Russian President Vladimir Putin`s attendance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit this week in Malaysia has been described as further evidence Moscow prefers closer interaction with Asia over integration with the West because of shared values. This claim fails to understand the Kremlin`s global foreign policy agenda.
The Russia-ASEAN summit, the first in 10 years of bilateral cooperation, discussed a joint declaration on comprehensive partnership covering nearly every area of interaction, from counter-terrorism to tourism and sport.
'It (the declaration) gives our country new partners, or to be more precise, new spheres of cooperation with partners that we have acquired in this important region,' Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
In 2004, Russian trade turnover with the 10 ASEAN countries exceeded $4.5 billion. This figure is not significant, less than 1 percent of Russia`s foreign annual foreign trade, but compared to 2003 trade turnover it increased by more than $1 billion. This is a trend the Kremlin wants to cultivate.
Russian engagement of Asia is not solely centered on ASEAN. In July, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, transformed itself into a regional security forum.
Also this year, Russia held major separate military exercises with China and India. Russia is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization and at that bloc`s recent summit Moscow`s primary focus was how it could meet Asia`s demand for energy to fuel the region`s economic development.
Does all this mean there is a decided eastern shift to Russia`s foreign policy?
Read more here.
It continues on to say it has more to do with economics than it does politics. Asia is the future (its saying) and Europe is not. hrm.