Russia and Turkey maintain an interesting and volatile geopolitical relationship. The two states share many common interests and have significant economic ties to one another, and the leaders of both states have a good personal relationship. Despite the many areas of cooperation, there are still many areas of competition that fuel conflict from North Africa to Central Asia. Many experts assert that the Russia-Turkey relationship is one of cooperation based on “compartmentalization” of differences that allows the two to pursue shared goals while clashing on many fronts.
Turkey is a country primed to advance many Russian goals; it pursues a distinctively different foreign policy than the European Union and has provoked conflict with NATO allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria. Turkey does, however, clash with Russia over the annexation of Crimea, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, its position in Libya and its political initiatives, such as the Turkic Council and continued membership in NATO. There are also instances of direct confrontation between the two states in Syria, including the downing of a Russian Sukhoi fighter jet in 2015, which severely impacted diplomatic relations.
That incident in particular, and the subsequent repair of diplomatic relations, shed light on this complicated relationship. What holds the relationship together? What keeps the two sides from open confrontation? And how does the unique relationship between Turkey and Russia fuel conflict in various theatres?
Turkey and Russia share similar outlooks on the current Western-led world order. In Russia, the West is seen as an adversary which actively works to stifle Russia’s return to great power status and interferes within Russia’s sphere of influence. Turkey also views the West in a similar light. Despite being a member of NATO and previously harboring ambitions to join the EU, Turkey believes the West interferes in internal affairs and seeks to establish itself as an independent player in global affairs beholden to no one. President Putin and President Erdoğan both resent commentary by Western powers regarding their respective human rights records, both have scapegoated the West during times of internal strife, such as the 2011 Bolotnaya Square protests in Russia and the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Both states also share a common illiberal approach to governance as well as frequently refer to imperial greatness and harbor irredentist sentiments—Russia over some parts of the former Soviet Union and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is also important to note the personal relationship between Putin and Erdoğan. The two have met frequently, and the personal rapport between the two strongmen leaders has been essential to navigating troublesome periods in the Russian-Turkish diplomatic relations. The relations between the two countries were salvaged when President Erdoğan personally apologized to President Putin in a 2016 letter following months of fallout from the fighter jet incident.
Economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a key factor that sustains the relationship between the two states despite many areas of confrontation. Turkey is Russia’s 5th largest trading partner, and Russia is Turkey’s 2nd largest behind only the EU. The two states have prominent joint-investment projects and Turkish investment in Russia is around 10 billion USD with Russian investment in Turkey totaling similarly significant sums. Russian tourists are the largest contingent of foreigners in Turkey representing 16% of all tourist arrivals in 2019. Turkey and Russia are key partners in the energy trade. Russia is Turkey’s main supplier of oil and gas products—41% of all Turkish gas imports in August 2020 were from Russia. Turkey’s geographic location as a chokehold between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean makes it an essential transit route for Russian hydrocarbon resources. There are several pipelines including Turkstream and Blue Stream natural gas pipelines that allow Russia to bypass Ukraine transit routes. Although Russian oil and gas exports to Turkey are falling as Turkey seeks to transition towards LNG and renewable resources, Russia will remain a key player in the Turkish energy market. Turkey is currently constructing the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and has contracted the Russian nuclear company Rosatom to own, operate and supply the facility further strengthening cooperation between the two states on energy projects.
The true influence of economic ties between the two states on diplomatic affairs is best evidenced by the fallout of the 2015 fighter jet incident on Turkey’s economy. Due to the diplomatic freeze between Russia and Turkey, Russia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey and discouraged Russian tourists from traveling to Turkey. Turkish exports to Russia fell by 48%, tourism dropped by 75%, and the economic impact on Turkey was severe; it is estimated that Turkey lost 1% of GDP between 2015-2016 due to punitive measures imposed by Russia.
Militarily, the two sides have worked closely on several occasions. Despite its NATO membership, Turkey recently made a highly controversial purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. This high-profile acquisition was decried unanimously by NATO members who believed Turkey’s use of the S-400 would jeopardize the integrity of NATO weapons systems. This purchase caused Turkey to be ejected from the NATO F-35 and patriot missile programs and prompted some to question the future viability of the alliance.
