- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Russia’s Economic Role in Asia: Toward Deeper Integration

Peter Rutland


This chapter examines Russia's role in Asia, including to what extent Russia is turning eastward from Europe in its foreign economic and political strategies and what forces are driving Russia's actions.

Main Argument

  • Europe is Russia's principal trade partner. Looking ahead, however, Moscow desires to develop deeper economic ties with Asia, in part because of political differences with its European partners.
  • Key to Russia's new Asia strategy is the building of an export pipeline for Siberian oil. With a growing global energy shortage, Russia's Siberian energy resources have a ready market in China, Japan, and South Korea. Further development of Russia's economic integration with Asia will, however, be a long and costly process.

Policy Implications

  • With Sakhalin and Siberian oil and gas coming on-stream, Russia's economic presence in Asia will substantially increase. This development should lower U.S. anxiety over energy security in China and Japan.
  • Moscow seems uninclined to link economic interests tightly with strategic goals. Japanese hopes that increased trade will lead to resolution of the Northern Territories question, therefore, may be misplaced.
    • Though chances of sharing in the fruits of this Siberian oil boom are high, U.S. oil companies will need patience, a long-term perspective, and a willingness to play by Russia's rules of the game.
  • With high oil prices and strong economic growth, Moscow will not be taking risks nor embarking on radical policy changes. The U.S. should not take too seriously scare scenarios such as the specter of a close Russian-Chinese alliance. The U.S. is a key partner for both Russia and China, and neither country wants to damage its relations with Washington.