Is Russia looking East as distance with West grows?

Is Russia looking East as distance with West grows?
By Euronews
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He has been cold-shouldered by the West, but Vladimir Putin has been greeted in China by President Xi Jinping, with pomp and ceremony aplenty.

It is almost enough to make him forget Moscow’s strife with the EU and US, over its stance on Ukraine.

The Russian President and his Chinese counterpart are set to secure a range of bilateral deals amid a two day conference on Asian security attended by the leaders of several nations.

And as they seek to strengthen cooperation in areas like energy, China and Russia are also engaging in a joint naval military exercise.

The current visit of Vladimir Putin to China is the first of two planned to the country this year. Moscow’s relations with Europe and the United States are at their most distant in over two decades.

Russia has made it very clear that it will try to create an “anti-Western alliance” with Beijing. But will the Kremlin succeed?

To discuss this, euronews spoke with Fiodor Loukianov, political analyst and the editor-in-chief of the “Russia in Global Affairs” magazine.

Andriy Belkuvich, euronews: “Fiodor, does Moscow have a good chance of realising these ambitions?”

Fiodor Loukianov: “First of all, nobody is officially talking about an “anti-Western alliance”. Neither Moscow nor Beijing has uttered those words. On the contrary, they keep saying that this new period of closer ties between the two isn’t anti-Western. It has nothing to do with that. They’re just two countries, two major players in the Asia-Pacific region joining forces. And I really believe that the “anti-Western” component isn’t important at all particularly for China. It hasn’t intervened in the disputes between Russia and America. At least, not officially. In Russia there has been a lot of talk about forging closer ties with China for years but only now, because of a changing situation, this is becoming a reality. Moscow has finally turned its attention to Asia, which is growing in every sense. It’s the right move, but also it has no other alternatives.”

euronews: “Do you really believe that the reason for Moscow’s shift towards China has nothing to do with an “anti-Western” feeling?”

Fiodor Loukianov: “I think that there’s no anti-Western motives behind it. We’re seeing a different relationship between Russia and the United States that’s being called the second “Cold War” by some commentators. The US has very clearly demonstrated that they have the tools available to them to cause a negative impact on Russia, primarily to its economy. They can cut Russia off from global economic and financial markets. Russia would then have to look for alternatives.”

euronews: “Would this alliance projected by the Kremlin not make Russia the weaker partner in a union between the two?”

Fiodor Loukianov: “China feels growing pressure from the United States in the Pacific. And of course, it hopes to bolster its position by forging an alliance with a large country like Russia. In economic terms, Russia is several times smaller than China, and here we must be careful and cautious not to become completely dependent. I think that Russia, as it often does and is currently doing with the west, will try to compensate its economic weakness with its political activity and its important political status. In this regard, China isn’t at Russia’s level. Also, I have no doubt that Russia will struggle to diversify its contacts in Asia.”

euronews: “Do the EU and the US have any possibility of torpedoing the rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing?”

Fiodor Loukianov: “In my opinion, they are no such possibilities. Why should they interfere? What reasons do they have to interfere with the convergence of two major neighbouring countries with a long history of relations? Another thing is that the US and Europe discourage it. They aren’t able to pursue policies that specifically push Russia towards the East.”

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