Chapter 23. Greater Eurasian Partnership: Security Threats and Optimal Responses

April 15, 2024

Elena Karnaukhova: It has been about nine years since the President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed to build Greater Eurasian Partnership. However, after many years of discussions some Russian experts (as well as their foreign counterparts) continue to believe that it is still a concept without real content. Do you agree with this opinion? Even if it just a concept, which benefits can it bring?

Kirill Barsky: The initiative of shaping Greater Eurasian Partnership was put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015. This is an ambitious concept aimed at creating a broad integration framework with Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) at its core, in collaboration with BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other like-minded international organizations and fora.

Greater Eurasia strategy can be easily synergized with various regional and national development strategies and UN regional programs. It may grow into an effective network of free trade areas, economic corridors, transportation routes, transborder pipelines, IT facilities and other projects which will be managed and developed in a coordinated fashion for the benefit of all countries of the continent. EAEU has already signed the agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China, the memorandum of understanding on cooperation with SCO, the program of cooperation with ASEAN, free trade agreements with Vietnam, Singapore, Iran and Serbia. Negotiations with Indonesia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Mongolia are underway. The idea of integration of integrations initiated by EAEU echoes ASEAN’s connecting connectivity concept. The spirit of coordination, be it the coordination of development plans or joint efforts to build transport or digital infrastructure, may inject new energy into the economy of Eurasia.

Greater Eurasia will rely on streamlining the network of vital international transport communications and developing economic corridors as new growth zones, i.e., Trans-Siberian railroad, Europe-Western China land road, Northern Sea Route, International North-South Transport Corridor, Russia-Mongolia-China economic corridor, etc. The idea offers close cross-platform collaboration between regional organizations and groupings as well as the UN bodies, specialized agencies, and regional commissions.

In terms of goals and geography Greater Eurasian Partnership is a broad concept. Originally the idea was to build a common economic space from Lisbon in the West to Vladivostok, Shanghai, and Jakarta in the East and from Yamal Peninsula in the North to Chennai in the South. In the context of the current situation in Ukraine, common space at least for the foreseeable future will be limited to a zone extending to the East of the western borders of the Russian Federation.

In general, Greater Eurasia should be seen as a multi-speed, multi-level, and multi-sector cooperation framework with a capacity of coupling EAEU and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which pursue similar goals. Greater Eurasian Partnership is a chance to get back to normal interaction between states and mutually beneficial cooperation based on internationally recognized principles of international law. We may also use this opportunity to subscribe to some additional principles that could prevent nations from plunging into endless confrontation, from being left on one’s own with threats and challenges. Among them, the principle of Eurasian solidarity; the priority of development and social stability; the priority of shared interests over vested ones; respect for the right to choose one’s own development model; renouncement of political and economic pressure; renouncement of imposing a political regime from abroad, etc.

Elena Karnaukhova: Eurasia is a multi-faceted continent which is currently going through tough times. But it is hardly surprising. It seems that very rich history of Eurasia has predetermined its fate of being a region where major events and fundamental processes will constantly take place to change the face of the world. What do you personally think about the destiny of Eurasia based on your own experience and professional expertise?

Kirill Barsky: I would say that the destiny of Eurasia is a conflict between the Earth and the Sea. The Eurasian continent has always been a meeting point of civilizations, a crossroads of trade routes, an open landmass where various nations – from time to time – peacefully coexisted and forged harmonious relations with one another, but simultaneously often a battlefield where competition for land, resources, access to communication lines or political influence was decided by the means of military power. No wonder that security has always been a top priority for all the states of Eurasia.

Besides complex relationship among Eurasian nations those living inside the continent had to secure their independence from those living at the periphery. As time went by, maritime powers also known as thalassocracies started to challenge the empires of Eurasia confirming an antagonistic nature of the Sea vs the Earth dichotomy.  The expansionist policy of European thalassocracies which manifested itself in the form of colonialism earned them the possession of huge pieces of land across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. However, for a long time Eurasia’s inner pastures were out of their reach.

