Putin, who flew into the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, is expected to sign a pact with the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations later on Tuesday, a day before the first East Asia Summit, to which Russia has been invited as an observer with a view to deepening ties.
Business leaders said Russia’s invitation to take part in a summit that groups Japan, China and South Korea with Asean nations and India, Australia and New Zealand – but excludes the United States – is viewed by the Kremlin as an opportunity to broaden political and economic ties.
“Our policy is diversification,” Elena Danilova, director of foreign economic relations at Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, told Reuters.
“We have to balance our energy policy because we have a lot of partners,” she said on the sidelines of a business forum held before the first Asean-Russia Summit.
Russia is looking increasingly to Asia, both from a security standpoint and an opportunity for investment, delegates attending the summit said.
Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said last month that 30% of the country’s oil exports would go to Asia by 2020, compared with only 3% currently.
Leaders of China, Japan, South
“We are talking about creating a new framework in this region in terms of energy, transport and technology,” Alexander Zakharov, deputy chairman of Russian savings bank Sberbank, told the business forum.
Georgy Petrov, vice president of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Russia’s share of Asean trade was less than 1%.
But he added more cooperation would allow Moscow to rekindle alliances with Soviet-era partners such as Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as building new trade links with others.
Danilova, the Economic Development Ministry official, said: “We have plans to develop our resources in eastern Siberia and to provide oil and gas to Asia, and through Asian markets to the United States”.
Russia was keen to encourage projects in the Asean region to which the private sector should supply no less than 30% of the finance required, she added.
“For what is usually funded by national budgets, we’d like to attract private sector investors,” she said.
As well as oil and gas, agriculture and the food industry would be important areas of cooperation, she said.