During the third session, experts noted the historical factors and processes that demonstrate the urgent need for a “turn to the East.” According to Yuexin Rachel Lin, fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the first historical premise for increased cooperation between Russian and Asian countries was isolation after the 19th century Crimean War. However, as soon as the boycott of Russia by western partners ended, the change in priorities reversed and Russian policies returned to the conventional Western-oriented path.
According to Dr. Lin, Russia’s change of political focus has deep existential grounds. Russia’s location between the East and West and the need to base itself around the Eastern or Western model constantly put Russia in a wavering state. To build successful cooperation, Russia must recognize its originality and the impossibility of considering itself exclusively a part of a Western or Eastern value system, and become a moderator in their cooperation.
Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev noted that despite the similarity of historical contexts, the situation today is radically new. This is most of all because the demand for stronger relations with Asian countries is an internal, rather than an external need of Russia, necessitated by the need to develop its Far East. In addition, during the epoch of globalization, to maintain the status of a world power, it is necessary to have harmonious relations with rapidly developing Asian countries.
Feng Shaolei, Director of Centre for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, demonstrated the necessity of actively including the United States into the system of the Eurasian Partnership, as it can ensure the mutual stability of development in the United States, Russia and Asian countries. It is necessary to build an entirely new system of cooperation, based on the previous one, but accounting for modern realities. At the same time, Feng noted that he considers inappropriate taking the model of European integration as a base, both because of the errors it led to and the uniqueness of the Asian model of development.
Viktor Sumsky, Director of the ASEAN Center at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, noted that a positive shift occurred in the building of relations between Russia and ASEAN member-states, most of all because of a new concept that defined the scope of cooperation. As a result, the successful development of Russia in an array of areas took place, which put Russia on a modern, high level of development. Sumsky gave a special meaning to the process of regionalization, which accounts for the interests of nation-states, with maximum adaptation of the overall system for each individual country in the Eurasian region. He concluded that cooperation between Russia, China, India and ASEAN, both bilaterally and multilaterally, is beneficial for all players. The key to the success of Eurasian integration will be not the creation of a supra-regional system of governance, which will always suppress the players’ individuality, but a free and equal association of nation-states.
Mikhail Galuzin, Russia’s ambassador to Indonesia and Russia’s representative at ASEAN, illustrated the positive processes that were launched during the cooperation. According to him, the success of Russia and Asian countries’ Eurasian integration depends on conditions in which politics do not prevail over economics and all parties involved follow the rules, which, in turn, are based on universal principles.
“Russia never makes political and situational interests the cornerstone of its economic integration policy <. . .> we are against the creation of a closed, opaque system, limited from the point of view of participating economic unions, in which all sides must follow the standards of the ‘leading player’,” Galuzin noted.