How has Russia's attitude to the concept of "One Belt, One Road" changed?
In an interview with the media on June 15 , 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
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