Russia and Turkey are also both essential power brokers in active conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Although the two often find themselves supporting opposing factions in these conflicts, their cooperation has been a catalyst for uneasy ceasefires in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Both Russia and Turkey are likely to play a larger role in Afghanistan following the departure of U.S. and NATO forces in the country. Turkey’s closeness to Russia also stems from its diplomatic isolation within the Middle East and North Africa. Turkey’s relations with the neighboring states, such as Egypt and Israel, are quite poor, while its relationship with the fellow NATO member Greece is openly hostile with Turkey’s search for natural gas deposits in disputed waters remaining a major bone of contention between the two in addition to the long-standing historical grievances. Russia benefits from cooperation with Turkey in this respect as it supports Turkey in driving a wedge within the NATO alliance and between Turkey and the EU.
Although there are many instances of cooperation between Turkey and Russia, the two states are in active competition. Competition between Russia and Turkey is unique as most of the competition occurs close to home in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. Both Russia and Turkey seem to have made military intervention, or the possibility to intervene militarily, hallmarks of their foreign policy. They see the military as key to furthering geopolitical aims and both maintain large, modernized, and powerful militaries.
Turkey and Russia are both involved in the Libyan civil war and are interested in the oil and gas reserves within Libya and off the Libyan coast. They have supported opposing sides in hopes of increasing their influence over the next government to control the Libyan territory. Russia supports the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its leader Khalifa Haftar who is also backed by France, the UAE and Egypt. Turkey opposes Haftar and has put its weight behind the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. The Libyan conflict has raged on for years as a proxy war between foreign powers with all sides seeking to stake their claim on the oil-rich territory. Russia, who maintained close ties with deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is seeking to return to energy cooperation seen during his rule. Russian oil giant Rosneft has signed a 2017 oil exploration deal; although this deal has not materialized due to the ongoing conflict, it does signal Russia’s ambitions in the conflict. Turkey also has designs on Libya’s oil and gas but its most important goal is access to the energy resources beneath the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has become increasingly aggressive in its push to lay claim to the natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean angering neighbors and the European Union. Turkey has signed an agreement with the GNA in 2019 demarcating exclusive economic zones (EEZ) off Libya’s coast. In addition to this agreement, Turkey is also negotiating with the GNA on establishing two naval bases within the Libyan territory.
Turkey and Russia have repeatedly clashed in Syria, and it remains a particularly volatile conflict that has the potential to damage the Turkish-Russian cooperation as evidenced by the fallout following the 2015 fighter jet incident. Turkey is a staunch opponent of the Assad regime. Erdogan has called Assad a “butcher” in the past and supported Syrian rebels attempting to overthrow the regime. Russian involvement in the country has been aimed at propping up the Assad government in Damascus and establishing itself as a power broker in the Middle East where its presence had been limited. Russia has also supported some Kurdish forces in Syria to eradicate extremist groups such as ISIS. Russia has previously called for Kurdish officials to be involved in UN peace talks drawing the ire of Ankara. Russian military actions in Syria have also prompted a strong response from the Turkish citizenry. Russia’s support of the Kurds, whom the Turkish believe are linked to domestic terrorists and separatists, and carpet bombing of Sunni civilians has led 55% of Turkish citizens to view Russia as a threat. Russian and Syrian forces have also targeted Turkish soldiers in Idlib, and private military contractors (PMCs) from both sides have clashed throughout the Syrian conflict. The use of PMCs in both Libya and Syria have the potential to escalate conflict between Turkey and Russia; these groups maintain that they are not beholden to any particular state but the actions of Turkish or Russian PMCs on the ground may in reality lead to conflict at the governmental level. At this point, Turkey and Russia cooperate in Syria to a certain degree. Both are security guarantors and maintain significant influence over cease-fire/peace negotiations. Russia has also acquiesced to Turkey’s advance into Northern Syria to create a “buffer zone” between its borders and Syrian Kurds.
