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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

ASEAN countries need Russia as a “third force”

On Thursday in Sochi starts a major international summit this year, taking place in my country: opens the two-day summit Russia – ASEAN. Vladimir Putin receives leaders of the ten countries of Southeast Asia, a region that is of great economic interest. And do ASEAN countries see Russia as an important geopolitical partner.

The Sochi summit is not an ordinary event for Russia’s foreign policy. Never in our country did not pass summit with the heads of major regional associations.

“The steadily growing APEC economies are now interested in all – China, Japan, USA, India, EU

The only exception is the summits Russia – EU, but still Europe is a traditional partner and neighbor, despite the fact that now from these meetings was suspended by the Europeans themselves. There are, of course, the SCO, but until recently, this Association was still mostly “Soviet-Chinese”, most of its members belonged to the former Soviet Union, and only now, with the expansion due to India and Pakistan, the Shanghai organization acquires pan-Asian in nature.

But except China and India in Asia, there are several centers of power and the only regional Association that have embarked on economic integration. And it is for influence on him in the coming decades will go a major struggle between China and Russia on one side and USA and Japan on the other, because the center of geopolitical contradictions moves in the Pacific region, East Asia.

We are talking about ASEAN – Association of South-East Asia. Speaking of cards, this is the part of light, which is located in the triangle between India, China and Australia. 600 million people, combined GDP of ASEAN makes the seventh economy in the world, all ten countries, whose leaders have now arrived in Sochi. In February, “ten” was adopted in California Barack Obama (this was the first summit meeting of the us-ASEAN relations), and in September will host the next meeting of the China – ASEAN.

A 20-year history of Russia’s relations with ASEAN this was the third meeting at the highest level, but the previous two were held in South-East Asia. The first was in Malaysia in 2005 and the second five years later in Vietnam. Putin participated in the first summit, and the current of his guests only three were his interlocutors at the Malaysian meeting. Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun sen and head of the Singapore government, Lee Hsien Loong.

The Sultan has ruled Brunei soon for half a century – he became the head of the smallest and richest state of ASEAN in the year of establishment of the organization, in 1967. However, initially, ASEAN was created by five countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines – and to six the Association has grown only in 1984 when Brunei joined his neighbors.

In the 90s, ASEAN joined former Communist countries – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar semi-socialist. While in Vietnam and Laos, the Communists remained in power, and retaining control over the economy, while in Cambodia, though at the back of the Royal dynasty, the real power remained in the hands of Hun Sen, who led the first socialist government of Kampuchea in 1985.

Singaporean Prime Minister can boast a 50-year or 30-year rule, he in power for only twelve years, but it still all ahead. Father Lee Moon – the famous Lee Kuan yew – led the country for thirty years as Prime Minister, and then another couple of decades as the “senior Minister”.

Nepotism the transfer of power traditional in the region – the current Prime Minister Najib Razak leads the Cabinet seven years, but his father and uncle headed the government in the 70s. In Indonesia the President was the daughter of the founder of the country of General Sukarno, and the Philippines in General, there are several dynasties, alternating in power. So, until the end of June the country’s President Benigno Aquino III will III, whose mother was President, and the father did not become them just because he was shot. However, will replace Aquino who won the last election on the day SurgeryHealthy Rodrigo Duterte, not representing any power dynasty.

Philippines will become the only country “tens”, which will not be represented in Sochi at the highest level. In several countries the recent change of government did not prevent their new leaders to come to Putin.

Became a week ago the Prime Minister of Vietnam, General Nguyen Xuan Phuc arrived even with an official visit, his first overseas trip.

Headed to Myanmar just a month and a half ago President Then Jo on a trip to Russia – only the second trip abroad.

Thongloun Sisoulit less than a month ago was appointed Prime Minister of Laos, but he arrived in Sochi. Have Cislita two Soviet diploma of higher education, and in October last year, he was awarded the order of Friendship, which, most likely, he will be awarded in Sochi Vladimir Putin, with him they had long been familiar, because the new Prime Minister ten years was the head of the Lao foreign Ministry.

Actually, of all the guests the President of Russia is not only familiar with the new President of Myanmar. With the Prime Minister of Thailand General prayuth Chan-o-cha who commit these days official visit to our country, Putin met at the APEC summit in Beijing in November 2014 (General came to power in the summer of that year, however, negotiations did not conduct.

However, the prayuth Chan-OCHA has established a good contact with Dmitry Medvedev – they have met several times at international forums, including in Thailand. With Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who led his country six years ago, Putin has spoken four times, but they were talking at great summits, and the current official visit will give a first opportunity for substantive talks.

With almost all ASEAN countries, Russia has its own fairly long history of relations – it is the most modest with Brunei and the Philippines. In Soviet times, the Philippines was in the absolute zone of American influence, and only in 1976, Ferdinand Marcos decided to come to Moscow and to establish diplomatic relations. Muslim Brunei began to establish contacts only in the 80s, but it’s small and very rich Kingdom lives his life.

