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  • Eurasia and the ASEM Summit

    Posted by: Richard Youngs October 23, 2014

    The 10th ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Summit, held on October 16 and 17 in Milan, had a distinctly Eurasian bent. Kazakhstan became ASEM’s 53rd member, representatives discussed a “New Silk Road” initiative intended to bolster relations between Europe and Asia, and side meetings involving Russia garnered intense media attention.

    Russia has been a member since 2010, but the biannual summits were originally conceived primarily to strengthen the EU’s focus on North and South East Asia. One of ASEM’s goals is the development of a “global partnership” between European and Asian states. This highlights a desire for the two regions to work together not only on their own inter-regional relationship but also on “shared global challenges.”

    Russia’s role in fulfilling this ambition has become sensitive in recent months. The EU has looked to Asian states for support in their criticism of Russian actions in Ukraine. Singapore has been outspoken in criticising Moscow and Japan has joined the United States and EU in imposing sanctions on Russia. In general, however, Asian states have been reluctant to condemn Russian aggression openly, despite privately expressing  alarm over President Putin’s disregard for the kind sovereignty norms that remain sacrosanct in intra-Asian affairs.

    Many in ASEM have suggested that a group of more than 50 member states is simply too unwieldy to deliver practical results. Indeed, ASEM has never been a terribly high-profile summit and habitually struggles to deliver tangible results.

    In light of new tension between Europe and Russia, talk of ASEM being based on “shared values” rings even more hollow. EU countries fear that the body, which was ostensibly designed to manage relations with the rising powers of North and South East Asia, could be shackled—if not completely undermined—by “the Russian problem.” Certainly, the EU is increasingly interested in intensifying relations with Asian states on an individual or sub-regional  basis, rather than prioritizing ASEM.

    ASEM may survive as an interesting mix of debating club, retreat and venue for bilateral meetings
     
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    Unsurprisingly, the media focused on the side meetings involving the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and EU member states. And these meetings will not have been in vain, if their reportedly positive discussions translate into a tangible tightening of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine (something that is far from being guaranteed). However, the very fact that these and other side meetings stole the show in Milan reinforces the feeling that ASEM needs a fundamental revamp.

    The next summit will be held in Mongolia in 2016. That meeting will mark ASEM’s 20th anniversary, and is likely to be of a very different format and nature than the one in Milan. There is already talk of a more informal, Davos-like discussion forum.

    It would be a stretch to think that ASEM can foster any kind of benign diplomatic triangle between the EU, Russia, and Asian powers. Indeed, its internal dynamics may suffer if the EU and Russia continue to diverge, as Asian powers remain circumspect in their own approach to certain global norms. ASEM may survive as an interesting mix of debating club, retreat and venue for bilateral meetings. Still, its shortcomings are emblematic of how difficult it is to make multilateralism work in today’s fraught international environment.

     
     
     
  • Games of Bluff in Moldova

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    The biggest current dangers for Moldova lie not in the unresolved Transnistria conflict, but in domestic Moldovan politics.

     
     
  • Ukraine Election Countdown: 5 Days Remaining

    Posted by: Yuliya Bila, Isaac Webb Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    With less than a week left until the Ukrainian parliamentary elections, there is growing uncertainty about whether the new parliament will provide a boost to President Petro Poroshenko's flagging reform agenda and attempts to manage the extremely fragile situation in the east.

     
     
  • A Hereditary Disease

    Posted by: Mikhail Krutikhin Tuesday, October 21, 2014 1

    The old Soviet “enemies-are-everywhere” mentality frequently leads Russian decision makers to losses and defeat.

     
     
  • Paying for Ukraine

    Posted by: Dmitri Trenin Monday, October 20, 2014 1

    If Ukraine is allowed to become a failed state, the consequences for Europe will be serious, even dire. Making sure that Ukraine keeps itself warm this winter is an absolutely necessary step.

     
     
  • For Russia, Asia Is No Substitute for the West

    Posted by: Akio Kawato Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Facing Western sanctions, some Russian pundits are rushing to find an easy way out through increased cooperation with Asia. However, nothing can replace the West for Russia.

     
     
  • East or West, Home Is Best

    Posted by: Mikhail Krutikhin Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    Moscow’s most recent, failed attempt to cooperate with China on the Altai gas pipeline shows that its political ambitions are not compatible with elementary arithmetic.

     
     
  • The West Should Not Reject Russia’s Assistance in Afghanistan

    Posted by: Petr Topychkanov Tuesday, October 14, 2014 1

    If common sense prevails and the West resumes its cooperation with Russia, the consolidated response to security threats in Afghanistan will be far more effective than the current disjointed efforts by various countries.

     
     
  • Indian Summer: Ukraine Before the Elections

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik Monday, October 13, 2014 1

    Forthcoming elections give Ukraine a feeling of hope. However, for most Ukrainians the optimistic political advertisements contrast sharply with their own experiences. The war in the Donbas and the worsening economic and social situation are likely to bring more people to the parliament with no appetite for dialogue.

     
     
  • Why Is Turkey Still So Reluctant to Join the Coalition Against the “Islamic State”?

    Posted by: Bayram Balci Friday, October 10, 2014 2

    Turkey hesitates to fully embrace the U.S.-led coalition’s actions against the Islamic State. Ankara’s most crucial hesitation relates to the Kurdish issue which plays such a central role in Turkish policy in the Middle East.

     
     

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