Foreign policy revolution
Turning to the East - this is not an indicative statement, designed to raise the stakes in the game with the West. This is a well thought out, balanced, long overdue policy. The reorientation to the Asian markets has been discussed for a long time already. Vladimir Putin recently proclaimed this task the main Russian priority for the 21st century. And Western sanctions in this case could be an excellent catalyst. With time, we still thank the American and European "partners" for the fact that they forced Russia to mobilize and carry out a revolution in foreign policy.
It is already obvious that Russia will not reckon with costs and does not intend to sacrifice national interests in order to regain the disposition of the western establishment. “This is a serious turn in strategic thinking,” said Robert Kahn, an expert at the American Council on Foreign Relations. - Relations with the West have ceased to be a top priority for Moscow. And if someone thinks that economic sanctions will put the Kremlin on its knees, it is not. They will produce the opposite effect. The loss of the European market will only accelerate the process of reorientation towards the Asia-Pacific Region, which has so far been spoken of only as a long-term goal. ”
“Russia has long decided to minimize its dependence on the West (here we can recall the fight against offshore companies and the return of capital from Russian officials in Russia, A. T.),” writes leading expert at the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies Nicholas Redman. - In fact, we are talking about the choice of civilization. Moscow refuses its European identity for the sake of the Eurasian identity. ”
Until recently, the United States and Europe were skeptical about the possibilities of the Russian turn to the East: Moscow will not voluntarily go under Beijing, agreeing to the role of the "raw materials appendage" of the PRC. However, it should be understood that the East for Russia is not limited to China. These are Japan, India, and ASEAN countries. All these players are very interested in large-scale infrastructure and energy projects that Moscow plans to implement in Asia. And all of them, to one degree or another, are ready to take part in them. In fact, we are talking about the creation of an “economic ridge” of Eurasia: the construction of a network of pipelines, the modernization of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the BAM, the development of transcontinental trade routes (including the Northern Sea Route).
Perhaps, over the past decades, Russia has never come forward with such ambitious proposals. The Eastern project can only be compared with the plans of “alternative integration” with Western Europe, which were developed at the beginning of the 2000s. Then European, primarily German, businessmen seriously talked about forming an energy alliance with Moscow. By joining forces with such a powerful player as Gazprom, they hoped to challenge American competitors (there were even rumors that Russia was ready to give up the controlling stake in Gazprom, turning it into a transnational company).
However, to realize this idea failed. The United States put pressure on Germany, which was the main instigator of the project, and forced it to retreat (replacing Gerhard Schroeder, loyal to Moscow, to the atlantist Angela Merkel and thus preventing the creation of a continental geo-economic union that always was a nightmare for the Anglo-Saxons).
In the case of the Russian “Eastern” project, such a scheme will not work. If the Asian powers realize that by implementing the proposals of Moscow, they will receive enormous dividends, no one will convince them to reject these proposals. In addition, the Asia-Pacific region includes states with a different mentality, different political and economic cultures, and none of them have decisive influence here (despite the talk of synocentric Asia). Balancing between the Asian "tigers" and sometimes playing on the existing contradictions in the APR, Russia could very successfully promote its project, because China, for example, is unlikely to stand aside if they are interested in Japan and India.
In the arms of the dragon?
At the official level, China, as always, behaves very carefully. The only thing that the diplomats of the PRC did so far was abstaining from voting by the UN Security Council on the resolution condemning Russia for annexing the Crimea, said that Moscow’s actions had their own reasons, and, of course, categorically rejected the proposal to exclude the Russian Federation from the G20. However, unofficially, the Celestial is entirely on the side of the northern neighbor.