The latest flare-up in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also proved to be an area of competition between Turkey and Russia. Russia was in a difficult position diplomatically due to its collective security agreement with Armenia and typically good relations with Azerbaijan. Although Russian officials clarified that the collective security agreement did not apply to the disputed territory, it attempted to support Armenia while also balancing its relationship with Azerbaijan. Turkey’s role was much more straightforward. Turkey and Azerbaijan are close allies and trading partners, they share a common culture and heritage and are often described as “one nation, two states”. In addition to its close relationship with Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia are openly hostile to one another. The Armenian genocide in Turkey during the First World War and the subsequent treatment of Armenians in Turkey have led to the borders between the two states being closed since 1993. Armenia initially made gains in Nagorno-Karabakh until the Turkish intervention tipped the scales in favor of Azerbaijan. Russia became increasingly concerned about the impact of Turkish drones on the conflict and the potential for Turkey to maintain greater influence over the peace process in its sphere of influence. Although the conflict did not escalate beyond Armenia and Azerbaijan’s borders, it had the potential to drag Russia and Turkey into direct military confrontation. In the peace process, Turkey was able to negotiate a peace-keeping monitoring post for its soldiers and to help establish a transport corridor between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan on Turkey’s border. Despite Turkey’s efforts to gain greater influence in the region through its involvement in the conflict, Russia reaffirmed its role as the primary security guarantor through its peacekeeping force and as the most powerful regional influence. However, the continued presence of Turkish troops in Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh and the potential for greater conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has the potential to escalate confrontation between Russia and Turkey.
Central Asia and Ukraine
Central Asia is another theatre of Russian-Turkish competition and has been so since the fall of the Soviet Union. Turkey was the first nation to recognize the independence of Central Asian states that broke away from the USSR, aiding in their development and promoting Turkic identity in states such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Turkey has also sought to strengthen ties with Central Asian states through the Turkic Council, an institution that includes five founding members (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey) and Uzbekistan since 2019. Turkey’s presence and leadership within the Turkic Council allows the country to have an institutional foothold in Central Asia to counter Russian initiatives, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Turkey is not a member. The wariness of Turkish influence in Central Asia from the Russian side is evident in Russian efforts to marginalize Turkish accession to institutions, such as the Minsk Group which mediates the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
Turkey and Russia have also clashed over Ukraine in recent years. Turkey has been a vocal opponent of Crimea’s 2014 accession into Russia and has voiced consistent support for Crimean Tatars at the United Nations. Turkey has supported Ukraine diplomatically and militarily including through the sale of drones to the Ukrainian military—drones that proved highly effective in combat in Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite his friendly personal relationship with President Putin, President Erdoğan has been an advocate for an enhanced forward presence in the Black Sea which he described as being in danger of “becoming a Russian lake”. Erdoğan has also supported calls by Ukraine and Georgia for NATO enlargement, something Russia has previously described as a red line. Russia, for its part, has been increasingly active and aggressive in the Black Sea waters that surround Ukraine and Turkey, including an incident earlier this year where Russian planes fired warning shots at a British destroyer.
Why “Compartmentalization” and not open Conflict?
Turkey and Russia evidently maintain active competition with one another in several areas. Why have these instances of competition not led to open conflict between the two powers? Economic interdependence is a large factor in smoothing over many troublesome periods in bilateral relations. Turkey’s economy relies heavily on Russian tourism, oil and gas products and transit fees, and the Russian market for produce and other goods. The impact of economic dependence on Russia was made incredibly evident following the 2015 fighter jet incident and subsequent damage to Turkey’s economy. Russia, too, relies on Turkey as a vital transit route for oil and gas products and as a means to surpass traditional transit routes in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
Turkey, in seeking to establish itself as a more important and independent actor in global affairs, benefits greatly from cooperation with Russia in certain fields. With its economy in tatters, the prospect of EU membership increasingly unlikely and diplomatic isolation in the Mediterranean, Russia is a vital economic and diplomatic lifeline. Turkey also benefits from its relationship with Russia in the context of NATO. Seen as a constant threat to purchase Russian arms or enhance cooperation with Russia that will complicate the alliance’s efficacy, Turkey can put pressure on NATO allies for a greater role. Russia also benefits from Turkey’s role as a disruptor within the Eastern Mediterranean and NATO. Russia sees Turkey as its best prospect of fomenting division within the alliance and promoting its brand of illiberal democracy and authoritarianism. Russia also plays Turkey off of its Eastern Mediterranean competitors such as Greece to enhance its influence and economic prospects in the region.
Another factor that allows for the compartmentalization of Russian-Turkish conflict is the use of mercenaries and proxy forces in
areas of conflict. The two sides rarely engage in combat between traditional military forces with a few exceptions in Syria. Instead, the two support opposing sides and use PMCs to avoid the diplomatic fallout that accompanies direct conflict. It is important to note, however, that the use of PMCs and proxy forces does not necessarily prevent retaliation. For example, Ezgi Yazici notes that Russia conducted airstrikes against Turkish-backed forces in Syria following reports of Turkey recruiting Syrian mercenaries to support Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey and Russia have been able to “compartmentalize” instances of conflict and continue to cooperate on many fronts. However, with Turkey seeking to play a greater role in Central Asia and the prospect of escalating conflicts in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh it is difficult to discern whether the two will be able to maintain the status quo.
