ISBN: 978-3-319-69789-5 (print) / 978-3-319-69790-1 (online)

Pavel K Baev

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

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The political desire for Russia’s ‘pivot’ to the East is translated into demanding policy guidelines and expressed in progressively stronger statements. But in real terms, paradoxically, Russia’s engagement with Europe only grows stronger as greater attention and resources are invested in managing the evolving confrontation. Eleven experts who joined efforts in this thoroughly researched and thoughtfully argued (and open access) book examine various aspects of Russia’s attempts to connect better with the dynamic economic and political processes in the Asia-Pacific region – and agree that the outcome is at best disappointing. Moscow set the course to expanding its ties with the Asian neighbours at the start of this decade and the explosion of the Ukraine crisis in 2014 added urgency to this endeavour. However, neither flows of trade and investment nor the political interactions have registered any meaningful increase. Even the strategic partnership with China, which is supposed to be the main asset in Russia’s tough geopolitical predicament, has stalled and the struggling gas projects are not providing a firm foundation. A particularly valuable contribution from this book is its examination of the role of Russia’s Far Eastern regions in making the ‘pivot’ both more necessary and less feasible. Østevik & Kuhrt argue that the economic and demographic weakness of the Far East is recognized by Moscow as a security risk, and this securitization precludes any opening up to investments from China or Japan because of diminishing ability to control this risk. Russia expects escalation of many tensions in the conflict-rich East Asia but remains a bystander even in such dangerous confrontations on its borders as the North Korean crisis.