Russia’s Growing Clout in the Asia Pacific Region

Russia’s Growing Clout in the Asia Pacific Region
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Yead Mirza

In their strategic calculus, the major powers of the Asia Pacific as well as other countries do not consider Russia a major military power in the region. Although these countries understand Russia’s military clout in Europe and the Middle East, they somehow fail to see how overall Russian military might have an impact in the region.
Accordingly, the growing influence of Russia in the region finds less attention on the regional media outlets, the regional discussion platforms and the think tank papers produced across the region. This is a total contrast to Russian involvement in Europe and the Middle East (something which receives huge coverage). Despite the low coverage of its engagement in the Asia Pacific, Russia’s geopolitical presence is increasing in the region.
Although its military and economic involvements in the Asia Pacific reduced significantly after the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia has , over the last decade, improved and enhanced its military might significantly, making its military a potent power in the region.
Russia has been selling weapons and other advanced military technology to the Asia-Pacific countries in order to bring these countries into its geopolitical orbit. Besides its close military relations with both China and India, Russia is increasingly building good relations with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand.
Moreover, Russia is on a spree of building certain infrastructures in several Asia Pacific countries which would make those countries dependent on Russia for the proper functionality and maintenance of those infrastructures. Take Bangladesh’s nuclear plant, for example. Russia is setting up a nuclear-powered power plant in Bangladesh, and this infrastructure would certainly make Bangladesh dependent on Russia for the technological aspects of the project. The country has also been purchasing heavy weapons and military vehicles from Russia.
Recently this year, many regional countries were alarmed by Russia’s large scale war games. The fact that the war games was conducted in the eastern part of Russia – which forms part of the Asia Pacific region, unlike Russia’s western part that forms part of Europe – makes it an alarming development for the Asia Pacific region.
According to an Australian news website, the war games, namely Vostok-2018 or East-2018, involved more than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1000 aircraft, helicopters and drones and 80 warships and support vessels.
Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, boasted about the drills saying, “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles – and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible.”
Condemning the drills, NATO said the war games “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”.

The author, a geopolitical analyst and an observer of international affairs, can be reached at: yeadmirza@gmail.com