Brief: Competition Over Russia’s Far East

The remote district is quickly becoming more strategically important to Russia – and thus to the region.

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Background: The Russian Far East is the largest federal district in Russia and the farthest from Moscow. And because of its energy resources and access to the Pacific Ocean, it is quickly becoming more strategically important to Russia – and thus to the region.

What Happened: Several meetings are worth noting. On Feb. 20, the head of Russia’s Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic met with India’s ambassador to Russia to discuss regional development. They pledged to continue negotiations over a plan for India to supply the area with coal. A few days earlier, after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, India’s deputy foreign minister visited the Russian Diplomatic Academy, where he made clear that one of the goals of his trip was to enhance economic cooperation with the Far East. This is in addition to discussions Russia held with India (and Japan) some two weeks ago over economic, investment, scientific and technical cooperation in the region.

Bottom Line: Financial constraints have kept Moscow from developing the Far East as much as it would like. Instead, China is the district’s most important investor and trade partner. China is also, however, a regional competitor of India, which is clearly trying to compete with and undermine the influence of China in the region. To that end, it is finally implementing the “Act Far East” policy Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Vladivostok in 2019 – a policy meant in no small part to counterbalance Beijing. As for Russia, developing the Far East, even with foreign partners, generally serves Moscow’s purposes. China is much less happy with the competition.