2019 年 2019 巻 48 号 p. 1-18
The Ukraine crisis and subsequent Western sanctions have accelerated Russia’s economic dependence on China. Since the annexation of Crimea, scholars and analysts of Russia’s Asia policy have focused on Russia’s pivot to China and disregarded any preceding diversification policies throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This paper has two purposes. First, the paper aims to explain geopolitical changes in Russia’s Asia pivot policy over the last 20 years by analyzing not only Moscow’s strategic thinking towards major Asian powers―including the US, China, Japan, and South Korea, ―but also the restoration of its relationship with former Soviet partners such as India, Vietnam, and North Korea―. Second, this paper examines the impact of the Russia-US confrontation and the emerging friendship regime between Russia and its traditional partners in light of a Eurasian security order.
The first section explains Russia’s strategic thought and policies towards the Asia-Pacific region from 2000 to 2012 by focusing on two factors: 1) The Asia-Pacific region as an emerging political and economic centre in a multipolar world vis-à-vis a US-led unipolar world. 2) The Asia-Pacific region where Russia needs to overcome isolation by restoring traditional diplomatic relations with China, India, Vietnam, and North Korea. The second section explains Russia’s aspiration as a Euro-Pacific power under the third Putin administration before the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. In this period, Russia’s diversification policy in the Eastern direction expanded to the Pacific region including US allies. The third section describes how Russia accelerated its economic dependence on China under the deterioration of relations with the US by analysing energy and military cooperation with China. The fourth section evaluates the impact of the Russia-US confrontation at the global and regional levels as well as the Russia-China quasi-alliance in a newly emerging order in Eurasia.
In conclusion, this paper reveals three findings. First, Russia’s geopolitical direction in its “Pivot to the East” policy developed in three steps: 1) the restoration of relations with former soviet partners to overcome isolation in the region (2000–2012); 2) regaining self-confidence as a great power and seeking aspiration as a Euro-Pacific power (2012–2014); 3) deterioration of relations with the US and subsequent economic dependence on China. This paper reveals that Russia has barely retained its multi vector foreign policy by developing and utilizing relations with former Soviet partners such as India and Vietnam even after March 2014, whereas Russia has accelerated its China-centred foreign and economic policy since the annexation of Crimea, as indicated in other research. Second, while Russia’s “pivot to China” policy is inherently based on economic incentives, Russian leadership views relations with China largely through the lens of US-Russia relations. Currently, as Moscow does not anticipate an opportunity to improve its relations with the US, Russia is unlikely to review its China-centred policy in the short and medium term. Third, the Russia-China strategic partnership is becoming a quasi-alliance in terms of military cooperation. For Russia, the only constructive means to remain a great power in Eurasia is to actively engage in both military cooperation and China-led regional order such as the “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”, to prevent further isolation in Eurasia. Meanwhile, its strengthened strategic partnerships with traditional Asian partners―the sole achievement of its early “Asia pivot” policy―will serve well to balance relations with China.