The Russian Far East: Challenges and Opportunities
By Rens Lee, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute
Reviewed by John M. Handley, Vice President, American Diplomacy Publishers
Rensselaer (Rens) W. Lee III, a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and President of Global Advisory Services, recently testified before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. Although billed as testimony on the Russian Far East, Dr. Rens actually entitled his testimony “China’s Rapid Political and Economic Advances in Central Asia and Russia.” Dr. Lee previously had written and spoken extensively on the importance of the Russian Far East (RFE) to the future economic and security well being of Russia and to the potential for US economic and security benefits from trade and engagement in this region. In this testimony, he emphasized Chinese interests in the RFE; specifically in the RFE’s natural wealth—oil, natural gas, coal, gold, diamonds, rare earth metals—and on the RFE’s strategic position in the North Pacific, where the interests Russia, the US, and China intersect.
His testimony provided a new context for readers (and listeners)—the China perspective—complete with data on how the Chinese are already economically, culturally, and socially making their collective presence felt within the RFE. He addressed five specific RFE-related issues: Moscow’s inability to direct economic developments within the RFE; the economic investments made and proposed by China in the region; the importance of the RFE to China strategically as a major power in the Pacific; the lack of US economic or security involvement in the Russian RFE; and the need for the US and its Pacific allies to engage economically in the FRE.
Lee is correct that the RFE is potentially very significant to the security of the US as well as to the continued economic development of both Russia and China. If the US intends to remain a power in the Asia-Pacific region, it seems probable that the RFE, like certain Middle Eastern countries, may find itself defined as a US vital national interest.