Country Report: Russia (March 2023)
In the late winter of 2023, China drew the closest Russian attention. India was second, as the overall trends in regional conflicts—East Asia versus Europe—and prospects of the Greater Eurasian Partnership also were of interest. Writings on China and India largely served different purposes, the former reinforcing the mainstream position of Russia gaining support in the establishment of a new world and regional order, and the latter casting doubt on the impact of tightening ties with China on ties to India and on the goal of multipolarity in Asia. Analysis of China’s role in Central Asia also gave reason for caution. Despite the war atmosphere, debate on Asia had not ended.
East Asia versus Europe
Dmitry Strel’tsov in Rossiya v Global’noi Politike explains how conflicts in East Asia differ from those in Europe, noting the higher level of civilizational, ethnic, national-psychological heterogeneity. It is practically impossible to get consensus on norms and rules. Wariness of the West—including the legacy of colonialism and the Asian financial crisis—leads to support for creating institutions of regional integration without the West. Asian values can be the basis of regional integration, but a collective security system is difficult. Leaders look well back in history for their ideas and to win public support. “Patriotic” views of history lead to uncompromising approaches to problems. New identities, based in part on narratives of historical grievances, pose challenges. Countries in Southeast Asia cannot agree with China on a “code of conduct” in the South China Sea mainly due to distrust of the Asian giant. In South Korea, differences with China relate to objections to Korean independence in the period of a Sinocentric world. Russia and China have similar grievances against the collective West. Their interests overlap not regionally but in the global order.
On February 10, in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Viktor Pirozhenko wrote about how the US is preparing for a likely military confrontation with China, noting the balloon shoot-down. Against this background, the collective West is scaring countries in the Asia-Pacific region with the “China threat” and catastrophic scenarios. The NATO general secretary in Japan warned that what is occurring in Europe today could occur in East Asia tomorrow, also pointing to control of the South China Sea. The US is seen in China as spreading out its military forces or operations, complicating strikes by the PLA. Note is taken of US forces in the eastern Philippines, as the first line of islands, including Okinawa, are no longer consider secure, but will retain mobile forces and intelligence. Missile defense in Guam is being modified. A new anti-Chinese “containment” may be putting new weapons on Japanese islands near Taiwan, perceived by Chinese military analysts as a serious threat to China, North Korea, and Russia. China promises a “strategic response,” which may mean intermediate ballistic missiles aimed at US bases in Japan. A movement for full US technological decoupling from China would allow it in case of a Taiwan crisis not to depend on supplies of critically important production from there, as part of supply chain reorganization. Mention is made of the trilateral US-Netherlands-Japan agreement to limit exports to China of items critical from microchip production. US moves do not change the superiority of China’s armed forces in the western Pacific or China’s ability to block supplies to US military bases. Since Washington is guided by a containment strategy to the PRC as to Russia, and Beijing has no plans to pull back from its sovereign development, Sino-US relations are headed for even greater confrontation was the heartening message to the public.
In MKRU on February 12, Iury Tavrovsky discussed the new model of the development of humanity proposed by China, which is challenging Biden and part of China’s counterattack. Xi Jinping now emphasizes the global significance of “Chinese modernization,” substituting that slogan for “socialism with Chinese characteristics, which is hard for foreigners to understand. Talk of a new model of development of humanity emerged in 2021 at the 100th anniversary of the CCP. This model’s limits then were noted, but now it is universal and contrasted sharply with the liberal, capitalist model. In decades China accomplished what took Western countries a century. Now two models of development are competing, as China’s achieves greater economic effectiveness and more social justice, Xi observed. Despite zero COVID, the early 2023 results show China’s economic growth accelerating at 5.2%, 5.7%, or even 6% for the year. More stress on social justice is occurring too. Superiority of “Chinese modernization,” that is the socialist model of development, is a challenge to the US with its “shining house on the hill.” Ideology is now a test of the Sino-US clash, making the dispute existential and global. The “Cold War” begun by the US, first against Russia, and then against China, is speeding up the breakup of the ongoing world order. The autonomy of the Russian and Chinese civilizations allows them not to fear loss of part of their sovereignty and to proceed to unprecedented closeness in the name of national security. Their “strategic partnership” gives synergy to their economies and military potential.
