For a variety of economic and geostrategic reasons, Russia is again attempting to increase its efforts to develop the economy of its Eastern territories and integrate more deeply into the rapidly developing Asian regional economies. As the Obama administration announced its “Asia Pivot” in 2011, Russia’s own “Asia Pivot” was marked by its hosting of the APEC Summit in Vladivostok in September 2012. Historically, Russia was a primarily European focused power, until the Cold War confrontation with the United States. Engaging in Asian affairs does not come naturally to Russia’s elite, but Vladimir Putin is keenly aware of the shifting global economic balance of power to Asia, and he understands that Russia’s integration there is essential for its successful long-term development. It is true that during the latter Soviet period Moscow was more focused on Asia because of the emergence of China as a perceived strategic threat, but this engagement with the region was almost entirely on military-strategic terms. Now, however, the currency of power has shifted to a certain degree from military to economic prowess. And just as energy, mainly oil and gas, has been Russia’s principal economic comparative advantage to its West, Russian economic integration in Asia leads with its energy resources.
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 272
by Andrew C. Kuchins