A sailor of Russia's Black Sea fleet sits behind a red sheet, December 2, 2007.
Gleb Garanich / Courtesy Reuters

In June of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, put forth his intentions to take a page from the United States’ book and pivot east. He announced ambitious plans to boost Russia’s economic growth by looking to the Asia-Pacific region rather than to its traditional markets in Europe. He proposed massive investments in infrastructure, including upgrading the trans-Siberian railway to better link his country to the Pacific. And he praised the state oil company Rosneft for concluding a major export deal with China. The speech came less than a year after Putin hosted the annual meeting of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Vladivostok, an event billed as Russia’s official coming out party -- or coming back out party –- after decades of strategic and economic neglect of its own Far East.

The shift in economic focus might

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