Asia and Eurasia
Russia – Asia Relations: The Emerging International Order

Russia-Asia relations are considered one of the highest priorities in Russian foreign policy. Russia’s pivot to Asia entails a wider regional policy involving key Asian states, writes Nivedita Das Kundu, Senior Researcher at York University, Academic Director at Liaison College. This article was prepared for the Valdai Club’s 13th Asian Conference.

The strategic debate over whether Russia belongs to Europe or Asia has lasted years. Russia has important stakes in the region and important bilateral ties with Asia’s most powerful countries.  

Russia – Indo-Pacific

Russia’s presence in the Indian Ocean and Pacific region can be traced back to the Soviet era. Russia’s relations with the prominent Indo-Pacific players and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as a whole are significant. The Pacific Fleet was one of the largest and strongest single fleets in the Soviet Navy and was considered as an important Soviet military strength in the region. The Soviet military presence was prominent in the Indian Ocean too, and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Pacific Fleet was officially called the Russian Pacific Fleet. Among the four Russian fleets, the Pacific Fleet covers the largest area, spanning across both the Pacific and Indian Ocean and extending to the Persian Gulf. In Russia’s Maritime doctrine, prepared in 2015, the Indian Ocean was mentioned as one of the regional priorities along with the Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific, Caspian, and Antarctic. Russia also became an Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) Association member on November 17, 2021, and this further reflected Russia’s strong presence in the Indo-Pacific. 
 
Today, the Indo-Pacific is a centre of global trade and commerce, with 65 percent of the world’s population, 63 percent of the world’s GDP and 46 percent of the world’s trade. By 2030, it is expected to become home to two-thirds of the global middle class. Russia is an APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) member; however, Russia did not participate in the APEC summit hosted by Thailand in November 2022. The APEC leaders called for an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, as this conflict is having a significant impact on the global economy. The APEC leaders pledged to steer the region’s economies toward sustainable growth and promote free trade in the Pacific region.

Russia should be able to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) as part of the Indo-Pacific and other Asian groupings and forums. The four policy pillars of the IPEF includes digital trade, the building of resilient supply chains, the fulfilment of clean energy commitments and the implementation of fair trade rules with effective taxation and the elimination of corruption. However, one should be aware that there are challenges and concerns attached to these new economic groupings, as the countries joining the initiative may be divided in the future negotiations due to their prior participation in multilateral FTAs (free trade agreements) and their intersecting strategic alignments. The free flow of data models and the climate change pillars also might put a strain on the group. Nonetheless, this regional economic framework will benefit labour, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

Economic Statecraft
Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: New Approach for Regional Economic and Trade Cooperation
Nivedita Das Kundu
The IPEF needs to be a mutually beneficial and credible alternative to support  the regional initiatives and be perceived by partners as a viable framework and commitment to the region, writes Nivedita Das Kundu, Senior Researcher at York University, Academic Director at Liaison College. This article represents one of the opinions within the framework of the discussion among the experts of the Valdai Club on the topic “Asia-Pacific or Indo-Pacific?”
Expert Opinions


 
Russia – India 

India’s unique and independent position within the evolving and dynamic Indo-Pacific concept is well suited to alleviate relations with Russia. It shows how Russia is important for India to advance its inclusive vision for the region, and India for Russia, to achieve its ambitious Greater Eurasia vision, among other reasons. The bilateral relationship between India and Russia has been marked by a close understanding and a convergence of views on major issues and concerns. Russia occupies a special place in India’s foreign policy. They are strategic partners and this partnership is based on a fruitful, time-tested relationship which has witnessed events of historic dimensions. Russia is a major defence partner of India. This multifaceted relationship has created an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding between the two countries. India has so far refrained from criticising Russia regarding its Special Military Operation in Ukraine, despite pressure from the West. India strongly feels that dialogue should open up for resolving this conflict.
 
Russia has been a key supplier of weapons and energy to India. Even today, India’s military assets are mostly of Russian origin, necessitating Russia’s continuous maintenance and the delivery of spare parts. India recently purchased the S-400 missile system from Russia. However, recent sanctions targeting Russia under the US CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) are expected to jeopardize India’s prospects of obtaining a waiver in this deal. Western sanctions affect Russia’s economy too, according to the report. Russia has asked India to supply certain key spare parts and has sent a list of around 500 items. These products include parts for automobile manufacturing; components like engines, pistons, oil pumps and ignition coils, as well as bumpers and seatbelts. Russia has reportedly asked for 41 items for aircraft and helicopters, including gear components, fuel, and communications and fire extinguishing systems. Delhi stresses that it is willing to boost trade with Russia and is working on this recent request and developments, while adding that it is on the “side of peace”, which entails resuming “dialogue” and “diplomacy regarding the end” of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Indian government thanked both the Russian and Ukrainian governments for their help in evacuating nearly 20,000 Indian students under “Operation Ganga”, from the war zone in February-March 2022. As per India, diplomacy and talks are the logical options and an immediate ceasefire is needed for an early resumption of peace and resolution of this conflict.

