Trans-Pacificism is the wave of the future as the Atlantic democracies intensify their ties with the Pacific democracies to counter China’s expansionism and manage Russia’s rupture. Trans-Pacificism much like trans-Atlanticism is a concept that underscores common values and mutual interests in the defense of national independence, state sovereignty, and territorial integrity. It is simultaneously an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist forum for all the Pacific nations, including those states that emerge from a sinking Russia.
Japan is one of the linchpins of trans-Pacificism whose influence will grow as that of Russia declines. Russia is a failed imperial entity that has been unable to develop into a national state or a multi-national civic democracy. As the regime is incapable of transforming this obsolete colonial structure into a genuine multi-regional federation, the only lasting solution is Russia’s dissolution. This rupture will be generated by an accumulation of domestic failures and social grievances. When the state can no longer provide security and economic stability then citizens will reach for new solutions. And all of Russia’s neighbors must be involved in managing this historic process by working together to maintain international peace and security.
The OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly Vancouver Declaration of 4 July 2023 underscored that Moscow is engaged in “the forceful, ongoing and deliberate subordination of indigenous and ethnic minority nations within the Russian Federation, which are denied equal rights and self-determination and subject to abuse and exploitation in violation of the Helsinki Principles and the Charter of the United Nations.”
35 republics and regions inside Russia share a land or sea frontier with 14 countries. In addition, several of Russia’s federal subjects that do not currently have common borders with foreign states have long-standing ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic connections either with Russia’s immediate neighbors or with nearby countries. Such linkages will encourage a number of states to play a prominent role in the nearby regions of an unstable Russia, whether to influence political developments, prevent violence, or forestall economic collapse. Some capitals may also recognize kindred peoples within the fraying Russian Federation as independent entities, contribute to state-building, and even push for unification and absorption if that is the will of the local population.
Pro-Western and pro-Eastern states freed from the Russian Federation can enhance stability in several regions of Europe and Eurasia. The most effective way to prevent any imperial resurgence by Moscow is to recognize the independence of all republics and regions that seek statehood. Emerging states can become new allies for Western and Eastern democracies, whether across the Atlantic, Pacific, or Arctic Oceans. Western and Eastern leaders should not fear the collapse of a failed empire but embrace it as an opportunity to combat imperialism, intensify multi-national cooperation, open new markets, and help emerging democracies to develop.
Japan is a pivotal state in the broad Pacific region that can play a constructive strategic role as Russian ruptures. At the beginning of August, Tokyo is hosting the 7th Free Nations of Post Russia Forum with the participation of experts and representatives from numerous subjugated nations and regions. To ensure that Russia’s demise does not destabilize the Far East, the US and other Western democracies must work closely with Japan, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and other East Asian and Pacific states, as well as the EU and the UK, to open up avenues for diplomatic, political, and economic cooperation with embryonic post-Russia states. Regions and republics in Russia’s Far East will seek political connections, state recognition, and economic investment from abroad and similarly to the East European and Central Asian states they will resist incorporation into an expanding Chinese economic empire.
China will prove a challenge for all Pacific states, but its ambitions can be blocked by a coalition of the anti-imperial Pacific nations. Beijing will seek to benefit from Russia’s rupture by expanding its presence among emerging entities in Siberia and the Far East, or even by seeking to reclaim territories that were seized by the Russian empire during the 19th century. China’s expansionist aspirations will be rejected by the new states who will not want to replace subordination to Moscow with subjugation by Beijing.
Trans-Pacificism much like trans-Atlanticism can embrace all emerging state entities, including Primorsky, Khabarovsk, Amur, Sakha, Siberia, Buryatia, Irkutsk, Tuva, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Chukotka, and other republics and regions seeking close and independent diplomatic, political, economic and institutional ties with the states of the Pacific rim. And in this unfolding historical process, Japan’s Northern Territories or the Kurile islands seized by Stalin’s regime at the end of World War Two, will return to Japan.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attended the recent NATO summit in Vilnius and announced that Japan and NATO agreed on a new partnership program that will involve deeper cooperation as NATO increases its engagement with the broader Indo-Pacific region. This will be an important deterrent against an expansionist China that is heavily building up its military and an aggressive North Korea with its threatening nuclear and missile program. Although Japan has no plans to become a NATO member, the Alliance is preparing to open an office in Tokyo, the first in Asia, in order to facilitate consultations throughout the region. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has asserted that “no other partner is closer to NATO than Japan,” and that “Asia matters to Europe just as much as Europe matters to Asia.”
China has expressed its opposition to any strengthening of NATO’s role in the Asia-Pacific. But Beijing’s opposition, similarly to Moscow’s, is actually a strong endorsement of NATO as an effective security organization. All the independent states of the Pacific rim, especially strong democracies like Japan and South Korea, need a similar trans-Pacific structure that can fully defend their security and independence.
(Janusz Bugajski is a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC. His recent book is Failed State: A Guide to Russia’s Rupture. His forthcoming book is titled Pivotal Poland: Europe’s Rising Strategic Player.)