Monday, August 13, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Moscow, Not Beijing Threatens Russia’s Control of Far East, Karaganov Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 13 – Moscow’s failure to devote enough attention and resources to the development of Siberia and the Far East in recent years poses a greater threat to Russia’s control of these enormous regions than anything China is likely to do at least in the immediate future, according to a leading Russian foreign policy commentator.
In an interview published in today’s “Komsomolskaya pravda,” Sergei Karaganov, the deputy director of Moscow’s Institute of Europe, dismisses concerns often expressed by Russian nationalists over the last 25 years that Beijing plans to “seize” the Russian Far East (
Such projections by “domestic Cassandras,” Karaganov continues, ignore the fact that there are now “several times fewer” Chinese in the Russian Federation than there were in tsarist Russia and, what is more important, that China is currently conducting “an active expansion in Africa, Latin America but not to the north.”
Consequently, the foreign policy specialist says, he and his colleagues, who have just released a volume on “The World Around Russia: 2017” in advance of the 2008 presidential election, do not anticipate any “threat from the side of China” over at least that period of time if not indeed much longer into the future.
“The main threat” in Siberia and the Far East, Karaganov argues, is “our lack of attention” to these regions. “But this is our problem and not one or relations with China.” Moreover, he suggests, Moscow is now remedying its past neglect of these areas and will be investing more.
Over the next decade, the Moscow scholar suggests, Moscow must “attract capital and people from other countries in order to balance the power of China in this region” lest Russian inattention to these enormous spaces ultimately lead to a change of heart in China itself.
But at the same time, he stresses, it is vitally important that Moscow retain control of the exploitation of natural resources and other key elements of the economy there lest these sectors pass into the hands of multi-national corporations which American and European business interests could direct against Russian interests.
Karaganov’s commentary represents a useful corrective to some of the more overheated rhetoric of Russian nationalists on this point, but “Komsomolskaya pravda” appends to this interview a comment by Moscow writer Yuliya Latynina that may put both their remarks and his in the proper context.
Latynina points out that had anyone asked in 1980 what the USSR would be like a little more than a decade later, no one would have guessed what has happened. And given that “the country will be what we make it,” that could easily prove true again not only in Siberia and the Russian Far East but more generally as well.

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