Russia Aiming for the East
The route of President Medvedev’s first overseas tour (Kazakhstan, and then China) hasn’t been chosen randomly. Some of our experts opine that Russia’s foreign policy in the East needs to be intensified due to several reasons. There are integration processes throughout the world – in Europe, Eurasia, North America, Asia Pacific. The European Union, CIS, NAFTA and APEC account for a half of earth’s population and almost two thirds of the world GDP. And the Commonwealth of Independent States doesn’t comply with modern challenges at all.
You shouldn’t expect unanimity from a body set up for a “civilized divorce” – it’s sometimes more difficult to reach agreement with some of the CIS members than with the EU. And, influenced by the global regionalization, Moscow and Astana might have some ideas regarding the matter. For example, they can create an integration core, succeed in it, and then attract other states using “soft power.” Besides, there are such integration bodies as the EurAsEC (Eurasian Economic Community) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). Moscow and Astana only need to settle all their oil and gas issues, which are sure to be discussed by the presidents.
Kazakhstan seeks leadership in Central Asia – a region where the interests of the high and the mighty intersect. Oil and gas are at stake. It much depends on Astana’s decision whether they’ll be transported through Russia, or omit it. It’s clear that the energy significance of Kazakhstan goes beyond the region proper – Kazakh oil is supplied to Europe and the Far East. There is evidence that in May Moscow and Astana worked out a common approach towards the expansion of the Caspian pipeline consortium from 32 mln to 67 mln tons of oil annually. There is also agreement on Kazakhstan’s taking part in constructing the Burgas–Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
It need be said that Kazakhstan has quite an influence in Europe. The state aims for the OSCE presidency. Whatever your attitude towards this organization, you shouldn’t disregard the presidency in it. While the OSCE functions, it is a reputation achievement for Kazakhstan. I’ve recently been to a political session of the PACE. Our Russian delegation supported Kazakhstan in its bid to become observer with another Pan-European body – the Council of Europe.
As to Russian President’s visit to China, it’s a natural desire of Russia, which is pushed aside by Europe, to consolidate its position in the Pacific Rim. Experts believe that Russia could become part and parcel of the region – not just oil and gas supplier, but a Western part of the trade space of the Asia Pacific region. Constructing rail roads that omit the unstable lands of Eurasia, APEC goods could be delivered to the European markets through Russia. It extends the economic borders of the APEC and diversifies the exports from the region. Today these exports are America-oriented. And diversification is a perfect means of providing security of the energy, as well as any other markets.
Medvedev says Russia-China force to be reckoned with
Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev, winding up his first foreign trip, said Saturday the world could not ignore the joint voice of his country and China, and rejected criticism of the alliance. Medvedev said it was symbolic that he picked China as his first destination outside the former Soviet Union. The two countries have been increasingly assertive as their economies grow on the back of rising exports. "Russian-Chinese cooperation has today emerged as a key factor in international security, without which it is impossible for the international community to take major decisions," Medvedev said at Peking University. "Maybe not everybody likes the strategic cooperation between our two countries, but we understand that this cooperation is in the interest of our people and we will boost it whether or not it pleases some people," he said, without naming critics.
A day earlier, Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao in a joint statement denounced US plans to build a global missile defence shield. Russia has been outraged by US plans to build the shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe. Russia and China have also been uneasy about US-Japanese cooperation on a missile shield. But Medvedev has stayed away from openly assailing the West in the style of his mentor and predecessor Vladimir Putin, who remains highly influential in the prime minister's post. China and Russia are veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, where they have coordinated positions on controversial issues such as Kosovan independence, which they both oppose, as well as the Iranian nuclear issue.
The two have also established the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with four Central Asian nations in a set-up similar to the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which has been expanding into Eastern Europe. "Our activity is not directed against any other country but serves to maintain an international balance," Medvedev said of cooperation with China. Unlike most Western nations, Russia has not voiced concerns about China's human rights record or its clampdown on protests that broke out in Tibet in March against Chinese rule. Medvedev told the Chinese students that he was looking forward to the Beijing Olympics, whose worldwide torch relay was marred by protests over Tibet. "I am convinced that the organisation of the Olympic Games will be at a high level," he said. "When I watch the Olympic Games, of course I will support Russian athletes but also the Chinese athletes and I hope that together we will win all of the medals."
But analysts note that a spate of disputes still mar ties between Russia and China, which had armed conflicts in the Soviet era. Negotiations have been bogged down on plans for a Russian oil pipeline to supply China's rapidly growing economy. They are also competing for Central Asia's oil and gas, which was exclusively Moscow's preserve in Soviet times. Hu accepted Medvedev's invitation to visit Russia next year, Chinese state media reported.
Merging Russia’s Economy
Nursultan Nazarbayev will suggest merging economies to Dmitry Medvedev Russia’s third President to make his first visit abroad Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is going on his first overseas tour. Today he arrives in Astana for an official visit, and tomorrow he sets off for Beijing. Choosing Kazakhstan as Mr Medvedev’s foreign policy debut, Moscow demonstrates that the post-Soviet space is its priority. Kommersant special correspondent Vladimir Solovyov, who visited the Kazakh capital ahead of the Russian leader’s arrival, found out that Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, pleased with the great honor, will in his turn propose a plan to Dmitry Medvedev envisaging a merger of the two economies.
