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Putin's foreign policies likely to tilt toward Asia

Updated: 2012-03-07 08:04
By Cheng Guangjin and Hu Yinan ( China Daily)

New Russian leader also expected to strengthen partnership with China

The new Russian administration under the leadership of Vladimir Putin is likely to continue its current foreign policies while tilting toward economically robust Asia and strengthening the country's partnership with China, analysts said.

Putin won a resounding victory in Sunday's presidential election with about 64 percent of the vote, results showed on Monday.

Having stressed an "economic diplomacy" aimed at reviving Russia's economy by creating a favorable external environment for economic growth, Putin is unlikely to make major changes to Russia's foreign policies, which have already been outlined by the "Medvedev-Putin tandem", said Xing Guangcheng, a researcher on Russian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"We see before our eyes not only the rise of China and India, but the growing weight of the entire Asia-Pacific Region," Putin wrote in an article published recently framing Russia's foreign policies.

In September, Russia will host the annual meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which involves major economies in the region. The meetings will be "another good opportunity for Russia to strengthen its role in this region", Xing said.

Russia also became a member of the East Asia Summit in 2011, an important platform for discussions on broad strategic, political and economic issues in the region.

Putin also stressed the importance of Russia's relationship with its neighbor China, which he sees as "a major hub of the global economy" that shares Russia's "vision of the merging equitable world order".

"I am convinced that China's economic growth is by no means a threat, but a challenge that carries colossal potential for business cooperation - a chance to catch the Chinese wind in the sails of our economy," Putin said.

China became Russia's top trading partner for the first time in 2010, and the two countries are seeking to nearly double trade to $100 billion by 2015.

Vladimir Frolov, president of government relations firm LEFF Group, told China Daily that Putin is correct in saying that China has made great progress in development and is not a threat but an opportunity for Russia, particularly for its regions in the Far East and Siberia.

"He has a strong commercial relationship with China. We understand that China will buy more and more gas. There's popular demand for cleaner fuel in China. And Russia stands the best chance to supply ... natural gas to China," Frolov said.

China has a lot of things to offer to Russia in terms of expertise in infrastructure construction - highways, high-speed rail, ports, bridges and tunnels, Frolov said.

"Russia badly needs major infrastructure development, particularly highway construction and high-speed rail - not only in the Far East and Siberia, but also in European parts of Russia. So Chinese contractors and companies could be welcomed," Frolov said.

The two countries are allies but also competitors in many respects, particularly in access to natural gas deposits in Central Asia, Frolov said. "I think our focus will be cooperation and competition with China in Central Asia."

Disputes over oil prices have occurred, and a long-expected agreement on natural gas cooperation has stalled because of differences on setting prices.

Zhang Deguang, former Chinese ambassador to Russia, highly praised Putin as a politician with vision. He believes Putin is a great patriot who will revive Russia.

"There is room for the two countries to cooperate in coordinating regional and global affairs," Zhang said.

In terms of bilateral trade and exchanges, Zhang said opportunities exist in the optimization of trade commodity structure, innovation, co-development of new technology and discussions on the theories of economic transformations.

"I have no doubt that the value of bilateral trade will definitely reach $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020 as planned."

Mikhail Dmitriev, government adviser and president of think-tank Center for Strategic Research, said China is definitely the most obvious ally in the foreign policy strategy that the Putin administration is following.

"In many international issues, Russia has no any other big ally in the world. So naturally, there are lot of common agendas and interests for foreign policy (of the two countries)," Dmitriev said.

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Zhou Wa in Beijing and Wang Huazhong in Moscow contributed to this story.