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Washington DC Peace & Security Forum

Washington DC Forum: Russia's Role in Stability in Eurasia and the Far East

Washington, DC, USA - UPF's Office of Peace & Security Affairs hosted a roundtable on “Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia: Russia’s Role in Stability in Eurasia and the Far East” in Washington, DC, on June 28. Dr. Antonio Betancourt, Director, hosted the program. The moderator, a prominent scholar from a DC-based institution, wished to participate without attribution.

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The discussion brought together an array of experts on the subject from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) - Johns Hopkins University, the Eurasian Center, as well as representatives of the diplomatic community from the embassies of Mongolia, Mali, and Lithuania.

The roundtable addressed prospects for the Russian Federation to promote stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia, especially this year when Russia is hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vladivostok September 8-9. In the context of Russia’s multi-vector foreign policy, security and stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia is of growing importance; it is conditioned by interest in harnessing new possibilities in Eurasia and Northeast Asia through the promotion and realization of innovative policies for the social, technological, and economic integration of those regions, including development in Siberia and Far-East Russia.

Participants included: H.E. BaatarChoisuren, Minister Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Mongolia; H.E. Al MaamounKeita, Ambassador of Mali; James G. Jatras, former senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee; Arnaud de Borchgrave, Director and Senior Advisor, Transnational Threats Project, CSIS; Ralph E. Winnie, Director, Global Business Development and the Eurasian Business Coalition's China Program, Eurasia Center; Dr. Lori Handrahan, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University; Konstantin Krylov, Assistant Secretary General, Universal Peace Federation-Eurasia; Dr. Mark P. Barry, Advisor to UPF’s Office of Peace and Security (via Skype); Liana Vazbiene, Political and Cultural Counselor, Embassy of Lithuania; Lizzie ShaxuanShan, master’s candidate in international relations, Yale University; Vicki Phelps, former Current Issues Associate Editor, The World & I; Diane M. Falk, former senior librarian, The World & I; Dr. Three Feathers Kazimi, member, American Clergy Leadership Conference; Dan Fefferman, President, International Coalition for Religious Freedom; Tomiko Duggan, Director of UPF's Office of Embassy Relations in Washington, DC; and Dr. William Selig, Deputy Director, Office of Peace and Security Affairs, UPF.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Betancourt introduced UPF and then provided an explanation and background to the roundtable. He said: “This roundtable will discuss prospects for the Russian Federation to promote stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia. Russia’s chairmanship of this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit will promote domestic economy integration into a system of economic ties in the Asia Pacific Region in the interests of modernization- and innovation-driven economic development, primarily in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

“These opportunities also bring new prospects for regional dialogue and integration. In the context of Russia’s multi-vector foreign policy, security and stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia is of growing importance; it is conditioned by Russia’s belonging to this dynamically developing region and interest in harnessing new possibilities in Eurasia and Northeast Asia through the promotion and realization of innovative policies for the social, technological, and economic integration of those regions, and includes Siberian and Far Eastern development.

“Given last week’s first meeting between President Putin and President Obama at the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and the larger issue of the questionable state of the reset in US-Russian relations which the Obama administration embarked upon in its early months, the roundtable will focus on US-Russian relations as the framework with which to view the dynamics of cooperation and competition between Russia and the US. on the world stage. This is especially important given Putin’s absence from the G8 Summit at Camp David last month and pending controversial legislation affecting Russia in the US Congress. Within this larger framework, we will nonetheless address Russia’s role in the Middle East and in East Asia.”

How do you assess the current state of US-Russian relations and why?

Mongolian Ambassador Baatar described the relationship as “not so friendly.” He said Mongolia is sandwiched between two big countries, China and Russia, so it is in Mongolia’s interest to see a positive state of relations between the US and Russia. He said there are many issues, such as Syria and Iran, where there may be disagreement, but he believes the leaders – President Putin and President Obama - are skilled and experienced statesmen who will find common language and common ground and not endanger world security.

Mr. de Borchgrave expressed concern about Russia’s willingness to stand up for Syria and Iran, despite the perception by the West that it represents a destabilizing force. Russia maintains close military and commercial ties with Iran. De Borchgrave said China has been moving smartly all over the developing world. China has broken ground and taken over the economic future of a country, the Bahamas, whose nearest island to the US mainland is Bimini, only 50 miles away.

The number of Chinese workers abroad in projects underwritten by China was estimated at 3.5 million in 2005. It is now 5.8 million. In Africa, there are about 1 million Chinese laborers, businessmen, and miscellaneous "temporary residents." China's on-site workers get free room and board and each sends home an average of $1,000 a month, for an estimated total of US$70 billion in 2009 alone. China is getting far more worldwide influence from its sovereign investment fund than the United States got from a $1 trillion war in Iraq and a half-trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan.

With the interest on the money the United States owes China - $1.3 trillion in trade debt - the Chinese are winning friends and influencing people at breakneck speed. Mr. de Borchgrave pointed out that China clearly sees a permanent foothold in the Caribbean in its geopolitical future. The US Embassy in Barbados is responsible for half a dozen island nations - Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe/Martinique, St. Kitts - where the United States has no diplomatic representation.