On the other hand, Eurasian countries seeking an access to the sea had to face conflicts with maritime powers who controlled the world’s oceans (by the 19th century the Sea had become overwhelmingly dominated by Britain) and did their best to conquer Eurasia or at least to keep the key Eurasian powers inside the continent. Two Opium Wars (against China) and the Great Game (against Russia) are graphic examples. Two World Wars unleashed by Germany in the 20th century were, to a great extent, fatal crusades aimed at conquering Eurasia. Japan’s aggression against China and The New Order in East Asia went along the same lines of expansion into the Eurasian continent. The victory of the Anti-Hitler Coalition over Nazi Germany and militaristic Japan was a gift of peace and stability to Eurasia.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union the continent plunged into a series of local wars and state-to-state rivalry again. The chaotic development of the 1990s had a grave impact on the security situation in the Eurasian Heartland as well as in adjacent Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. 

Elena Karnaukhova: A lot has already been said and written about the crisis of the European security architecture. How do you personally assess the current situation on the European flank of Greater Eurasia in a historical retrospect? 

Kirill Barsky: The end of the Cold War promised the conclusion of the two-bloc confrontation in Europe. Thus, the historic 1990 Summit in Paris attended by the majority of the European countries, including the Soviet Union as well as the US and Canada, adopted the Charter of Paris for a New Europe. The same year the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) was concluded. In February 1990, at the US-USSR Summit on the issue unification of Germany and later on in 1991 and in 1993 American officials assured Moscow that NATO would not move its infrastructure to the East.  However, these declarations and even legal obligations did not prevent NATO from further expansion.

The hopes for a new security architecture in Europe never came true. The Balkan wars blew up the security situation. The 1999 NATO aggression against Yugoslavia not only led to the disintegration of the country but put an end to the idea of a cooperative security architecture in Europe. Building an independent European security system was not a success either. Following its failed attempt to attach a military dimension to European integration through the 1952 European Defense Community, the Western European Union stayed clear of any direct security and defense role throughout the Cold War. Since early 1990s, however, it has been gradually developing as a security forum. At the turn of the century the function of responding to crises was transferred to the European Union. Against the backdrop of new conflicts in Georgia in 2008 and later in Ukraine in 2014, the Arab Spring, the rise of illegal migration to Europe, terrorism and drug trafficking, the idea of strengthening Europe’s defense capacity was materialized in the activities in pursuance of the Common Security and Defense Policy and was geographically focused on ensuring security and defense along the borders of Europe and its periphery including some states of Africa and CIS.

Everything changed overnight when the US President Donald Trump (2017-2021) forced the Europeans to directly engage in the American new geopolitical and geoeconomic strategy. His successor in the White House only tightened the grip. Europe’s security independence was sacrificed for the sake of Transatlantic unity. As a result, in the Western corner of the Eurasian continent we have a politically divided and crises-stricken Europe governed by weak leaders and totally dependent on the US and NATO. By waging a hybrid war against Russia, providing military supply and financial aid to Ukraine, and tightening economic sanctions against Moscow, the US and NATO have completely destroyed the security infrastructure of Europe. Admitting Finland and Sweden to NATO, expediting arms race and raising stakes cannot be regarded as an adequate response to the existing security problems in Europe.

I would like to point out that in the 1990s and 2000s many countries laid high hopes on the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as the most respectable and vibrant regional organization with an impressive history of collective efforts in political and military dimensions of security. OSCE took a good start. For many years it has been working on a wide spectrum of issues ranging from conflict prevention to post-conflict management, crisis management and early warning, capacity-building and institutional support, border management, combating terrorism, police operations, military reform, etc. On the other hand, OSCE was never free from systemic flaws including agenda imbalances, political motivation, double standards which seriously weakened its potential as a platform for building cross-regional, let alone continental, security architecture. It is sad that by late 2010s OSCE had fallen victim to the confrontation between the collective West and Russia. Dominated by the Western lop-sided approach on security issues, OSCE cannot play a leading role anymore.  

Elena Karnaukhova: Let’s turn to the Asia-Pacific region. It is the fastest growing and developing region not only in Greater Eurasia but in the entire world. What can you say about the security situation there?

Kirill Barsky: The Asia-Pacific region entered the post-Cold War era with no reliable multilateral security architecture and the messy legacy of the past. The region was suffering from the remnants of ideological confrontation, Cold War mentality, mutual suspicion, and a severe deficit of security transparency. Territorial claims and disputes, border clashes, internal ethnic and religious conflicts, cultural and confessional prejudice, negative popular stereotypes of neighboring countries and malign influence of former colonial powers were everyday realities of Asia and the Pacific. Given cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of Asia and an ambiguous historical legacy in such an environment it was even more difficult to bring security interests of the members of regional community together. Nevertheless, most Asia-Pacific countries recognized the need to join hands to overcome those problems and engage in an effort to build their own architecture of security and cooperation.

