Russia and its Far East: pathways for engagement with the Asia-Pacific
For most of its history, Russia's main ambitions have been directed westward. Although Russia's geopolitical identity is often described as "Eurasian", it is no coincidence that the western, or "European", component always comes first in this term. There was only one short period when the Eastern, or "Asian", direction gained the top priority in Russia's foreign policy. That was at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the Russian Empire under Czar Nicholas II attempted to become the dominant power in Northeast Asia. This led to confrontation with Japan, resulting in a disastrous defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. After this failure, the East Asian, or Asia-Pacific, theater has always been secondary to Russia's other geopolitical concerns. Relations with the West continue to dominate Moscow's foreign policy thinking. Yet there are developments suggesting that Russian policy-makers view the Asia- Pacific as increasingly more important for the country. This time Russia is not attempting to assert itself in East Asia by means of military power and ideology, as it used to behave under the czars and during the Soviet Union. The primary path for engagement now is through multilateral cooperation with the Asia-Pacific countries and economic integration into their vibrant markets. This new strategy will be highlighted by the summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum which will be hosted by Russia in its main Pacific city of Vladivostok in September 2012. (fragment of text)
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