China has an ambassador or a consul in seven of them; the United States not one. Meanwhile, the US (Voice of America) and Great Britain (BBC) are losing their global voices, victims of drastic budget cuts, while China's voice is gaining strength daily. Among the recent outreach of the world's most populous nation: a new broadcasting center now going up on Times Square in New York, part of a $7 billion investment in "global propaganda," reported The Wall Street Journal.

The US is planning the withdrawal from Afghanistan through the northern distribution network, according to the moderator, and apparently the US is talking to the military leaders of the Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan about leaving behind military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and Humvees worth millions of dollars. This is important because it is shaping up as another issue of contention between the United States and Russia. Russia does not like the fact that the United States is going to transfer so much military equipment and armaments to regimes that traditionally depend on Russian arms sales and are part of Russia’s sphere of interest.

What are the major problems and challenges in the US-Russian relationship that prevent it from going forward? In your opinion, how can these problems be solved? What are the positive factors, elements, forces, and narratives in the bilateral relationship that one can build on to improve the overall atmosphere and bilateral cooperation?

James G. Jatras, a former senior policy adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership, who previously served on the Soviet Union desk at the US State Department, said that during the Cold War, America tried to deal with the Soviets as “if we were dealing with a normal, rational, nationally minded state, which of course, we weren’t; we were dealing with Communists who had an ideological component that simply was not reconcilable” with US interests.

Mr. Jatras added that since the end of the Cold War, the same dynamic is at play, but in reverse. America appears to have adopted an ideological mindset that it must be the vanguard and arbiter of what is right for the world. He stated, “As long as the United States maintains this irrational hostility toward Russia, and maintains the notion that we have to run everything on the planet, then there will continue to be tension between the superpowers.”

The discussion revealed that some Russian officials were concerned that China is growing so fast that the gap will become unbridgeable in 10 years. Russia would like to use the remaining time during this window of opportunity to institutionalize Chinese international behavior. Meanwhile, one of the biggest worries of the Chinese is that the Russians will share information with the Americans and bring Americans into those institutional arrangements which up until now have been closed to them.

Ralph E. Winnie, Director, Global Business Development and the Eurasian Business Coalition's China Program, Eurasia Center, said Russia’s economy has been unworkable due to the interrelation of organized crime and political leaders and nationalization of foreign businesses. “The Russians are looking for successful business models but which allow them to retain power.”

Winnie said President Putin is very popular in China. His strong leadership style is creating popular support among the Chinese who are pushing for closer ties. The one thing that the Chinese don’t like is to be told how they should do things. They don’t want to be taken advantage of by the West.

Mr. de Borchgrave argued that the problem is compounded because the “US Congress is a totally dysfunctional system,” so the US public is turning inward. It represents a trend of which the Russians and Chinese have taken notice.

During the recent G-20 Summit held in Los Cabos, Mexico, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda presented an Akita dog to President Putin. He is trying to ingratiate himself with Putin, according to the moderator. The Japanese have their own interests and believe that Putin is the man to resolve territorial disputes in their favor. Do the other leaders of countries such as China, Japan, and the European nations want to develop good relationships with the Russian leader? Do they see something we don’t see here about the lack of personal chemistry between Putin and Obama? To what extent does it really hurt the relationship?

Dr. Betancourt said there’s a breakdown of the system and we have witnessed this for the 30 years or so and it’s getting worse. The dynamic of diplomatic dialogue has been broken where you let the adversary, person, group, or country speak and you respect the adversaries even though you may not agree with their opinions. Instead, he said, we tend to demonize the opposition, and the moment that happens, whether domestically or internationally, with a Saddam Hussein or a Kim Jong Il, then you no longer have dialogue. You cannot have a dialogue with demons. You have no one to negotiate with.

Mr. Winnie said most Americans don’t realize that Putin has a very close relationship with the Chinese leadership, having met his Chinese counterparts on many occasions. China is Russia’s largest trade partner. “The US has to get on the ball and recognize that the China-Russia relationship is only going to grow, and the more we criticize Russia the more likely it is going to move toward a closer relationship with the Chinese.” The first oil pipeline linking the world’s biggest oil producer, Russia, and the world’s biggest consumer of energy, China, has begun operating. The pipeline, running between Siberia and northeastern China, will allow a rapid increase in oil exports between the two countries. Until now, Russian oil has been transported to China by rail. Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer in 2009, and China has surpassed the US as the world’s largest consumer of energy.

Mr. Winnie said the warning signs are there for all to see. “It is in the best interest of the US to cultivate close relationships with both Russia and China and to put aside whatever misconceptions and stereotypes we may have about the countries and really try and forge the close personal relationship that is necessary to get things accomplished.”

H.E. Al Maamoun Keita, Ambassador of Mali, and former Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, said a “Cold War is impossible to go back to.” There are differences of economic strategy and security, but Russian-US collaboration will prevail, the ambassador said. It is the job of diplomats to find a framework to collaborate.

Mongolian Ambassador Baatar said the relationship between the US and Russia will change if Obama wins the presidential election for another four years. “The personal relations will surely change because the leaders of these two different countries will find some common language or friendly attitude, but the changes will be slow in coming.”

Dr. Lori Handrahan, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University, praised Ambassador Baatar. “You’re the smartest person in the room when it comes to balancing the powers of Russia and China because Mongolia has managed to maintain sovereignty when both powers have wanted to take you over.”

