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St Petersburg Economic Forum reflects new Russia tendency toward external cooperation

Editor: Zhang Dan 丨CCTV.com

06-25-2015 15:25 BJT

By Yang Cheng, associate professor, deputy director, Center for Russian Studies, School of Advanced International and Area Studies, East China Normal University; deputy editor-in-chief, Journal of Russian Studies

Thousands of companies and political and commercial elites from hundreds of countries converged at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum held June 18-20. Meanwhile western countries keep strengthening sanctions against Russia in the light of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, and fluctuating oil prices highlight Russia's immoderate dependency on energy sources and the chronic malady of its economic structure.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a plenary session of the 19th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 19, 2015. (Xinhua/Jia Yuchen)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a plenary session of the 19th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 19, 2015. (Xinhua/Jia Yuchen)

Visitors tried to grasp the future of internal affairs and diplomacy for such a great power in Europe and Asia by meeting Russian politicians including President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg, a city famously representing Russia’s development toward Europeanization and Westernization.

The tendency of Russia’s internal and external policies relate not only to peace and stability in Europe and Asia, but also to the vital interests of specific companies.

Before Putin made an official speech on June 19, it was widely speculated that Russia might select one of three scenarios as a key note: rapprochement with the West, restarting political and economic reform or further deepening of cooperation with China and the Asia-Pacific region.

According to the meeting schedule and the keynote speech by Putin, this forum reflected the complexity in the relationship between Russia and western countries and the diverse choices against such a background.

Through the arrangement of forum organizers, a series of meetings were convened successively as integral parts of the forum, including a business forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS countries, a Group 20 industrial and business leader summit meeting and other multilateral economic dialogue mechanisms mainly characterized by de-Americanization. There is also a meeting of the China-Russia Investment Cooperation Committee which fully embodies the increasingly close relationship between China and Russia after the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis.

In his keynote speech on the second day of the forum, Putin also lambasted the US, blaming the country as the initiator of confrontation in the world, regarding it as an aggressive country and pointing out emphatically that the initial cause of the Ukraine crisis should not lay with Russia but with the West's support of the unconstitutional coup in Ukraine.

That does not mean Russia has adopted confrontation with the US and the West as its basic state policy. On the contrary, these remarks by Putin and other Russian officials at the forum were sufficient to show that the pursuit of cooperation with struggle and the pursuit of an equal partnership are still the foremost strategy and priority of Russian policy towards the West.

Moreover, as the agenda suggested, Putin proposed that Russia’s concerns deserve “full respect and attention” and Russia was willing to restore bilateral relations with the US to a previous level. Russia wished to cooperate with the US on anti-terrorism, drug control and prevention of weapons of mass destruction.

There are some concerns that to deal with the tough situation of western countries strengthening sanctions, Russia might adopt an import substitute strategy, which would make its economy more closed. In view of these concerns, Putin and Russia’s business elites emphasized repeatedly that sustaining an open economy is not a formalistic propaganda slogan but an established policy of Russia.

But Russia might switch direction from opening to Europe and the US over to the Asia-Pacific region. That shift can be proved by the fact that of the seven political and commercial representatives sharing the stage with Putin, only the head of Knorr-Bremse Group and Greece’s Prime Minister came from Europe.

Putin attaches importance to China-Russia relations which can be seen in his appraisal on the latest development of bilateral cooperation. In his opinion, the linking up of the European-Asian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt proposed by China marked a continuous deepening of cooperation between Russia and China in building a common economic space.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli was invited to attend the forum with entrepreneurs including Alibaba’ Ma Yun, indicating that the relationship between China and Russia was developing to a new level.

In general, the forum initiated in 1997 and honored as a “Russian Davos” reconfirmed the basic dimension of internal Russian affairs and diplomacy: that is, stabilizing growth and adjusting internal structure. Protecting interests and seeking cooperation externally about Russia’s interests and concerns should be respected.

Apparently, the Ukraine crisis has fundamentally altered the structure of the relationship between Russia and the West, and thus has quickened Russia’s conversion toward the Asia-Pacific and its deepening cooperation with China. However, the changes are essentially determined by the general trend of the shift of international political and economic power from the Atlantic to the Pacific.



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Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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