01/02/2018, 14.00
RUSSIA

Putin's Russia turns to Asia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The "Asian turnaround" in politics and the economy is increasingly evident. Among many successes, the failure of Russia’s exclusion from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. But South Korea promises "nine cooperation bridges" and a warm welcome for Moscow athletes.

Moscow (AsiaNews) -  2017 revealed a quiet and productive development in Russia’s Asian policies, in contrast to the Western borders of the Federation. The role of Moscow in the process of regulating the nuclear issue in North Korea has grown; the Shanghai cooperation organization was enriched with the accession of India and Pakistan. Trade with the main Russian partners in the region has grown continuously (China, Japan and South Korea). The negotiations for the signing of an agreement concerning a free trade zone between Russia and China, as well as between China and the Eurasian economic union, are progressing positively.

The only real failure is the exclusion of the Russian national team from the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but in return the Korean president Moon Jae-in has announced the intention to raise "nine cooperation bridges" with Moscow . During the press conference on December 14, President Vladimir Putin nominated China nine times, North Korea 13 times and not once any of the countries of the European Union.

As Kommersant analyst Mikhail Korostikov, points out in the president's speeches Europe mostly refers to an abstract entity (the "European civilization"), or as a place where Russian trains deliver all kinds of Chinese commercial products.

Experts and the insiders have been discussing this Russian turnaround for some years now, and in Putin's positions it already has taken shape, so much so that he defines his political ideology a new form of "eurasism", recalling the movement from the beginning of the 20th century that translated the contents of the great nineteenth-century Slavophile question into the idea of ​​Eurasia.

2018 will probably test the responses to a possible political and economic integration of the great Asian countries, where competition between China and India should find a satisfactory balance, perhaps thanks to Russian mediation.

Even in the face of the global threat of nuclear escalation in North Korea, Russia is acquiring a certain role of mediation, given the continuing deterioration in relations between Pyongyang and Beijing, especially in the confrontation between Korea and the US. In Moscow the representatives of the two parties in conflict have met in recent months, and even if the negotiations have not yet produced any results, Russian diplomacy appears to be the only one able to move the barriers that prevent progress towards peace.

The economic signals towards Japan are less positive, which partly shares the European and American distrust of the Putin regime and its choices in international politics, but also of its internal legal system. Relations with China led by  Xi Jinping, the main political-ideological referent for Putin himself, are much more satisfactory. In May, the Russian president had attended the Beijing "One Belt, One Road" summit also called the "new Silk Road", and during the year the two leaders met three more times in June, Putin even awarded the Chinese leader of the Order of St. Andrew Protoclyte "for the great merits in strengthening the friendship between the peoples of Russia and China". The two countries are concluding two very important trade agreements, between Moscow and Beijing and between Beijing and the Eurasian Union. In these, for example, the obligation of residence for large technology companies will be removed; the technical conclusion of these agreements is scheduled for January 4, 2018, leaving six additional months of political verification before they are ratified. Subsequently, all the countries concerned will be invited to join, both the other Eurasian partners of Russia and the countries of Southeast Asia (Vietnam has already announced its membership).

Even the change of guard in South Korea proved to be a very positive event for Russia, given the obvious sympathy of Moon Jae-in. The "nine bridges" announced concern the sphere of energy, electricity, agriculture and other large sectors of the economy, responding in this way to the "eight points" programs of Japanese leader Shinzo Abe.

Thus, the Korean parliament has assured that all Russian athletes who will participate in the Olympics without their own flag will be given the warmest hospitality from the inhabitants of Pyeongchang, ready to dress up with Russian national costumes and cheer for the athletes beneath the Russian flag.

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