In MKRU on February 26, Tavrovsky asked what China’s aims are in proposing a plan to end the conflict in Ukraine, the first time China has taken an important initiative in the post-Soviet space. The maximally possible closeness of the positions of Moscow and Beijing on the Ukraine crisis was reflected in the February 24 published PRC initiative on managing it. This follows the new Chinese doctrine of “global security,” encompassing the whole world. The only thing sounding ambiguous was the observation about supporting sovereignty and territorial integrity. That clearly follows thinking about the battle against separatism in Taiwan. China’s plan for ending the conflict derives from its wish to strengthen its new global status. The conflict in Taiwan is analogous to that in Ukraine. Victory by the KMT in the 2024 presidential elections could extinguish the flickers of war in Taiwan, perhaps leading to conflict instead with the Philippines over islands in the South China Sea, as Washington and Manila agree to new bases and Marcos turns his country into a base of anti-Chinese activity. Moscow is fully satisfied with Beijing’s current position on Ukraine in words and deeds. Ordinary people or poorly informed experts at first hoped for direct military support. Its main form of support is to tie down US military resources over Taiwan and to compensate for the loss due to economic sanctions of the West. Without these types of support the situation for Russia would be much worse.
In Izvestiya on February 20, Iulia Mel’nikova discussed China’s relations with Europe, called Chinese-style multipolarity, discussing Wang Yi’s tour of Europe and desire to reopen dialogue. China always views the EU as a potential center of a multipolar system, but from 2019 ties fell into a dead-end, and now it seems Beijing seeks dialogue through bilateral ties, especially with France, Germany, and Italy, where Wang Yi stopped. Hungary matters too as the “station” in Central Europe with the main initiative of BRI—a railroad from Budapest to Belgrade. France leads in accepting Chinese rhetoric on the benefits of multipolarity, while Macron advances the idea of “strategic autonomy” but in regard to Europe as a whole, not China. He also sought to be a mediator early in the Ukraine crisis. The results of Wang’s visit can cautiously be called positive, as Macron reaffirmed his interest in multipolarity and readiness to cooperate with China, as the two sides prepare in 2024 to mark sixty years of diplomatic relations. Scholz went to China, although the results in the fall of 2022 were less positive than predicted. The two sides this time expressed their intention to develop trade and economic ties and cooperate on international questions. The longer the crisis around Ukraine continues, the greater the loss for Europe’s “northern stream,” Chinese reported. Italy in 2019 was an outlier in Europe over BRI, but much has changed. The tone of the joint statement was quite restrained. The visits show that China does not want to lose contact with the EU and its states, aiming to unfreeze dialogue. Wang Yi concludes his trip in Russia, preparing the way for Xi Jinping’s visit.
On February 24 in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Viktor Pirozhenko wrote about China’s role in the Ukraine crisis. He starts by arguing that the US has recently been intensifying pressure on its European and Asian allies to unite in isolating China, economically and diplomatically. So far, such efforts are unsuccessful due to the allies’ extremely important economic ties to China, and the facts do not support US efforts to frighten then with the “China threat.” In this context, the US is making baseless claims about Chinese military supplies to Russia to use the Ukraine crisis to undermine China. China’s response on managing the crisis is neutralizing the US attempt. In supporting the security interests of all countries, China is recognizing that the Ukraine crisis is a result of attempts by the US and NATO to serve their own security at the expense of one-sided benefits over Russia. The article finds China’s position to be sufficiently objective and attentive to the interests of all sides, including Russia. So far, it has not drawn interest in the West, but in the non-Western world it gives China an argument to debunk Washington’s talk of a “China threat.” Countries not part of the collective West and even some partners of the US oppose the split with China and Russia, rejecting having to choose the US vs. one or the other, which the US demands. China’s formula for resolving the Ukraine crisis avoids such concrete issues as the Russo-Ukraine border, concentrating on general principles of security able not only to stop this conflict but other armed confrontations in the world. This is proof that China intends to play an ever-larger role in strengthening international security as a whole.