Baatar said Mongolia declared independence from China in 1921 and from the Soviet Union in 1990. The ambassador was the author of the “third neighbor policy,” by which a small country sandwiched between two big countries could stand upright and build relationships with countries other than Russia and China. Mongolia is dependent on Russia for 100 percent of its oil supply and 90 percent of most other goods. The ambassador said they are looking to develop new outlets with other Asian-Pacific nations. It is important, said the ambassador, for Mongolia to find and nurture common ground with its neighbors and to appreciate the common challenges they face in the region.

The Russian Ministry of Finance last year forgave 90 percent of Soviet-era North Korean debt, over $10 billion. This write-off goes against the US policy preference on the Korean Peninsula. The US would prefer to keep it as leverage against North Korea and at best put it on the table at the Six-Party Talks.

What do you find particularly threatening and/or promising in Russian foreign policy behavior? What should the US do to thwart the threatening elements and encourage the positive elements in Moscow’s external behavior? How would you define the limits in the US-Russian partnership in foreign affairs? What can be done to further expand these limits of US-Russian cooperation in bilateral relations and global affairs?

Dr. Handrahan said what’s happening in Syria deserves our attention. Innocent children and women are being slaughtered. It is very disturbing that President Obama and President Putin signed a joint statement that the Syrian people should independently and democratically be allowed to decide their own future, yet both nations seem to be pursuing diametrically opposite courses of action. “How can the President who won the Nobel Peace Prize cooperate with the leading supplier of arms to Syrian President Bashad al-Assad, who is killing his own people?”

Do you see any chance of Washington and Moscow reconciling their positions on Syria, or are we headed for a head-on confrontation on Syria between the United States and Russia with the US basically arming the Syrian freedom fighters and the Russians supporting the government.

Dr. Betancourt said there must be workable and diplomatic dialogue and the two superpowers should use their expertise to work toward a negotiated solution; in other words, an exit for the Syrian regime in which everyone wins. “Part of the problem is that our government is acting in a dysfunctional manner,” he said. “American democracy and American enterprise are now intertwined; you don’t know who is talking in terms of human rights, human values, the rights of women, the rights of children and minorities. American enterprise is heavily intertwined by the so-called military-industrial complex.”

Vicki Phelps, former editor, The World & I, raised the issue of trust. “Can we really trust the Russians? Can they really play a role in bringing us together? What is their motivation?”

Dr. Handrahan agreed and said: “You cannot have diplomacy with someone who is not an honest broker. Diplomacy is based on honesty, and I don’t believe we are dealing with an honest broker.”

The moderator turned the question around and asked: “Do Russians perceive the United States as an honest broker?” Mr. Winnie said each country has its own national interests and promotes its own national issues. How do you get your point across and at the same time promote respect for the other side, which may have a different view?

Mr. de Borchgrave pointed out that during this period before the US presidential elections, neither candidate will dare to criticize Israel for fear of upsetting the pro-Israel voting bloc. He compared Iran to Vietnam. Despite the violent history, Vietnam has been accepted by the US and the international community; Mr. de Borchgrave asked why Iran can’t be seen in this light?

Mr. Jatras doesn’t see much difference ideologically between the liberal and the conservative interventionists. He doesn’t believe President Obama is enthusiastic about new foreign interventions but predicted that a President Romney would follow a foreign policy similar to George W. Bush’s.

Diane Falk questioned the value of the United Nations in bringing about a peace plan, particularly to protect museums and libraries in war-torn regions.

Dr. Handrahan said the UN doesn’t have any power; it is a collective, voluntary organization of member nation-states so it has to rely on its members to do anything and that’s the problem of the Security Council because each of the five powers has a veto. UNESCO is a UN program that works in the area of culture and arts. By and large they do a very good job, even when nations don’t get along, so it shows that the arts can be a very important part of the message.

Ambassador Baatar pointed out that the UN is not a unilateral organization; it’s a place for the nations to find a common language. “I was at the United Nations when Colin Powell declared that Iraq had nuclear weapons.” The UN Security Council did not get involved, and instead there was an invasion that was unlawful from the point of view of the United Nations.

The moderator said the point of the UN is to give legitimacy to the action, and with a UN resolution there is a stamp of moral and legal legitimacy.

Baatar said there is a double standard operating today. Every country has the right to build nuclear plants if the sole purpose is energy production and not weaponry. We don’t know yet if Iran is producing nuclear weapons, so it is a very dangerous view to say it’s acceptable to destroy its nuclear facilities.

Yet no one talks about taking such an action against North Korea, which publicly has declared it is building nuclear weapons. We do not have the right to bombard a sovereign country. This is an international principle. “Why do these countries shut their eyes toward Pakistan, for example? I do not share the view that the Iranian nuclear facility should be destroyed.”

Dr. Betancourt said we should not forget that from the very beginning nuclear weapons development was carried out in secrecy, beginning with the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. Developments have never been transparent and have not been for peaceful purposes but, with few exceptions, for the purpose of creating lethal weapons.

