One Belt - One Road Initiative: A Window of Opportunity for Russia’s Western Border RegionsAbstract
In recent years, global geo-economic transformations have been considerably affected by the development of the People’s Republic of China, its reviving leadership and ambitions, and its increasing efforts to reformat and integrate the Eurasian space. The One Belt — One Road Initiative is a manifesto and a tool to advance China’s long-term geostrategic interests that spread to the bordering states and regions and to the prospects of their socioeconomic development. The initiative encompasses transportation and logistics, production and investment, finances, research and technology, humanitarian affairs, and foreign policy. In this article, we will highlight the key geoeconomic and geopolitical aspects of the One Belt — One Road initiative implementation, based on the Chinese and Russian studies. Another goal is to weigh up the risks and benefits associated with the extension of the project to Russian territories. Special attention is paid to Russia’s western borderlands — 17 regions that account for 8.6 % of the country’s territory, 17.4 % of the total GRP, and 20.8 % of the national population. We analyse the factors in effect — including geopolitical ones, as well as current trends in the development of Russia’s western borderlands. It is shown that the inclusion into the Chinese Eurasian integration initiatives creates additional incentives for a positive re-evaluation of the Russian space as a whole and holds special relevance for Russia’s western borderlands. We analyse the possibility of including Russia’s Baltic regions — the infrastructural and economic island of the Kaliningrad exclave among them — into the One Belt — One Road Initiative.