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Russia: Eastward push

Published : Oct 05, 2012 00:00 IST

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Russia has launched its own pivot to Asia, but unlike the United States it is pushing commercial, not military, assets towards the Pacific Rim.

On September 8-9, Russia, for the first time, hosted a summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which comprises 21 countries with 40 per cent of the global population and accounts for 54 per cent of the worlds GDP.

In holding the summit in Vladivostok, its main outpost on the Pacific coast, Moscow emphasised its resolve to rebalance its West-oriented economy eastward. The government splashed out $21 billion to upgrade old and build new infrastructure in Vladivostok with an eye to turning the port city of 600,000 into an Asian investment capital.

President Vladimir Putin called Russias eastward push a strategic choice. With two-thirds of its territory in Asia and with the longest coastline for any Pacific Rim country, Russia plans to shift the bulk of its trade from the European Union to APEC, which today accounts for less than a quarter of the countrys total trade turnover.

The Kremlin has pledged to develop energy-rich but economically weak Eastern Siberia, diversify eastwards its exports of natural resources, and make Russia a transportation bridge between Asia and Europe. Russia is also ready to help boost food security in the Asia-Pacific by growing 50 per cent more grain and more than double its grain exports to 40 million tonnes by 2020.

With Europe overcome by a financial crisis and Asian powerhouses hungry for oil and gas, Russias pivot could not have come at a better moment.

Vladimir Radyuhin

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Oct 05, 2012.)

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