Russia and its NSR Neighbours in Northeast Asia and the Barents Region: A comparative view of relations and perceptions

(By Henning Simonsen ; INSROP Working Paper No. 92 – 1997, IV.2.3b)


The working paper is basically an expansion of Working Paper No. 58-1996 Regional Cooperation in Northeast Asia: new opportunities for the Russian Arctic?

The object of the paper is to make a relatively brief comparison of the relations that the two Russian regions the Russian Far East and Northwest Russia have with their foreign neighboring regions. The neighboring states in the east are Japan, China and the Koreas; while the states in the west are the Barents Region members Finland, Sweden and Norway. Relations and perceptions between Russia and the states in question (high politics) as well as centre-periphery relations between the regions and their national capitals is included in the analysis. The connection with NSR problematique is thus only indirect, but the paper can hopefully contribute to understanding the complicated relations between Russia and its "NSR neighbours", relations which ultimately may have an impact on international cooperation in the development of the NSR and in the "NSR region". The analysis is made along three dimensions: cultural, politico-security and economic interaction.

The non-Russian perceptions of Russia and the Russian culture are quite stereotype: "Russia is an unstable and in many ways backward country that needs to develop significantly before it can join the family of pluralistic, predictable Western states." The Western way of responding to this view of Russia is to take upon itself to educate the Russians, while the Asian reaction (specifically: the Japanese reaction) is to keep an arm’s length distance. The often highly educated Russians are naturally offended by the one-dimensional way the Westerners view them, while they do not understand why the Asians (Japanese) are so timid.

The common non-Russian perception of Russia in the politico-security dimension is basically that the military threat has been greatly reduced during the 1990's due to the demise of the Soviet Union and not least the economic troubles that Russia has experienced. Both the Eastern and Western neighbours are more worried about the potential threat that the unstable domestic situation in Russia presents them, e.g. the issue of vast amounts of nuclear waste. The three Nordic countries as well as China and South Korea have friendly and cordial relations with Russia, with Japan on a cordial but not as friendly distance. Russian perceptions of outside threats to its security vary, but among the states in question only China is considered a threat by some (the Russian Far East population and parts of the military establishment). At present Moscow is preoccupied with the unstable situation that the near abroad (earlier Soviet republics) represents.


    Henning Simonsen, 1997, Russia and its NSR Neighbours in Northeast Asia and the Barents Region: A comparative view of relations and perceptions, INSROP.©