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Russia’s Eastern Exposure

Moscow’s Asian Empire Crumbles

Vladivostok, April 7, 2015.  Yuri Maltsev / Reuters

Contemporary analysis of Russian foreign policy understandably focuses on Ukraine and the Caucasus, but real drama is unfolding much farther east. Having lost its European empire in the twentieth century, Russia may find that its biggest threat in the twenty-first is that of the loss of its Asian empire. Stretching for thousands of miles east of Siberia, the Russian Far East is thinly settled and poorly integrated into the rest of the country. In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States because it could neither govern nor defend it. Today’s Russia must act soon to prevent a similar scenario on its eastern flank.

Until its fall in 1644, China’s Ming dynasty claimed suzerainty over all of what is now the Russian Far East and much of Central Asia. With its own political system lacking the modern concept of sovereignty, China did not establish settler colonies to reinforce its claims

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