The Return: Russia and the Security Landscape of Northeast Asia Russie.Nei.Reports, No. 29, Ifri, March 2020
Northeast Asia has emerged as a critical theater of Russian foreign policy in recent years.
Moscow’s historical Westerncentrism is giving way to a new awareness about the vital importance of the region. The “turn to the East” now has genuine substance and impetus. Yet Russian policy is a work in progress, more opportunistic than strategic. The security landscape is complex and fluid, and Moscow has struggled to manage its contradictions.
In many respects, the fundamentals have barely changed: the Kremlin’s focus on undermining US strategic dominance; an abiding faith in the balance of power; and the reliance on traditional strengths such as military might, geopolitical reach, and the energy sector. Crucially, Moscow views Northeast Asia through a globalist lens; the region matters principally because of its wider implications for international order and governance.
Looking ahead, Russian policy will be shaped by developments beyond its control: how committed the United States is to its alliance network in the Asia-Pacific; whether China’s rise is sustained, and in what form; and how the security situation on the Korean peninsula unfolds. But one constant will remain amidst the uncertainties: Russia is back as a serious player in Northeast Asia, and its engagement—and ambition—will only grow.
Bobo Lo is an Associate Research Fellow with the Russia/NIS Center at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri).