Continental and Maritime Connectivity: Pacific Russia as a Part of New Eurasian Geopolitics

Another aspect that needs to be emphasised, and which is also related to the call to pay more attention to the broader regional needs mentioned above, is the infrastructural reconfiguration of Eurasia. New geopolitical projects, aimed at enhancing Eurasian cross-continental connectivity, have recently been announced by a number of Asian leaders, as well as Russia. Concurrent with Russia’s pivot to Asia, significant developments have been occurring on Russia’s borders, changing the patterns of international interactions. Among them is the reactivation of alternative shipping routes in the Arctic, the launching of China’s OBOR and New Silk Road initiatives, and the establishment of the EEU in 2015, which seeks to integrate the post-Soviet space. At the same time, Russia’s relation with South Korea, which is one of the largest markets for Russian hydrocarbons and is a leading trade partner for Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, also gained new momentum as Russia has come to occupy an important place in President Park Geun-Hye’s flagship “Eurasian initiative,” which seeks to increase connectivity across Eurasia with the goal of resolving South Korea’s major geopolitical obstacle, an isolationist North Korea. These trends are redefining and creating new regional networks, such as the BRICS grouping, the AIIB, SCO, and reinforces the global dimension of Pacific Russia’s re-emergence as an integral part of the Asia-Pacific region. All these dynamic processes as well as their impact on regional political economy prompt more comprehensive research efforts. Four chapters in this volume—Chaps. 5 and 7-9—provide differing perspectives that highlight Pacific Russia’s positions and prospects within the evolving Eurasian geoeconomics and geopolitics.

Chapter 5, by Jae-Young Lee, demonstrates how the political and economic profiles of Eurasia have been consolidating on the international stage, which has increased the importance of the region. Lee argues that the South Korean government needs to enlarge the “room for growth” to the north from the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, in addition to trying to improve relations with North Korea, South Korea needs to strengthen its cooperation with Russia’s Far East and Siberia, and also with Mongolia, Central Asia, and the states on the Eurasian continent. This, according to Lee, can be achieved by pushing a two-track development strategy that emphasises the importance of both sea and land connectivity. In this context, South Korea has developed its “Eurasia Initiative,” the goal of which is to reinforce economic ties with other Eurasian states under a new paradigm for international economic cooperation. Lee’s chapter analyses this initiative, and further advances it by highlighting feasible strategies for South Korea’s cooperation with Eurasian states. The main emphasis is on cooperation between South Korea and the Russian Far East and Siberia in line with the “Eurasia Initiative.” Lee presents and analyses a comprehensive “map” of links between this project and other regional initiatives promoted by other countries, such as cooperation with the Russia-led EEU, the Northern Sea Route (NSR), and the creation of Zones of Advanced Socio-economic Development (ZASD).

Anastasia Likhacheva, in Chap. 7, explores how Russia’s Far East and Siberia fit with the newly emerging infrastructure map of Eurasia. Likhacheva argues that since the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, many Asian countries, both developing and developed ones, started to launch various large- scale regional infrastructure projects. Thus, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) actively tried to promote cooperation and increase connectivity both within the organisation and within broader agreements, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP); the South Korean President officially announced the Eurasia Initiative; India has started to promote the idea of a new north-south corridor—a cross- Eurasia trade route; China has placed its OBOR project at the centre of its foreign economic policy, cultural diplomacy, military strategy, and internal development; and Russia, at the same time, has attempted to modernise the NSR, renovate the Trans-Siberian railroad, and make these projects important objectives of national development. What is the place, if any, for Russia’s Far East and Siberia in the amalgamation of these mega-plans? Likhacheva shows that while the Far East has a chance to be integrated in the new infrastructural network of Eurasia, Siberia, despite its enormous resources, technological, and human potential, remains mostly excluded from all major projects. Concurrently, Russia’s existing plans for the modernisation of the Far East and Siberia’s transportation system pay little attention to the major regional initiatives. This finding reveals a serious challenge for the Russian authorities, both federal and regional, and demonstrates that Siberian development policy needs to be reconsidered so that it can become part of the cross-border continental projects and not be limited by the development of the Trans-Siberian route.

Chapter 9, by Hee Seung Na, is related to both Chaps. 5 and 7 in that it also mentions the “Eurasia Initiative” and deals with infrastructure development, but distinguishes itself in that it has a concrete focus on the railway projects connecting Russia’s Far East, Siberia, and the Korean Peninsula. Na explains that to strengthen economic and social connectivity between Northeast Asia and broader Eurasia, the South Korean and North Korean railways should be linked with the Eurasian railway system. Part of this mega-project is the construction of an integrated railroad infrastructure network in the Russian Far East and the Korean Peninsula. Na explores the progress and impediments facing the construction, and argues that its successful development will help realise South Korea’s vision of Eurasia as “one continent” and “open territory.” Na demonstrates that the intermodal logistics environment around Russia’s Far East and the Korean Peninsula is changing rapidly and the potential for intermodal projects is growing. The modernisation of the Trans Korean Railway system and the Trans-Siberian Railroad is presented as one of the most important projects in this regard.

In Chap. 8, Marc Lanteigne calls readers’ attention to the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and its impact on the development of Russia’s Far East and Siberia in the context of China-Russia relations. Lanteigne demonstrates that since President Xi Jinping rose to power in China, Sino-Russian economic relations have greatly improved as the two countries have started to actively build bilateral trade links that are less dependent on the West. This trend accelerated in the wake of the Ukraine crisis and the deterioration of Russia-West relations. At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin started to strengthen his policy of reorientation towards Asia, while China has proposed the “Silk Road Economic Belt” in Eurasia and the twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road in the Indian Ocean. All these projects may serve to further bring together Chinese and Russian economic and strategic interests. Yet, there is another potential trade corridor, namely the NSR in the Arctic, which will significantly factor into the deepening economic ties between Beijing and Moscow, especially as this maritime link between Asia and Europe comes into more common usage. Lanteigne argues that the re-emerging NSR should be studied as the “third road,” which may link Chinese trade with Europe and further augment Sino-Russian economic relations in Siberia and the Far East.

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