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Friday, Nov. 18, 2011

Historic choices for Russia


MOSCOW — Recently the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza stated that the foreign ministers of Poland and Germany — Radoslaw Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle — have worked out a common position concerning an eventual EU policy toward Russia.

According to the newspaper, the European Union will help Moscow to modernize the country, and Russia, in its turn, must move toward democratization and become a predictable partner in international and energy policy.

Is this a new beginning?

At the moment, it's not certain. I'm inclined to believe that current Russian rulers are incapable of securing the necessary political and social evolution. As a result, Russia has little to seek in the Western — i.e. European — direction in the immediate future even if EU leaders are ready to loosen their attitude toward the real state of affairs in the Russian Federation regarding human rights and democratic principles. (The latest Polish-German initiative suggests that they are not).

Generally, it looks as if there are not so many options open to Russia. Its own recent attempt to enhance the playing field for economic development by revitalizing the old integration schemes within the Commonwealth of Independent States and introducing new ones can bring only palliative results, at best.

As a result, the economic "twinning" of Russia with its poor and structurally primitive neighbors may bring little compared to the integrated Europe or the elephantine U.S.-China pairing.

Some kind of integration with the mighty neighbor — China — is surely possible. However, bilaterally, China is not a very good partner for Russia, because growing disparities in their economic potential promise — with a high degree of probability — a relationship like that between the horseman and horse, which cannot and should not satisfy Moscow.

On the eve of the global crisis, China's GDP was already 2.6 times bigger than Russia's, while corresponding figures for exports and imports have shown a 3.5 and 3.6 times difference, respectively.

In this precarious situation, an eventual solution for Russia as it strives to modernize its economic structure, develop the resources of Siberia and the Russian Far East, and keep intact the country's integrity can be found only in a wide and long-term recolonization scheme to be realized on a truly multinational basis — in cooperation with its Eastern neighbors and with major global players like the United States and Canada, Europe, India, Brazil, etc.

Unprejudiced analysis shows that Russia is the one and only major industrial country not yet engaged in the larger "twinning" game. And it is dangerous to remain alone when the lion's share of the country's territory and its fabulous natural riches represents a giant blank spot on the world map. More than 90 percent of the population is located in Russia's European part, in front of the Ural mountains, while the scarcely inhabited vastnesss behind the Urals looks very tempting, inviting prospectors and adventurers of various ilk.

It means that Siberia and the Russian Far East need to be transformed as rapidly as possible into the well-established estates of transnational corporations — that is, re-colonization on a massive scale. Of course, Moscow should strive to arrange a multinational mega-project according to its own scenario that would be executed under state aegis, though with the full-scale participation of migrants and investment resources from neighboring and other countries. As long as Russian sovereignty over these vast territories stays intact, such a scenario is quite natural and, so far, realistic. Russia should not risk losing this unique historic chance.

Genuine stability and constructive cooperation throughout Eurasia can be secured only on a basis of harmonious geo-economic interests. Today, Russia's geopolitical considerations, it seems, should be reduced to maintaining normal positive relations with all, starting with its neighbors (without any discrimination), and to showing equal respect to interests of both the strong and weak.

Naturally, the main responsibility for keeping the global nuclear balance must be carried out by the U.S. and Russia, without ignoring China's potential as well. The last condition does not look too unrealistic considering the large-scale economic "twinning" of the U.S. and China and its eventually far-reaching political consequences.

In this new situation, the U.S. and Russia had better not lose any time, and go for a mutual "twinning" of their own — preferably not only in the economic field but also in the military-strategic one. Paradoxically, the U.S. and Russia have the least "to share" — "to divide" between themselves through aggression and war — in the modern world.

To boot, such "sharing" would not work, considering the existing "overkill" of military power.

By contrast, in the geo-economic sense, Russia and America can and should enjoy obvious mutual benefits, thanks to a wide economic complementarity, though this is not as overwhelming and comprehensive as the one with Europe. The challenge is to develop large-scale and well-structured industrial cooperation across the Pacific, of the kind that for decades has benefited the U.S. and Canada, on one side of the ocean, and Japan, South Korea and, more recently, China on the other.

There is, of course, the problem of money, which is in short supply both in Europe and in America. There are plenty of more or less free funds suitable for investment in East Asia. Russia's resources complement those of China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. So, in the long run, to earmark enough money for the noble cause of jointly realizing a useful and profitable mega-project does not look to be too difficult a task.

It also appears that, in practice, such a mega-project could embrace an even vaster area including, say, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, in other words, the whole Asian wing of Eurasia (most probably including also northern regions of China).

Russian professor Andrey Borodaevskiy, an expert on world economy and international economic relations, is coauthor of the monograph "Russia in the Diversity of Civilizations." His email address is annabo36@mail.ru


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