From our partner RIAC
Russian Authorities Going Forth and Back with Migration Policy
Deputy Mayor of Moscow for Economic Policy and Property and Land Relations Vladimir Efimov, in an interview published this mid-September in the newspaper Izvestia, a widely circulated and reputable Russian media, lamented that Moscow is still experiencing a shortage of labor migrants at various construction sites, now there is a shortage of about 200 thousand people.
“This problem remains today Moscow lacks about 200 thousand migrants. And we hope that in the near future the restrictions on their entry into the country will be softened,” Yefimov said, answering the question of the publication whether the issue of the shortage of migrant workers for construction sites in Moscow.
According to him, “the lack of labor resources leads to the fact that employers, primarily developers, outbid employees from each other, which increases the cost of their services. If we talk about the period before the pandemic, for several years, housing prices in Moscow have hardly grown. Against the background of the pandemic, the cost of housing has increased, actually catching up with inflation in previous years,” said the Vice Mayor of Moscow.
The announcement simply highlighted the inconsistency dealing with migrant policy and complete lack of foresight, especially what to do with migrants from the former Soviet republics. Thanks to these migrants, mostly employed in the construction fields and (cleaning, sewage disposal or removal services) in various neighborhood or districts, Moscow has won awards for being modern and clean smart-city in Europe. These migrants play an important role, most often underestimated, in building infrastructure and in general development of the society.
According to a survey of Promsvyazbank (PSB), Opora Rossii and Magram Market Research conducted in June 2021 found out that 45% of small and medium-sized businesses in Russia need new employees. Entrepreneurs still consider the unfavorable economic conditions caused by the pandemic to be the main obstacle to business expansion, and employing new staff requires extra cost for training in the social services sector.
Opora Rossii, an organization bringing together Russian small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), among other business organizations and institutions, have been very instrumental on the significant role by migrant force, its combined objective and beneficial impact on the economy of Russia.
Several experts, in addition, have explained that migrants from the former Soviet republics could be useful or resourceful for developing the economy, especially on various infrastructure projects planned for the country. These huge human resources could be used in the vast agricultural fields to boost domestic agricultural production. On the contrary, the Federal Migration Service indiscriminately deports them from Russia.
Within the long-term sustainable development program, Russia has multibillion-dollar plans to address its infrastructure deficit especially in the provinces, and undertake mega projects across its vast territory, and migrant labor could be useful here. The government can ensure steady improvements are consistently made with the strategy of legalizing (regulating legal status) and redeploying the available foreign labor, the majority from the former Soviet republics rather than deporting back to their countries of origin.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has been credited for transforming the city into a very neat and smart modern one, thanks partly to foreign labor – invaluable reliable asset – performing excellently in maintaining cleanliness and on the large-scale construction sites, and in various micro-regions on the edge or outskirts of Moscow.
With its accumulated experience, the Moscow City Hall has now started hosting the Smart Cities Moscow, an international forum dedicated to the development of smart cities and for discussing changes in development strategies, infrastructure challenges and adaptation of the urban environment to the realities of the new normal society.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged that Russia lacks a sufficient number of migrants to fulfil its ambitious development plans. He further underscored the fact that the number of migrants in Russia has declined significantly, and now their numbers are not sufficient to implement ambitious projects in the country.
“I can only speak about the real state of affairs, which suggests that, in fact, we have very few migrants remaining over the past year. Actually, we have a severe dearth of these migrants to implement our ambitious plans,” the Kremlin spokesman pointed out.
In particular, it concerns projects in the agricultural and construction sectors. “We need to build more than we are building now. It should be more tangible, and this requires working hands. There is certainly a shortage of migrants. Now there are few of them due to the pandemic,” Peskov said.
The labor shortage is not only in Moscow but it applies to many regions including the Far East. During the 6th edition of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), the demography decline and labor shortage have been identified as factors affecting the development of the vast region. With plans to build residential blocks, establish industrial hubs and fix businesses, these depend largely on the working labor force.
