Asia and Eurasia
Asia and Eurasia in 2023: Shaping a New International Order

Asia and Eurasia remain a space of cooperation, not competition, and the leading regional powers are able to achieve terms that would be comparatively fair for their smaller partners, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

The formation of a new international order is inevitably accompanied by conflict between powers seeking to maintain their status and emerging states, whose development goals push them to take a more active role in establishing new rules and customs of interaction on the world stage. The military-political conflict between Russia and the West, as well as the simmering confrontation between China and the United States, have determined the central position of Greater Eurasia and Asia in international politics. First of all, because this huge region is a space where stability and development are important for Moscow and Beijing, but crises and conflicts are extremely desirable for the United States and its European satellites. The year 2023 has shown that Greater Eurasia and Asia are, so far, resistant to negative external influences, which have had the most dramatic consequences in Europe and the Middle East.

There are no opposing military-political alliances in Asia and Eurasia, and the so-called “geopolitical fault lines” only exist in the imagination of especially impressible readers of American newspapers. This is due to peculiarities of the political culture there, but also to the general trends of international life at the present stage. First, despite the fact that this macroregion has its own experience of severe interstate confrontation, turning to violent conflict as the go-to means of achieving goals is not a central part of the foreign policy culture here. In other words, when the peoples of the West take arms and see conflict as the solution to difficult situations, the peaceful resolution of disputes is preferable for Asia and Eurasia.

Second, the associations of states emerging in Asia and Eurasia are not aimed at achieving aggressive goals in relation to third countries. They are primarily aimed at implementing the development goals of their members and maintaining their internal stability. Therefore, now in Asia and Eurasia there are no unions created to ensure a privileged position for their members in relation to the rest of the macroregion. Third, within the macroregion there are no relatively large states that would act as “agents” of extra-regional actors. The only countries that may be an exception in this sense are Japan and South Korea.

These countries have limited sovereignty and depend on the US for basic security. But even in the case of Japan, achieving development goals and acquiring the necessary resources for this is not absolutely dependent on an aggressive policy towards its neighbours; this contrasts with the European Union, whose leading powers were interested in driving Russia into a corner and gaining monopoly access to its resources. Finally, the comparative resistance of Asia and Eurasia to the challenges of destabilisation of interstate relations is due to the fact that all countries of the macroregion belong to the World Majority, i.e. they have common strategic goals, although the specific tasks required to achieve them may vary.

In other words, if we divide the international community into two groups of countries: those that are parasitic in relation to the rest and those that rely on their own resources (whether natural or demographic), then in Asia and Eurasia we will not see representatives of the first group. This means they share interests, although their methods of achieving goals may be different.

At the same time, Asia and Eurasia, as also shown by the main events of regional life in 2023, are not free from certain internal contradictions, the resolution of which is an important task of interstate cooperation. The most significant contradiction is, of course, the relatively difficult relationship between the two global demographic giants, India and China. Despite the fact that New Delhi and Beijing have demonstrated that they can prevent their conflict from reaching the stage of systemic confrontation, the presence of a border problem plays a significant role in regional cooperation as a whole.

Asia and Eurasia
Factors of Stability in Greater Eurasia
Timofei Bordachev
Greater Eurasia is under the influence of challenges and threats of both internal and external origin, therefore peace and stability there are not guaranteed. However, one should not lose sight of the objective factors that make Greater Eurasia a more stable region in modern circumstances than would be predicted by an established view of the nature of international politics in its regional dimension, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

At the same time, we can assume that this territorial conflict, insignificant in its scale, is a way for both great powers to localize the space of confrontation within a relatively narrow area, without leading the parties to systemic military preparations and a truly large-scale confrontation. At the same time, India’s objective search for sources to increase its total power capabilities favours its positive dialogue with the United States and the West. This, of course, worries Russia and China, but has not become an obstacle to cooperation between the parties within the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Moreover, the entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO has led to a more balanced internal structure of this association against the backdrop of the ongoing rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing.

The Asian part of the macroregion is experiencing a negative impact from the growing confrontation between China and the United States. Under these conditions, some Asian states may indeed have concerns that Beijing views them as a territorial base of its main global enemy, or a source of its own potential. This is already complicating internal processes in such successful associations as ASEAN, and has created interest among some countries in intensifying cooperation with the United States, as, for example, the Philippines is doing. At the same time, we see that for now Asian countries have been raising the bar in their requests during dialogues with Washington, which is experiencing another accession of “pactomania.” However, they do not at all strive to become satellites of the United States or its new “unsinkable aircraft carriers.” The only exception here is Taiwan, where nationalist sentiments provide support for maintaining American presence and the blackmail against mainland China.

It is also necessary to mention the continuing threat of destabilisation posed by such an important part of Eurasia as the space of Central Asia, consisting of five former republics of the USSR and adjacent Afghanistan. There are serious reasons to expect that this area will be used by the adversaries of Russia and China in order to create additional troubles for them in the security sphere. So far, all Central Asian countries except Kazakhstan have demonstrated that their national authorities have the ability to confidently solve problems that arise during the course of their political and economic development. In the case of Kazakhstan, the events of January 2022 showed how fragile statehood still is and how easily it can be jeopardized by structural problems of economic and political nature. On the other hand, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have demonstrated either self-confident statehood or consistent movement towards being less vulnerable to external challenges and threats.

Also uncertain are some aspects of the future of the main international institutions of Asia and Eurasia. We know that modern institutions of international cooperation in Asia and Eurasia were created within the framework of the old international order, which is now being transformed, becoming a matter of history in many of its dimensions. The same can be said about the major conflicts in which regional powers are involved in a colossal space, the most important characteristic of which is the absence of clear dividing lines. However, institutions in Eurasia may also be better protected from the systemic problems that this form of relations between states faces against the backdrop of a significant decline in the organising capacity of the West and its transition to a purely selfish model of behaviour in international affairs.

It is significant, however, that the greatest difficulties are now being experienced politically by ASEAN, which was created within the framework of the Liberal World Order and was historically aimed at reproducing its main algorithms for the development of international institutions in local conditions. To sum up the events of 2023, Asia and Eurasia remain a space of cooperation, not competition, and the leading regional powers are able to achieve terms that would be comparatively fair for their smaller partners. Moreover, all the acute problems that the macroregion deals with include an extra-regional player as one of the actors. Localizing the negative consequences of this will become the main task of international cooperation in Asia and Eurasia in the coming years.

Asia and Eurasia
Asia, Eurasia and the European Crisis: Results of 2022
Timofei Bordachev
For Russia, 2023 will be a period of strengthening relations with its natural partners outside the hostile West and forming with them a new infrastructure of international cooperation, which is necessary in the process of building a more just world order, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.