The center of the world is moving. While once it sat somewhere within the Atlantic, balanced between Europe and the USA, it is now moving east. With Asia on the rise, Russia is now planning its role at the heart of two continents.
The annual Eastern Economic Forum, held in Vladivostok, has just come to an end. Focusing on the development of Russia’s Far East and enhancing inter-connectivity between Russia and Asia, it has become a key arena for the promotion of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership.
The Partnership is a relatively new initiative. Ever since former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s concept of a Common European Home, Russia has pursued the objective of creating an inclusive Europe without dividing lines.
The aspirations for Greater Europe unofficially ended in 2014 with the Western-backed ‘Maidan’, which overthrew a democratically elected government in Ukraine, and confirmed that Moscow would have no place in the new Europe.
Instead, it would be organized solely around the EU and NATO. Russia has since abandoned the Western-centrist foreign policies it had pursued for the past 300 years, since Peter the Great first attempted to “return” Russia to Europe.
The Greater Eurasian Partnership is considered a more feasible strategy, in which partnership with China aims to enhance economic connectivity to integrate Europe and Asia into one large, united continent.
This is an appealing strategy for Russia, as it has found itself at the dual periphery of economic development in both Europe and Asia, while the concept of Eurasia allows Moscow to position itself at the epicenter of both East and West.
The objective of the Greater Eurasian Partnership is to develop a geo-economic infrastructure that supports a multi-polar political system, replacing the declining US-centered format of globalization of previous decades.
Geo-economics can be organized into three pillars: strategic industries, transportation corridors, and financial instruments. The efforts to link nation-building to industrialization in the 19th century have striking similarities to the geo-economics of region-building in the 21st century.
Britain imposed its hegemony on the world in the 19th century by dominating these three economic pillars: a leading manufacturing industry, dominance of the seas and key maritime corridors, and control over the main banks and trade currency.
To reduce its excessive asymmetrical economic dependence on Britain and its subsequent intrusive political influence, the US aimed to create a system of sovereign equals. The solution was the three-pillared American System.
A domestic manufacturing industry, railroad/ports, and a national bank. The French and the Germans adopted similar economic policies to improve the symmetry in relations and thus replace British hegemony with a more balanced system.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Russia eventually adopted the same three-pillared economic structure.
A formidable industrial policy to develop domestic strategic industries, and an abundance of railway transportation (including the trans-Siberian railroad) to connect its vast territory and connect Europe with Asia, and it made efforts to increase its financial autonomy.
Towards the end of the century, it had transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
The Greater Eurasian Partnership aims to facilitate the natural reorganization of the international economic system as the era of US global primacy comes to an end.
Decentralization away from a US-focused system will be achieved with economic connectivity across Greater Eurasia, and by diversifying and creating pockets of national strategic autonomy to avoid excessive reliance on any one state.
In a multi-polar system, there is a balancing mechanism against states that use asymmetrical economic dependence as a tool for unwarranted political influence, or as a weapon. Thus, both adversaries and allies are pursuing strategic autonomy from an increasingly coercive USA.
Similarly, if Beijing uses other states’ economic dependence to bully or extract excessive political concessions, then there are a multitude of other centers of power that will reduce their reliance on China.
This mechanism suggests China will have incentives to be the ‘first among equals’, as opposed to seeking dominance and hegemony.
It is pursuing a three-pillared geo-economic initiative by developing technological leadership via its China 2025 plan, new transportation corridors via its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing new financial instruments such as banks, payment systems and the internationalization of the yuan.
Russia is similarly pursuing technological sovereignty, both in the digital sphere and beyond, as well as new transportation corridors such as the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic, and, primarily, new financial instruments.
The EU has also been invited to partake in the Greater Eurasian Partnership as a way to end the zero-sum formats in Europe that have fueled tensions with Russia in the past.
As Europe’s economic interests gradually shift to the east, Europe is finding itself between the trans-Atlantic region and Greater Eurasia. The question now is whether its leaders will realize how rapidly the world is changing, and take advantage of those opportunities.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2021.