The Russian government continues discussing a wide range of re-population program, hoping to attract in particular Russians there, even incentives such double income, mortgage system, early retirement and free plots of land, but little results have been achieved. Russia’s population is noticeably falling, and now stands at 146 million.
The Far East is almost the size of Canada with its current population (a mixture of natives plus legalized immigrants) more than 38 million. That compared, the Far East with estimated 6.3 million is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world.
Kremlin has made this its absolute long-term priority, and the challenging task is to create an environment for investment and attract people. President Vladimir Putin acknowledged, at a meeting on the socio-economic development of the Far East, that the speedy outflow of the population from the Far East suggests that the region has not yet received enough support measures. “A lot is being done, but it is still not enough if we observe an outflow of the population.”
President Vladimir Putin has already approved a list of instructions aimed at reforming the migration requirements and the institution of citizenship in Russia, based on the proposals drafted by the working group for implementation of the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025.
“Within the framework of the working group for implementation of the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025, the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation shall organize work aimed at reforming the migration requirements and the institution of citizenship of the Russian Federation,” an official statement posted to Kremlin website.
In addition, the president ordered the Government, the Interior and Foreign Ministries, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Justice Ministry alongside the Presidential Executive Office to make amendments to the plan of action for 2019-2021, aimed at implementing the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025.
Russia’s Far East: Transforming the Space into Modern Habitable Region
Early September the 6th edition of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) under the theme “New Opportunities for the Far East in a Changed World” was held and considered as vital for strengthening especially economic ties among Asia-Pacific countries and the Far East region of Russia. What is known as the Far East covers approximately 40% of Russia’s territory.
The Far East is almost the size of Canada with its current population (a mixture of natives plus legalized immigrants) more than 38 million. That compared, the Far East with estimated 6.3 million is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world. The Russian government continues discussing a wide range of re-population programmes, hoping to attract in particular Russians there, even incentives such double income, mortgage system, early retirement and free plots of land, but little results have been recorded.
The September forum, and all the previous ones, focused on raising sustainable development that primarily includes infrastructure, business investment and people. The question is on human habitation and sustenance, but this vast region of the country is sparsely inhabited. Kremlin has made this its absolute long-term priority, and the challenging task is to create an environment for investment and attract people.
President Vladimir Putin acknowledged, at a meeting on the socio-economic development of the Far East, that the speedy outflow of the population from the Far East suggests that the region has not yet received enough support measures. “A lot is being done, but it is still not enough if we observe an outflow of the population.”
“Our historical task is not only to keep people in the territories that were mastered by our ancestors for centuries, but to increase the population,” the Russian leader said. Putin stated that the rate of the outflow of people had decreased, but had not stopped. He called the growth of the population in the Russian Far East a “historical task.”
For this purpose, it is necessary to develop production capacities, create jobs, and ensure people’s incomes. At the same time, Putin also called on using the resources that have already been allocated to the region. “Considerable resources have been allocated and they need to be used effectively,” he suggested, addressing the opening of the Far East Economic Forum.
The September gathering brought together Russian and foreign entrepreneurs, politicians, experts, and representatives of the media as well as public organizations to exchange experiences and ideas, discuss the most pressing business and development issues and map out useful joint projects and initiatives for the region. Many of the speakers were very frank and objective in speeches, highlighted ways for developing the region.
The average Far Eastern city fares about 10% worse than the Russian average in terms of housing provision and quality of medical services. “We need intensive breakthrough development. Master plans involving the integrated development of the region could provide the key to this development. What is required is a resource center for urban development covering the Far Eastern Federal District. Secondly, the region is facing a severe shortage of highly skilled workers, especially in architecture and urban planning,” Architect and Partner at KB Strelka, Alexey Muratov told the session on Urban Planning.
The Far Eastern Federal District has significant economic potential and is of interest to both local and foreign business, but there is an imbalance between investment and economic potential in the region. For Artem Dovlatov, Deputy Chairman and Member of the Management Board of VEB of the Russian Federation, “the Far East is a very interesting region and of particular importance to the government. This is why the Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that the Far East will be a priority region for Russia in the 21st century. From the perspective of investors, the region is of serious interest. It benefits from vast resources, proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, and diverse scientific and technological potential.”
“There are certain barriers, of course, and investors still approach investing in the region with a degree of caution, since the barriers are objective. They are associated with the population (a lack of staff) and there are costs related to construction… The Far East is a highly urbanized region. This presents a huge challenge because we need to increase quality of life in the cities in order to prevent outward migration or attract new residents. Strategic planning in cities is needed here,” added Dovlatov.
