ad info

 > magazine
 web features
 magazine archive
 customer service
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
TIME Europe
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


Moscow on the Yangzi
Russia's new push in Asia offers opportunities for growth and peace

Just do it: Two good ideas for narrowing the gap between wired and unwired

President Vladimir Putin of Russia certainly knows how to make an entrance. For the week before he arrived in Naga, Okinawa, as just one of the Group of Eight leaders attending the annual industrial-nations summit, he dominated world headlines. For the "Shanghai Five" meeting in Tajikistan on July 5, Putin joined the leaders of China and central Asia. They concluded with a communique asserting a collective determination to resist aggression. Next stop was Beijing, where he and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin, easily found common ground in opposing U.S. plans for anti-missile defenses. Then Putin flew to Pyongyang for the first-ever visit by a Kremlin chief to North Korea. The Russian leader announced afterward an offer from his host, Kim Jong Il, to stop missile development -- a big worry for the U.S. and Japan and the avowed rationale for missile defense -- in exchange for space technology.

Little wonder that by the time the charismatic Russian president landed in Okinawa, he had plainly become the star of the summit. And the region will see even more of him. In September he visits Japan again and may also go to South Korea. In October he will be in India, and the following month in Brunei for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Asians have not received so much attention from a Russian leader since Mikhail Gorbachev's seminal speech in Vladivostok in 1985. Several years later, that initiative led to the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan and, indirectly, the Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia. But the U.S.S.R.'s breakup curtailed any further moves in Asia. The Russian Pacific Fleet rusting at anchor at its bases in Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk has become a metaphor for Moscow's declining influence in Asia -- until last week.

Putin's diplomatic blitzkrieg, if nothing else, is a way of saying that Russia is still a player, and an important one too. By extracting from Pyongyang a pledge to shelve missile plans, Putin dramatically and effectively grabbed one of the main strategic issues roiling Northeast Asia and ran with it. Never mind that nobody knew North Korea had ever been interested in space know-how. In Okinawa, Moscow's man threw out other proposals like sparklers, including a global monitoring system for rocket proliferation, ideas about solving West Asian conflicts, even having world leaders communicate by e-mail. No question about it: Russia is back.

For now, China and Russia have converging interests in opposing America's planned National Missile Defense for U.S. territory and Theater Missile Defense for its troops and allies in Asia. But it may turn out to be not quite as solid as Beijing and Pyongyang might wish. Moscow has the numbers to overcome NMD and may in fact be willing to trade deeper cuts in warhead strength on both sides in exchange for letting America build an anti-missile shield. Indeed, Moscow has proposed its own missile defense system for Europe. But if nothing else Putin has grabbed the world's attention.

Fifteen years ago Gorbachev focused his vision on developing Russia's vast Far East with capital, business expertise and technology from Asian nations. Given the country's dire straits and Putin's campaign against powerful domestic tycoons, Russia's need for foreign investment and know-how is even greater now. Add to that recent frictions with the West, and Asian business becomes even more of a must-have. In exchange, Russia can offer the region a wealth of energy and mineral resources, advanced weapons and aircraft technology, and, as its economy recovers, a market of 147 million people. Relatively few live in Siberia, and Putin is keenly aware of its vulnerability. Before leaving for Okinawa, he visited the Chinese border, where he warned: "If we don't make a real effort to develop Russia's Far East, then in the next few decades, the Russian population will be speaking mainly Japanese, Chinese and Korean." But that very statement shows that Putin acknowledges the force of economic reality.

Japan would be the biggest source of Asian capital and expertise, and the stumbling block there lies in the bleak islands north of Hokkaido called the Kuriles. The Russians seized them at the end of World War II and the Japanese want them back. In 1997 Japanese prime minister Hashimoto Ryutaro and Boris Yeltsin set a goal of concluding a formal peace treaty, which would also resolve the status of the disputed islands, by the end of this year. Japan and Russia will return to the issue when Putin visits Tokyo again later this year. In pre-summit interviews with Japanese newspapers, he gave little indication that he was prepared to make concessions soon. But his reputation as a nationalist who crushed Chechen separatists would make it easier for him to sell the return of the islands to his country.

On the whole, it is good to have Russia back. It is, after all, a part of Asia, a member of APEC, an ASEAN dialogue partner and a nuclear power. The country harbors a special interest in the eventual peaceful reunification of the two Koreas, in which it would play a valuable role as Pyongyang's old patron and ally. In Asia's drive to boost growth, peace and stability, moreover, a Russia giving and gaining from trade and technological exchange with the region is a big plus.

Now about those pesky islands off Hokkaido . . .

Write to Asiaweek at

This edition's table of contents | Home


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?


COVER: Anatomy of a Prize
From an environmentalist in China to a mayor in the Philippines, Asiaweek presents the five extraordinary winners of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awards
Public Service: Liang Congjie, China
Community Leadership: Aruna Roy, India
Media and the Arts: Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, Indonesia
International Understanding: Jockin Arputham, India
Government Service: Jesse M. Robredo, Philippines

Foreign Policy: Putin's diplomatic forays bode well for Asia

IT: Bringing more information technology to the great unwired

Letters & Comment: Against Vietnam's outspoken monk

DIPLOMACY: What came out — and didn't come out — of the G8 summit in Okinawa
Discontent: Resentment boils over in Naha over U.S. bases
ASEAN: The secretary-general talks about the group's bad rap

THAILAND: Samak defeats Thaksin's war chest to clinch Bangkok

CAMBODIA: The dilemma over the Khmer Rouge tribunal

INDONESIA: Wahid vs. parliament in the run-up to the MPR session
Megawati: Tired of following orders?

Newsmakers: Estrada's state of the nation address

Viewpoint: A growing sense of regionalism from Northeast Asia

Arc of Conflict: Caught up in Asia's war zones, how can ordinary people make a difference in the search for peace?
Federalism: It's been tried, but a new model is needed
Maluku: An orphan tells of his fear
Sri Lanka: Love and race defy battle lines
Mindanao: A scholar - peacemaker refuses to wilt
Aceh: Losing hope and waiting to die

Delayed Takeoff: The decision to put off the privatization of Thai Airways reflects poorly on the nation's economy
India: New Delhi is finally looking to privatize the skies

Investing: The rally in China stocks may be real

Business Buzz: Getting Ready for WTO Takeoff

Phones: Why China's local handset makers get no respect

Biochips: Computer scientists borrow from mother nature

Cutting Edge: Apple's New Crop

This week's news round-up by country

The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.