No one noticed, but Asia moved 9,000 km west

Opinion Commentary by Chris Devonshire-Ellis – May 23, 2022

Russia’s pivot to Asia and the geopolitical position of the EU has shifted Asian influence from the West to the borders of Europe

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

A yet unrecognized shift in Eurasian geopolitics has occurred as a result of Western sanctions against Russia. When the EU closed its borders with western Russia, it shifted geopolitical dynamics eastward. This caused the Russian Double-Headed Eagle, the powerful symbol of the only nation to encompass both Europe and Asia, to turn its two heads to the East. This action alone means that politics and trade with Moscow are now determined more by Asian relations than by European relations. This shifted the Asian dynamic from the West – the 9,000 km quoted above representing the entire length of Russia.

This change will have immediate and lasting consequences for Europe. Moscow’s decision-making will now rely more on discussions it has with Ankara, Beijing, Jakarta, New Delhi, Tashkent and Tehran than with Brussels. By closing the door to $282 billion in two-way trade, sanctioning Russia as much as it can and closing its borders, Brussels has created an economic and sanctioned wall separating what used to be part of Europe from its own rear. -court. This part of Europe has now become much more under the influence of Asia, making the EU unease with the rise of China CEEC (China, Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation) fully operational.

Ukraine, caught in the middle, is literally in conflict. Kyiv was terminate trade agreements it had with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) but EU membership appears years later. He will have to live in a twilight trade world, being neither, and most likely with his trade routes south through the Black Sea completely cut off. It is very likely that the future will be a twilight state, financially supported by the EU to stay afloat and retain some dignity in retaining its sovereignty, but also unable to fully benefit from EU membership.

With very few European politicians to be seen anywhere near President Putin’s orbit, he held just this month, trade, development and investment conversations with Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the Philippines, Cuba and Israel, with newly re-elected French President Macron being the only European call. It is a similar situation with Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, whose team had discussions this month with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Armenia and the Prime Ministers of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Commerce held meetings in May with trade ministers and delegations from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, India, all Central Asian countries, China and ASEAN, among others. Moscow can be considered geographically part of Europe, but as of March this year, its geopolitical influences are almost exclusively Asian.

At present, it is too early to tell how this will eventually translate to Russian developments. However, we can probably identify that this will mean greater direct government influence – and investment – ​​in the Russian Far East and Black Sea regions. There will be an even greater need to expand civil service and Kremlin administrative control into Russia’s Asian regions, with the key east coast city of Vladivostok becoming even more integrated into Russia itself. Other key cities that have become even more important recently given China’s booming trade and business are close to China, such as Khabarovsk, Blagoveshchensk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Ussuriysk.

Japan has sanctioned Russia in some areas of luxury and IT, but is pursuing its energy infrastructure, as is South Korea. The Russian cities of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Nakhodka will serve them, while the Trans-Mongolian trading cities of Chita, Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude will also develop as trade centers. Cities like Tomsk, near the border with Kazakhstan, will also prosper, as will those on the Black Sea coast – including once-Russian cities, but likely to return. Crimea has been unified with Russia since 2014 (with huge infrastructure investments put in place, leading to a mini boom for the peninsula, not that the Western media mentions such problems) and a similar story likely to happen in Odessa, although the fighting continues and the conflict continues until Russia controls the northern coast of the black Sea. Talk of further westward expansion into Moldova is unlikely because the region is not strategically important and is economically backward, although Russia controls a strip of land, Transnistria – which separates the tribal factions of Europe from the East with age-old grudges against each other.

This influence also extends into pockets of Europe. Serbia avoided the EU and entered into a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. Bosnia is expected to follow suit, with Balkan states all currently on the fence. Disappointment with previous EU promises has made them wary of Brussels, while historic unease with Russia has made them undecided. Trade with a booming Asia could, however, help push them into the orbit of the Eurasian Economic Union, and especially if Turkey were to enter into an FTA with the EEU as well. Pockets of Europe will, over time, become more influenced by Asian than European trade.

All of these changes mean that geopolitical, trade and investment decisions made in Moscow will increasingly be dictated by Asian rather than European sources. As the Russian ministerial meetings held this month show, this is already happening. This will impact the EU in ways yet unknown. However, Brussels will have to understand that when dealing with Asia, it will also be dealing directly, or indirectly, with policies that will have been influenced by Moscow, and that trade policies and Made In Asia policies now rub shoulders directly against borders. of the EU.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis has over 30 years of experience in China and Asia and has established two main businesses in the region: Dezan Shira & Associates and Asia Briefing.

The author can be contacted at [email protected]

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