Konstantin Krylov, Assistant Secretary-General, Universal Peace Federation-Eurasia, shared about the difficulty of operating an NGO in Russia. Before traveling to the US, he was interviewed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about his purpose and finances. It is important to remember, he said, that the history of American democracy is 300 years old, while the history of democracy in Russia is barely 30 years old. It would be interesting to compare where America was 30 years after its founding, especially if we remember that slavery was still institutionalized at that time in American society. Russia and America are not alike in many senses, but in the long term they are like brothers.

Mr. Krylov also pointed out that there is a degree of anti-American sentiment in Russia. The two nations don’t know each other that well. “I think in the short term,” said Mr. Krylov, “there will always be questionable periods and misunderstandings, but in the long run, Russia and United States will be allies. Our task as an NGO is to promote internationalism. A modern Russian is far more self-sufficient than the previous generation; he travels extensively and is likely to be multi-lingual. In a couple of generations, the United States and Russia will be not just allies but friends.”

The moderator asked if there are promising signs either in Russian domestic politics or foreign policy that can be built upon to develop a better relationship. Mr. Winnie said that he works with young Russian entrepreneurs who come to the United States to find business partners and helps them appreciate the capitalist system and how they can grow and develop their businesses in Russia through the use of American partners. In this professional relationship he sees very strong signals that things are moving in the right direction. “I think that Americans have to focus on developing better people-to-people relationships that can continue to move forward.”

Tomiko Duggan, Director of UPF's Office of Embassy Relations in Washington, DC, asked whether the US feels a sense of cooperation or confrontation with Russia, Mr. Jatras said it’s important for the US to change its attitude toward Russia and the rest of the world and find ways to reciprocate rather than dictate policy.

Ms. Lizzie Shaxuan Shan, a graduate student from Yale University, expressed a positive view about the young generation, thanks to technological advances beginning with the Internet, which has the power to share information and build instant informal networks. This level of communication was not available to previous generations. A more open-minded approach can wear away stereotypical thinking.

The moderator asked how we can reset the “reset” to move the US-Russian relationship in a more positive, fruitful direction. What needs to be done to reset this reset? Should we just abandon it altogether and come up with a new slogan and under that new slogan try to rebuild trust?

Mr. de Borchgrave said the biggest problem is the dysfunctional US Congress; therefore, any reset will not happen in the foreseeable future and certainly not before the US presidential elections.

While acknowledging that there is some anti-American sentiment in Russia because it is a useful tool for some people to promote their agendas, the moderator said, “Russians love American culture, whether it’s McDonald’s or Microsoft or Apple. Everybody has an Apple device and prefers American cars to Japanese or German cars. The legacy of US-Russian relations is long. The US was one of the first countries to recognize the Bolsheviks.

We were allies during the Second World War. The history of the US-Russia relationship is not as tragic and painful as that of Russian relations with Germany, which killed over 27 million Russians during the World War I. But, even there, Russia and Germany eventually found a way to reconcile their differences and build a new productive and positive relationship over time. So, I am optimistic about the future of the US-Russian relations in the long run."

Ambassador Baatar said he studied in Moscow for five years. He pointed out that Western European and American leaders mistakenly believe Russia is European; but in fact, Russia is a Eurasian country, so a different cultural lens should be used to understand them. Their character is different. They don’t like to follow others. They want to be themselves and stand upright to protect their own national interests. We should recognize the attitudes of the Russian people and why they admire strong leadership.

In closing, a tally was taken of the participants: the majority felt that the relationship between Russia and the US is basically solid and that we will remain close allies for the foreseeable future. Russia most definitely must play a role in maintaining stability in Eurasia and the Far East, but it is the hope that it will be in conjunction with the US.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following addenda are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UPF. 

Addendum #1:

“Chinese-Russian Economic and Political Relations,” by Ralph E. Winnie, Jr., Director, Global Business Development and the Eurasian Business Coalition's China Program, Eurasia Center

During US President Obama’s recent trip to the People’s Republic of China, he strongly urged China to strengthen its currency as tensions have escalated between the US and China over exchange rates. While both President Hu Jintao and President Obama agreed to work together on pressing international issues, Obama has joined many world leaders in calling on China to allow its currency, the reminbi, to appreciate. Obama contends that the currency is undervalued and damages US exports. Interestingly enough, the Russian Federation has been quiet on this matter.

The People’s Republic of China has become a major economic player in the world community. As China continues to grow, Russia views the situation as more of an opportunity than a threat. China has been successful in actively promoting joint venture partnerships with profitable Western companies. Currently, Russia lacks the ability to effectively integrate new technologies into the fabric of its economy.

The Russian government recognizes that the key to developing a robust and stable economy is to push for strengthening relations with China. Russia is eager to understand how China has been able to rapidly absorb and utilize Western know-how and entrepreneurial business success and seeks to emulate China’s relatively open economy. Privatized Chinese companies can now work together with Western companies to develop, refine, and control capitalism. By contrast, Russia’s economy has been characterized as unstable, unmanageable, and unworkable. It has been alleged that this is due to the interrelation of organized crime with Russian political leaders and nationalization of successful foreign businesses.

Many members of the Russian politburo have strong ties with oil and natural gas companies seeking to increase and expand their presence in Asia. Many people associated with these firms are former high-ranking Russian military officers, including ex-KGB officials who were among the most professionally trained in the former USSR. These people seek out profitable joint venture business opportunities, thereby hoping to prevent the United States from dominating global affairs. According to recent studies, many Russians have responded favorably to increasing trade contacts and ties with China.

