Millennium Post

‘Putin will have to fight China for his Russian dreams’

At the far end of Russia's vast land mass, the S-56 submarine dominates Vladivostok's waterfront, red Soviet stars on its torpedo tubes symbols of Moscow's time as a world superpower.

Now President Vladimir Putin is looking to expand its reach again, declaring the Pacific part of its sphere of influence and proclaiming his country a bridge between Europe and Asia - while also defending its territory more emphatically.

Russia is an ‘intrinsic part of the Asia Pacific region’, he said at this weekend's APEC summit, held - unlike most of the year's APEC meetings - in Vladivostok. Analysts say the choice was an unmistakable gesture.

But such ambitions, they add, may not last and will have to contend with China's rising economic and political might, plus Washington's own declared strategic Pacific tilt.

Vladivostok's very existence is a testament to Russian expansionism -- it was founded after China ceded the region to the Tsarist Empire in the 1860 Treaty of Beijing and its name means ‘Lord of the East’.

Holding the summit there was ‘symbolic’, said Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, with one of Putin's reasons being ‘to force Russia to consider itself as an Asia-Pacific power’.

The Soviet Union had ‘huge military capability’ and ‘political influence in a whole series of Asian countries’ but Russia's military strength had weakened with the end of the Cold War, he said, while China and India were rising.


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