In Nezavisimaya Gazeta on March 2, Konstantin Sukhoverkhov explained why the US is nervous about closer ties between the RF and PRC, noting recent warnings that China is considering supplying armed drones, artillery rounds, etc. to Russia, along with threats of sanctions. This followed the US shooting down a Chinese balloon that traversed almost the entire country. US aims include not allowing China to supply Russia, putting pressure on its main competitor in the global arena, preventing China in the future from aiding Russia even in non-military ways, and creating conditions to prevent Sino-Russian relations from developing. Kissinger used this scheme in the late 1960s to turn China against Moscow until the end of the 1980s, when there were already ideological and political differences between the two. Russia awakened to US unfriendly designs in the Serbian war, and in 2001 the RF and PRC signed a decisive treaty and established the SCO. Instead of incentivizing Russia, the US drove it to China’s side. Sino-Russian ties are not without clouds, but Beijing recognizes that Russia is in its own ideological, cultural, and economic world, while it fears that Russia could flip to the West given the right conditions, although after February 24, 2022 that hardly seems possible. Trump sought to drive a wedge between China and Russia. Using AUKUS and the Quad versus China and NATO versus Russia, the US is also active in the post-Soviet space, as seen in Blinken’s recent Central Asian trip. It is now difficult to separate Moscow and Beijing, given high levels of interdependence and shared foreign policy interests. We are not together on everything, but there is a high level of trust and mutual respect. How will new US sanctions on China play out? It is still unclear if the US just wants to frighten China with sanctions or is ready for an economic confrontation.
On March 8 in Kommersant Sergei Strokhan’ wrote about Sino-US disputes on territorial integrity involving Taiwan and Ukraine. The US seeks to avoid a clash with China, insisting that competition will not turn into conflict as Qin Gang faults the US for not respecting the territorial integrity of China and making a false analogy with Ukraine and Taiwan. The US insists that it has not changed its “one China” policy and it opposes Taiwan’s independence bit it does not want one-sided change in the status quo, especially by the use of force. Qin rejected the notion of “strategic competition” of the US, saying that is confrontation, and the US aim is to “surround” China and to establish an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO undermining regional integration.” Qin asked why Washington speaks of the necessity of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and simultaneously takes a disrespectful position on Taiwan, and concluded that territorial integrity is just an instrument for the US to wield for geopolitical objectives. He cited China’s peace plan for Ukraine as calling for respect for the sovereignty of all countries.
On March 13 Vladimir Skosyrev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta firstairedrumors about Xi Jinping’s impending National Congress speech regarding relations with the US and Russia and then found that he decisively split with the US. It was blamed for blocking access to computer chips and other new technology while giving military support to Taiwan. If decoupling with the US was rejected by Premier Li Qiang, who noted a record $760 billion in bilateral trade in 2022, much was not voiced openly, Skosyrev observed, as Xi prepared to visit Russia and proposed a peace plan for Ukraine, which was met with skepticism in the West. A tradition exists of a new leader making his first foreign visit to Russia, demonstrating it is the closest friend. Talk in the West of Chinese dissatisfaction with its relations with Russia lack any proof, although some Chinese analysts, such as Yan Xuetong, have argued that Russia is damaging Chinese national interests.
On January 26 in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, China’s role in Central Asia was assessed by Aleksandr Khramchikhin, recognizing the deep shadow of the events in Ukraine and the continued struggle over the area. While Moscow enjoys multiple advantages, the more time elapses from the Soviet era, the more these are eroded. As Russia concentrates on Ukraine, it becomes all the more difficult to provide security in Central Asia. Moreover, countries in the region see that Russia’s armed forces are not as strong as earlier assumed. Also, some states are beginning to fear that they could share the fate of Ukraine. The US is far away, and its shameful flight from Afghanistan has undermined its position. Also, the US is spending huge amounts of resources on its support for Kiev, meaning little is left for military-political measures in Central Asia. Nor is the US able to complete for influence there with Russia or China. The EU lacks serious influence in Central Asia and is weakened by its losses over Ukraine. Turkey has much more influence in Central Asia than the West, as do Iran, and the Arab emirates. India and Pakistan are seeking to bolster their positions there, but all of the above have limited resources and insufficient political will. Given the above, China can dominate the region almost automatically.