Russians view the rise of China as the result of a more multi-polar world. While the Russian government wants to protect and defend Russia’s sovereignty, they recognize that the Federation may be better protected through closer economic ties with China than with the West. Many Russians believe that the Chinese respect a country’s internal affairs and don’t seek to enforce the ideals of a “global society” on other sovereign nations. Moreover, President Hu Jintao echoed the Russian sentiment toward US policy when, during a recent meeting with President Obama in Beijing, Hu mentioned, “We will continue to act in a spirit of equality, mutual respect, and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”

China is already Russia’s largest trading partner and its second largest export market. Leaders of both China and Russia have set a trade target of US$100 billion by 2015 and US$200 billion  by 2020. Despite the European debt crisis, China-Russia trade surged by 42.7 percent from 2010 to US$79.25 billion  in 2011, which, according to the General Administration of Customs in China, outperformed the growth of 22.5 percent for China’s foreign trade during the same period.

Furthermore, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, since Russia and China signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Co-Operation in 2001, the two countries have witnessed many breakthroughs in the development of their relations, which have reached unprecedented levels. Some of these achievements include settlement of border issues, $80 billion in bilateral trade in 2011, strategic cooperation in energy (oil and gas), the recent launch of a reciprocal cultural exchange agreement called National Years of Language Cross Cultural Exchange Program, and close coordination in international affairs.

On the political front, both China and Russia have agreed to continue enhancing mutual trust, promoting high-level exchanges, and providing mutual support to safeguard their own sovereignty, state unity, and territorial integrity. On the economic front, China and Russia are working on the establishment of a Sino-Russian investment fund with the initial capital of US$1 billion expected to begin operation during the second quarter.

The state visit of newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin was of great importance for the future of the Chinese-Russian economic and political relationship. Putin is relatively popular in China, and many Chinese consider themselves “Putin fans.” Furthermore, Putin is quite familiar with the Chinese economic model and has close personal relations with Chinese leaders, having met his Chinese counterparts on many previous occasions in both bilateral and multilateral formats.

Putin must continue his friendly diplomacy in China to convince Chinese leaders that Russia, a large energy exporter, has largely recovered from the global recession and that the Russian economy has greatly benefited from the increase in the price of oil. This issue has been reviewed by many Chinese scholars such as the renowned Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies, who supports President Putin’s assertion.

Consequently, in Putin’s short inauguration speech, he referenced Russia’s determination to strongly promote economic development along the Chinese-Russian border, which has risen drastically over the past decade due to China’s rapid economic development. Compared to Russia’s European region, development in its Far East has been limited. As China’s economy is on the rise, more and more Russians are realizing the enormous economic opportunities along the border. For example, “Yuri” is the owner of a clothing store in Khabarovsk which borders China.

It usually takes about two hours by boat for the local residents to go from one of the largest cities in Russia’s Far Eastern region to the Chinese county of Fuyuan, which is on the border. According to “Yuri,” at one time the variety of goods offered was much more limited in Russia, so he and a friend decided to start a business. Yuri bought the first shipment and sold the items via the Internet. What started as a trial run turned out to be a success, and now "Yuri" goes to Harbin to make purchases at least once a month. Like “Yuri,” there are now many Russians who travel to the Chinese side of the border for business every day, due to a special program set up by China and Russia to coordinate the development of Russia’s Far East and China’s northeastern regions.

While skeptics may point out that the commerce and business environment in the Far East may not be readily developed, with infrastructure lagging behind and the natural environment being quite severe, the Russian government is trying to make the necessary changes to create a better business climate for investors. This way more people like “Yuri” will be encouraged and inspired to set up businesses and prosper.

In short, China has what the Russians do not have in the Far East, human resources and technology. Conversely, Russia has what China does not have, and that is natural resources. The leaders of China and Russia recognize that strengthening their comprehensive strategic partnership will allow both countries to share these natural resources and create a win-win situation for both countries with frequent high-level exchanges further facilitating strong economic ties between China and Russia.

In conclusion, a realistic estimate by the leaders of China and Russia regarding the other side’s capabilities, a desire to implement projects that produce tangible benefits to both sides, and a recognition that the future of Chinese-Russian economic relations will be based on common development and pragmatic cooperation serves to enhance the reputation of both countries as strategic economic players in the world community.

Addendum #2:

“The United States, Russia, and Security Cooperation,” by James George Jatras, former senior foreign policy adviser, US Senate Republican leadership

The questions that concern US-Russia security cooperation in Northeast Asia are not unique to that region. In fact, Northeast Asia is an area where issues between Washington and Moscow are somewhat less contentious than they are elsewhere. Rather, the larger backdrop for this discussion is the peculiar ideological approach to the outside world the US developed during the post-Cold War period, of which our hostility to Russia is a subset.

That approach is based on the notion that the historic “mission” of the United States is to establish and maintain its position as the global “hyperpower” and “vanguard of all progressive humanity,” in the service of promoting “democratic change.” As such, we cannot tolerate any obstacle from any other country. All other states, and mainly Russia as the only other comparable military power on the planet, can be seen only as satellites or enemies. Since Russia under Mr. Putin is no longer the satellite it was under Mr. Yeltsin, it must be an enemy. (China presents a similar problem for Washington, but one that demands a different approach because of its role in our economy.)

