Putin Came to Asia to Disrupt, and He Succeeded

Putin Came to Asia to Disrupt, and He Succeeded

Four days in Asia. That’s all President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia needed to anger Washington, undermine Beijing and rattle a collection of Indo-Pacific nations already scrambling to cope with a jumbled world order.

After stops in Pyongyang and Hanoi this week that were draped in Communist red, Mr. Putin left behind a redrawn map of risk in Asia. North Korea sat at the center: a rogue nuclear state that regularly threatens its neighbors, suddenly empowered by Russian promises of sophisticated military aid and a mutual defense pact.

Mr. Putin also signed at least a dozen deals with Vietnam — a country of growing importance for both China and the United States as they vie for influence — where he insisted that “reliable security architecture” could not be built with “closed military-political blocs.”

The trip was both defiant and disruptive. It showed that the jockeying for power sometimes framed as a new Cold War between the United States and China is less binary than it might seem, and many countries in the region seemed to emerge from the week with a deeper sense of unease.

Mr. Putin’s presence and his threats, bold one minute, vague the next, have added even more complexity to their already difficult calculations around security and Great Power competition.

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