ASEAN responds to Ukraine invasion

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an ASEAN summit via video link at his residence outside Moscow on October 28, 2021. / AFP

By Kavi Chongkittavorn March 2, 2022

Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, offers valuable lessons for countries in the region, which have often become the geopolitical battleground of the great powers. From now on, whatever the end of the Ukrainian crisis, it will have a significant impact on the security of Europe and will lead to the emergence of a new order to which ASEAN must adapt quickly.

On Saturday, ASEAN was ready and issued a strong statement to one of its strategic partners, saying it was “deeply concerned” about developments and hostilities in Ukraine. The statement was released after Russian troops launched military assaults on major Ukrainian cities. Russia is one of nine strategic partners in the grouping which also includes China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the EU.

“We call on all parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint and do their utmost to pursue dialogue through all channels, including diplomatic means, in order to contain the situation, defuse tensions and seek a peaceful resolution in accordance with international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia,” the statement said.

Prior to its release, it was broadcast among all 10 member countries including Myanmar. Naypyitaw went without any objections. However, before the ASEAN Common Positions were made public, major ASEAN members had already issued their own views. Indonesia and Singapore condemned Russia’s military action. Other ASEAN members have also expressed varying degrees of concern.

In a statement, a spokesman for Singapore’s foreign ministry strongly condemned “any unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country under any pretext.” He added that Singapore was “seriously concerned” by Russia’s “special military operation” in the Donbass region and reports of ground and air attacks on several targets in Ukraine. “We reiterate that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected.”

Teuku Faizasyah, spokesperson for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said Indonesia is concerned about the escalation of armed conflict in Ukraine, which seriously endangers people’s security and affects peace in the region. “[We] affirm that international law and the United Nations Charter on Territorial Integrity must be respected and condemn any action that clearly constitutes a violation of a country’s territory and sovereignty,” Faizasyah said. Indonesia, he added, always expects all parties to prioritize negotiations and diplomacy to end conflicts and encourage peaceful settlements.

In addition to the ASEAN joint statement, Thailand made two additional observations. The first was short at home and the other more critical at UN headquarters in New York. In his address to the 76th UN Plenary Session, Suriya Chinadawongse, Thailand’s representative to the UN, expressed deep concern over the escalating tensions threatening international peace and security. Thailand also supports efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the situation through dialogue in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, respecting the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Thailand supports the Minsk Agreement – the ceasefire pact signed in 2015 between Kyiv and Moscow as well as other UN efforts and regional mechanisms, including the OSCE and the Normandy format. Thailand is also concerned about the possible humanitarian consequences.

For Myanmar, it turned out to be doublespeak. Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the military junta, said the Russian military had done what was justified for the sustainability of his country’s sovereignty and showed its status as a powerful country for the balance of world peace. . Since last February’s coup, Russia and the Naypyitaw junta have further strengthened their relations, especially in the field of security cooperation. Russia is a major arms exporter to Myanmar. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 1998 and 2018, Russia was the top arms supplier of all Southeast Asian countries.

Later this year, Russia’s relations with ASEAN and the wider Asia-Pacific region will be tested internationally as Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to attend ASEAN-related summits in Phnom Penh and at the Asia-Pacific Economic Leaders Meeting in Bangkok in November. These two major events will place a marker or two on Russia’s role and profile after the Ukraine debacle. Difficult at the moment to make predictions.

For Thailand, the stakes are higher than ever as the country hosts the APEC summit. Relevant authorities fear that the great power conflict will manifest on the APEC platform. Before the official announcement was made on February 11 that the United States would host APEC next year, some political drama was played out at high-level official meetings in Phuket to prevent the United States from assuming the Presidency.

As host, Thailand looks forward to welcoming all leaders from 21 economies, especially the United States, China and Russia. When Thailand chaired APEC in 2003, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great hosted three state guests: US President George W Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Putin. Of the three leaders, only Putin remains in power. He is expected to attend the Bangkok summit in November.

As this will be the first year of possible physical meetings between all the leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies, including the United States, Russia and China, Thailand wishes to take this opportunity to announce a new development model. economy in the sight of the world. However, if the tensions in Ukraine continue without any possibility of resolution, this could have a direct impact on the scheduled meeting of APEC leaders, which has been set for November 18-19.

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a seasoned journalist specializing in regional affairs.

This article first appeared in Bangkok Post.


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