A corollary to this ideological worldview is the proliferation of “wars of choice.” These include not only Iraq and Afghanistan, but so-called “humanitarian interventions” under the extralegal “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine. The showcase for this was the 1999 Kosovo war, replicated to some degree in Libya, and has now returned, front and center, on the question of Syria. In each case, Washington’s claimed “right” to dictate to Moscow set the tone.

As in Kosovo, as well as in other trouble spots, the US has adopted the Manichean notion that “the Syrian people” are pitted against the “dictatorial regime, which is killing its own citizens.” Nothing is said about the character of the insurgents, who although armed and funded from the outside are merely “peaceful democratic protesters,” with all violence coming from the government side. This is an exact analogy to the West’s arming, training, and financing the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the late 1990s. An armed wing of the Albanian mafia, with support not only from the West but from Iran and al-Qaeda, the KLA launched attacks against Yugoslav government targets (police, military) and murdered people of all nationalities (including Albanian “collaborators,” such as postmen and forest rangers) to provoke a predictable counterterrorism effort from Belgrade – which then could be depicted as “attacks on peaceful civilians.”

It’s no mystery that current news reports point to elements of the “Free Syrian Army” receiving training today in Kosovo, to learn not how to win a war – about which the KLA terrorists know nothing – but how to engineer the right kind of incident to justify intervention by NATO (especially the US and Turkey), supported by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. If successful, the outcome is predictable: the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power – with a horrendous massacre of Alawites, Christians, Shiites, secular Sunnis, and others – and Russia humiliated. (In Syria, as in Kosovo, the US finds itself curiously allied with radical Sunni, even Wahhabist elements – like those who afflict Russia internally in the Caucasus – to the detriment of local Christians. Few tears would be shed in Washington for Syria’s Christians, mostly Orthodox. Who in Washington cares about the Orthodox Christians of Kosovo or the mostly Catholic Christians of Iraq?

On April 24, 2012, I tweeted a heads-up for a made-to-order atrocity in Syria to serve as a “trigger” on a par with “Serbian marketplace mortar-bombings” in Bosnia, the “Racak massacre” in Kosovo, the “Benghazi humanitarian crisis” in Libya – and a few weeks later we had the “Houla massacre,” right on cue. Immediately, before the bodies were even cold, US officials were pointing accusing fingers at Damascus, and as in Racak (the details of which are still unclear, 13 years later), who can be bothered to go back and find out who really killed whom?

US policy, in concert with our European NATO allies, the neo-Ottoman Erdoğan regime in Ankara, and our Jeffersonian democratic friends in Riyadh, has shown a dogged determination to stick with “Plan A”: keep our jihadist buddies pumped with arms and money and wait for “bad stuff” to happen. In the event, since Houla didn’t pass muster as a trigger, Washington will keep trying – perhaps eventually another, even more horrific, future atrocity will. Either Russia (with China following suit) will succumb to the pressure to dump Bashar al-Assad and work out a “deal” – and get stung, like on Libya – or an excuse will be found to bypass the Security Council via the Kosovo and Iraq “coalition of the willing” route.

Moreover, Syria offers an advantage these other splendid little wars didn’t: a border with a NATO country. Syria’s violence already has slopped into Lebanon. All that is needed is a plausible encroachment into Turkey, and Ankara can invoke Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty for “defense of a NATO member’s territory” against “Syrian aggression.” Since NATO is a “collective self-defense organization” under the UN Charter, the war then would be ipso facto “legal”! The recent Syrian shootdown of a Turkish fighter might not have made the grade, but there will surely be other opportunities.

As in Kosovo (where NATO violated not only the UN Charter and the US Constitution by embarking on war after Congress had voted down the resolution of authorization, and then in 2008 violated UNSC Resolution 1244 guaranteeing Kosovo’s status as part of Serbia) and Libya (where NATO turned a nuanced UNSC resolution for protection of civilians into a license for “regime change”), for Washington, humiliating Russia yet again is not just a potential bonus but a prime goal of “winning” in Syria. It remains to be seen whether Moscow will (again) allow itself to be circumvented or tricked, or whether it will steel itself to give full support for the admittedly imperfect Baathist government in Damascus. At stake is not just Syria’s future or the stability of the Middle East – which is increasingly assuming a disquieting pre-1914 aspect, an abundance of gasoline soaking the region, and Washington gleefully flicking matches. Worse, with deepening tensions between Washington and Moscow, the last remnants of the rule of law and restraint in international affairs are melting away.

Addendum #3:

Notes by Arnaud de Borchgrave
Columnist, The Washington Times columnist, and Program Director, Center for Strategic and International Studies

200th anniversary last Sunday of Napoleon crossing the Memel River into Russia with 600,000 soldiers, still the largest army ever assembled. Only 16,000 returned the following December after the ghastly retreat we've all read about. About one million soldiers died on both sides in those six months, along with half a million Russian civilians.

Hitler made a similar mistake. And we the United States have not been immune to geopolitical mistakes - especially vis a vis Russia.

At the end of the Cold War, the late Fred Ikle, a superhawk during the Cold War, was the first to suggest that a new Russia be invited into the Atlantic alliance as a full partner on the same footing as the U.S. I wrote to endorse the idea.