For a long time, China’s expansion in Central Asia was economic and demographic. The SCO mechanisms facilitated the drawing into China’s sphere of the economies therein. The rise in economic influence automatically leads to a rise in its political influence. Xi Jinping’s remarks when visiting Kazakhstan in September 2022 are recalled: China’s eternal, all-around strategic partnership with Kazakhstan had no analogy in Chinese diplomacy, i.e., it is above ties with Russia. Just afterwards, the Kazakh foreign minister declared that his country would, under no circumstances, violate the anti-Russian sanctions. With the rise in political influence comes an increase in military influence, as is already occurring. Most economic projects in the region are part of BRI (called OBOR) by Russians, which Beijing seeks to secure, as agreements for joint “anti-terrorist” exercises are reached but they also are aimed are protecting Chinese economic objects. Despite the limited scale, they occur regularly with each state apart from Turkmenistan. China can forge an image of guarantor of security for countries in the region, replacing Russia.
In January 2022 Kazakhstan did not turn to China to save it from internal disorder. Yet, that did not interfere with Astana strengthening political ties with Beijing, not Moscow. At present, Chinese technology does not dominate in any army of Central Asia, but that could change, given cheap and plentiful production, plus genetic familiarity with local weapons from Russia. Poor Tajikistan and Kirgizia could agree to receive arms in exchange for transferring ownership of places of interest to the Chinese. A gamechanger would be the sale of tanks and fighter aircraft.
The placement of Chinese bases began in Tajikistan, weakest militarily and economically and furthest from Russia with the longest border with Afghanistan. Dushanbe is not confident that Mosco is able to resolve this problem, especially in conditions of the Ukraine campaign. It is only a matter of time before Chinese military bases appear in other countries of the region, a function of the overall geopolitical situation and the degree of economic dependency on China. One can expect Kirghizia to be next, then Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Moscow should put on a good face that nothing strange is occurring and none of this is against us. Chinese bases in Central Asia would serve the BRI and the stability of local regimes while allowing China to forge a land bridge with Iran and then with Arab states, preventing the US from disrupting this bridge. Gradually Chinese objects would expand in all spheres, but that could take a long time. Only possibly in the way would be some global geopolitical shift or a deep internal crisis in China.
On February 26 in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the territorial dispute between Moscow and Tokyo was discussed by Valerii Kislanov, who insisted that the position of the Japanese government in the entire postwar period has remained practically unchanged, demanding the return of all “four northern islands.” The threat of the US not to return Okinawa if Japan did not insist on four islands strengthened this intention. Against this background Moscow took a zigzag line, drawing closer than distancing itself from the Japanese general line. Gorbachev broke with thirty years of policy by recognizing the existence of the problem, including for all four islands but made no agreement to include the 1956 declaration in the statement thereof, as he opposed a territory for money swap. Yeltsin recognized in writing the territorial problem with the names of the four islands, as those around him mulled a formula of “two plus alpha,” leading eventually to all four islands going to Japan. Yeltsin even was inclined to a “tsarist ukaz” to give to his “friend Ryu” (Hashimoto Ryutaro) the islands. Putin began by recognizing the 1956 declaration, Medvedev, as president, poured cold water on Japan’s territorial pretensions before Putin in 2012 raised Japanese hopes again. The apogee of Putin-Abe efforts was reached in their Singapore agreement in 2018 to speed talks on the basis of the 1956 declaration. Abe never publicly backed away from the other two islands. His strategy was after the legal realization of Japanese sovereignty over two to move to gain economic and demographic domination over the othe4r islands and eventually to gain, at a minimum, administrative control and then sovereignty. Joint economic activities, not based on Russian law, and them free Japanese settlement were envisioned, as a soft variant of “two plus alpha.” In Moscow’s opinion, the Japanese side incorrectly interpreted what the two leaders decided at their closed sessions, and then made it public. In Tokyo there was talk of the necessity of “gaining the understanding” of the former South Kuril residents on the transfer and on forsaking demands for compensation from Russia for its “postwar occupation,” while 2019 was supposed to be the “turning point.” Kishida is repeating the demand for sovereignty over all four islands before signing a peace treaty. His furious anti-Russian activities connected to the “special military operation” in Ukraine drove relations into a deep dead-end with no end in sight.
