The Return: Russia and the security landscape of Northeast Asia (Bobo Lo)

Author: Bobo Lo, Associate Research Fellow with the Russia/NIS Center at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) | IFRI policy paper | Published 31 March 2020

In recent months, China – and the potential for conflict in Northeast Asia – has been prominent in discussion amongst Australian strategists. However, the complexity of strategic relationships in the region is often overlooked in this debate.

In this policy paper Bobo Lo reminds us that Northeast Asia has emerged as a critical theater of Russian foreign policy in recent years.

But one constant will remain amidst the uncertainties: Russia is back as a serious player in Northeast Asia, and its engagement—and ambition—will only grow.

In many respects, the fundamentals have barely changed: the Kremlin’s focus on undermining US strategic dominance; an abiding faith in the balance of power; and the reliance on traditional strengths such as military might, geopolitical reach, and the energy sector. Crucially, Moscow views Northeast Asia through a globalist lens; the region matters principally because of its wider implications for international order and governance. Looking ahead, Russian policy will be shaped by developments beyond its control: how committed the United States is to its alliance network in the Asia-Pacific; whether China’s rise is sustained, and in what form; and how the security situation on the Korean peninsula unfolds.

Read the full abstract and download the full policy paper (pdf 1.11Mb) (external links to Institut Francais des Relations Internationales | French Institute for International Relations website)