In the aftermath of World War II (WWII) (1939-1945) regional security was ensured through military power by each country individually or by state coalitions. The US installed its Hub and Spokes security system there. It believed that its military presence in the region, its strategic alliances (with Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia etc.), its military cooperation agreements with a number of other Asian countries and quasi-state entities and its deterrence strategy were sufficient to ensure regional security and stability. However, in the 1990s it became evident that national security of the US was not the same thing as regional security, and that the military power of the US and its regional allies was unable to guarantee regional security in Asia-Pacific. Nor could the US be an honest broker. US defense policy aroused anxiety of quite a number of Asian nations, among them China, Russia, the DPRK, etc. They had a good reason to feel threatened by the US. The architecture that Americans have built in the Asia-Pacific region was in fact the architecture of insecurity.

We should pay special attention to ASEAN. It has been focused on security issues since its inception in 1967. ASEAN can be proud of elaborating the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-East Asia (TAS) signed in 1974 which prescribes that states parties to the Treaty refrain from threat or use of force and settle disputes peacefully through friendly negotiations, and the Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty, or Bangkok Treaty) signed in 1995.

Initially the Association pursued a number of different goals, in particular to promote regional peace and stability and prevent the spread of the Communism in South-East Asia. Dialogue partnerships lately forged by ASEAN with Russia, China, US, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand were reinforced by the formation of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a multilateral platform to discuss regional security issues with a broad agenda starting from confidence-building measures and preventive diplomacy to conflict resolution. The ASEAN Charter adopted in 2007 devoted much more attention to security. In order to strengthen confidence-building measures ASEAN began to promote greater transparency and understanding of defense policies and security perceptions, to organize regional meetings of ASEAN defense officials at all levels, to exchange observers invited to military exercises, to publish an annual ASEAN Security Outlook, etc. ASEAN was also trying to play a role in conflict resolution and peaceful settlement of disputes relying on rational, effective, and sufficiently flexible procedures while avoiding negative attitudes.

Nevertheless, being a key regional organization in Asia-Pacific ASEAN is still in the process of building a security community. There is clearly a gap between the ASEAN’s claim for centrality in the regional affairs which is now even under bigger pressure from the US Indo-Pacific strategies and its inability to ensure effective functioning of security mechanisms both within ASEAN and in Asia. At the same time, there is no doubt that legal and institutional frameworks established by ASEAN including ARF, as well as its expertise in the field of security building are valuable assets that should be used in the process of building multilateral security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. Regional community is mature enough to create a comprehensive, indivisible, and equitable security system which Asia deserves. Another important conclusion to be made is that in terms of regional security ASEAN belongs to the same school of thought as regional organizations of the Eurasian Heartland.

Elena Karnaukhova: But to what extent can the clashes over the South China Sea be preventing the cooperation in the sphere of security in Asia-Pacific?

Kirill Barsky: A group of Asian neighboring countries – China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei as well as Taiwan[1] – claim their sovereignty over the archipelagoes and waters of the South China Sea. Over the years this territorial dispute has been a permanent factor of instability in the subregion, a cause of mutual accusations and a source of political and at some instances military confrontation. Another serious difficulty is that all the claims are poorly documented. As a result, claimants have to appeal to myths and legends, ancient literature and other unreliable sources, to allude to national pride and customs of local people or to resort to harsh emotional statements, thus making rapprochement of the positions on this issue even more problematic. Given a considerable number of players involved in this territorial dispute and the fact that the issue has already had serious international implications (the incidents endangering subregional stability, the need to ensure safety of navigation or to guarantee necessary security conditions for exploration and exploitation of energy resources discovered under the seabed, etc.), the situation in the South China Sea is attracting growing attention of the regional community.

However, bilateral negotiations between China and its neighbors on border delimitation in the South China Sea are continuing. The progress made is not sufficient so far but neither party has ever withdrawn from those talks insisting on reaching an agreement with China. In a parallel fashion, in 2002 China and ASEAN signed the Declaration on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Both sides are determined to jointly elaborate a substantial Code of Conduct that would replace the above Declaration.

