Russia’s Eastern Direction – ”Distinguishing the Real from the Virtual”

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Series Details Number 17
Publication Date January 2014
ISBN 978-2-36567-226-9
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The Asia-Pacific region has assumed primary importance as a center of global politics and economic dynamism. For Moscow, this development highlights a world in which many long-standing assumptions about international politics are being overturned. It speaks of “global power … shifting to the East,” and of Russia becoming involved in the “dynamic integration processes in the ‘new Asia".”

But for all the rhetoric about a “turn to the East”, Russia's commitment to serious engagement with the Asia-Pacific is uncertain. Its elite retains a strongly Western-centric world-view, even as it criticizes Western shortcomings. Although Moscow has begun to appreciate Asia as important in and of itself, it is mainly concerned to assert Russia as an “independent” Eurasian center of power within the “polycentric system of international relations”.

On the one hand, Moscow is investing greater effort into the Asia-Pacific—a focus heightened by the critical importance of the “strategic partnership” with China, the vulnerability of the Russian Far East, and the need to diversify energy exports. On the other hand, Russia remains a peripheral actor in the region—a country that may be in Asia, but is far from being of Asia.

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