In Izvestiya on March 6 analysis turned to the ROK move to improve relations with Japan, managing their historical dispute on compensating forced labor. Although there is no guarantee that this dispute will be put to rest forever, in the near future bilateral ties will improve, which will please the US and its approach to the Chinese threat. The confrontation of two US allies changed only with the election of Yoon Suk-yeol, who prioritized improving ties with Japan along with strengthening the alliance with the US. Japan faces possible pretentions for payment from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam and refuses to set a precedent. After earlier negotiation with South Korea, which only led to additional ROK demand, Japan feared the issue would never end and concessions would not change things. This is hardly likely to be the final step in historical disputes between the two, above all given a lack of public support in the ROK. Much depends on the electoral cycle; the left always makes more demands on Japan. Even if the current peace lasts to the next elections with considerably closer ties between Seoul and Tokyo, China could disrupt this cycle, but unlike the past, its ratings are worse than those of Japan.
In Kommersant on Sergei Strokhan’ wrote about the challenge from North Korea of recent rocket launches, leading Japan to go to the Security Council, and Russian explanations for them. North Korea is striving by any means to attract Washington’s attention, as the American side reacts with more restraint than South Korea and Japan do. There is no direct threat to US territory, the US insists. The article cites the opposition leader in South Korea criticizing his government for its harsh course toward the DPRK, leading to an uncontrolled spiral of confrontation that poses new threats to the security of South Korea.
Russia’s elite and society increasingly understand the importance of strengthening ties with China. Lingering wariness about China’s intentions is fading in patriotic circles as in recently pro-West strata of the intelligentsia, including international relations experts. Many had difficulty understanding Chinese reality, especially in closer ties to Moscow. At the same time, Russian internationalists are mainly specialists on the US and poorly know Chinese themes. For ordinary people China’s authority has grown due to new products, the quality of which fully corresponds to those loss over Western sanctions. In China, veterans of the battle against Soviet social imperialism have aged, and those influenced by decades of the Sino-US “marriage of convenience” in the last year or two have begun to support the policy critical of “American hegemonism.” Support for Russia in Ukraine holds at a sufficiently high level. The greatest level of mutual understanding between the leadership and the defense organs. In economic and trade circles over the past year new successes were realized. They could be greater, but bottlenecks exist in transportation and bank payments. Sanctions against Russia and new ones under preparation against China increase complementarity of the two economies. There is a lot of hope for students and tourists of China. The American elite is consumed with a suicidal struggle on two fronts simultaneously. Altering the US course on containing China is already practically impossible, as an ideological clash intensifies. China’s new language on “Chinese modernization” and a “new model of human civilization” breaks with the US order. Socialist principles are intensifying in internal and foreign policies. In Russia there is still the danger of those influenced by a pro-West orientation over decades, even in upper strata, including in the state apparatus, defense, and security, who do not realize that ties with China are in the interest of security.
Kommersant on March 3 carried an article on the G20 ministerial talks in Delhi, which could not issue a final communique as a result of the Ukraine crisis. Blinken called on the whole world to unite around Korea since Russian success would “serve as a signal to all potential aggressors.” Lavrov a little later said that Moscow did not provoke the conflict and is trying to end it. Was there a lighthouse in this storm? There was no answer. The article proceeds to link claims of “provocations” for China’s actions in the South China Sea and the introduction of Russian forces into Ukraine and charges hypocrisy. In Delhi Lavrov asserted that the Quad does not create stability in the Indo-Pacific region, only further militarization. Clearly, the meeting was tense.
