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BANGKOK, May 10. /TASS/. Close cooperation with member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will bring economic benefits and greater political presence in Asia to Russia, Thailand’s political analyst and author of the book on Russia’s foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific "Russia as an Aspiring Great Power in East Asia" Dr. Paradorn Rangsimaporn told TASS on Tuesday.
"The forming of the ASEAN Community in all three pillars - Political-Security, Economic, Socio-Cultural - presents greater opportunities for other countries, including Russia, as it represents both a powerful political and economic bloc of more than 600 million people with an economic worth of around $2.6 trillion," Rangsimaporn said. "If Russia can access this huge market extensively then it would be able to reap the economic benefits, and if it can forge stronger and closer relations with ASEAN, this would lend greater political weight to Russia's presence and role in Asia," he added.
"Russia believes itself a great power and demands that it be recognized as such. Two-thirds of its territory is in Asia and it claims to be both a European and Asian power, or more often, a unique Eurasian one. But historically and culturally Russia is closer to Europe than to Asia," the expert continued.
"Russia's hosting of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) in 2012 in Vladivostok was a big chance for Russia to develop and modernize its Far Eastern territories but it appears that the momentum for this died down afterwards. While Russia does have many attributes of a great power - large territory, an impressive arsenal, and political weight - its economy has been hit hard by falling energy prices and Western sanctions," Rangsimaporn said.
"Russia, to really have a greater presence, role and weight in Asia, must develop its economic strength, by diversifying its economy and modernizing its industry and business sectors, and by reducing its economic dependence on energy resources. It must have a greater economic presence in Asia for it to be accepted as a real power and player in the region. Indeed, Russia-ASEAN trade is very low and the lowest amongst all of ASEAN's dialogue partners," he noted.
At the upcoming Russia-ASEAN summit, "I think we should also focus more on people-to-people contact and greater understanding of each other through socio-cultural activities and education," he said adding that " such greater understanding and knowledge would help lead us towards greater economic and political engagement and more strengthened ties."
According to Torkunov, issues of linking Asia Pacific and Eurasian integrational processes should be raised at the upcoming Russia-ASEAN summit.
"I am confident that the topic of integration on large Eurasian space will be raised, as well as the topic of linking Asia Pacific and Eurasian integrational processes," Torkunov, who is also an academician at the Russian Academy of Sciences and chairman of Russia-ASEAN Eminent Persons Group, said.
The expert reminded about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative voiced last year on forms and directions of economic cooperation between member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). "Start of discussions on this matter at the highest level is important because this is a step toward a potential breakthrough," Torkunov said.
"One should understand that we aspire to complete the project of planetary scale which cannot be fulfilled in several years. We should prepare for systemic and consistent actions, calmly treat obstacles that will arise on this path from time to time, and to overcome them, we will need high level of mobilization of intellect, political will, and material resources," he added.
The expert said that such efforts will definitely pay off because the project is in line with objective interests of a large groups of countries. "In fact, it may become one of the central ‘peace fronts’ in the fight for a multi-polar world," Torkunov noted.
The Russia-ASEAN summit will be held in Sochi on May 19-20 and will become the biggest international event in Russia in 2016. The summit will be held under the slogan "Towards Strategic Partnership for the Sake of the Common Good."
The summit is expected to adopt a declaration that will lay the basis for an action plan of Russia-ASEAN cooperation in the political, economic and cultural spheres, as well as in the sphere of security.
Russia has been a dialog partner of ASEAN since July 1996. Similar partnership summits are normally held on the territory of member-states and the choice of Sochi as venue for the Russia-ASEAN summit on the partnership’s 20th anniversary is symbolic.