Regretfully, the US and its allies have stepped up efforts to use the issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea allegedly endangered by China as political leverage to exert pressure on it. It is clearly none of the business of the countries that are not directly involved in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea to interfere into this conflict of interests. If they refrain from meddling in the situation, the chances that China and the ASEAN member states resolve their differences and work out effective rules of security behavior in the subregion will be rather high.

Elena Karnaukhova: Well, there is another stumbling block, and namely the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Are there any remedies to stop further escalation of relations between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea?

Kirill Barsky: A system for maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula where two Korean states have been technically in a state of war for over seven decades is urgently needed. The Armistice Agreement of 1953 did ensure a fragile peace on the Peninsula but failed to bridge the political gap between Pyongyang and Seoul. Since the Korean War (1950-1953) no bilateral, regional, or international mechanism has been set up to mitigate the tension. Ideological enmity of the DPRK towards the Republic of Korea and economic hardships in the North have been exacerbated by the unfavorable external environment. US military bases in South Korea and Japan alongside the anti-DPRK rhetoric in the West are viewed in Pyongyang as a proof that the US and its allies are nourishing plans to attack the DPRK or to overthrow the North Korean government. At the same time, the policy of self-reliance and inculcation of the army-style values in social life exercised in North Korea make the US and other Western countries believe that the DPRK is a hostile regime which needs to be changed.

Despite many years of attempts to conduct negotiations on this issue (the most promising attempt was undertaken from 2003 through 2008 when Six-Party Talks on Korean Peninsula Nuclear Problem led to several important agreements and understandings), the DPRK refuses to abandon and dismantle its nuclear program. Its audacious declarations threatening to unleash a war against the Republic of Korea and to destroy targets in the US and Japan add fuel to the hostilities. It is equally regretful that the US and the Republic of Korea have chosen the path of exerting growing pressure on Pyongyang instead of making efforts to start mutually respectful negotiations with it. One should admit that by enhancing their military infrastructure in the southern part of the Peninsula, as well as in Japan and Guam, by deploying Patriot systems and by conducting joint military exercises with Japan and the Republic of Korea in the vicinity of the DPRK, the US is provoking Pyongyang to tough response thus creating a vicious circle of instability in the subregion.

Undoubtedly, an international mechanism of peace and stability in North-East Asia is badly needed. With such a mechanism supported by a set of confidence-building measures the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in North-East Asia in general can be improved.

Elena Karnaukhova: You have already mentioned Eurasian Heartland. How would you describe the security environment there? Which forms of interaction on security issues have been developed since the end of the Cold War? 

Kirill Barsky: It is important to analyze the responses of key regional organizations to this new host of security challenges as well as past experience that can be used and the initiatives and policies proposed by major regional powers aimed at strengthening regional security.

CIS was set up in December 1991 to replace the dismantled Soviet Union, but it failed to perform this function and prevent further disintegration. However, at a later stage this Organization which never ceased its activities found a niche for itself in various spheres of multilateral cooperation including peacekeeping.

Faced with enormous security threats and challenges in 1992 the leaders of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan concluded the Collective Security Treaty. Later they were joined by Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, but at different time and for different reasons the latter two countries as well as Uzbekistan withdrew from the Treaty. Anyway, in 2002, it turned into the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan as members and the goal to strengthen peace, international and regional security, and stability and to ensure collective defense of the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the member states[2]. Since then, CSTO has grown into a strong and effective military alliance playing a crucial role as a guarantor of security and stability in Eurasia. Hosted by the President of Kazakhstan in the wake of internal turmoil in January 2022 the CSTO Summit demonstrated entity’s utmost efficiency. 

In the mid-1990s Russia and China upgraded their relations to the level of strategic partnership. Former USSR republics – China’s neighbors – finally resolved their border issues with China. In 1996, so called Shanghai Five was formed. Alongside Russia and China, the group included Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In April 1996, the Shanghai Five Summit was marked by a new Agreement on Confidence-Building in the Military Field in the Border Area signed by the presidents of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. This deal had a great significance for peace and security in a vast geography from the Pamir Mountains to the Pacific Coast. The five regional countries left the dark shadows of the past behind them. For the first time in the history a risk of military confrontation along the 7520-km-long border was eliminated. What is critically important is that in accordance with Article 7 of the Agreement the states parties to it made a commitment to respect the principle of inviolability of frontiers, and with regard to the existing border line maintain the status quo until a comprehensive solution of the border issues is finally achieved. Notably this formula is applicable to other territorial disputes in Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific region. Its application may open up a window of opportunity for the change of political climate in bilateral relations between the countries involved in territorial disputes.