The deepest relationship, of course, with Vietnam – starting with the 50-ies they went through all the tests, the most important of which, of course, the abandonment by Russia of all geopolitical positions in the 90-ies.

The oldest, a complex and promising relationship with Thailand. The first visit of king of Siam Rama V in Russia took place in the late 19th century, but during the Soviet years when resumed only in 60-e years. Convergence prevented the Vietnam war, the Americans severely were built all its allies, not encouraging them to improve relations with Moscow. But Thais still wanted to contacts, including at the highest level, and since the 90-ies began the development of Thailand Russian tourists. Now General Chan-OCHA says the desire to buy Russian weapons (so far only minor purchases) and in General strongly favoured the development of relations, talks about his respect for the “strong man” Putin and calls Russia a superpower.

The main buyer of Russian weapons in the region is, of course, Vietnam, but growing interest in increasing its purchases have almost all, from Indonesia to Myanmar. Especially in the 50-60-ies of the same Myanmar and Indonesia were close friends of the USSR – with all the flowing out of here gun effects.

But not only weapons and tourism (ASEAN hope in the coming years to increase the number of our tourists to 3 million) brought together South-East Asia with Russia. There are many joint projects in energy, construction and infrastructure, has big plans for a marked increase in exports of agricultural products to Russia and mutual investment (including in Russian agriculture). Moreover, Russia offers ASEAN to agree on the movement toward the establishment of a zone of economic partnership. Talked about this in December last year in his address to Parliament Vladimir Putin:

“Offer together with colleagues in the Eurasian economic Union to begin consultations with members of the SCO and ASEAN, as well as with the States that joined the SCO, about the possibility of an economic partnership. Together, our States make up almost a third of the world economy at purchasing power parity. This partnership at the initial stage could focus on the issues of investment protection, streamlining procedures for the movement of goods across borders, joint development of technical standards for the production of the next technology generation, on the reciprocal opening of market access services and capital. Of course, this partnership should be based on the principles of equality and consideration of mutual interests.

For Russia, this partnership will create new opportunities to increase supplies to the Asia-Pacific region, food, energy resources, engineering, educational, medical and tourist services, will allow us to play a leading role in the formation of new technological markets, and to expand on Russia, a major global trade flows”.

It is clear that the current 20 billion dollars in trade do not make Russia a major economic partner of ASEAN (with China and the United States momentum to order more), but that doesn’t mean we can’t increase its influence there. Moreover, both economic and geopolitical.

Although steadily growing economy of APEC countries now interested in all – China, Japan, USA, India, European Union – the main rivalry is between China and the United States. And the struggle is economic in form, but geopolitical content.

Southeast Asia is a natural area of the projection of Chinese influence, this whole region is the focus of interest of Beijing. China doesn’t want anyone to capture – he needs to just South of its borders were friendly, economically tied to countries who are not allies of the US. This in any case do not want to allow in Washington and the Pacific announced a top priority for the United States in the 21st century, the containment of China, although not officially proclaimed, but in fact is the main task of Americans in Southeast Asia.

For the ASEAN countries is a serious struggle – USA invite them to Pacific partnership (which includes four ASEAN countries – Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei), China is promoting a “Comprehensive regional economic partnership covering all countries of the region – from Japan to India (but not USA). It is clear that the chances to keep the economic expansion of China in the region by purely economic means, the US has no – time to their military, financial and ideological hegemony goes, and for China, it is historically “their” region.

All ASEAN countries for centuries have experienced enormous Chinese influence – cultural, economic, even demographic. Almost everywhere has an influential Chinese community, and Singapore at all is the “outside” of the Chinese government. To get away from this Chinese magnet it is impossible, but to lose the independence they don’t want. Game on this unwillingness is the only chance for the US to pursue containment of China. In fact, the us wants to contain China by the hands of his southern neighbors – the only question is, whether it is. In the same situation with territorial disputes in the South China sea – where the promotion of China are the concern of several ASEAN countries – see how the Americans play a defender in every possible way in an effort to strain relations between neighbors.

Russia in this situation acts in the eyes of ASEAN not just as a partner or ally of China, and as a third, not interested in cynical use of their countries for their power interests. And here the geopolitical weight of Moscow and the supply of Russian weapons can equalize the position of Russia with China and the us – for those countries in the region that do not want to get into complete dependence on China, or to become puppets in the anti-China game USA, the Kremlin acts as a countervailing, and therefore really need a partner.

Moreover, many ASEAN countries remember since the 50-ies, after they ceased to be European colonies, Moscow helped the establishment of their independence. Now they face a no less difficult task, and it would be strange if they were not looking towards returning to the global game is Russia.

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