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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 46, November 5, 2011

Asia - Pacific: Russia’s Evolving Strategy

Tuesday 8 November 2011, by Benjamin Todd

Striking a course distinctly different from its pro-West orientation as well as US and Europe-centric approach during Boris Yeltsin’s steward-ship of the country, Russia today is paying considerable attention to participation in the Asia-Pacific multilateral fora, for example, the East Asian Summit (EAS), Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Shangri-La Dialogue and ASEAN + Russia. International experts view this trend as an endeavour on the part of Moscow to formulate a Russian “Look East Policy”. Like its Indian parallel, this new evolving strategy of Russia is expected to substantially contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region.

Russia’s objective is to maintain an open and transparent security environment in the Asia-Pacific, one that is based on the principles of collective action and international law. It is also aimed at safeguarding the legitimate interests of all participants. The Russian policy in this part of the world rests on regional stability, confidence-building and economic cooperation.

It needs to be emphasised that despite the reduction of the country’s power, authority, clout and strength following the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia continues to be one of the principal players in the global arena, a fact acknowledged even by the die-hard hardliners in the Washington establishment with the US Administration also grudgingly conceding that no international problem can be solved without taking Russian interests and sensitivities into consideration. Over the years since its independent existence after the collapse of the USSR, Russia has proved by words and deeds alike that it is a genuinely impartial power in world politics. It is most careful when it comes to wielding sanctions as a political tool on the global plane. Instead its motive has all along been, ever since its cessation of military intervention in and troop withdrawal from Afghanistan spurred by the Gorbachevian outlook, to explore peaceful solutions of all inter-national problems (including the most intractable ones) even as it has, under Putin’s astute leader-ship, not hesitated to use force—whether in Chechnya or against Georgia—to protect the country’s integrity and defend the interests of Russians. These distinguish the present Medvedev-Putin dispensation from the sole surviving superpower.

The Russian leadership extends full support to all efforts to ensure greater integration in the Asia-Pacific. It envisages a regional architecture which includes both the US and China. Russia’s activities are directed towards preventing any large-scale confrontation between Washington and Beijing.

Being a major energy supplier. Russia’s inclusion in an Asia-Pacific arrangement would ensure regional energy security. Russia can provide countries in the region with modern technologies. Moscow is in possession of reactors, nuclear fuel, renewable energy sources, hydropower, machines and equipment, space technology, medicines and pharmaceuticals that can be offered to these states. Additionally, it can equip the Asia-Pacific nations with telecommunications while imparting effective training to their personnel in emergency and rescue operations to meet any eventuality.

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