Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#249】Putin’s “Pivot” to Asia

Tadae Takubo / 2014.06.05 (Thu)

June 2, 2014

     In covering the May 20-21 Shanghai Summit Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Japan's news media focused on Chinese President Xi Jinping as host of the conference. In fact, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin might have smiled complacently with his successful political marriage with China through the CICA Summit.
     In his opinion carried by The International New York Times on May 23, famed Reuters columnist Anatole Kaletsky suggested Putin's trip to Shanghai could represent Russia's policy of turning its eyes to Asia and mark the start of a strategic realignment between major powers comparable to the tectonic shifts that began with President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Just Nixon paid attention to the China-Soviet rift at that time, President Putin might have inserted a wedge between the United States and China. As then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the U.S. diplomatic pivot to Asia three years ago, President Putin has now launched his diplomatic pivot to Asia.

Strategic importance of China-Russia natural gas deal
     However the West criticizes Russia, urges Russia to observe international law, freezes overseas assets of Kremlin leaders and refuses to issue visas for them, Crimea's annexation to Russia has been accomplished as fact.
     President Putin can occasionally reduce or increase Russian troops deployed at Russia's border with Ukraine to test Western and Ukraine reaction. By doing so, Russia can sufficiently warn against Ukraine's moves to join the European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russia is set to launch the Eurasian Economic Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus next January.
     President Putin struck a deal on natural gas sales to China in Shanghai, putting an end to difficult negotiations that lasted for a decade. The deal represented one of the largest natural gas sales contracts in history under which Russia would provide China with $400 billion worth of natural gas over 30 years. While details are to be revealed later, Putin took advantage of the deal to successfully trick the EU at a time when the Europeans were about to implement a cut in natural gas imports from Russia as one of key sanctions.

U.S. lacks will to fight
     Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly criticized China's ocean expansion at the annual Asian Security Conference in Singapore on May 30. China might have seen many countries endorsing Abe's criticism.
     Coming after the end of the Cold War, the United States' unipolar world, and China's rise and a decline in U.S. influences is the confrontation of the Western alliance with China, Russia, North Korea and Iran that do not hesitate to use force to change the status quo. Amid the confrontation, however, the United States now lacks will to fight. What should Japan do in response?

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.