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Russia Pivots to Asia

Tuesday was a big day for Russian-Chinese relations. The two countries signed deals to build refineries, coordinate efforts to explore Siberia’s oil and gas reserves, and send Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) and oil China’s way. Reuters reports:

Medvedev hailed Rosneft’s outline agreement to pump 200,000 barrels per day of crude oil over 10 years to China’s Sinopec Group, in a pre-paid deal valued at $85 billion.

“That is a large sum of money for any country – even China,” the prime minister said. “It testifies to the fact that we have reached a higher and completely new level of cooperation.”

Checked to its west, Russia is having to look elsewhere for more pliable customers. Europe is chafing at long-term contracts for Russian gas, and countries are increasingly looking to import LNG as an alternative.

There have long been rumblings about greater cooperation between Russia and China, and while these deals are significant steps in that direction, this is still an uneasy alliance. But for now, China needs the energy, and Russia needs buyers, so Putin is joining Obama in pivoting to Asia. As Ekaterina Kuznetsova and Vladislav Inozemtsev write in the latest issue of The American Interest, Washington might consider doing more to engage Moscow in areas of common interest in order to prevent a strengthened China-Russia partnership in the Pacific.

[Xi and Putin meeting in China, June 6, 2012, courtesy of Getty Images]

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