Further at the different session, Alexey Muratov, Architect and Partner at KB Strelka, simply puts it, “there aren’t enough people in the Far East. The region accounts for 40% of the country’s land mass but only 5.5% of its inhabitants. How can we solve the central challenge, which is to say the imbalance of economic and investment potential? The first and most obvious solution relates to rotation work. Modern workers’ settlements are in no way inferior to cities in terms of comfort. The second option is to attract residents to cities in order to create new jobs. The issue of the urban environment and quality of life is relevant here. According to all polls, quality of life is the key factor behind outward migration.”
Nikolay Kharitonov, Chairman of the Committee for Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, has, however, expressed worries about to curb migration from the Far East. “Getting a Far Eastern hectare helps people to get settled here [in the Far East] instead of leaving for the south or elsewhere,” he said, adding that for transforming the region, it need transportation network, good infrastructure and social facilities, employment opportunities and conditions for habitation.
Admittedly, lack of social infrastructure constitutes a big hinderance to many projects. “Social infrastructure is of vital importance to the Far East. If people are fleeing the region, how can we motivate them to stay here? They need the right social infrastructure: health care, education, and everything in between,” according to the views of the Chief Executive Officer of VTB Infrastructure Holding Oleg Pankratov.
The Far East offers a platform for Russia’s entry into global markets and attracting international investment. Russia is seeking to take its place in the global system of division of labor, so it’s concentrating on projects with high added value. “Russia currently has the best conditions in the world to attract human resources and financial resources and take the next technological step. Why would you just come to the Russian market? Let’s manufacture things here for the whole world to compete with other centres of power, relatively speaking. The Russian government has to provide the best conditions for this,” pointed out Arnika Holding President Alexander Generalov.
Some foreign participants say it is necessary to expand support measures for business startups, consistently attempt to identify and remove development obstacles. “The Chinese experience is that high technologies and companies always play a very important role in the development of the local economy. We help them with resources, we allocate resources, and you do that too. The tech park should be connected to all resources and the international market. And human resources are very important. If you don’t have a good team to help startups, nothing will happen,” says International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation Vice Chairman Chen Herbert.
On one hand, entrepreneurs have little trust in the government due to its excessive control and supervision. There are still many problems including bureaucracy and red tape. On the other hand, based on the tasks defined by the country’s leadership, a set of measures is being implemented to enhance the business climate.
The regulatory framework is being improved in the most important and problematic areas of government regulation. Institutions and infrastructure are being created for the development of investment activity. The best practices to support entrepreneurship are being introduced, including mechanisms for direct financial assistance, concessional lending, tax incentives, and moratorium on government inspections.
Developing the transport and logistics infrastructure. The carrying capacity of the railways needs to be increased, to develop and upgrade the Trans-Siberian Railway. “Russia’s leadership also has concerns regarding the opportunities offered by the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is indeed a problem, because it is a major factor hindering economic growth in Russia, both in terms of foreign trade, and in terms of domestic transportation. We expect carrying capacity to be expanded in the near future,” believes Sergey Katyrin, President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.
The potential exists for Russia and South Korea to cooperate across a broad range of areas, including industry, energy, and the environment. “We particularly want to highlight the cooperation that has taken shape in relation to smart city projects, industrial parks, and multimodal terminals for shipping in Primorye Territory. One of our assets is a joint venture with the Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex. We have also acquired a grain terminal and are developing this business in Primorye Territory. Collaboration between our two nations is increasing in energy, fishing, and other areas,” Christopher Koo, Chairman, Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
“South Korea has traversed a fairly long path in relation to the creation of a waste management system in the early 1990s. Since that time, the system has come to closely reflect our own targets in terms of waste disposal. At the start of this journey, virtually 80% of waste in South Korea went to landfill sites. Today, more than 60% is recycled. In Russia, the President has set the objective of processing – i.e., sorting – 100% of waste, and utilizing 50% of it by 2030. Naturally, we would be delighted to employ technological solutions in this area which have been implemented in South Korea,” added Denis Butsayev, General Director, Russian Environmental Operator Public Law Company.