The implementation of the Agreement gave birth to the creation of a new atmosphere of mutual trust and good will between the five nations and set an excellent example for other countries. Departing from the assumption that all five countries encounter the same security threats and are on good terms with each other, in June 2001 they established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Although the Organization was formed to enhance friendship among participating nations, the security issues are of high importance for the SCO member states. Today, the SCO family consists of 26 countries including members, observers, and dialogue partners. Among the key goals of SCO are: development of multi-faceted cooperation in the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security and stability in the region; promotion of a new democratic, fair and rational political and economic international order; joint combat against terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations; fighting against illicit drugs and arms trafficking, illegal migration and other types of transnational criminal activity[3].

Another forum dealing with Eurasian security problems is the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) initiated by Kazakhstan. The essential problem of CICA is implementation. As a loose forum of extremely diverse nations, it has proved a bit slow and not always efficient to translate the agreed principles and measures into practice. However, one should not underestimate the potential of CICA which unites 28 countries across Eurasia plus five observers and receives strong support from such heavyweights as Russia and China.

The interaction between CIS, CSTO, SCO and CICA tied up through bilateral memoranda of understanding for the last 15 years has shown that on security matters all four organizations share the same or similar views, and their security strategies are mutually compatible.

Elena Karnaukhova: For several years you have been the Deputy Chairman of the Chinese-Russian Friendship Society. It would be interesting to know your personal understanding and the assessment of the current state of the Russian-Chinese partnership in security domain. How does Chinese economic and political growth influence its security-related initiatives? 

Kirill Barsky: Russia and China feel extremely proud of good-neighborly relations, mutual trust and strategic cooperation which are rare in the contemporary international politics. To achieve this, they have come a long way. Following the normalization of the Sino-Soviet relations in 1989 the two countries faced the need to clear up the border issue and to ensure stability in the border area. In 1990, Moscow and Beijing sealed an Agreement on the Guidelines of Mutual Reduction of Forces and Confidence-Building in the Military Field in the Area of the Soviet-Chinese Border.It was very concise but truly innovative. The fundamental element of the Agreement was embodied in a simple but a far-reaching formula, in particular the principle of mutual equal security enshrined in Article 1 of the Agreement. Bearing in mind ups and downs in the relationship between the Soviet Union and China, this was a real breakthrough. The two sides agreed to cut their military forces along the border to a minimal level and to set limits for those troops which would remain deployed in the border zone. The document further stipulated that armed forces of the two sides stationed in the border area shall have structure allowing them to perform only defensive duties and shall not have capacity to launch a sudden assault against the opposite side or to undertake offensive operations. Article 2 introduced another crucial notion, namely the principle of asymmetrical reductions. It means that either side should combine unilateral and bilateral cuts. The side possessing superiority must make deeper cuts. The Agreement was ratified by the USSR and China, entered into force, and became a cornerstone of security cooperation of the two countries. More than 30 years on it is still effective.

Another good example was a new initiative on regional security which Russia and China came up with in 2010. They urged all the countries of the Asia-Pacific region to renounce confrontation and cooperation intended against third countries and to promote relations in the spirit of mutual trust, mutual benefit, and equality. They expressed their firm belief that it was high time to establish an open, transparent and equal architecture of security and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region based on the principles of international law, non-bloc approaches and due consideration of legitimate interests of all parties. They also highlighted that by establishing close relations between multilateral associations in Eurasia the regional community can also facilitate the advancement of the aforementioned principles and security measures. In the age of network diplomacy, they argued, it is necessary to develop an extensive network of partnership ties between regional organizations and fora, counterterrorism agencies, emergency information and management centers.

In its security approach China has been consistent for the last three decades. In 2014, President
 Xi Jinping proposed a new vision for common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security which was widely recognized and supported by the international community. The essence of this new vision of security is to advocate a concept of common security, respecting and safeguarding the security of every country. It is a holistic approach, maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains and enhancing security governance in a coordinated way; a commitment to cooperation, bringing about security through political dialogue and peaceful negotiation; and a pursuit of sustainable security, resolving conflicts through development and eliminating the breeding ground for insecurity.