In Kommersant on March 7 emphasis was put on threats to China from the unification of India, Australia, and Japan, citing the visit of Australian Prime Minister Albanese to Delhi with Kishida due to arrive later in March, as the Quad activates contacts for containing China-seen by its members as an existential threat and by China as “dead on arrival.” Modi made a point of hosting the Australian leader to boost the strategic partnership and military-technical cooperation to a new level in the face of shared threats and challenges. The Quad summit in Australia on May 24 will bring these leaders together again as will the G20 summit in September in Delhi. Australia has just contracted to buy 29 Apache helicopters from 2025 to 2028, which adds to other weapons Australia has acquired in the last several months and the AUKUs deal for nuclear submarines. Meanwhile, Biden is mobilizing Asian allies to confront China and Russia, including increased military exercises, such as the Malabar exercises. When the Quad foreign secretaries met in Delhi on the sidelines of the G20, the “China threat” dominated with talk of militarization of the East and South China seas. Discounting Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi’s claims that the Quad is not an anti-Chinese pact and that Beijing provokes conflict that require measures in response, the article notes Russia’s sharp criticism of the Quad. It notes that the combined military budgets of India, Australia, and Japan total $173 billion, less than China’s. China’s military moves around the Senkakus and Taiwan versus Japan and in Tibet and Xinjiang versus India demonstrate which countries it considers opponents. Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned the US and its allies from attempts to establish an Asian version of NATO to contain China, blaming exclusive groups under the pretext of defending regional security for provoking confrontation.
In Kommersant on March 13 the California summit of AUKUS was criticized by Aleksei Zabrodin. It was seen as definitively fixing China’s status as the presumptive opponent of all three countries, viewed in Beijing as “extremely irresponsible” and “destabilizing the Indo-Pacific. This poses big problems for Australia in its ties to Beijing, which only have begun to improve after three years. With its new submarines, Australia will join the US, UK, France, China, India, and Russia in the group possessing them. $125 billion over 30 years will be needed to pay for the subs and others to be bought in the interim. Australia is in a tight situation between its powerful ally and its greatest trading partner. It agreed to forge AUKUS in 2021 at the height of the trade war with China, but the situation has changed.
In Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’, No 2, Vladimiri Kovalev asked how to build a just world order in Greater Eurasia, the nucleus of which should be the EEU, one of the most advanced entities of deep integration in the world. The EEU demonstrated its maturity in the 2020-21 crisis with its economic growth in 2021 and no serious decline in 2022. The article adds that no rejection of what had been built with Russian participation should occur, but rational reevaluation of the format and level of participation of states is necessary. Otherwise, concern exists not only in Russia but also in its “Eurasian five” if results are lacking. Integration within the EEU or the EEU+ will permit countries of Central Asia to acquire a strong region-wide position for demand and supply in markets. In 2022 occurred reform of the work of the EEU, including in cooperation with the SCO and the BRICS. China plays a key role in Eurasian integration; its BRI initiatives have led to rapid trade growth. Indian ties need to expand. A proposal exists for a general transport-logistical carcass of Greater Eurasia. No longer are bilateral relations the level of real policies; integration is needed.
On March 1, Maksim Suchkov wrote on India’s role in US containment of China and Russia. Biden has added the term “indispensable” to India’s role. India’s ties to Russia are seen as a problem, but there is no consensus: some seek to wean it away slowly; others prefer not to exaggerate the scale of cooperation and allow India to buy Russian weapons, including the S-400, since the geopolitical dividends compensate for the economic losses and the S-400 strains Sino-Russian ties. Yet, insufficient information from India poses a problem for the Americans. Trade fell between the US and India from 2019 to 2021 by $49 billion as the deficit doubled from $23 to $46 billion due to customs and investment barriers as well as the pandemic. The US perceived India as a challenging place to do business, and India sought the restoration of its status as a “peripheral trade partner” removed by Trump. Three challenges are seen as interfering with the realization of plans to draw India into the US orbit. The serious scale of the epidemic and the lack of timely help from the US hurt India’s competitiveness. The pullout of US forces from Afghanistan had negative consequences for India, which lost trust in the US. Also, the US sees India as a “useful instrument” in the battle with China, rejecting India’s autonomy. Critics advice Biden to concentrate on India’s potential and count on India becoming, in the final analysis, a loyal US player on an international scale. Economic pressure on India versus China threatens to cause irrational losses, forcing an unwanted choice between the US and China. Readers are reassured that the leadership of India prizes strategic autonomy and, despite the difficulties with China and limits on cooperation with Russia, wishes to remain outside of any bloc. Yet, the past several years demonstrate firm tendencies to draw closer to the US in critical spheres, and the US seeks to broaden them in the context of the Ukraine conflict, reducing India’s neutrality. Can India preserve its autonomy as a player in the “first league” or shrink to a “West Germany” of the 21st century, a buffer state for regional containment of America’s principal opponent?