Besides South Korea, a number foreign countries strike deals at the forum, most of from the Asian Pacific region. Russia and Japan signed deals. China also signed several deals there as Russia has fast developing bilateral relations and both are members of BRICS. For instance, China has the following from the documents:
China Railway International Group and Primorye Territory signed a statement of mutual interest and intent to implement an investment project for the Construction of Vladivostok ring road in Primorye Territory. Stage 1: Russky Island – Yelena Island – Ulitsa Kazanskaya in Primorye Territory. Investment volume: RUB 75 billion.
VEB.RF and the ZED Development project company (part of Region Group) signed a cooperation agreement for the construction of an aerial lift across the Amur river at the section of the Russian-Chinese national border linking the cities of Blagoveshchensk (Russia) and Heihe (China). The construction project is being implemented jointly by the Russian investor and its Chinese partner, the China Railway Construction Corporation. VEB.RF will invest RUB 2 billion.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim of establishing and strengthening cooperation on labour and social security issues of mutual interest.
Pharmeco and the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs in Russia signed a partnership agreement with the aim of developing cooperation between Russian and Chinese organizations and Asia-Pacific countries in the field of pharmacology and the construction of healthcare facilities.
Zeleny Bulvar and KitayStroy signed a cooperation agreement on the construction of residential real estate in Vladivostok. Two 25-floor apartment buildings are set to be built in the Zeleny Ugol neighbourhood of Vladivostok by 2025.
Stroytransgaz and KitayStroy signed an agreement on the implementation of a project to build a museum and accompanying educational and cultural centre in Vladivostok.
The Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, VEB.RF, ECN Group and Marubeni Corporation signed an agreement to implement a project to produce ships using methanol fuel at the Zvezda shipyard.
GTLK and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines signed an agreement for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines to make an equity investment in GTLK Asia Maritime.
The Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan signed a bilateral agreement on the supply of LNG and gas condensate.
Novatek and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) signed an agreement on strategic cooperation on low-carbon projects.
The Europlast Primorsky Plant and Ryozai Kaihatsu signed a memorandum of cooperation on the expansion of exports to Japan between the parties.
The Europlast Primorsky Plant and Ryozai Kaihatsu signed a contract on the sale and purchase of PET preforms.
It is expected that the Far East will continue attracting investments, both Russian and foreign. “We will continue to try to constantly create new development opportunities, thus securing for the Far East this status of a testing ground for management technologies associated with the development of the region,” Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev said at the conference following the forum.
According to the official forum documents: “More than 380 agreements were signed at the forum. International and foreign companies, organizations, ministries and departments have signed 24 documents – 9 with China, 6 with Japan, 3 with Kazakhstan, by one agreement each with Austria, Vietnam, Canada, Serbia and Ethiopia.” And that agreements totaling 3.6 trillion rubles (US$49 billion) were signed at the Eastern Economic Forum (including agreements, the amount of which is not a commercial secret).
Until 2000, the Russian Far East lacked officially defined boundaries, according to historical archival documents. A single term “Siberia and the Far East” often referred to the regions east of the Urals without drawing a clear distinction between “Siberia” and “the Far East” on the territory of Russia. That however, the Far East is generally considered as the easternmost territory of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean.
The Fall of Kabul and the Balance of Power in Greater Eurasia
The uniqueness of historical events is determined by the conditions in which they occur. States always act in the same way — what changes is the conditions that force them to act in one way or another, but, most importantly, any change in context leads to fundamentally different consequences of similar events. The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in February 1989 became possible precisely on the eve of truly global political changes — the end of the Cold War as a result of the de facto defeat of the USSR and its subsequent collapse.
Likewise, the disastrous end of 20 years’ of the US and allies’ presence in Afghanistan is of fundamental importance not in itself, but in the context of a changing global balance of power and a general reduction in the ability of Western countries to play a decisive role in international politics and the world economy. What matters is not the fact of another defeat of the United States — there have been and will be many victories and failures in the military history of this power, but in what circumstances this happens. Now the events in Afghanistan are unfolding amid the growth of the Chinese power and, at the same time, the ability of Moscow and Beijing to coordinate their actions on the most important issues for the state of affairs in Eurasia.
The effects of important events equally depend on the circumstances — short-term or strategic ones. The coming to power of a radical religious movement in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s prompted an attempt by the United States to consolidate its ability to determine the development of world politics. Then any actions of the Taliban on the sovereign territory of Afghanistan became a legitimate reason for international attention and, most often, condemnation. The military intervention of Western countries in Afghanistan received almost the same support as the international operation to liberate Kuwait in 1991.
