(APPS) Vladivostok, which had an expensive facelift for the 2012 APEC summit, will this week host the Eastern Economic Forum, and President Vladimir Putin is due to preside over the proceedings. His goal is to reassert Russia’s commitment to playing a major role in Asia-Pacific geopolitics and to reinvigorate business ties with this dynamic region. The provisional results of Russia’s “pivot” to the East, launched two and a half years ago against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict, are nevertheless quite disappointing. Not only has the volume of trade shrunk by about a third in this time, but Moscow’s ability to engage with the key issues on this hugely complex regional security agenda has proven to be lacking.
The main focus of Russia’s efforts was on upgrading the strategic partnership with China so that it would mature into something approaching an alliance. This hasn’t happened and the friendliness demonstrated by Putin and President Xi Jinping can barely mask the mutual disillusionment.
Gas exports were supposed to constitute a new solid foundation for the partnership, but the implementation of the deal signed with great fanfare in May 2014 has been delayed, and the second deal connecting the Yamal gas fields with Xinjiang has been indefinitely postponed. Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, is struggling with falling prices and profits – and cannot produce a design that makes new pipelines to China cost-efficient. Beijing has found it opportune to instead put some money into the Yamal-LNG project, but Russia’s entry into the competitive LNG market is set to be very narrow, so the “strategic” value of this enterprise is more in rewarding several sleazy oligarchs, who have direct ties to the Kremlin but are the target of Western sanctions. […]
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