One has only to look at the materials published in the Chinese media. “The policy of the EU and the USA in Ukraine demonstrates a complete fiasco of the West,” writes the English-language newspaper Global Times, “and Beijing should become a reliable strategic partner of Moscow. We should not disappoint Russia at the moment when it had difficulties. After all, this is the only way to strengthen friendly relations between the two countries. ”
"Moscow has ignored the warnings of the West," the newspaper Huangqiu Shibao notes. “Putin’s geopolitical courage exceeded the expectations of all world foreign policy experts and deeply shook America and Europe.” And further: “Putin is keeping control over the European continental crisis. He says to the world that Russia is no longer the country that suffered a humiliating geopolitical defeat at the beginning of the 90's. ”
Another characteristic quote from an article published in the online publication Haiwainet: "Expressing gratitude to the Chinese people, Russia clearly speaks to the United States and other Western countries:" Moscow and Beijing are on the same side. " And if you are plotting something against China, then the Russian Federation will provide him with firm and resolute support. ”
Chinese experts are convinced that Putin’s “impudent policy” will help reduce the strategic pressure that the Western powers have on the PRC. And although the rise of Moscow, referred to as a fact, may lead, in their opinion, to friction over the presence of China in Central Asia, it must be admitted that a strong Russia fits into the Chinese model of a multipolar world,
Moreover, many political scientists in the Celestial Empire consider the emergence of the new Eurasian axis Moscow-Beijing quite real. China, they say, is interested in that by the 20 years, when the strategic rivalry with America reaches a climax, Russia would be on its side. Another challenge is to win support for Moscow in territorial disputes in the East China Sea. (We must pay tribute to them, as long as Russian diplomats remain neutral, because if they supported the PRC, the whole "Eastern Project" would be under threat.)
Now for the economy. “After the introduction of sanctions, Russia will finally turn its back on Europe, and, first of all, China will benefit from this,” said Eckhard Cordes, head of the Eastern Committee of the German economy. Indeed, the Chinese are ready to provide powerful economic support to the Russian Federation and will gladly finance those projects that will strategically tie our country to the Middle Kingdom. Including China plans to invest in the Crimea. (It should be noted that many large investments that were agreed upon during Yanukovych’s recent visit to Beijing were allocated specifically for the development of the Crimean peninsula: the deepening of the Sevastopol port, the construction of roads, the construction of gas storages.) Of course, all this will continue. In addition, China can become a major investor in infrastructure projects, to take part in the construction of tunnels.
Of course, the precedent for the return of the Crimea opens up several scenarios for Beijing. Both pleasant and not so. No, needless to say that Taiwan, according to the Chinese, is historically a territory artificially alienated from the PRC. And Beijing has recently also staked on arousing patriotic feelings among the inhabitants of the island: “one language, one nation, one story”.
On the other hand, the separation of Crimea from Ukraine could spur separatism in the Shinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and in Tibet. (But only in March, as a result of a massacre by Uighur Muslims in the city of Kunming, 33 people died, and more than 130 were hospitalized with knife wounds.)
At the head of the "eastern campaign" ...
Once again, Russia’s turn to the East is not a fiction. This is a strategic decision of the Russian authorities, fully supported by business representatives. Asian markets are increasingly being developed by Gazprom, the head of Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin, has recently promised to increase supplies of nickel and palladium to Japan and China. And the founder of USM Holdings, Alisher Usmanov, sold shares of American corporations Apple and Facebook and invested money in Chinese technology companies operating in the Internet market.
However, the key role in the preparation and implementation of the “Eastern” project, of course, belongs to NK Rosneft. It was not by chance that at the moment when Western countries threatened Russia with “paralyzing” economic sanctions, the company's president, Igor Sechin, went on a long Asian tour, during which he held talks with virtually all Rosneft’s key partners in the East. He visited China, Mongolia, Vietnam and India, and also took part in the VI Russian-Japanese Investment Forum.
Concluding last year long-term contracts with the largest oil companies in China, CNPC and Sinopek, Rosneft, in the opinion of most experts, made a breakthrough in the eastern direction. During 25 years, the company is committed to supplying the People's Republic of China about 360 million tons of oil. And as the Chinese online publication Haiwainet notes, “in this regard, Moscow can confidently state to Western countries: your sanctions do not make sense. If Russia will sell oil only to China, this is quite enough, because the PRC is the largest importer of energy resources in the world. ” In addition, the Celestial Empire itself is interested in maximizing the supply of Russian oil (this will reduce dependence on vulnerable sea routes that can easily be blocked by the United States). And it is not surprising that Beijing is ready to give Moscow huge loans on the security of future hydrocarbon supplies.
