プーチン大統領 見定めたいアジア重視戦略

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 11, 2012)
Putin's diplomatic strategies require careful scrutiny
プーチン大統領 見定めたいアジア重視戦略(5月10日付・読売社説)

After an interval of four years, Vladimir Putin has returned to the post of Russian president. His new administration will have its hands full dealing with a stack of problems.

"We have strengthened our country and returned our dignity as a great nation," Putin said at his inauguration ceremony. Putin's message conveyed his intention to continue pursuing a strong Russia.

Many ears pricked up when Putin recently expressed a specific economic goal of becoming one of the world's top five economies in the near future.

However, to achieve this target, Russia will first need to break free from its excessive dependence on natural resources and develop its domestic industries, such as manufacturing, so that they are competitive in international markets. It is also vital that Russia introduce cutting-edge technologies.

Russia will not be able to obtain the trust of domestic and foreign investors without creating fair markets and an environment that attracts foreign investment.

The new president urgently needs to eradicate the widespread corruption in his country and establish the rule of law. Putin was expected to tackle these issues when he first took office in 2000, but the problems remain unresolved.


Public discontent growing

The fact that thousands of people participated in a demonstration held on the eve of Putin's inauguration shows how frustrated many Russians are with the current state of affairs.

To obtain the backing of middle-class Russians seeking change, Putin will need to boldly reform the nation's political and administrative structures. In fact, this will be the only way Russia can achieve economic development.

In one of Putin's first presidential orders, he stated a policy of strengthening cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region.

He said Moscow plans to establish mutually beneficial, cooperative relationships with nations such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, and to deepen ties with China and India.

As long as Russia aspires to become a major economic power, it is unsurprising that the country is looking closely at the Asia-Pacific region, which has become a hub of the world's economic growth.

In September, an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting will be held in Vladivostok. Russia will likely use this meeting as a stepping stone for strengthening economic cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations.


Don't forget northern territories

Russia has recently become increasingly important to Japan as a supplier of liquefied natural gas--a main fuel for thermal power plants. Strengthening bilateral economic cooperation in the energy field would benefit both countries.

However, we should not forget the issue of the Russian-held northern territories off Hokkaido. The Japan-Russia relationship soured during the administration of Putin's predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev. Moscow expressed hope for developing joint economic activities on the four islands, but never tried to move territorial talks forward.

In his third term, Putin will likely take a tough line on foreign policies due to his unstable political footing caused by domestic concerns. Japan should not expect too much on the development of territorial talks.

The Japanese government must rebuild its strategy vis-a-vis Russia after thoroughly examining Putin's diplomatic policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 10, 2012)
(2012年5月10日01時46分 読売新聞)

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