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What is the state of participation by Russia in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)?

They definitely don't seem to be enthusiastic about it. I doubt they're even participating in it.

There seem to be no Chinese projects in Russia specifically as part of BRI; and there is no Russian investment anywhere as part of BRI. Why is that?

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    You won't see Russia "join" the BRI just like you will never see Russia "join" NATO. Russia itself has said that it doesn't "join" groups. It wants to negotiate as a leader and views joining established programs led by other countries as being subordinate. That's why you see them constantly proposing side deals or alternative programs, even if they seem like copy-cat or a similar program with a different name. Its not a full answer, because this isn't an exclusive reason, but it definitely plays a part.
    – David S
    Mar 3, 2023 at 16:03
  • @DavidS Russia has joined groups such as SCO, BRICS; they don't seem completely averse to that concept.
    – whoisit
    Mar 3, 2023 at 19:11
  • IDK if this is Western bias but FT says "China’s Belt and Road spending in Russia drops to zero" ft.com/content/470e2518-410b-4e78-9106-cf881dd43028 presumably due to the war. Which also suggests it was >0 prior. Mar 3, 2023 at 21:10
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    Russia never joined the SCO or BRICS, they are founding members. There is a lot of nuance with how Russia becomes a part of an organization or program. What position within the program matters to them. Generally, you see that they want to be a founding member if all members are equal. If anyone is a leader, they want to be a co-leader. If anyone has a veto, they want one too.
    – David S
    Mar 3, 2023 at 21:24

2 Answers 2

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One thing to keep in mind is that BRI is a fairly arbitrary label placed on projects. Some concrete projects that have been (more or less tentatively) placed under that are

The Yamal LNG, Asinovskiy Timber Industry Park, and Belkomur projects were all started before the BRI was even created in 2013. Both Chinese and Russian players have basically tried to rebrand them under the BRI umbrella to find legitimacy, momentum, and resources to continue the development of these projects. There are three other projects that were created after the BRI’s birth in 2013. They are Power of Siberia-1, the Nizhneleninskoe-Tongjiang Railway Bridge, and the Moscow-Kazan Expressway.

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Russia is participating as an example a 2017 article from Russia explaining Putin's opinion on that project:

How has Russia's attitude to the concept of "One Belt, One Road" changed?

In an interview with the media on June 15 [2017], Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Russia and China can join forces in creating the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt

The two countries are not only strategic partners in the economic sphere, they have many similar goals, their potential complements each other. "We will develop effective cooperation that will benefit the peoples of the two countries and have a positive impact on the international situation," he said.

This is not the first such statement on this topic made by Vladimir Putin this year. A month ago, in a speech at the opening ceremony of the One Belt, One Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing, Vladimir Putin emphasized that combining the potential of the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union and One Belt, One Road would lay the foundation for partnership relations in Eurasia.

The corresponding statements of President Vladimir Putin demonstrate the dominant positive attitude in Russian society towards the construction of "One Belt, One Road". However, this attitude did not appear immediately after the "One Belt, One Road" initiative was put forward, during this time the path from doubt and observation to acceptance was passed.

The "One Belt, One Road" initiative was launched in 2013. At that time, because of the issue of the struggle for Ukraine, the contradiction between the Eurasian Economic Union initiated by Russia and the Eastern Partnership project put forward by the EU was constantly deepening. Against this background, both in official and academic circles in Russia, many doubts and objections were expressed against the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, its appearance immediately caused a violent reaction — from general apprehension to condemning protest. There was a misunderstanding of the concept, besides, the initiative at the initial stage of its nomination did not have a clear framework, many researchers even put China's initiative on a par with the EU project, believing that it jeopardizes Russia's strategic interests in Central Asia, and treated this initiative with a high degree of anxiety.

