaders of the four nations met for the first time on the margin of
a G8 summit in July 2008 in Japan. And in late November, Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev, while on a visit to Rio de Janeiro, for
the first time announced plans to hold a BRIC summit in Russia in
July 2009.

The BRICs have all chances to become the most influential of all
the international associations that include Russia, as it is a
center for harmonizing the interests of major non-Western centers
of the multipolar world. An evolution of the BRIC structure into an
alternative to the G8 would meet Russian interests (as well as the
interests of India, China and other large countries not included in
Western structures).

First, such a project, as distinct from a possible expansion of the
G8 to a G20, would not look like the inclusion of developing
countries by “seniors” in an already existing structure at their
own discretion, but would be a new influential platform for
discussing global development issues. Its members, which have been
kept in the backyard of the G8, would be able to set the rules in
the new organization independently. That would show genuine
multipolarity, as well as the limited influence of the Western
center; and in case a G20 is created, that would help BRIC members
to join it on basically new terms.

Second, Russia – as the only state that is a member of both the G8
and the BRICs – would find itself in a uniquely advantageous
position of coordinator and mediator between Western and
non-Western centers of a multipolar world.

Transforming the BRICs into an alternative to the G8 requires
taking the following measures, using the experience of cooperation
within the RIC:

  • intensifying the agenda;
  • working towards the institutionalization of the BRICs and the
    creation of a formal mechanism for negotiations and discussions
    (regular meetings of the heads of state, ministers, etc.), with a
    view to establishing an international organization in the
    future;
  • considering a possible expansion of the BRICs by including
    states that usually participate in meetings on the margins of G8
    summits and that represent various parts of the world (Mexico,
    Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa).

The agenda of discussions should include pressing issues of
today’s world: the reform of international institutions,
international security issues, including energy security, and
climate change. Particular importance should be attached to the
search for ways to overcome the global financial crisis. In this
context, discussions within the BRIC format could naturally include
subjects like comparative analysis of development models in various
participating states (and other non-Western models), their positive
and negative aspects in light of the present crisis (for example,
the Chinese export model and the Indian model which is more
oriented to domestic consumption), as well as sharing experiences
of anti-crisis management.

The operation of the BRICs as an emerging international structure
must be provided with scientific and expert support, and Track II
interaction within the BRICs must be developed. Most appropriate in
this context was an initiative to establish a Public Forum in the
BRICs. This forum could find it useful to use the experience of the
creation of the SCO Forum.

ASEAN AND EAC – THE NEXT FRONTIER

States of East and Central Asia represented in the SCO were the
first frontier in the development of Russia’s relations with the
non-Western world within the framework of the multipolarity
movement. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the
next frontier. Russia established relations with ASEAN more than
twenty years ago, yet they have not been developing very
intensively. Moscow’s passivity was coupled with fears in some
ASEAN member countries with regard to Russia’s role in the area of
ASEAN’s operation. Some ASEAN states still believe that Russia does
not belong to their region but is a global power opposed to
America, while the principle of the development of regional
cooperation with no superpowers involved does not provide for
active roles either from Russia or the United States. Without
saying this directly, ASEAN cites Russia’s insufficient economic
role in the region as a pretext for checking the establishment of
partner relations with Russia.

Recent years have seen more activity on Russia’s part. It seeks to
implement and broaden the accords reached at the first ASEAN-Russia
summit held in December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur. The accords include a
political declaration of the leaders, a comprehensive program of
action for the period ending in 2015, and an intergovernmental
agreement on cooperation in economy and development.

At the same time, Moscow acknowledges that the level of its
economic cooperation with ASEAN countries is inadmissibly low.
Three years after its signing, the intergovernmental agreement
still remains ineffective. Russia’s trade with ASEAN countries
stood at only 7 billion dollars in 2007, while Russia’s share in
the total trade of ASEAN members was a mere 0.3 percent. Compare it
with Chinese-ASEAN trade which reached 190 billion dollars in the
same year. As with the SCO, the expansion of Russia’s trade and
economic cooperation with ASEAN is an important strategic goal,
because this is the only way to increase the region’s interest in
Moscow’s active participation.

The insufficient intensity of relations between the two parties is
also due to the passivity of the Association itself. Perhaps, this
passivity stems from the aforementioned attitude to Russia and from
fears that the level of relations with it may be higher than the
level of relations with the United States, which have been
deteriorating of late (for example, an ASEAN-U.S. summit has never
been held). The greatest skepticism about Russia’s role in the
region comes from states that have the closest ties with Washington
– namely, Singapore and Indonesia. Interestingly, no one objects to
Russia’s active role in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which also
involves the U.S., yet the issue of Russia’s presence in the
planned East Asia Community (EAC), which will not include the
United States, is still in limbo – despite Moscow’s repeatedly
reiterated interest in the EAC and despite the participation of the
then-president Vladimir Putin in the first East Asia Summit (2005)
as a guest.

The following factors can help create favorable conditions for
Russia’s more active involvement in cooperation with ASEAN. The
Cold War has long ended; the Soviet Union has disappeared from the
map of the world, and its successor Russia poses no threat to
anyone. Its resources and ambitions are much less than those of the
Soviet Union, and it does not seek world domination; so there is no
reason to bracket it with the United States. At the same time,
Russia’s Far East is an integral part of East Asia, and Russia,
unlike the U.S., is a regional power that has every legitimate
reason to participate in the processes going on there. The
positions of the United States and Russia in the region are
different; therefore, the level of their participation in regional
affairs can be different, as well.

There are also some geopolitical arguments that could be
interesting to regional partners. Both Russia and the ASEAN states
actively maintain constructive and friendly relations with growing
and strengthening China. The consolidation of political and
economic ties between Russia and ASEAN could prevent their
cooperation with China from becoming overly lop-sided. Some
countries, for example, Japan and South Korea, have already
understood this.