On February 20, 2023, China officially put forward a Global Security Initiative. In Chinese view, the members of the international community should, for example, stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security; to respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; to abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; to taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously; to peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation; to maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains, including regional disputes, terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity, biosecurity, etc.

Through the Global Security Initiative China reaffirmed its readiness to conduct bilateral and multilateral security cooperation with all countries and international and regional organizations. As China believes, platforms and mechanisms of cooperation should include not only the UN General Assembly, relevant UN committees, the UN Security Council and other UN institutions, but also SCO, BRICS, CICA, the China + Central Asia mechanism, and relevant mechanisms of East Asia cooperation; as well as promote the establishment of a multilateral dialogue platform in the Gulf region and give play to the role of coordinating and cooperative mechanisms such as the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan[4].

Elena Karnaukhova: But do the Chinese initiatives contradict Russian approaches to establishing common security architecture in Greater Eurasian space?

Kirill Barsky: The analysis of Russian and Chinese visions on security issues identifies striking proximity of views of the two countries which make their security cooperation under current circumstances only natural. See for yourself.

In July 2021, new National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation was adopted that for the first time has included a special section on measures to ensure security in Greater Eurasia. These are the following:

  • to ensure the integration of economic systems and multilateral cooperation within the framework of Greater Eurasian Partnership;
  • to promote comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction with China, specially privileged strategic partnership with India, including for the purpose of building in the Asia-Pacific region reliable mechanisms of ensuring regional stability and security on a non-bloc basis;
  • to deepen multi-faceted cooperation with foreign states in such formats as SCO and BRICS, strengthening functional and institutional foundations of cooperation within the Russia-India-China format;
  • to support the development of regional and subregional integration in the Asia-Pacific region[5].

The 2023 Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation attaches particular importance to security issues while the idea of Greater Eurasia runs like a golden thread through the whole document. It echoes the National Security Strategy emphasizing the following steps:

  • to improve international mechanisms for ensuring security and development at the global and regional levels;
  • to enhance the capacity and international role of the interstate association of BRICS, SCO, CIS, EAEU, CSTO, Russia-India-China format and other interstate associations and international organizations, as well as mechanisms with strong Russian participation;
  • to support regional and subregional integration within friendly multilateral institutions, dialogue platforms and regional associations in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East[6].

One can easily see that strategically Russia and China are on the same wavelength.

Elena Karnaukhova: The 19th century saw the so-called Great Game between Russian and British empires. Its 2nd round took place in the first half of the 20th century in the form of rivalry between the British Empire and Soviet Russia over Afghanistan, or sabotage network and diversionary tactic of Germany against the positions of Great Britain in the Middle East. Nowadays, it is popular to speak about New Great Game, or the rivalry between the US on the one side and Russia and China on the other in Central Asia and much broadly in entire Eurasia. So, can we really say that American policy towards Eurasia is both anti-Russian and anti-Chinese?

Kirill Barsky: The shift of the world political and economic development from the affluent West to dynamic Asia-Pacific region, the rise of China and independent political behavior of Russia came as an unpleasant surprise to the US reluctant to share its global influence with the emerging economies. In these circumstances the collective West elaborated a new policy aimed at destroying the existing norms and principles of international law replacing them with the so- called rules-based order. The purpose of this policy is to contain China and Russia as well as to cause trouble for regional organizations and groups which do not fit with American interests. 

Frightened by the China’s impressive defense build-up and the success of BRI, in 2017-2018 the US arranged concerted efforts of its allies to counter China’s economic expansion with a focus on criticizing flaws in the BRI execution model such as the lack of transparency, neglect of environment implications, high debt rate of many participating countries, exclusive use of Chinese labor force, etc. The trade war of the Trump administration (2017-2021) on China was yet another effort to curb China’s development. Simultaneously, the US developed a set of Indo-Pacific strategies with a clear aim to control and contain China. Reshaping regional politics was a critical move by the Western coalition which has already had far-reaching implications. Joe Biden’s coming to the White House in 2021 did not change the ultimate goals of the US foreign policy in what they call the Indo-Pacific region. China remained the strongest headache for Washington but the US policy towards Beijing was accommodated in accordance with a new focus of NATO military involvement – a furious attack on Russia. Out-competing China and constraining Russia are defined in the US National Security Strategy as the US major global priorities.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it. Beijing has ambitions to create an enhanced sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power… The PRC is also investing in a military that is rapidly modernizing, increasingly capable in the Indo-Pacific, and growing in strength and reach globally – all while seeking to erode US alliances in the region and around the world”.

