Image Credit: Wikicommons

Russia's "Checkbook Diplomacy" in the South Pacific


Since returning to power as Russia’s president three months ago, Vladimir Putin has lived up to his well-honed reputation as the hard, no-nonsense man of East European politics by bullying his way into the internal affairs of neighbors with fearless abandon.

He has served notice that Moscow will challenge the West’s naval dominance of the world’s oceans, moving to shore-up his country’s defenses from the Arctic Circle and its Western flank to its troubled southern borders, breakaway republics and even the South Pacific.

His ubiquitous presence on the diplomatic landscape has been most notable in Syria and Afghanistan where NATO is withdrawing its troops. There has been a pre-emptive strike on Finland where Moscow has launched a campaign of intimidation designed to ensure Helsinki abstains from joining NATO.

Putin has even struck down a punk rock band, the recalcitrant Pussy Riot.

The results are that many countries are feeling an intense Russian heat — torn between maintaining its traditional alliances with Western allies, or, marching forward in step with a revitalized cash-carrying friend, Russia.

Among them are the far-flung island-states in the South Pacific. This collection of nations in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) offering access to ports, resource rich seas and a bloc of 16 votes within the United Nations has caught Moscow’s attention.

The former superpower is turning to financially vulnerable South Pacific nations to promote its expansionist foreign policy agenda. Importantly, by extending its sphere of influence to the Pacific it can leverage support for the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

About 10,000 Russian soldiers are deployed in the two provinces which represent about 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.

The U.S. and Europe are opposed to recognition and have China on their side.


[...] keen to strengthen the bilateral relationship as it seeks to extend its sphere of influence in the Pacific. A Papua New Guinea delegation also visited China last week to strengthen [...]

September 18, 2012 at 13:44

The world leader in "checkbook diplomacy" for the last several decades has been the US by a large margin, especially in the pacific – check out any UN vote on the Israel-Palestine issue, or any other major issue dear to US's heart (weapons treaties, kosovo, the ripping up of the NPT treaty for India, etc. etc.).
They are now being heavily challenged by China in that front, & are being increasingly outbid in a number of major areas worldwide…
Russia joining the game at this late stage, when the US has been playing "checkbook diplomacy" very hard in Russia's near abroad for well over a decade (witness the Ukraine fiasco, the wave of "color revolutions" & the ongoing central asia shuffle, which has moved into high gear once more), well, better late than never…
PS. chucking in the likes of "Pussy Riot" in a supposedly serious article about geopolitical manouvering doesn't do much for the credibility of any particular point this article might of been trying to make…

September 18, 2012 at 02:26

  When the only resource you have is your vote, you sell it for what you can get.  How is this any different than all the horse trading that  goes on in diplomacy everyday?  Its just amazing that anyone gives a hoot about these little "countries" who couldn't defend themselves from a school of tuna fish.

September 17, 2012 at 21:54

[...] Read more in The Diplomat. [...]

Jack Kalpakian
September 17, 2012 at 20:00

The reason this is happening is because the US and Australia have basically abandoned these islands (and nominal states) to their fate.

Wim Roffel
September 17, 2012 at 17:36

The mother of check book diplomacy is Kosovo that thanks to Western pressure and check book diplomacy is recognized by many small countries while larger countries overwhelmingly refuse to do so.

September 17, 2012 at 13:22

These shrewd pacific islands, playing off one power against another to extract maximum advantages and gains and always leaving a space open to manoeuver between the powers and never strictly aligning to any side so that no one will take them for granted. Shrewd.

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