Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Russia Summit in Singapore for the first time between on November 14th, amid continuous US sanctions on Russia, as well as American pressure on China.
Putin’s visit to the ASEAN Summit further reinforced the so-called turn to the east in Russia’s foreign and economic policy. According to Putin, Russian commodity circulation with the ASEA states grew by 35% in 2017. Mutual accumulated investment exceeds $25 billion. That is a massive growth.
In particular, Russian-Singapore circulation grew by 94%, Russian-Thailand one grew by 50%. These are extremely significant increases that show the growing increase in Russian cooperation with the east, amid rows of sanctions by the US and the EU.
Furthermore, Japan and South Korea also were present at the summit, despite not being ASEAN states. Russian trade with them is also on the rise.
Most significantly, Andrey Slepnev, Chief Executive of the Russian Export Center claimed that the volume of mutual trade between Russia and China may reach $100 billion by the end of 2018 with the figure expected to double in the years ahead.
“Russia’s exports to China totaled $26 billion in the first half of the current year, marking a 43 percent growth compared to the same period a year ago,” the official said. Bilateral trade between the two countries grew by 31.5 percent, reaching $87 billion in 2017.
China is currently among Russia’s biggest trading partners, and US pressure on both China and Russia is only pushing them to boost the cooperation. So, it is no surprise that trade between the two global powers is expected to grow even more.
During his participation in the ASEAN summit, Putin once more praised the implementation of the May 2016 Sochi Summit declaration and action plan. According to him the joint business cooperation roadmap containing about 60 joint projects in industry and high technology is being successfully carried out.
He further said that Russia’s foreign minister holds annual meetings with the ASEAN foreign ministers. The Russian Defense Minister takes part in the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ meetings, and the Interior Minister attends the ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL) conferences.
This comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once more reiterated that the US would not lift the sanctions on Russia until it “returns” Crimea to Ukraine, which is unlikely to happen.
On the sidelines of the summit, Vladimir Putin was seen speaking to US Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
According to the press pool report, Putin and Pence were seated next to each other during a plenary session during the summit.
“Mr. Pence took his seat and Mr. Putin arrived a few minutes later. His chair was next to Mr. Pence and as he walked past at 2:20 p.m. local time he put his hand on the vice president’s shoulder.
Mr. Putin sat down and then quickly stood up and shook hands with Mr. Pence. They chatted a bit, and then Mr. Putin spotted National Security Adviser John Bolton and shook hands with him.
The three men stood and talked for about two minutes, with a translator standing nearby.
Mr. Pence didn’t appear to smile during the conversation. Messrs. Bolton and Putin did a fair amount of the talking, as Mr. Pence stood and listened.
Alyssa Farah, the Vice President’s press secretary said that Putin and him “discussed the upcoming G20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit.”
The G20 summit will be held in Buenos Aires at the end of November.
Speaking at the EAS meeting on November 15th, Pence pledged that the U.S. would “continue to stand with our allies and partners to uphold the order that we helped build, and we will defend freedom of the seas and skies. This is especially important in the South China Sea.”
He also once more reiterated the US stance on Chinese military expansion:
“Let me be clear: China’s militarization and territorial expansion in the South China Sea is illegal and dangerous. It threatens the sovereignty of many nations and endangers the prosperity of the world.”
He also claimed that US President Donald Trump is looking forward to meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G-20 summit.
The ASEAN summit also resulted in the establishment of a cooperation mechanism. The mechanism incorporates both the 10+3 framework, which includes all 10 ASEAN member states and China, South Korea and Japan, as well as the 10+1 which only includes China to the addition of all member states.
The two frameworks, initially focused on economic cooperation, have expanded in recent years to the fields of politics, security and culture. Nowadays, they have developed into mechanisms of great significance in strengthening and deepening regional cooperation, particularly in economic, social and political areas.
Russia is further deepening its ties with China and the ASEAN member states and taking part in more trade and projects.
The US attempt to assert its global dominance by attempting to Russia are evidently backfiring, as it is also trying to apply a similar approach towards China. The Trump Administration is undermining its own influence with its trade policy and perpetual sanctions.