: Delfi: How Putin's western front thwarted pivot to the East

11:34 May. 4, 2016

Delfi: How Putin's western front thwarted pivot to the East

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 11, 2016 (AP Photo)

Giving up on improving diplomatic ties with West, Russia becomes more interested in the Asia-Pacific

Over the past several years, whenever Moscow entered into a difficult encounter on the Western "front," it has typically tried to show interest in expanding ties in the Asia-Pacific.

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In the last couple of weeks, the fruitless meeting of the NATO-Russia Council was followed by several risky intercepts and mock attacks by Russian fighters over the Baltic Sea.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov found it opportune to label Lithuania the most "Russophobic" state and to warn Sweden against joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but his promise of "military-technical" counter-measures did not go over well at all in Northern Europe.

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It was far easier for Lavrov to communicate with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and to pave the way for President Vladimir Putin's visit to China in June. He also scored diplomatic points by securing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's visit to Sochi in early May.

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs presents this long-discussed meeting as a victory over US objections, but Abe and Putin may have rather different expectations about their upcoming tête-à-tête. Japanese authorities assume that Russia's deepening economic crisis will compel Putin to be more flexible regarding the deadlocked dispute over the South Kurile Islands, compelling him to bargain for a compromise.

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In Moscow, the prevalent assumption is that Tokyo is so worried about the deepening strategic partnership between Russia and China that it is ready to bracket out the eternal disagreements over the lost islands and to soften the sanctions regime.

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