CIS for the two
It’s not the first time in his life that Dmitry Medvedev engages in international politics. Prior to the March election the then head of state Vladimir Putin began to prepare his successor to address foreign policy matters on his own. First Mr Putin took the then First Deputy Prime Minister to important bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries, and after several master-classes of that kind he sent Mr Medvedev in Belgrade and Budapest to hold talks about constructing the South Stream gas pipeline. The present Asia tour of Dmitry Medvedev is peculiar in that it’s his first overseas trip as Russia’s President. It starts with a visit to Astana – a city Mr Medvedev arrives in for an official visit today. It’s likely that the status of the visit and the fact that it is made to one of the CIS states is meant to underscore Moscow’s special attitude towards the post-Soviet space. The majority of the Russian mass media have already dubbed this trip “momentous event.” On the other hand, after the eight years of Vladimir Putin’s ruling Russia, you can only use Kazakhstan to demonstrate the achievements of the CIS policy.
Relations with Georgia have been escalated, relations with Ukraine deteriorate day by day; as to Belarus, regardless of the longstanding process of founding a union, the situation gets permanently complicated. In Central Asia things are not that favorable for Russia, too. Turkmenistan, which has always been indifferent to the CIS, is trying to develop partnership with other countries, not only Russia, under the new President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov. Uzbekistan’s leader Islom Karimov, who seemed to have enjoyed closer relations with Moscow after the attempt of revolution in Andijon, has been more enthusiastic about the West. Dmitry Medvedev could visit one of the republics that are relatively loyal to Russia – Moldova, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan – but this countries are not that appealing in terms of Russia’s economic interests. So, there has been no alternative to Astana, which is linked with Moscow by impressive energy projects. “Medvedev could hardly choose which country to visit for the first time as President,” Birjan Murataliev, member of the Kazakh National and Economic Chamber of the Atameken alliance, argued when talking with Kommersant. “Why are there so many odds in the Commonwealth? Because for the last dozen of years Russia has barely cared about the outskirts. There has been no long-term programme of cooperation. Now the Russian government appears to remember that it once lived together with the other republics. In Kazakhstan Russia’s new President is expected to present a long-term strategy and mutually beneficial cooperation within the CIS.”
CES of the two
In Kazakhstan they appear pleased with the fact that Dmitry Medvedev decided to visit their country first. “Strategically, these are the most robust partners, friends and neighbors in the entire CIS,” Yermuhamet Yertysbaev, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Political Advisor, boasted yesterday. At the same time the current visit is important for Mr Nazarbayev not only for the reason of demonstrating his close ties with Russia. Officials with the Administration of the Kazakh President told Kommersant that during the negotiations planned for the present visit of Mr Medvedev agreements will be signed about using outer space for peaceful purposes and using GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System). Nonetheless, the signing of the documents can be considered a mere formality. It’s energy that’ll be focused on during the visit. Moscow, which last week announced intent to construct the BTS-2 oil pipeline, reckons that Astana will join the project as one of the investors. This proposal has already been handed over to the Kazakh party, who are now considering the form of their participation in the project. Probably, the details of cooperation in this area will be discussed today.
Kommersant found out that during their tete-a-tete negotiations Mr Medvedev and Mr Nazarbayev (at his suggestion) will pay special attention to another ambitious project. A source of Kommersant reported that Nursultan Nazarbayev is going to raise the issue of integration of the economies of the two neighboring states. “Taking into account the level of economic development of the two states, we suggest that Russia consider a comprehensive agreement on cooperation and integration, which could bring us even closer,” the official told Kommersant. In fact Mr Nazarbayev suggests that Moscow revive the Common Economic Space (CES) project, which Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus tried to bring about as far back as 2003. This time Kazakhstan insists on that the CES-2 must be built without Ukraine and Belarus participating. The Kazakh government opines that these countries impede integration, rather than foster it.
Yesterday Imangali Tasmagambetov, the current mayor of Astana, confirmed to Kommersant that this idea is regarded crucial with the Kazakh authorities. Mr Tasmagambetov is reputed one of the closest adherents of President Nazarbayev and one of his likely successors. “The President has always proved to Moscow that it’s pointless to tear our economic ties; on the contrary, we should integrate more intensively. Look what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine, Russia and Georgia, Russia and Belarus. And as to Kazakhstan, the situation is quite different. We do not aim to create another USSR, we just mean that merging our markets, we’ll become effective,” the politician deems.
Dmitry Medvedev won’t have to decide on Nursultan Nazarbayev’s integration initiative immediately. In the near future they’ll be ale to once again thrash it out during the forthcoming CIS summit in St.-Petersburg in June. And in a month and a half Dmitry Medvedev will have another reason to visit Astana. The thing is, on July 6 the Kazakh capital, which was moved from Alma-Ata to Tselinograd and then twice renamed on the initiative of Mr Nazarbayev, will celebrate its 10th anniversary. By the way, on the same day the longstanding Kazakh leader will celebrate his 68th anniversary, too. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister, has already received an invitation to the double fest, and today Dmitry Medvedev may be invited as well. Perhaps, when gathering together, the three principal heads of Kazakhstan and Russia will determine whether to set to founding another alliance on the post-Soviet territory or not.