Embracing Russia’s pivot to Asia

Published October 17, 2020, 4:59 PM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

(Remarks of former speaker Jose de Venecia, founding chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), co-chairman, International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP); and special envoy of President Duterte to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and for Intercultural Dialogue at the International Inter-Party Forum, Moscow, Russia, October 22-23, 2020.)

Our generation is living through historic transformations in global politics.

Nowadays it is difficult even to recall how radical socialism — then enshrined in Moscow — had once inspired so much idealism, devotion, and self-sacrifice throughout the world.

And those of us who lived through World War II must remember the heroic Russian armies that, at unimaginable human cost, stopped the Nazi blitzkrieg short of Leningrad, and ultimately brought Stalin with Roosevelt and Churchill to Yalta in the Crimea as one of the victorious “Big Three.”

Even today, much more today, it is our fondest and strongest hope that Russia, the US, China, and the major powers in the European Union who were Allies during World War II — United Kingdom and France — and their former enemies, but today, their staunch allies — Japan, Germany, and Italy — to form a genuine global alliance in concert with and under United Nations (UN) aegis, to continuously work, without deadline, on a long-term global agenda for peace and for humankind.

Impossible dream, maybe, but the optimists and the students of history believe as we do, that the work must go on and indeed the dream should never die.

Russia as an Asian power

Russia has opened to the world community at an epochal time. The center of global gravity is moving away from the Atlantic — where it has been during these last 200 years — to the Pacific.

And it is doing so, not so much because the West is weakening, whether economically or militarily, as because other power centers are growing in relative strength — in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Experts say that by 2025, the Asia Pacific will be home to the largest economies, the most powerful militaries, and the most attractive cultures. And Russia — geo-politically both a European and an Asian power — will be principal among them.

So it is in the interest of all our countries that Russia should re-enter the international community in the best possible light.

In modern times, the new Russia first appeared as an Asia-Pacific power in November 2012, when Vladivostok — capital of the Russian Far East — staged the APEC forum of 21 Pacific Rim states.

Indeed today, Russia is a country of continental dimensions — just as expansive as the Russian people are in their zest for life.

By itself, the Russian Far East (RFE) is nearly as large as the continental United States and 60% of Russian geography is Asian.

Integration of the resource-rich RFE into the Asia-Pacific economy will enable Russia to take a full part in the affairs of the world’s fastest-growing region.

President Vladimir Putin — having pulled the Russian state together — is working to restore his country to great-power status. Russia’s reclamation of its Asia Pacific role will boost multilateralism — particularly in managing conflict and in spurring regional growth.

Perhaps, President Putin may go on state visits to Asian countries as part of Russia’s re-entry into the Asia-Pacific concert of powers.

Economically, Sakhalin Island’s LNG production is crucial to Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan; between them they consume three-fourths of the world’s LNG supply. Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing must agree on a way of benefiting equally from their cooperative exploitation of the Russian Far East’s wealth of resources.

Politically, Russia’s leadership participation will be vital to a resolution of the issue of nuclear proliferation and Korean unification; and even to the multilateral settlement of American-Chinese differences in the China Sea.

Most practical solution in South China Sea crisis

On the raging conflicting claims in the South China Sea, we have repeatedly pointed out that there is the potential for a peaceful settlement. That is to temporarily shelve the issue of sovereignty to pave the way for joint exploration and joint development of the disputed area’s resources.

From an area of conflict, it could be transformed into a landscape and seascape of small seaports, airports, and oil pipelines. Fishing villages and small tourism townships could rapidly rise and the contested areas could become the untrammelled passage way for global shipping, carrying more than 50 percent of the sea fright of the world.

The idea of “win-win cooperation,” of a pragmatic sharing of resources could help build a model for lessening tensions and solving conflicts, and avoiding the possibility of war in Asia’s manifold and dangerous flashpoints.

Between Moscow and Washington, between Washington and Beijing, and between Moscow and the European powers, mutual accommodation must be found that gives the parties strategic reassurance and respect for their ‘core interests.

Ironically, the hard-won peace between the earlier Cold War principals —the United States and the former Soviet Union — has enabled the smaller countries to enjoy well over a generation of political stability and economic growth.

We declare we want no new Cold War in the Asia Pacific. Nor do we wish any state in our Asian region or in any other region to play either the “American Card” or the “China Card” or the “Russian Card.”

On the Korean peninsula, another major flashpoint, we also ask for the revival of the long stalemated Six-Nation Talks among South Korea, North Korea, the US, Japan, China, and Russia to consider reunification of the two Koreas, which is a most difficult but not an impossible task.

Best elements of capitalism and socialism

Excellencies, friends: In this classic battle against poverty, may we find a way perhaps of tempering the individual initiative that capitalism stimulates with socialism’s compassion for those whom development leaves behind.

We had much earlier suggested in addressing the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, and later, the United Nations University in Barcelona, Spain, and various other international conferences, that there might be merit in bringing together the best elements of both capitalism and socialism in a new applied art of governance — based on what works best for a particular society over a specific historical period, considering the persistent and incredibly huge gaps between rich and poor in our time.

The concept could also integrate the finer features of Germany’s “social market” economy and should perhaps operate under the aegis of a liberal constitutional democracy committed to free elections, free markets, and a free media.

In China, the then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, hero of China’s successful modernization and opening to the world, advocated — in fact, started off — a Chinese economic system neither Marxian socialism nor Adam Smith-type capitalism, but something in between or what has been called “socialism with Chinese characteristics” or “Confucian synergism,” which has worked exceedingly well for China, lifting it to the second largest economic power in the world, next only to the United States.

The ultimate task for our statesmen must be to replace the Pax Americana that has enforced stability on our region during this last half-century with a Pax Pacifica founded on the balance of mutual benefit; and freely subscribed to by all the powers with vital interests in the region. After all, the US is and will always be a Pacific power.

In all of these urgent tasks, the leadership and participation of the new Russia and the great Russian people will be crucial.

Like the double-headed eagle on its historic coat of arms, the new Russia looks both West and East. And Moscow’s eastward turn, we welcome most heartily, in Asia.