Obvious changes occurred after the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. Russia has faced strong pressure, Western sanctions, a sharp drop in oil prices on the international market, the devaluation of the ruble, and the economic development situation has become tougher. Under the influence of internal and external problems, Russian diplomacy "turned to the East" in search of a way out. At the same time, China actively communicated with the Russian side in the process of promoting the initiative, rapprochement and understanding with different circles in Russia were consistently deepening, voices of doubts about the "One Belt, One Road" sounded quieter, the Russian side began to understand that along with the construction of the "One Belt — By promoting international cooperation in the field of production capacities, China will continuously stimulate financial support and cooperation, constantly strengthen "diplomatic investments", including support for the New BRICS Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, and all this provides favorable opportunities for Russia, which is experiencing a shortage of funds and other problems.

Moreover, China provided political support to Russia on the issue of Ukraine, and this not only dispelled Russia's doubts and strengthened Sino-Russian relations, but also contributed to the fact that Russia began to look more objectively at the content and essence of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. After the Ukrainian crisis, Russia began to look more actively for common ground with China in order to link the Eurasian Economic Union with the "One Way", and entered the "One Belt, One Road" program as a "founder", and not just a "participant". After that, the leaders of China and Russia issued a joint declaration on the "merger" of the Russian program "Eurasian Economic Union" with the Chinese program "One Belt, One Road".

From the moment China put forward the "One Belt, One Road" initiative to its official acceptance by Russia and participation in it, the attitude of the Russian side changed in three stages: first doubts and protest due to fears, then gradually fading criticism and, finally, strategic alignment. This turnaround occurred not only due to intensive contacts and full trust between China and Russia, but also as a result of the internal need of both sides for strategic coupling and strengthening cooperation, which shows the foresight of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

In fact, Russia could immediately see the huge benefits arising from the construction of the "One Belt, One Road". As stated in the report of the Valdai International Discussion Club: "Russia and China are not competitors, the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt will become an important mechanism for promoting the economic development of Eurasia, the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt will become a new starting point of bilateral relations. The trend of expanding regional cooperation between China and Russia is unstoppable. There is no reason to worry about possible competition between China and Russia in the very center of Eurasia."

This issue is of great interest in the circles of the general public in Russia. The data show that there are more and more reports and discussions about the "One Belt, One Road" in Russia. In 2016, 215 Russian media outlets published a total of 787 reports on this initiative. The number of positive messages about "One Belt — One Way" has doubled in a year. In 2017, during the session of the National People's Congress and the CC NPCC, various circles in Russia paid close attention to the topic of "One Belt, One Road". A positive, optimistic attitude is increasingly prevailing and is gradually becoming the main one in Russia.

Currently, the strategic alignment of the "One Belt" and "One Union" provides China and Russia with valuable opportunities for development. Both sides are aware that the promotion of strategic coupling is an important new point of growth, the point of development of the strategic Sino-Russian partnership. China and Russia are called upon to turn the political advantages of high mutual trust into concrete achievements in the economic field. Using market principles, relying on enterprises, under the guidance and stimulating influence of governments, it is necessary to make an even greater contribution to the well-being of the peoples of the two countries and the peoples of Eurasia.

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  • I find it interesting how the only concrete metric there is the number of positive press articles about BRI (after the Kremlin appears to have leaned on one side of the debate in Russia--not that there's something wrong with that in this case--all governments promote or shun some foreign initiatives). Mar 2, 2023 at 22:39
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    words are shallow. there are no actions - no Chinese investment in Russia specifically as part of BRI; or Russian investment in other countries as part of BRI.
    – whoisit
    Mar 3, 2023 at 6:31
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    Rather than just copy paste, could you not summarise the article?
    – James K
    Mar 3, 2023 at 7:10
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    @whoisit The question was not about investment, but Russian participation in BRI.
    – convert
    Mar 3, 2023 at 11:12
  • In being part on such large "transport" projects, some skepticism is due. You can be the transit country between two worlds. Like Switzerland was between the Mediterranean sea world and central Europe in the previous centuries, or like Nicaragua is today between South and North America...
    – EarlGrey
    Mar 3, 2023 at 11:24

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