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Putting A Spoke In The Wheel: Russian Efforts To Weaken U.S.-led Alliance Structures In Northeast Asia
Region: Asia
Published June 17, 2020
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Russia is widely accused of employing a range of instruments—both overt and covert—to undermine Western unity. However, to what extent is Russia engaged in comparable activities to weaken the South Korean and Japanese alliances with the United States? This paper answers this question by assessing Moscow’s actions in the domains of diplomacy, information, the military, and the economy. It finds that Russia is indeed aiming to encourage Seoul and Tokyo to distance themselves from Washington and from each other. In particular, Moscow is committed to deterring U.S. allies from facilitating the deployment of additional units of U.S. missile defense systems within the region. Across the four domains, it is only in the economic field that Russia is found to lack leverage. Overall, Moscow has achieved several tactical victories, but has yet to seriously damage U.S.-led alliance structures within the region. All the same, Seoul and Tokyo must remain watchful of Moscow’s activities, especially since there are signs of increased cooperation between Russia and China in exploiting wedge issues between the United States and its allies, thereby potentially combining China’s economic weight with Russia’s skills in influence operations.

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