Russia’s “Asian hub” is not gaining more traction beyond selling weapons to Myanmar and Vietnam—Radio Free Asia

Russia announced a plan last year to transfer its diplomatic and trade relations eastward from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region.

But experts say that the plan, which is called “the hub to Asia,” has encountered difficulties and criticism.

Russia’s threat stance against Ukraine in recent months has attracted widespread attention from the international community, but so far, the “hub to Asia” has received less attention.

At the end of last year, the Washington, DC-based Jamestown Foundation summarized the obstacles to the “hub” seen by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

During his first appointment as Prime Minister of the Russian Far East, Mishustin discovered that the local port of Magadan had insufficient infrastructure support for international trade.

The limitations of ports on the Sea of ??Okhotsk hinder the economic development and international influence of the surrounding areas.

Russia’s hub for Asia is not a new idea. Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov laid the foundation for this policy in the late 1990s.

This policy proposes to transfer Russia’s economic ties from the European Union eastward to the Asia-Pacific region.

This will make Siberia and the Russian Far East a “national priority for the 21st century” in the countryYingshi century. “

However, according to the Jamestown report, due to system and cultural barriers, the strategy is in trouble by 2019.

The report written by Sergey Sukhankin quoted experts as saying that Russia faces four challenges in trying to implement a “hub.”

Negative public perception

The first is that Russia lacks a comprehensive approach to overcome the social and economic difficulties faced by its least developed regions, Siberia and the country’s Far East.

In addition, the government failed to improve the negative opinion of the Russians on the region. Settlers and businessmen regard Siberia and the Far East as “extremely unattractive” places to live or work. According to some people, these areas are located in the “land of nothingness.”

Second, the main pillar of the “Asia Hub” was originally premised on strengthening economic ties with China. But now, according to an expert from the US-based Eurasian Group, many Russian experts and intellectuals are aware of the limitations of this method.

Although Russia is a source of raw materials, it only plays a marginal role in China’s foreign trade and economic relations.

Attempts to achieve diversified cooperation through contacts with India, Japan and South Korea, but with little success.

Third, despite the impressive diplomatic and political achievements, Russia has not been able to translate them into sustainable economic benefits.

A Russian expert at the Pacific National University in Khabarovsk said that two years ago, Asian countries did not see Russia as a place to attract foreign investment.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Russia’s share in the Asia-Pacific economy is limited.

Fourth, according to the Jamestown report, residents of the Far East regard “the hub to Asia” as “a project created artificially by Moscow, without fully assessing the local reality, nor inviting local residents to participate or invest in it. .”

It said: “In addition, in Siberia, despite the cumbersome rhetoric, people’s dissatisfaction is actually ruled out.”

“Incompetent metropolis”

In other words, the Federal Center cannot explain to the locals how it plans to improve the standard of living in the area.

Sergey Karaganov was a former adviser to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and a major supporter of the “Perspective Asia” strategy.

In an article co-authored with Russian scholar Anastasia Likhacheva, the two said that the strategy may lose momentum in the past year and a half.

They believe that one of the main problems hindering progress is that the Russian Far East and Siberia pay insufficient attention to “human capital”.

Human capital refers to the reference of people who should be the driving force of the pivot. But according to Karaganov and Likhacheva, they ultimately regarded Moscow as an “incompetent metropolis”.

Russia’s economy has long relied heavily on oil and gas exports. But in recent years, arms sales have also become a major source of income.

For example, Vietnam is almost entirely dependent on Russian military equipment, although experts say Vietnam is now trying to diversify its sources.

According to experts from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, from 2014 to 2019, China accounted for about half of Myanmar’s main arms imports, including warships, fighter jets, armed drones, armored vehicles and air defense systems.

During the same period, Russia provided 17% of Myanmar’s military imports, mainly in the form of fighter jets.

According to the Japanese website, the head of the military government, Min Aung Hlaing, overthrew Myanmar’s civil administration on February 1. He has established ties with the Russian military in the past decade. Nikkei Asia.

he made it Nikkei Asia He said that in order to avoid relying on China, Myanmar’s major neighbors and the country that has long been its largest supplier of weapons.

Asian diplomats told Nikkei Asia Min Aung Hlaing (Min Aung Hlaing) still remembers reports that China used to serve as China’s weapons supply line and a stronghold occupied by national rebels entering the eastern border of Myanmar.

A few days before the military coup against the civilian government, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Myanmar to complete a deal for a new surface-to-air missile system, reconnaissance drones and radar equipment.

Russian weapons in the hands of the military government

The coup prevented Aung San Suu Kyi’s popular National League for Democracy from being re-elected for a second term after winning an overwhelming election in November last year.

After the coup, Russian-made tanks and other armored vehicles were seen on the streets of the densely populated city of Yangon. Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar and was formerly known as Yangon.

The United States and several other Western countries condemned the coup and condemned the military’s use of violence against unarmed demonstrators.

In early April, Hannah Beech New York Times A monitoring team was quoted as saying that 540 people were killed by soldiers or police on the streets and in houses.

According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 40 of the dead were children under the age of 18. era Rely on medical testimony, funeral details and household accounts.

According to a local organization called the “Political Prisoners Assistance Association”, as of February 1, as of May 9, the total number of deaths has reached 780.

The military government stated that this number was exaggerated and claimed in late April that the actual number was 240.

Although Min Aung Hlaing, a senior general who has reportedly visited Russia six times over the years, said that Russia has proven to be a “loyal friend,” Russia may not have won widespread attention among ordinary people in Myanmar.

Amy Searight, a senior researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), recently stated on the Myanmar issue: “Moscow seems to be seeking a military gap that no other country can fill. Even China is more cautious than Moscow. .”

She mentioned that on the Myanmar Armed Forces Day in late March, Russia sent its Deputy Minister of Defense to participate in the parade. There were not only tanks and other military equipment in the parade, but also several Russian-made military aircraft flying overhead.

The parade was held in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.

However, Searight is skeptical of Russia’s “fulcrum for Asia”, both to a certain degree in the past and new focus today, at least when it comes to Southeast Asia.

She said: “I think they have never really gained much attraction in their past efforts.”

She expressed her opinions in discussions organized by the Kennan Institute and Project Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., to discuss Russia’s role in Southeast Asia.

Dan Southerland is the founding executive editor of RFA.

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