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Different Perspectives on Eurasia

Different Perspectives on Eurasia
We have all heard of Eurasia, and the vast new projects that are to integrate whole blocks of countries together. But perhaps it is not that simple. There are different views of what Eurasia is, unification may not be that easy, and only come about because such integration becomes necessary.

To talk about this issue, I welcome to the program Jeff Schubert, a visiting professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics.

To the question of how Russia sees Eurasia, Jeff says: "Inside Russia, there are different views of what Eurasia is geographically. Some people have the view that it basically consists of the Eurasian Economic Union that is Russia, Belorussia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. These people tend to think of Eurasia in economic terms. Other people such as global strategist Sergey Karaganov at the Higher School of Economics, tend to see Eurasia in much broader terms; even encompassing countries in western Europe, and moving as far East as Japan. They see Eurasia as a geopolitical entity, rather than just to do with straight economics. Vladimir Putin goes so far as to include ASEAN countries, which includes Vietnam, Indonesia etc., so it depends who you speak to."

The view of Eurasia from Asia is also a changeable concept. "One Chinese expert actually said that the Chinese view Eurasia as being the equivalent of the Wild West, a place far away," Jeff said. He feels that the Chinese do not really see themselves as being Eurasians and never will, saying that they see themselves as becoming a world power without being restricted to Eurasia.

In terms of how Eurasia would operate financially there are also two views. Jeff explains: "Economically, if one takes the narrow view that Eurasia is the countries in the Eurasian Economic Union, and listen to the views of Russian economist Yaroslav Lissovolik, then one would see finance being generated from good economic policies within Eurasia. A broader view, as advocated by Sergei Karaganov, tends to see China providing the money for development of much of Eurasia, and Russia providing the security."

There is a view that the ‘One Belt One Road' concept is very Chinese and doesn't really fit in with the Eurasian Economic Union. Jeff sees a conflict here: "There is SREB (Silk Road Economic Belt) which is the land part of ‘One Belt One Road,' idea, and then you have the maritime Silk Road which goes down through to the Indian Ocean etc. But talk about the Silk Road Economic Belt, doesn't really include Russia. Other countries like Kazakhstan are just as important… "

The presence of America in the Far East and in general what is perceived to be aggressive behaviour by that country  can be seen to be a reason for the appearance of Russia and China talking about creating a common economic area. "Yes, this pre-dates Donald Trump. The expansion of NATO after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union is significant. I think many Russians thought that there would not be an expansion of NATO, but there was. Quite legitimately they feared that NATO could end up in some places like Sevastopol. That fear caused a reaction in Russia and I think the pivot to Asia taken by the Obama administration in terms of supposedly moving its military forces away from the Middle East towards East Asia also heightened Chinese fears about what could happen to its trade routes."

Jeff makes the point that relations between Russia and China are not easy to forge given historical and cultural factors. Both countries, as Jeff says, look to the West but in different directions. The present geopolitical situation, however, may force the integration of Russia and China into a vast new economic block.

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