Asia and Eurasia
Russia - Central Asia: How to Develop Cooperation Amid Unstable Conditions
Rashid Alimov
The events of August 2021 in Afghanistan have become an unprecedented test for Russia and the countries of Central Asia in their ability to respond to crises.

Expert Opinions


 
Russia – Central Asia

Russia is a prominent regional player in Central Asia and will remain so in the foreseeable future. In terms of both security and cultural diplomacy, Russia maintains a proactive, assertive and effective policy in Central Asia. Russia continues to maintain considerable influence in Central Asia and has cordial relations with all the five central Asian countries and their leaders. Russia remains the most important external actor and maintains influence over Central Asian political and security matters. The Central Asia plus Russia format has continued well for the past several years. Russia had so far limited itself to bilateral cooperation or cooperation within the framework of international alliances. These include the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). The EAEU members include Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while Uzbekistan has observer status. The CSTO is comprised of the five EAEU members and Tajikistan. Russia and the Central Asian countries are transit countries for goods between Europe and Asia. Many infrastructure projects and road and railway corridors are being constructed between Russia and the Central Asian states. Russia is also assisting Central Asian states in their fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and arms smuggling emanating from neighbouring Afghanistan. 
 
Russia – China

The Russia-China strategic cooperation and partnership is going on smoothly even amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis, in which China has unambiguously backed Russia. China has formulated its stance in keeping with its own foreign policy approach and national interests. In general, China’s public messaging on the Russia-Ukraine crisis has been confined to a few key messages. China is looking out for its national interests, abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It has proposed peace and opposed war, while at the same time appealing for negotiations. Russia and China both have a strong strategic interest in maintaining good relations with each other. Today, China-Russia economic and trade cooperation and interdependency are operating at a very high level, and this cooperation is critically significant to both nations. China is now Russia’s most important trading partner and Russia is China’s largest source of energy imports. China will continue to support Russia diplomatically and in terms of information. Both Russia and China are of the opinion that it is important to establish a common security concept in the world which takes into account the interests and concerns of all parties and avoids domination by any bloc.

Russia – SCO & BRICS

Many new organizations have taken shape in the emerging international world order. The new groupings and forums represent different ideologies and interests and help in precluding domination or hegemony. Today, these international organisations are becoming more effective in world politics, enabling the countries to open up new opportunities and prospects. Russia, India, China and the Central Asian countries are also part of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and are striving to create a more stable and predictable international environment. Today, the SCO is a recognised international organisation and a serious forum in ensuring regional security and stability. The SCO strives to reshape the international system and bloc politics and work together to promote the development of the international order in a more just and rational way. Russia is also prominent in BRICS, another significant multilateral organisation comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It is a powerful economic forum comprising half of the population of the world and nearly 50 percent of world's GDP. The BRICS intertwined the interests of all the nations in the group and work jointly to protect multipolarity. 
 
The Way Forward

Russia – Asia relations have deepened over the last decade; this connectivity and cooperation will open up options for improving future economic and trade relations as well as diplomatic and political connections, defence cooperation and interpersonal contacts. Russia should put forward certain strategic initiatives to expand its cooperation with the Asian countries going forward. 

  • Russia could create a specialised regional platform for multilateral cooperation to ensure energy security. 
  • Improve “Northeast Asia Regional Electric System Ties” (NEAREST) by building new power engineering facilities in Siberia and in Russia’s Far Easter regions for exporting electricity.
  • Build an oil hub in Russia’s Far East.
  • Create an East Asian grain reserve within the EAS (East Asia Summit) framework and build infrastructure in Siberia and in the Russian Far East for grain exports.
  • Collaborate with other Asian space agencies and share its space capabilities like GLONASS and other navigation systems and remote infrastructure monitoring technologies with its Asian partners.
  • Improve its diplomatic approaches and enhance the role of the “Russia factor”, in settling regional conflicts, if necessary.


References:


