Little is reported by Western media about the annual Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which took place from 4-6 September in Vladivostok, in the far east of Russia. It hosted over 8,500 participants from 65 countries, including the leaders of Russia, India, Japan and Malaysia. The event shows that Russia is quietly benefiting from long-term developments, some of which are seen as huge risks in other parts of the world.
A main theme of the EEF was the Northern Sea Route. Although for most countries global warming is a risk, Russia stands to benefit from it, as melting icecaps have opened up a faster trade route between Europe and Asia. During the EEF, Putin and Modi presented their vision of the “Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor”, a plan to connect Russia and India by sea, which also points to how Russia stands to profit from India’s rise as a global power. Their alliance dates back to the Cold War and their cooperation on security, nuclear energy, and space has intensified. Meanwhile, hegemonic conflict between the U.S. and China also benefits Russia, as the U.S. cannot pressure both simultaneously and a Russian partnership is becoming more appealing to China. Lastly, rising oil prices due to volatility in the Middle East are another boon to Russia, as its currency reserves have bounced back to a comfortable level.
After the global backlash that followed the annexation of Crimea, Russia was forced to take a step back. However, now that Russia’s position is strengthening, it will gain more opportunities to pursue its interests abroad. In the coming years, this could threaten the unity of Europe and the stability of the Middle East, but also lead to new maritime networks of trade and investment between Russia and India, Korea and Japan – as Russia develops the Far East.