Russia’s Far East Policy: Looking Beyond China

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Series Details Number 54
Publication Date August 2010
ISBN 978-2-86592-759-3
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This paper traces Russia's ultimately unsuccessful effort to connect with Japan and South Korea.

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Russian writers like Dmitri Trenin have called developing the Russian Far East (RFE) a civilizational task. At the same time Moscow has acknowledged that developing the RFE is the foundation for any successful Russian claim to an independent great power status in Asia. Yet careful examination of Russian relations with the major Northeast Asian powers: China, Japan, and South Korea, strongly suggests that Russia has failed at this task and that its economic-political system is the primary reason for this failure.

Given the stakes involved, this failure has consequences, namely Russia's excessive reliance on China to assist in the development of the RFE. During 2009-10 we saw this growth in Chinese power as China bailed out Russian oil producers on condition that in East Asia they supply China alone with oil. Russia also had to attach its development plans for the RFE to China's regional development plan for Northeast China. Thus Moscow's failure to move forward sufficiently with both Tokyo and Seoul leaves it with no option but to depend on Beijing as the power that will define the nature of its role in northeast Asia.

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