Instead, the U.S. opted to expand NATO's borders to the frontiers of a new much diminished Russia by expanding NATO's membership to include former Soviet client states, while reassuring Moscow none of this was designed to contain and constrain a new Russia.

On the Euro missile defense issue, we kept telling Russian leaders this was not directed against them but against an Iranian attack in the future, which should be as much concern to Moscow as it was to the rest of us. In that case, why not bring Russia in to the planning from Day One? Instead, we moved forward in great secrecy, which simply fed the Kremlin's fears that there was an ulterior motive to the whole exercise.

Today, NATO's supply routes into Afghanistan through Pakistan have been blocked since last November over the incident that killed 24 Pak soldiers. Now everything has to go through Russia from northern European ports. Moscow and former Soviet republics collect transit fees while the irony of what happened to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan elicits jokes and smiles.

A new China, meanwhile, moved ahead smartly and swiftly in deploying almost 6 million workers all over what was once considered the Third World to secure mineral resources and develop future markets for Chinese goods. In many ways, this is comparable to what the United States did in Western Europe following World War II with the Marshal Plan - rebuilding  Europe to develop future markets for the U.S.

There are almost 7,000 Chinese workers in a country whose nearest island is only 50 miles from the Florida coast. These Chinese are building the biggest casino complex in the Caribbean, 15 minutes from Nassau airport in the Bahamas.

The United States, meanwhile, has blown $2 trillion on two unnecessary wars. Iraq had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear arsenal. I was at Vice President Cheney's for dinner with my wife 11 months before the invasion of Iraq. All the key neocons were also invited and I can only assume I was included because they assumed that this former editor in chief of the Washington Times would be sympathetic to the neocon viewpoint. Which was first expressed in a report written by US experts such as Richard Perle and other prominent members of the neocon group for Bibi Netanyahu in 1996 when he first became Prime Minister. You can Google this report under the title "Securing the Realm" the Realm being Israel. It recommended abolishing the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, annexing the West Bank, and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Thus, said the report, Israel would be surrounded by democracies and enjoy 25 more years of security.

In today's Iraq, where we have built the largest US Embassy in the world, with 1,300 employees - and all this at a time when Iran enjoys more influence in Baghdad than the United States. And this from the mouth of the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, speaking off the record at CSIS.

The US Embassy in Baghdad, in the heart of Baghdad's International Zone, houses 1,350 US government employees. In Turkey, next door to Iraq, we have 87 diplomats in Ankara. Delusions of grandeur still rule the roost in Baghdad.

The other tragic geopolitical mistake was Afghanistan. Our NATO allies thought they were signing on for seven, eight or nine months, not years. Instead of focusing on AI Qaeda, we expanded the mission to building democracy in Afghanistan. I did the only interview ever done - and none since - with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. And that was six months before 9/11 in Kandahar. He was already clearly fed up with his friend Osama Bin Laden. Omar said Bin Laden talks too much, issues too many fatwas, which he is not entitled to do as he did not complete his religious education. The CIA's Hank Crumpton with 300 Special Forces and 110 special ops from the CIA was first into Afghanistan after 9/11. They routed AI Qaeda terrorists and their leader and chased them out into Pakistan via the Tora Bora mountain range and the Tirah valley, where my Pakistani team and I hoped to intercept them as they emerged into Pakistan. We missed them by two days and there was no Pakistani army present to stop them.

It was clear to me then that there was no love lost between Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden. This would have been an ideal time to declare victory and leave - with the proviso that if Mullah Omar were to invite AI Qaeda back into Afghanistan, he and his regime would be pulverized from the air.

Now, after ten years of fighting, the Taliban are still in business and we are committed to getting out by the end of 2014. And there is no reason to believe that Taliban will be harmless in two years time. We have also told President Karzai that we would extend a safety umbrella over Afghanistan for another ten years after 2014.

No one seems to remember how the Vietnam war ended - victory for Hanoi came after the U.S. Congress yanked the rug from under firm commitments to stick by our South Vietnamese allies. They fought on for two years without US troops or US bombing or medevac support - until Congress, in its infinite wisdom pulled the rug right from under our South Vietnamese allies. And Gen. Giap and North Vietnamese generals improvised an offensive to take Saigon, which they thought would take another two years to defeat.

Now after two totally unnecessary wars, each costing about $1 trillion, we are finally waking up to the most important threat - cyberterrorism, cybercrime and cyberwarfare. An investigation I directed for CSIS in the mid-90s spelled out in graphic detail what we are now facing 15 years later.

China and Russia set up their respective cyber commands at the end of the Cold War. We set up our own 18 months ago. Better late than never.

When I chaired a cyberterrorism meeting at CSIS four years ago, the attending cybernaut from DOD said the Pentagon had been the target of six million cyber attempts to penetrate defenses in a single day. The Goldman Sachs cyber chief then said the financial institution had been the target of over one million intrusions. But neither one would tell us how many had been successful.

Four years ago, we had a Russian cyberattack on Estonia when every machine in this former Soviet satellite suddenly shut down - a warning it was then assumed against anti-Russian policies. Tantamount to a land & air attack in previous wars.

