Russia’s Far East and Siberia have much in common with Australia in terms of geopolitical, geo-economic, and even sociopolitical characteristics. However, Russia-Australia economic cooperation has been showing a downward trend over the last decade. The two countries failed to realize the cooperation potential opened by the end of the Cold War. The major barriers to the bilateral cooperation are exogenous to the relationship itself. On the Australian side, the significant systemic barrier to cooperation with Russia in the Far East and beyond is Australia’s deep embeddedness in the American security structures, high responsiveness to Washington’s interests, and lack of independence in foreign policy decisions.
As a result, Australia-Russia relations have become residuals of US-Russia and EU-Russia relations and are increasingly subject to the character of interaction between Moscow and Washington or Moscow and Brussels. On the Russian side, increasingly assertive and at times aggressive foreign policy as well as political activity in the South Pacific island states have contributed to the deterioration of relations with Canberra. While cooperation opportunities in Russia’s Far East exist, predominantly in the mining industry, the current sanctions regime against Russia, of which Australia is a part, seriously undermines the prospects of cooperation both directly – by creating barriers for Australian investors - and indirectly - by complicating the political climate surrounding Russia-Australia relations.