Russia Turns East To Embrace Looming China [View all]
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW | Mon Jun 4, 2012 6:05pm EDT
(Reuters) - When Russia opens a "billion-dollar bridge" on its Pacific coast this summer, Vladimir Putin can expect an enthusiastic audience among the 5,000 islanders whom it will connect to the mainland, at an eye-popping cost per head.
But the president will be looking, too, for attention from a few miles further off, in China, whose rise as a trading and diplomatic partner but also as a potential rival for control of thinly populated Siberia's resources has brought a new focus in Moscow on both business and military investment in the far east.
Putin, who meets Chinese leaders in Beijing on Tuesday as he settles back into his role in the Kremlin, has poured money into the Vladivostok area since it was chosen five years ago to host this September's Asia-Pacific APEC summit.
Today, though some question the efficacy of bureaucrats pouring taxpayers' roubles into the region, it shows a will in the Kremlin to engage in the east, where Putin must balance the opportunities and risks presented by the rapid growth of China.