Our own Stuxnet cyberworm attack on Iran is very dangerous territory, very dangerous cyberwar and or cyberterrorism. This is the modern day equivalent of a land invasion. In many ways even more damaging. And the payback could devastating - such as opening or shutting the valves on the Hoover Dam, or interfering with air traffic control in a specific city airport.

Powergrids are also vulnerable, as is industrial control software, or ICS systems - the kind of computer-controlled machinery that President Obama authorized with the Stuxnet attack on Iran. There are myriad numbers of ICS systems accessible through the Internet.

Addendum #4:

Russia's Eastward Pivot: Circumstances in Russia Following Putin's Comeback and Japan's Reaction, by Hironori Fushita, research fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs

On May 7, 2012 Vladimir Putin was sworn in for a third term as president. Utilizing the "All-Russian People's Front" formed in May of last year as his base of support, he has been striving to act as a populist leader by gathering broad-ranging support from every strata of society. On the day of his inauguration ceremony as well as the day before, however, anti-Putin demonstrations organized in Moscow led to clashes with police and the detention of numerous protestors, quashing the hopes of the new Putin administration to benefit from a celebratory mood at the outset.

The successive demonstrations that took place following the lower house elections last December stemmed directly from the dissatisfaction of minority factions excluded theretofore from opportunities for political participation by Russia's highly restrictive laws governing political parties and elections, but they can also be attributed to a vague sense of anxiety about Russia's future. As if in response to the public's anxiety, Putin published seven articles prior to the presidential election that outlined his views on the economy, political reform, security, foreign policy, ethnic issues, social welfare and other topics. He is said to be working now on a "road map" to realize the ideas presented in these articles. Certain political reforms, such as the reinstatement of direct gubernatorial elections, have already been implemented under former president Medvedev.

Putin as the incoming president has been stressing his commitment to prioritizing the interests of the people and alleviating their discontent and unease, even as he has also been focusing on policies designed to boost national prestige, such as the expansion of the arms industry and the development of space and Siberia / the Far East. In conjunction with the APEC Summit to be held in Vladivostok this coming September, Putin has accorded his highest priority to development of Siberia and the Far East.

In his article on foreign policy, Putin expressed his wish to leverage the growth potential of the Asia-Pacific region, above all that of China, to invigorate Siberia and the Far East. In keeping with this idea, the Ministry of Economic Development has prepared a draft bill to establish a public corporation directly answerable to the President to undertake development of Siberia and the Far East; this bill is currently under consideration within the government. The draft bill would allow the public corporation to utilize the mineral, forestry and land resources in Siberia east of the Urals and in the Russian Far East (nearly 60% of the nation's territory by area!) free of federal restrictions and would grant it very significant tax benefits. Neither federal nor local agencies would be able to interfere in the activities of this public corporation, which would be subject to scrutiny only by the president and the Audit Chamber.

Strong opposition to plans for such a development corporation has been voiced both inside and outside the government. The Ministry of Finance has objected from the perspective of securing revenues, while the mass media has warned that the public corporation will become a new wellspring of corruption, that the birth of a powerful state-run monopoly will exert undue pressure on the activities of private companies, and that creating an "offshore" enterprise inside Russia will undermine the country's political and economic coherence. Putin himself is said to be positively inclined toward the creation of this public corporation, but it is unclear at the moment whether he will be able to overcome these criticisms and succeed in founding this public corporation. However, there is no doubt that the new administration will be dedicating its full efforts to developing Siberia and the Far East.

Despite the various risks in Russia noted above, the Putin administration's eastward orientation presents Japan with opportunities. Japan's need to secure energy resources has taken on particular urgency following the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, making the Russian Far East all the more important for Japan as a supplier of resources. There are undoubtedly numerous other venues outside the energy sector- infrastructure improvement, corporate network formation, environmental conservation, human resources development, etc. - that offer Japanese companies active roles to play. Fortunately, Japan has been interested in Far East development since the Soviet era, even participating in joint Japan-Soviet projects involving public-private collaboration. Japan should be able to make full use of this experience.

Nevertheless, there are some causes for concern. Rapid growth in China and South Korea has spurred the view among Russians that they no longer need depend on Japanese funding and technology. Indeed, Putin's foreign policy article touched on earlier repeatedly cited the importance of the Asia-Pacific region as well as China and India but made no mention whatsoever of Japan. Japan's diminished presence could prove a factor in discouraging opportunities to resolve the Northern Territories issue and other matters of concern between the two countries.

With the Russian government now 'pivoting' toward the Far East region, the time has come for Japan to boost its presence, increase its influence with Russia, and expand its economic cooperation with Russia through coordinated public- and private-sector efforts. In parallel with talks to resolve the Northern Territories issue, serious consideration should be given to ways in which Japan can participate in the development of Siberia and the Far East region. Needless to say, this will require that Japan bring to the fore the unique advantages from its Asian competitors China and South Korea. It must never be forgotten that Japan's strengths lie not only in its outstanding technology but also in such "software" facets as corporate networks, human resources development, and industrial finance systems constituting the infrastructure that gave rise to this

The article, reprinted with permission, was originally published as AJISS-Commentary by the Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies (AJISS) consisting of three Japanese think tanks: Institute for International Policy Studies (IIPS), The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), and Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS).

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