The main results of Russia's turn to the East, as well as its future prospects, were the subject of TV debates organized by the Valdai Discussion Club and Rossiya-24 TV channel as part of the Third Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Leading experts from Russia, the United States and Asia took part in the discussion.
Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, noted in his speech, that the world is in a stage of transformation, and it not by chance that such a region as Eurasia appeared as leader of development. "The turn of Russia to the East means creation of a new typology of globalization. Russia geographically, politically, intellectually plays an extremely important, unique role in this process and in a transforming world," Andrey Bystritskiy said. He added, that Russia's pivot to the East does not mean that it turns its back toward Europe.
Eurasia is becoming the center of the world, said Sergei Karaganov, Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy. At the same time, the center of Greater Eurasia is Russia.
According to Karaganov, Russia remains a culturally European country and is not going to move away from Europe. However, in the thinking of the Russian elite an important change took place - it no longer regards Russia as a province of Europe, as it was before.
Lee Jae-Young, Vice President at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), in his turn noted, that Russian culture, art and science are well known in Asia, but the presence of Russian business is still barely visible. "Geostrategically, Russia has already become part of Asia, but it's too early to say that it has become part of the region economically," he said.
At the same time the South Korean economist stated, that the share of the Russian economy in the Asian region has grown in recent years. "If Russia invests more in Asian countries, its presence will be strengthened. Now in Asia Russia is still regarded as a European state," he said.
Edward Luttwak, Senior Associate at the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS), pointed to the great potential of economic cooperation in case of a high level of cultural ties.
According to him, there is a strong cultural connection between the Western and Asian countries. For example, the share of Japanese culture in the US is quite high, as well as of American culture in Japan. "With such integration the cooperation between countries is natural," the American expert said.
Among the advantages of Russia’s pivot to the East Sergei Karaganov mentioned the change in the structure of Russian export. Timofei Bordachev, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, noted that the Russian non-energy sector has already reached the Asian countries. However, according to the expert, Russia came to the Asian market late.
During the TV debates a new Valdai Club report of the was presented, titled "Toward the Great Ocean - 5: From The Turn To The East To Greater Eurasia." Timofei Bordachev, one of the authors of the report, said that the research began seven years ago with identification of the growing markets location. They were in Asia.
Participants in the discussion named a number of problems that Russia faces in interacting with Asian partners: these are difficulties of business communication, insufficient knowledge of each other and the image of Russia, which is often shaped by the Western media. Timofei Bordachev noted that Russia needs to start shaping its image in the Asian countries by itself.
Sergei Karaganov, in his turn, noted the importance of image of the Russian Far East. According to him, Russia needs to make this region attractive not only for foreign investments, but also for the Russian youth. "Living and working in Siberia and the Far East should become fashionable. These are just the regions that need to be free [from excessive regulation] and we should turn them into the locomotives of the development," the expert said.
Regional problems and contradictions between the Asian countries also were discussed during the TV debates. According to Sergei Karaganov, the main source of tension is that China is becoming too strong for its neighbors. The concept of Eurasia is designed to solve this problem.
"The concept of Eurasia is to create a network of relations in the region and to dip China into mutually beneficial relations. Then it will not be considered as a threat," Karaganov said. He added that much depends on China itself in this process.
Disagreements among the speakers appeared during the discussion of the most acute problem in the region - the situation on the Korean peninsula. According to Edward Luttwak, the US wants to impose a blockade on North Korea to prevent the country from selling nuclear weapons.
Andrey Bystritskiy drew attention to the unpredictability of the blockade consequences due to the contradictory signals that come from North Korea. Sergei Karaganov noted that a complete blockade is equivalent to war.
"In the event of a military conflict China will intervene, which will lead to a world war," the expert warned. In his opinion, perhaps a limited blockade is necessary to prevent the sale of nuclear weapons, but there is no military solution. "The North Koreans believe that the only guarantee of survival are nuclear weapons. It is necessary come to terms with the fact that peaceful negotiations are needed," the expert stressed.