2022 US National Security Strategy
October, 2022
Source: The White House


“Russia now poses an immediate and persistent threat to international peace and stability… The United States will continue to support Ukraine in its fight for its freedom, we will help Ukraine recover economically, and we will encourage its regional integration with the European Union. Second, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory and will continue to build and deepen a coalition with allies and partners to prevent Russia from causing further harm to European security, democracy, and institutions”. 

2022 US National Security Strategy
October, 2022
Source: The White House


Besides, the US policy goals include advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific, building connections within and beyond the region, driving Indo-Pacific prosperity and bolstering Indo-Pacific security. The US will reinforce deterrence, including through AUKUS, support India’s continued rise and regional leadership, deliver on QUAD, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (a coalition of the US, Japan, Australia, and India), and expand US-Japan-South Korea cooperation. Needless to say, all the strategies of the Biden administration (2021-present) including modernizing alliances, creating flexible partnerships, pressuring ASEAN, engaging India, strengthening QUAD and bringing NATO to the region are targeted at weakening regional positions of China.

Moreover, in 2015 the US Strategy for Central Asia was approved (revised in 2019). According to it the US commits itself to working together with the countries of Central Asia as a regional group that will expand the potential for the US engagement through the C5 + 1 platform. There is little doubt that the US policy in Central Asia is aimed at pulling countries of the subregion away from Russia and China. Engaging them means their decoupling with the existing security arrangements including CSTO and SCO.

The analysis of the US National Security Strategy, the US Indo-Pacific Strategy and the US Strategy for Central Asia shows that the US is not interested in building a comprehensive, cooperative security architecture in Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific region which would include two major players – Russia and China. Nothing of the kind is to be found in the Eurasian strategies of NATO and the EU, 2022 NATO Strategic Concept[7] and 2020 EU Security Union Strategy[8] either.

“With consistent US engagement on economic, energy, security, democracy, and governance issues, the Central Asian states will function as a region of cooperative partners, increasing their ability to maintain individual sovereignty and make clear choices to achieve and preserve economic independence… We will work to ensure the countries of the region are increasingly better connected to Europe through the Caucasus, to Afghanistan and South Asia, as well as to global markets. We will help the countries strengthen their economic and political sovereignty, develop deeper resilience, and improve their willingness and ability to cooperate with each other in areas of mutual interest. Successful US engagement in Central Asia will also advance our own national security interests”.

United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025:
Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity (Overview)

US Department of State

Elena Karnaukhova: And what shall we do in such grim circumstances to let Eurasia live and prosper?

Kirill Barsky: At this juncture of history the security situation in Eurasia is highly deplorable. Building a comprehensive transregional security system like the one enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 across the fragmented Eurasian continent, torn by the armed conflict in Ukraine, divided by the confrontation between the collective West and Russia, obsessed by domination of possessive and aggressive NATO over the weak-willed EU and the US all-out containment strategy against China, is not feasible.

A more realistic scenario would be to build a geographically limited but structurally cohesive and durable security system to ensure safety and stability in the Eurasian Heartland with a view to reliably securing favorable environment for economic development of all Eurasian states and coordinated implementation of large-scale integration projects, in particular EAEU and BRI, and gradually shaping Greater Eurasian Partnership. Such a security system should be founded on equal and mutually respectful cooperation between all Eurasian countries, close interaction among key regional and transregional organizations and fora, including CSTO, CIS, SCO, CICA, ASEAN, etc., lean on the principles of security shared by Russia, China and the majority of Eurasian states as well as be based on the time-tested practices and successful security cooperation experience.

[1] Indicating Taiwan separately in this chapter does not imply recognition of its independent status. We consider Taiwan as a part of the People’s Republic of China. – Editor’s Note.

[2] Charter of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, 2002 // Official Website of the Russian President. URL:

[3] Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 2002 // Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

[4] The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper // Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, February 21, 2023. URL:

[5] Стратегия национальной безопасности Российской Федерации от 02 июля 2021 г. // МИД России,  2 июля 2021 г. URL:

[6] The Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, 2023 // Russian Foreign Ministry,
 March 31, 2023. URL:

[7] 2022 NATO Strategic Concept // NATO. URL:

[8] Communication from the Commission on the EU Security Union Strategy // European Commission, July 24, 2020. URL:

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