Separately, Russians were warned that apart from arms and energy there is not much content to the Indo-Russian partnership, and it is not resulting in big dividends for Russia. The problem is the absence of a framework for distributing the means to realize Russia’s aims, since it mainly devotes resources to the post-Soviet periphery and the West, and in the Asia-Pacific region takes a fragmentary approach centered largely on China. If Russia wants to maintain its position as an independent center in forging a multipolar world in accord with the rollout of the “Turn to the East” and the thrust of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, it faces the drop of arms sales to India and Vietnam, as they diversify their imports, and growing competition from China as an arms exporter, and weak economic ties. Japan and South Korea pulled back from trade in 2022, deepening Russia’s disproportionate dependence on China.
Nivelita Kapur on March 1 in Rossiya v Global’noi Politike explained that Russia retains close diplomatic cooperation with China and India, the former drawing closer and the latter stagnating with little chance to reverse this. India has not condemned the special military operation or joined in sanctions, but Modi said now is not a time for war. Southeast Asia remains neutral, but is a low-priority region for Moscow, apart from traditional partners such as Vietnam. Russia’s weakness makes it a less influential player. As the Quad and AUKUS take shape and the Asia-Pacific morphs into the Indo-Pacific, Russia’s opposition to these developments in regional architecture is not accompanied by desired success with the “Turn to the East” or any mechanism to realize the Greater Eurasian Partnership, whose prospects are quite cloudy. A new regional order is taking shape in Asia with consequences for Russia, whose possibilities as a great power in it are limited. Moreover, the persistent “crisis of identity” of Russia, debating if it is a European or a Eurasian power, has left its “status in the new world order undetermined.” Growing tension with the West influenced Russia’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region in two respects: worsening Russia’s economic position and deepening dependence on China at odds with diversification in Asia, while China hesitates before secondary sanctions from the West and Russia prefers to keep autonomy from China, raising the salience of India; and the dissonance between Russia’s regional approach and that of some of its regional partners, as in Russian views of the Indo-Pacific region and the Quad through an anti-Western prism, while Russia uses its limited resources in the West and focuses on the region in order to deal with the West. Russia must decide on what role it seeks to play in the region and devote the necessary resources. Even before the Ukraine crisis, Russia could not devote the resources to reexamine its policy in the East. Today, Russia is cut off from the West without having created an analogous role in the East. Russia is facing difficulty in all three economically dynamic regions of the world: the Asia-Pacific region, America, and Europe, a serious obstacle to its pretensions to the status of a great power.
Having decided on the goal of multipolarity in Asia, Russia has not created the conditions for this. This limits Indo-Russian ties. Russia’s closer ties to China worry India, which seeks economic growth, resolution of problems with Pakistan and China greatly alarming the country, preserving its position as a key regional power in the Asia-Pacific region, and maintaining stability in neighboring states. India faces the fact that Russia, as a strategic partner, is not an Asia-Pacific power decisive in int military or economic relations unlike the US. this explains why relations continue to stagnate. Along with other regional players, India increasingly worries about the rise of China and turns to the US as the guarantee of stability in the region and the counterweight. India counts on Russia being neutral and playing a balancing role against a unipolar or bipolar order. However, Russia keeps ignoring the role of regional states and the agenda for the Indo-Pacific region, which lacks any alternative. Russia’s security architecture idea for the region lacks concrete suggestions and gains no support. Although partnerships with countries such as India have enabled Russia to avoid total isolation since February 2022, Moscow is not working to remove key causes of the dissatisfaction with its cooperation in the East. The economic consequences of the West’s sanctions can undermine even the modes trade ties between India and Russia and force India to reconsider dependency on imports of Russian arms. Russia is not a key partner of India in the Asia-Pacific region and increasingly solidifies its ties with China. It has not fully recognized the loss its conflict with the West can cause to its cooperation with the East. Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Australia have united in the anti-Russian sanctions, and other middle powers not supporting sanctions are not inclined to actively support Russia’s military moves and its opposition to the West. The future of Russian policies toward India and the region as a whole to a great extent depend on its ties to China and success in exiting from the Ukraine campaign.