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"We need to work with Iran"
Gleb IvashentsovAmbassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Deputy Director of the Russian APEC Research Center
A turn to Asia is necessary for Russia to gain sufficient confidence and reduce its vulnerability to these aggressive attacks. It is unlikely that there will be opportunities in Russia for a qualitative improvement in relations with the European Union. Europeans will continue to trade with Russia, buy energy from it and sell to it highly processed products, but will consistently limit Russian international political opportunities and access to modern technologies. And in this situation, gas contracts with China are of great importance. Despite the fact that real gas supplies will begin in China in a few years, the very fact of concluding a gas agreement shows the West, and first of all Europe, that Russia has an alternative. It can be expected that the volume of Russian gas supplies to China will be comparable to supplies to Europe in 10-12 years, this will not only bring the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership to a new level, but will also strengthen the role of Russia and China in the Asia-Pacific region and in the world generally.
The second factor is that at the same time, relations between the United States and China are also acquiring a new quality. Washington does not tolerate the growing rise of China, and it is building a whole chain of measures to counter it. The United States will tend over the medium term to defend its interests in the Asia-Pacific region in increasingly traditional ways - by strengthening relationships with allies and creating new military partnerships. And this new "cold war" declared by the United States and the West of Russia, and the anti-Chinese turn of the United States in Asia inevitably contribute to the growth of mutual interest of Russia and China in strengthening cooperation in international, including energy, affairs.
And the third factor determining the strategy of Russia in Asia is the task of raising Siberia and the Far East. For the last one and a half or two years, Russia has been gradually, but consistently, rebuilding into the Asian vector. Made here already a lot. And it is significant that, despite the frank pressure of the United States, not one of the Asia-Pacific states, with the exception of Japan, could accept any sanctions against Russia under current conditions.
Russia is stepping up its energy offensive in the Asia-Pacific region. But we must, however, take into account the difficulties that we face. And it should be borne in mind that our oil and gas do not have unlimited opportunities in the Asian market. This market has long been divided between large foreign companies - sellers and buyers of oil and gas, and none of them is going to cede their share of profits to Russia. It is necessary to clearly assess the capabilities of our current and potential competitors. And the point is not only that new rich hydrocarbon deposits have been discovered off the East coast of Africa, where they are cheaper to extract and from where it is easier to supply them to the Asia-Pacific region. I want to draw particular attention to Iran.
This should be a comprehensive strategy covering all branches of the energy industry, since energy is not limited to hydrocarbons. This should be a strategy that, in addition to solving purely export ones, would be aimed at solving large-scale tasks of our internal economic growth. Because in order for our country to remain a great power, we must overcome today the situation when only oil and gas exports keep the Russian economy afloat, when pipelines became the main construction projects of the country, when the Ministry of Finance of Russia proceeds from the world oil price for the upcoming period. To do this, energy engineering, deep processing of hydrocarbons, nuclear and hydropower must be included in the number of key areas of the energy partnership with Asian countries.
A radical reorientation from the export-raw material to the resource-processing model with the maximum level of redistribution is required. Such a situation is intolerable when a country occupying the first places in the extraction and export of oil and natural gas produces 26 kg of plastics per capita against 276 kg in the USA and 200 kg in Europe, and chemical fibers and threads only 1 kg 100 g per capita against 13,5 kg in the USA and over 10 kg in Japan. After all, the question is what: oil is exported and at the same time gasoline is purchased from South Korea, for example, to supply the Far East. That’s a paradoxical situation. And the most important task is the development of a single energy line within the framework of the integration process in the Eurasian economic space.
That is, we need to strengthen this international component of our penetration into the Asia-Pacific energy market. It is not only our commercial benefit that depends on it, the preservation of Russia as a great power largely depends on it.