Su-Lin Tan, “The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: What It Is — and Why It Matters”, CNBC, 25 May 2022.
Fact Sheet: In Asia, President Biden and a Dozen Indo-Pacific Partners Launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity”, The White House, 23 May 2022.
“US May Lack ‘Ability to Lead IPEF, Reconcile Interests’ with Members”, Global Times, 23 May 2022; K.J.M. Varma, “China Goes on Offensive against IPEF, Projects it as ‘Economic NATO’ to Blunt its Dominance”, The Print, 24 May 2022;
“China's Commerce Ministry Responds to U.S.-launched IPEF”, Xinhua, 25 May 2022; 
Li Yan, “More Measures to Help Trade Firms”, China Daily, 9 June 2022.
 “Biden's Asian Trip will Launch the ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’ Japan and South Korea's Attitude Attracts Attention”, China News Network, 19 May 2022;
Liu Xin and Xie Jun, “Biden to Peddle New Economic Framework in Asia as ‘Geopolitical Tool’ to Counter China”, Global Times, 19 May 2022.
“US 'Indo-Pacific Strategy' Bound to Fail: Chinese FM”, Xinhua, 23 May 2022.
“Washington's ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’ Big Scam to Stoke Division”, Xinhua, 24 May 2022.
Victor Gao, “Why Biden's Visit to East Asia is On the Wrong Foot”, CGTN, 23 May 2022.
Xin Ping, “'Indo-Pacific Economic Framework' Not a Blessing to Asia”, CGTN, 9 May 2022.
“Wang Yi Attends and Addresses the Opening Ceremony of the 78th Session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 23 May 2022.
See Kai He, “US’ Indo-Pacific Economic Bloc Irks China but It May Not be All Bad for the Region”, South China Morning Post, 3 June 2022.
Yifan Xu, “IPEF Viewed as Effort to Box In China”, China Daily, 27 May 2022.
Global Affairs Canada report “Canada launches Indo-Pacific Strategy to support long-term growth, prosperity, and security for Canadians”, 28th November, 2022, 
CP24 News, “Canada’s Indo Pacific policy”, 28th November 2022.
CTV news, “Canada launches Indo-Pacific Strategy”, 28th November 2022.
Harsh V.Pant and Shashank Matto,“The Promise and Peril of IPEF”, see May 24, 2022.
Statement on Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, May 23, 2022, The White House,
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF): An ASEAN perspective, Premesha Saha (June 25, 2022), Observer Research Foundation 
Ministry of Commerce and Industry (September 10, 2022), Press Information Bureau 
IPEF viewed as an effort to box in China, Yifan Xu ( May 27, 2022), China Daily 
China steps up its strategy in the Indo-Pacific (September 30, 2021), The Hindu Business line
Overview of India-ASEAN relations (May 09, 2022), Ministry of External Affairs 
India’s vision for Indo-Pacific Trade, Saon Ray (October 12, 2021), The National Bureau of Asian Research 
FTAs, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, (April 06, 2022), Press Information Bureau 
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is Not a Free Trade Agreement, but Will Be Judged on the Same Principles, Kyle Freeman, (June 1, 2022), China Briefing. 
Regional Perspectives on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, Matthew P. Goodman and Aidan Arasasingham, (April 11, 2022), Centre for strategic and International Studies,
Can IPEF reduce India’s Economic Dependence on China, Niranjan Marjani, (May 27, 2022), The Diplomat,
Hong Li, “The ‘Indo-Pacific’: Intellectual Origins and International Visions in Global Contexts,” Modern Intellectual History (2021): 1–27.
Patrick Gerard Buchan and Benjamin Rimland, “Defining the Diamond: The Past, Present, and Future of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, 16 March 2020,
UK Parliament, “Integrated Review 2021: The Defence Tilt to the Indo-Pacific,” House of Commons, 11 Oct 2021,
Igor Denisov, Oleg Paramonov, Ekaterina Arapova, and Ivan Safranchuk, “Russia, China, and the Concept of Indo-Pacific,” Journal of Eurasian Studies 12, no. 1 (2021): 72–85.
Wada Haruko, “The ‘Indo-Pacific’ Concept, Geographical Adjustments and Their Implications,” S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, 16 March 2020,
Gitanjali Sinha Roy, “India’s Strategic Vision: Imprints of K.M. Panikkar’s Arc,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 17, no. 2 (2021): 1–10.
 David Malone, “The Indian Ocean as India's Ocean,” in The Oxford Handbook of Indian Foreign Policy, ed. David Malone, C. Raja Mohan, and Srinath Raghavan (United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2015).
“SAGAR” at UNSC: All You Need to Know about India's Maritime Security Vision Mentioned by PM Modi,” News18, 9 Aug 2021,
Henry Foy, “NATO’s Stoltenberg Accuses Putin of Dangerous and Reckless Nuclear Rhetoric”, Financial Times, September 2022; “I am not bluffing”: Putin’s Nuke Threat as Ukraine War unravels”, NDTV, 21 September 2022.
Vladimir Putin Mobilises More Troops, Says Nuclear Threat “Not a Bluff”, The Hindu, 21 September 2022; Robyn Dixon, Catherine Belton and Mary Ilyushina, “Putin’s Draft upto 30,000 reservists”, backs Annexation amid war losses”, The Washington Post, 21 September 2022; 
India advancing its own interest by staying neutral in Russia-Ukraine War, interview by Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, March 2, 2022, Times of India.
 “Russia-Ukraine War News: Shelling cuts power to Ukraine Nuclear Site”, Times of India News, October 9th 2022.
Rajaram Panda, “Russia-Ukraine War: Indian Perspective”, Eurasia Review, News and Analyses, March 20th 2022. 
Sashi Asthana, “No Winner in Russia-Ukraine War After Six Months: Contest is Who will Lose”, August 26, 2022.
Sashi Asthana, “Why Parties to Russia-Ukraine war is Prolonging it”, interview, “Modern Diplomacy”.

Modern Diplomacy
‘Russia Will Not Follow Such Rules’: Why Sovereignty and Initiative Are the Main Conditions for Success in the 21st Century
Andrey Sushentsov
In a situation of intense change, one cannot remain passive. Many countries today take a wait-and-see attitude in the hope that changes will not affect them. However, those who adopt this indifferent position pay the highest price — in fact, a new international reality will be built at their expense, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.
Expert Opinions
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.