DENVER – The United States’ “pivot” to Asia, a process so delicately defined that even the name had to be changed to “rebalancing” to avoid any misunderstandings in Europe, now seems to have company, in the form of renewed Russian interest in the region. Russia’s own “pivot” to Asia is not new; but, in the deep freeze settling over Russia’s relations with the US and Europe, it does seem to have gained the momentum of real necessity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long been interested in the logic of marrying Siberia’s enormous base of raw materials and energy with East Asia’s vibrant but energy-starved economies. For Russia, Asian countries – and especially China – seem to bring a barebones practicality to the relationship. Nobody in East Asia plans to look into Putin’s soul, à la former US President George W. Bush, or otherwise show much concern about what kind of person he is. “Business is business,” as Deng Xiaoping taught us.