V.Sumsky. SPIEF-2019 as the Moment of Truth for Russia and China (and not Only Them)

“Putin and Xi stand up in St. Petersburg as a united front against Trump,” CNN declared bluntly, summarising the results of the SPIEF-2019 in terms of the China-Russia-USA triangle. Equally clear and sober assessments were expressed shortly after the forum by many other influential press outlets and authoritative commentators. There is a “Moment of Truth,” when everyone simultaneously opens his or her eyes and observes the true state of affairs in the world. A moment that is priceless in the midst of information wars and fake news waterfalls. A moment that is impossible to “drown” in caveats and reservations, which differs to global decision-makers, who consider delicacy the surest sign of weakness, writes Viktor Sumsky, Director of the ASEAN Center MGIMO University.

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E.Koldunova. Russia’s Ambivalence about an Indo-Pacific Strategy

More than half-a-decade has passed since Russia started its ‘Turn to the East’, a foreign policy reorientation toward Asia. Throughout this period, the international environment as well as the Russian position in global and regional affairs has changed dramatically. In 2012, hosting the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, Russia saw a generally positive international attitude and was optimistic about cooperation with both West and East. However, the 2014 political crisis in Ukraine followed by a referendum in Crimea, which laid the background for the peninsula’s incorporation into Russia, and sanctions against Russia from the United States and the EU brought Russia’s relations with the West to their lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Under these constraints it seemed logical to enhance interaction with partners beyond the West whose attitudes toward Russia remained more pragmatic rather than ideological. The economically vibrant Asia-Pacific region, home to Russia’s key strategic partner China, represented the core geographical area where Russian foreign policy decision-makers naturally looked to as the alternative.

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E.Koldunova. Russia and the Turbulent Waters of the Indo-Pacific

Despite all international efforts to calm down regional tensions, the past year has witnessed more strategic divergence than convergence in the Asia-Pacific region. With the Indo-Pacific concept becoming more controversial and even its supporters (the USA, Japan, Australia, and India) advancing its own version of the concept, there is still no common vision of the security architecture in the region, be it Asia- or Indo-Pacific. The growing fragmentation of regional security as well as of visions of political economy define the overall regional dynamics and challenge the ability of key regional players to engage in cooperative actions. This article explores the regional developments of the past year from the viewpoint of Russia’s aspirations and concerns as a stakeholder interested in the regional stability and continued economic dynamism.

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E.Koldunova. Russia-Vietnam: Balancing Strategies

Since 2012, relations between Russia and Vietnam have been described as a comprehensive strategic partnership. Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, the dynamics of the contacts at the highest level are characterized by a much higher degree of intensity. So, in June 2017, Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang visited Russia; in September 2018, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong (President of Vietnam since October 2018) visited Russia. President Putin has visited Vietnam five times (most recently in 2017 as part of the APEC summit in Danang). Prior to November, Prime Minister Medvedev visited Vietnam in 2015 and as President of the Russian Federation in 2010.

The two countries maintain a strategic dialogue at the deputy defense minister level. Intergovernmental commissions on military-technical cooperation, trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation are active as well. Russia and Vietnam are on the same page regarding many strategic issues related to the need to form a polycentric international system in the APR based on common security principles that do not imply dividing lines in the region. Russia officially supports full compliance with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea adopted by China and the ASEAN countries in 2002, and the early signing of the Code of Conduct between them, which was designed to alleviate the controversy over disputed islands in the South China Sea which are claimed by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

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E.Koldunova. ASEAN, EAS and APEC: What Russia Achieved in 2018

It has been an eventful year for Russian foreign policy as far as the multilateral institutions in the Asia Pacific are concerned. On November 13–15, 2018, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin made a state visit to Singapore and attended the 13 th East Asia Summit (EAS). It was the first such visit since Russia was made a member in 2010. At the same time, President Putin represented Russia at the 3 rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Russian Federation Summit on Strategic Partnership. Two days later, in Port Moresby, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that had previously enjoyed priority attention of the President of the Russian Federation compared to other regional mechanisms.

Russia has stepped up its participation in multilateral mechanisms in the Asia Pacific at a time when contradictions between the United States and China in the region have exacerbated, competition has once again intensified between the macro-regional projects proposed by these players in Asia, and emotions are running high around American trade protectionism. On the one hand, this situation is not conducive to bolstering these multilateral institutions themselves. It does, however, create a window of opportunity for Russia to offer the regional countries a more cooperative agenda, even if it is not on the same scale as U.S. or Chinese projects.

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