Russian Security Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region: Two Views
Since the conquest of Siberia, Russia has been an Asian and Pacific power. The end of the Cold War transformed this entire region's security structure, a transformation that accelerated when the Soviet Union fell apart and was replaced by Russia. Russia faces new security challenges in this most dynamic of regions, which still holds substantial possibilities of military conflict. But there has been a tendency in the West to overlook the new Russia's place in Asia.
Among the objectives of the London conference was the intention to remedy this gap in our perceptions and bring to our audience an understanding by both Russian and Western scholars of the threats and challenges Russia faces here and its efforts to deal with those challenges. Thus, these papers focus on Russia's relations with key Asian states and with its efforts to obtain a military detente with the United States and reduce the dangers and threats of nuclear war with the United States. These papers should help to improve our understanding of how Russian elites view Asia and the challenges Russia faces, while at the same time Russians learn how Western analysts view their policy. This enhanced mutual understanding should contribute to the debate and discussion that began in London and facilitate mutual understanding among Russian, Asian, European, and American observers and audiences.
As a first step to foster a plan of regional security, it appears useful to start with unofficial, expert, and academic discussions on a bilateral (Russian-American, Russian- South Korean, etc.) and multilateral basis. These discussions would clarify the participants' positions and prepare the ground for the official negotiations. Thus, a political impulse is needed to start moving towards a system of collective or cooperative security. In today's specific regional context, including the differences of positions among various states, such a process is hardly possible for the whole Asian-Pacific region. The task seems more feasible at the sub-regional level of Northeast Asia where the number of the involved countries is not too large. At the same time, movement to an accord could be generated there rather efficiently, considering the vast expanses of the Far East and Northwestern Pacific.
In the context of a most complicated strategic, military, and political situation in that region, progress on strategic issues might be easier to achieve than discussions on conventional disarmament and confidence-building measures. Thus the Asian-Pacific countries face certain difficulties in elaborating the new national strategy for the region, and even more in working out the strategy for joint action. Attempts are still being made to solve new issues on the basis of the old stereotypes. Nevertheless, expanded and deeper military-to military contacts, greater confidence, the lower level of military confrontation, and Northeast Asian states' negotiations on a system of collective/cooperative interaction would contribute to military security and stability in this vast region of the globe.