AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 474

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Session 474: Explaining Russia in Asia Pacific: Competition, Cooperation, and Institution Building

Organizer: Gaye Christoffersen, Johns Hopkins University, China

Russia anticipates having a larger presence in Asia-Pacific multilateral institutions as demonstrated by its plans to host APEC 2012 in Vladivostok and its application for membership in the East Asian Summit. Not all Russians are willing to see Russia become more active in Asia and assume more of an Asian identity as they still grapple with controversies over Russian identity as they have for centuries. Many foreign scholars have argued that Russia has not yet attained the necessary prerequisites for its expanding role in the Asia-Pacific, i.e., Russia needs a better theoretical understanding of Asian multilateral regimes and integration processes to be a successful participant in these regimes. However, many Russian scholars feel that a traditional balance of power approach will promote Russian national interests in Asian regimes, and that it is not necessary for Russia to be socialized into Asian multilateralism. There is a diversity of opinion on how best to understand Russian relations with the Asia-Pacific which is represented by the presentations on the panel. Each presenter has chosen either a traditional balance of power approach, a neo-liberal institutionalist approach, or a constructivist approach. This theoretical diversity of the panel captures various aspects of Russia's presence in the region, providing a comprehensive understanding of Russia’s position in the Asia-Pacific.

Russia and East Asian Integration
Tsuneo Akaha, Monterey Institute of International Studies, USA

This paper will explore what Russia will gain from and contribute to regional integration in the region. It looks at Russia's potential in regional integration along political, security, economic, and social-cultural dimensions posit some speculations as to Russia’s role in regional integration in East Asia. Geographically, Russia is very much a part of East Asia but in other dimensions, its position is not as definite today. Politically, Russia has more or less normal relations with all East Asian countries, although the depth, the scope, and the nature of those relations vary widely. Its bilateral trade and economic relations in the region also vary from somewhat significant, as with China and Japan, to virtually negligible, as with most Southeast Asian countries. Russia’s impact on the region has long been based on its ideological and military interests vis-à-vis the other major powers but, with the end of the Cold War came the end of the major-power ideological and military rivalries in the region and today none of the big powers considers Russia’s regional presence a major security factor, positively or negatively. One area where Russia is an important and growing factor is the energy sector. For Russia, energy resources are not just an economic factor, they also hold important implications for its strategic position in the world. Today, one cannot describe Russia’s role in international relations without reference to the energy dimension. What will be the net effect of Russia’s relations with the regional powers on its role in regional integration?

Rethinking the Russo-Japanese Border in the Shifting Regional Order in East Asia
Kimie Hara, University of Waterloo, Canada

The year 2011 will mark the 60th anniversary since the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. This post-World War settlement with Japan, which the Soviet Union refused to sign, created various “unresolved problems” among the neighboring states in East Asia. The border dispute between Russia and Japan, the so-called “Northern Territories Problem” is no exception. Together with the other regional conflicts that share the common foundation in the post-war disposition of Japan ---such as the Takeshima/Dokdo problem between Japan and Korea, the Senkaku/Diaoyu problem between Japan and China, the divide Korean Peninsula, the Cross-Taiwan Strait Problem, and the “Okinawa Problem” associated with the US bases --- the dispute continues to provide significant security implications to the regional security to this date. This paper re-examines this Russo-Japanese border dispute, which tends to be treated solely within a bilateral framework, in a broader context of the shifting regional order, particularly in the context of multilateral cooperation and institution building, in East Asia. It will also propose multilateral settlement ideas, remembering its multilateral origins and considering new reality of international relations. Particular attention will be paid to energy competitions, maritime delimitations, joint developments, and maritime regime building efforts.

Southeast Asia and Russia: Engaging in Regional Architecture
Pushpa Thambipillai, University of Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam

To most of insular Southeast Asia, Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union, was an ‘unknown’. Soviet ideological support and material aid for fellow Socialist states in mainland Southeast Asia implicated the USSR in the region's Proxy Wars, which led to intense suspicion and avoidance from the rest of Southeast Asia. However, during the last two decades, Russia’s image has gradually evolved into a passive power as it has had no territorial or political conflicts with Southeast Asian states. This has promoted cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral levels through its membership in APEC, ASEAN, ARF and soon in EAS. Current connectivity may be low, but there are opportunities in trade and investment between more of the Southeast Asian states and Russia as they ‘discover’ their potential mutual interests. The numerous institutions and meetings where both are involved brings the relationship to a new level in understanding and cooperation, suggesting some Russian socialization in Asian multilateralism.

Russia's Ambivalence Towards Integration Processes of the Asia-Pacific
Gaye Christoffersen, Johns Hopkins University, China

As Russia prepares to host APEC 2012, which is expected to confirm Russia's identity as an Asia-Pacific nation, questions still remain about the extent of Russian socialization into APEC norms. After Russia joined APEC in 1998, it was assumed that the country would slowly socialize into the norms of the organization. However, Russian socialization into these norms has been uneven, apparent in some areas and missing in others. The pragmatic Russian goal of APEC membership is to solve the enormous economic problems of the Russian Far East whose solution Russians believe involves Russian national security and will determine the future of Russia. Trade, investment and technology transfer from Asian countries is viewed as the core of the solution even while Russians fear becoming a raw material appendage that fuels Asian economic growth. Russians equally fear being left out of East Asian economic integration generating ambivalence regarding the costs and benefits of that integration. Controversy focuses on whether Russia must accept economic globalization as part of the Asia-Pacific integration processes with greater porosity of its borders, or whether Russia can take a state-centric approach in the Asia-Pacific that integrates Russia into Asia without Asia influencing Russia, especially the Russian Far East. The program for joint development of the Russian Far East and Chinese Northeast is a concrete example of this controversy. This paper will take a constructivist approach to examine the transformations the Russian Far East has experienced in preparation for APEC 2012, and also the areas of resistance to greater integration with the Asia-Pacific.

Domestic transformations in Vladivostok for APEC summit 2012: an opportunity for prosperity?
Tamara Troyakova, Independent Scholar, Russia

Russia proposed in 2006 to host the APEC 2012 summit in Vladivostok This summit is expected to attract Russian and foreign investment into the Russian Far East, and to strengthen Russia's position in the Asia-Pacific region, leading to Russia playing a more active role in regional organizations. Since 2006, Vladivostok has been preparing to host APEC 2012 with many federally funded projects. In 2008 Primorye Governor Darkin announced a plan for Vladivostok development would included projects in preparation for the summit. Primorye is working hard, however there are many obstacles to successful development. There is a need to strengthen good governance, institutional integrity, and transparency, all of which have a critical impact on trade and economic growth, and will help to diminish crime and corruption. The Russian Far East has oil, timber and other natural resources but lacks the economic dynamism and widespread high-tech culture that have given many APEC countries their high growth rates and grounds for optimism in the future. The 2012 APEC summit has the potential to be a watershed moment in Russian economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific. Russia has to leverage this unique opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to playing a stronger and more constructive role in the Asia-Pacific region.