In the longer term, the establishment in 1996 of a radical regime in Kabul created conditions for the expansion of the presence of the United States and states close to it in central Eurasia. The vulnerability of the Central Asian countries to influence from Washington has significantly increased. But also in Tashkent or Astana there were own efforts to balance Russian and growing Chinese influence in the region with reliance on the West. Until 2014, the United States maintained a direct military presence in the region in the form of bases and logistics centres where the American military was stationed.
But in 2021, the return of the Taliban to Kabul, following the sudden fall of the republican government of Ashraf Ghani, will have very different consequences. First of all, it leads to the further strengthening of China, to better conditions for Russia and a weakening of the West in its fierce competition with Moscow and Beijing. What the Taliban are doing or can do inside the country is not a reason for the general denial of their right to exist. The international context has changed, including in terms of the value dimension of politics and its role in making the most important decisions. Strategically, the return of the radicals to power could lead to the stabilisation of the region, a significant decrease in the United States’ ability to influence its countries and the relative isolation of India, as the country that most closely connects its future with the West.
We do not know if peace in Afghanistan becomes a reality. However, right now, for the first time in the past 40 years, internal political stabilisation in this country has the most solid foundation. First, it is a military victory for a relatively consolidated political movement with a unified leadership and control system. Second, the agreement of the leading regional powers like Russia and China that the Taliban movement should be given a chance to show prudent behaviour inside and outside. For China, this is cooperation in the implementation of major economic projects and refusal to support those religious groups that pose a threat to the security on the Chinese territory. For Russia, this means the absence of aggressive intentions towards the countries of Central Asia. To independently ensure its security, Moscow cannot have complete confidence, as well as a reduction in the flow of drugs coming from Afghanistan.
We have reason to expect that the stabilisation of the military situation in Afghanistan will lead to a revitalisation of Chinese efforts to rebuild the country economically. In the event that expectations become reality, and the United States and the European Union do not find opportunities to make Afghanistan back to the chaotic state of “war of all against all”, it can be expected that the “arc of instability” that girdles Eurasia will be broken. This will be an important geostrategic change in the region, which since the second half of the 19th century has been a field of rivalry between mainland Russia and the Anglo-Saxon powers — first Britain and later the United States.
But what is happening and will continue to happen in Afghanistan may have more varied consequences. With a high degree of probability, it will strengthen the position of Pakistan, which already closely cooperates with China and relies on its economic opportunities. India will feel more insecure — this country already estimates the fall of the republican government in Kabul as a serious blow to its strategic interests. It is likely that the US and its allies’ attempts to establish a dialogue with Iran will become more active — despite the fact that the current regime in this country is not friendly to the West, the internal situation there may be susceptible to external influence.
For Russia, it matters how the reduced US presence in Eurasia affects Turkey’s position. While this country is trying to behave confidently, it is still closely tied to the United States and Europe economically. In the event of strengthening Sino-Russian control over the space of their common neighbourhood, Ankara may have to restore relations with its NATO allies. Also, one cannot exclude Turkey’s chaotic attempts to restore relations with the countries of Central Asia that are close in language, which will also require some Russian attention.
In general, for Russia, the defeat of the United States in Afghanistan means not only a decrease in the capabilities of the main opponent in international affairs, but also a general change in the strategic situation. In particular, we cannot now exclude the possibility that under the new conditions Russia’s policy towards the countries of Central Asia may change.
Most of them are in one way or another connected with Russia by allied relations, but bilateral cooperation does not always develop smoothly. After the United States has lost an important part of the resources to interfere in the regional affairs, Moscow may even face increasing responsibility for its internal stability.
But the United States itself will be looking for ways to return to the central part of Eurasia in one form or another. The defeat in Afghanistan did not have a serious impact on the military and economic capabilities of this power. After the initial shock wears off, we must be prepared for a new round of regional clout. Now, in this struggle, the objective interests of China are on the side of Russia, and this greatly facilitates the situation in comparison with all previous episodes.
The fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021, was an important historical event because it meant the actual end of the US attempts to exert a determining influence on international politics. Such efforts will continue, albeit under new ideological slogans, and the United States has long since abandoned attempts to create a truly holistic order under its leadership. In fact, we are dealing with yet another change in the dynamic balance of power that is now defining the nature of international relations. And, as in any case, this change brings new opportunities and new questions for Russia, which will need to answer in the very near future.
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