Russia’s Turn to the East: A Postcolonial Perspective
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St. Petersburg State University
Publication date: 2020-06-17
Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations 2018;54(2):31–50
If assessed within the framework of a postcolonial approach to international relations, the debate about the current “turn to the East” in Russia’s foreign policy can be reduced to the question of whether Russia, a rising power itself, is seeking cooperation with rising Asian powers that is grounded in mutual recognition as equal strategic partners or whether Russia is seeking easy tactical domination over its Asian partners in order to improve its international performance vis-à-vis Western powers. This article references attempts of the former kind as a “turn to the East”, and those of the latter kind as ‘condescension to the Orient’. We look for factors that can influence foreign policy learning among the Russian elite towards recognising Russia’s “Eastern” partners as equally important as its potential Western partners. We pay special attention to changes in the attitudes of part of the Soviet elite in the 1980s, recent changes in the composition of the Russian elite, relations among member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, Russia’s relations with Asian powers like Japan, China and India, and finally Russia’s approach to the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Having examined all those aspects, we conclude that there are factors that can result in a lasting “turn to the East” in Russian foreign policy rather than tactical “condescension to the Orient”, which is predicted to have dramatic consequences for Russia itself.