TURNING TO THE EAST
Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 15
In reviewing the concept, some commentators suggested that it reflects a new Russian emphasis on promoting ties with Asia over those with the West. Although that interpretation seems to be mistaken–the concept appears to give roughly equal weight to Russia’s relations with Europe, the United States and Asia–there is no denying that the past month has seen Moscow looking primarily to the East. What is perhaps most noteworthy about Putin’s visits to Beijing and Pyongyang, however, is the extent to which discussions in both those capitals appeared to center on U.S. missile defense plans. This was certainly not unexpected. Russia has made preservation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a central mission of its diplomatic efforts in recent months and has attempted to use widespread unhappiness with U.S. plans for a national missile defense system as a lever by which to discredit Washington and to maximize Russian influence abroad. For all of that, however, the overriding focus on the missile defense issue during Putin’s discussions with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il made the Russian president’s visits seem one-dimensional. Promotion of broader bilateral ties appeared to take a back seat in each case.