As the United States and Europe threaten Russia with trade sanctions, Moscow is looking east to Asian countries that might act as an economic bulwark.
The Kremlin’s calculations rely heavily on China — already the second largest importer of Russian goods and a voracious energy consumer.
Increased Russian reliance on China would be helped along by a thaw in relations between Moscow and Beijing in recent decades. The countries share a border, often team up on U.N. Security Council votes and frequently trade military equipment.
Should the West pursue new sanctions to isolate Russia — possibly in response to further incursions into Ukraine — those ties will be put to the test. Moscow could also widen the search for support to Japan and India.
Energy supplies are likely to feature prominently in any shift to the East.
Russia sends more than 7 million barrels of oil a day to the world markets, and its total energy trade earns 70% of its $515 billion in annual export revenue, according to the U.S. Energy information Administration.
It has long pursued a natural gas deal with China, but a final agreement between state-owned behemoths Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp has been delayed by a disagreement over pricing.