Nevertheless, and it is very important to understand, China is not the only strategic partner of Rosneft in the region. As already mentioned, the meaning of the “eastern” project is to involve all key players of the Asia-Pacific Region in its implementation and, first of all, of course, Japan - China’s main regional rival, who is able to balance its influence. Yes, now politicians in Tokyo were forced out of solidarity with other members of the G-7 to impose sanctions against Russia. However, the fate of Ukraine, in fact, worries them much less than the rapprochement that had begun a year ago with Moscow. And they are unlikely to turn away from the intended path: the prospect of forming a Russian-Chinese military-political alliance looks too frightening for them. In addition, after the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Land of the Rising Sun ran into a real energy hunger, which can only be overcome by increasing the supply of LNG. Japanese gas importing companies (such as TEPKO and Tokyo Gas, for example) are well aware that Russia is the best supplier for them, if only because of the proximity of markets.
Rosneft, which made a strategic decision to develop its own gas business, invites Japanese investors to take part in the construction of the Far Eastern LNG plant with a design capacity of 5 mln tons per year, which the company intends to launch in the north of Sakhalin in 2018 – 2019. The offer is tempting, and the Japanese are unlikely to refuse it. No less interesting for Japanese companies are other projects in the field of extraction and processing of hydrocarbons in Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Moreover, such influential corporations as Inpex, Mitsui and Marubeni have a wealth of experience working with Rosneft in implementing the Sakhalin-1 project on the northeast shelf of Sakhalin Island.
"Integral approach" Sechin
But in attracting foreign partners to individual projects of the company is nothing new. Revolutionary was Sechin's proposal to form an "integral approach". “We are ready to consider joint investment work across the entire process chain - in mining, in infrastructure, processing and transporting hydrocarbons,” said the head of Rosneft in his speech at the Russian-Japanese investment forum. And this proposal applies not only to Japanese corporations, but also to other influential companies in East and South Asia, for example, the Indian ONGS or the Chinese CNPC.
In fact, it is about Asian countries not only buying hydrocarbons, but also, together with Rosneft, developing the hard-to-reach fields of Eastern Siberia and the continental shelf, investing in reorienting Russian infrastructure to the East, building oil and gas refineries and developing transport corridors first of all the Northern Sea Route.
And the main thing that will certainly interest Asian companies: Russia is ready to attract them to the development of the North. The Arctic offshore fields are completely cyclopean in scale (according to experts, they contain up to thirty percent of all the world's offshore hydrocarbon reserves and the extraction of even 1 / 10 of some resources promises about 2,5 trillion US dollars at current prices). However, their development requires unique technologies and colossal investments.
Until now, most of the investment came to Russia from the West. However, everything can change radically if the largest corporations in the Asia-Pacific region adopt the “integral approach” of Sechin, agree to sponsor the entire process chain from production to transportation of hydrocarbons and allocate funds for the development of Eastern Siberia and the Arctic. The West cannot afford such large-scale injections into the Russian economy, even if it wanted to. But Asian countries can, and it would be a sin not to use it.
Russian policy in the eastern direction has always been distinguished by a semi-intuitive-semi-conscious approach. Tsarist Prime Minister Sergei Witte, who managed to push the project of the CER (railway passing through the territory of China) at one time, noted that "Russia is tempted to use the Chinese card in a game against European rivals." However, now, for the first time in history, we are ready to turn to face the East. And no wonder. Indeed, as the columnist of the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram recently noted, “a multipolar world with an Asian accent is forming before our eyes.”
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And in conclusion about why tough sanctions against Russia can boomerang the US and the EU. According to experts, as a result of Western geopolitical games, “the world without the West” will become an objective reality. The BRICS countries will sharply increase mutual trade and will finally switch to the calculation of their national currencies. Investment, technology, access to credit sources - all this can provide the Asian powers.
Of course, in the near future we will see how the NATO military bloc, for a long time unable to find the meaning of its existence, acquires a second life. However, European countries will have hard times. By introducing disastrous for their own economy sanctions and taking on the lion's share of the cost of saving Ukraine, they will be forced to finally say goodbye to foreign policy ambitions and accept the conditions of the United States in negotiations on the establishment of a Transatlantic trade and investment partnership.
True, America itself is unlikely to benefit from the conflict with Moscow. It will gain a powerful rival in the APR and the Middle East, where, after the Syrian epic, the Arab countries saw in Russia a serious counterbalance to the United States, which is gradually losing influence in the region. Some realistic-minded politicians in Washington are still hoping to play everything back and settle the conflict with Moscow (as long as NATO’s transit point remains in Ulyanovsk, they say, there is hope that the Russians will refuse to turn to the East and break with America). But to count on it does not make sense: the horses are already at the crossing.