Back to the West, face to the South


Roscongress Foundation

The Eighth Eastern Economic Forum was not characterized by high foreign representation. The most notable foreign guest at the forum was the vice president of Laos. That is if we do not count the leader of the DPRK, whose visit to Russia caused a worldwide furor. However, this landmark event was not part of the EEF program, but was only timed to coincide with it. It is more convenient for Kim Jong Un to communicate without traveling far from the borders of his state (he prefers to travel by land), and Vladimir Putin did not have to fly twice to the Far East.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained the limited number of foreign participants in the EEF by the fact that the region is currently hosting many high-level events. «Many leaders have already been here, so, of course, it’s hard to imagine that such leaders of major Far Eastern countries and Southeast Asian countries… they can’t come here every year. That is why many have been here before, and some are planning to come in subsequent periods», the presidential spokesman said. — At the same time, this in no way affects the content of this forum».

Nevertheless, among the 4,000 participants there were representatives from more than 50 countries. The most numerous delegations came from China, India, UAE and Myanmar. The Chinese delegation was headed by Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing, who understandably received special attention from Vladimir Putin. During his meeting with the Chinese guest, the Russian president said that friendly personal and business relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping help Moscow and Beijing develop bilateral relations.

Putin asked Zhang Guoqing to convey his «best wishes» to Xi Jinping and said that, thanks to the high level of cooperation, bilateral trade turnover would reach $200 billion this year. This was perhaps one of the first and main signals to the international community that were sent from the EEF platform.

Here, of course, one cannot help but notice that the leaders of Russia and China refused to personally participate in the G-20 summit, which has just ended in Delhi. There are various reasons for this, but one of them is the decline in interest in this structure.

The answer to the logical question of why the Chinese President did not come to the EEF is quite simple. First of all, he has been here many times (this corresponds to Dmitry Peskov’s logic). Secondly, the forum has not yet become a global platform for negotiations, and Xi Jinping will probably be able to talk face to face with the Russian president in October, during the next forum of countries participating in the Chinese project One Belt, One Road.

In fact, the second main signal of the EEF outwardly, in addition to special relations with China, was the demonstration of Russia’s further turn to the East. The forum participants were dominated by guests from Asia and the global South in general. On the other hand, it became clear that this turn has not yet been fully accomplished and has considerable potential.

On this occasion, the Russian leader said the following. «You and I are well aware of how the global economy has changed and continues to change in recent years, including because some countries, primarily Western countries, are, of course, destroying with their own hands the system of financial, trade and economic relations that they themselves created and built in many respects». In his opinion, it is important that against this background «the space for genuine business cooperation between states that do not submit to any external pressure, but follow their own national interests» is expanding in the world. Vladimir Putin argues that such countries are becoming more and more numerous, and they are putting «at the center of their activities» the promotion of their own projects that will bring «direct long-term benefits» to their peoples.

«A new model of relations and integration is being born, but no longer according to Western models, for a select few, for a select ‘golden billion’, but for all of humanity, for the entire functioning and developing multipolar world,» Putin is convinced. He believes that such a model is becoming a powerful competitive advantage for the Asia-Pacific region, which also determines its leadership in terms of economic growth.

Of course, the forum signaled that, despite the special operation in Ukraine and the hybrid war with the West, everything is normal in Russia, the economy has not collapsed, but continues to develop, and international relations are being actively restructured with an orientation towards sovereign countries wishing to receive their dividends from this development. This idea was generated not only by the atmosphere of the EEF itself, but also by its main speaker. Almost everything that the Russian president spoke about, underlying this idea. Even speaking about cultural figures who have left, re-located and escaped, including former head of Rosnano Anatoly Chubais, Vladimir Putin did not fail to emphasize once again: «We have everything working, thank God: theaters, exhibition halls, concert venues…»

Despite the fact that this year’s EEF was largely focused on Russia’s domestic issues, the problem of the conflict over Ukraine and the global restructuring of the world order was a red thread. And of course, the issue of settlement came up more than once. «I am told from many sides: are you ready for a cessation of hostilities? And how, when that side is conducting a counter-offensive? We are not Trotskyists: «movement is everything, the ultimate goal is nothing,» said Vladimir Putin, making it clear that Russia is ready for dialog, but only on its terms. And added: «If the US believes that Ukraine is ready for negotiations, well, let them then cancel the decree of the Ukrainian president, which prohibits negotiations. Ukraine is conducting a so-called counter-offensive, there are no results, but there are losses. Sometimes you get the impression that it is not their people they are throwing into the counteroffensive at all». This was an obvious hint at who organized the conflict and who is managing it.

And by making public the information about London’s assistance in training Ukrainian saboteurs sent to Russian nuclear power plants, Putin actually accused Great Britain of nuclear terrorism.

There was also a clear signal to African countries to reconsider their foreign policy when Vladimir Putin suddenly spoke of the slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism of the West. «And now they are still trying to command and implement their generally neo-colonial policy there! They have burdened the countries of Africa, which probably owe trillions! They have set up a financial system in which African countries cannot repay their loans by definition at all! But we have completely different approaches!»

At the EEF, the president also stated another fundamental position of Russia: «You cannot do anything in the sphere of foreign policy that contradicts the interests of other nations. But this is exactly the rake that the United States is stepping on today… They are crushing their allies… They have no friends. They have only interests.»

That is, despite the absence of distinguished foreign guests, everything important in international politics was outlined.