This paper considers the driving geopolitical, economic and strategic forces behind Russia’s current strategic fixation with the Asia – Pacific – Indian Ocean region and provides some key recommendations for Australian policymakers.
In mid-November 2011, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard held talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Honolulu during the 2011 Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. During the discussions, they agreed to continue bilateral dialogue, particularly in the light of Russia’s chairmanship of the APEC Summit in 2012.
A month earlier, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited China—an event that symbolised both his personal aspirations and Russia’s shifting geopolitical perspective. The visit to Beijing was Putin’s first foreign tour since his announcement that he would run for the presidency in the March 2012 elections. A successful visit was of particular importance, given the degree of scepticism and criticism that the announcement has attracted in the West.
The visit to China was also symbolic in the geopolitical sense. The choice to tour Asia’s growing superpower, instead of calling on a European capital, highlighted Russia’s current strategic fixation on the Asia – Pacific – Indian Ocean region (APIOR) as an area of growing economic and political value for the nation. After a period of prolonged decline and self-absorption, Moscow has considerably intensified its re-engagement with wider Asia (Central Asia and the APIOR), driven by economic, political and military– strategic considerations.