Russia says NATO actions raise risk of nuclear conflict
Dhaka August 10 2022 :
Inside Russia : Outside Russia : News Digest by the Embassy of Russian Federation in Bangladesh on August 10 2022
Zelensky using Hitler’s playbook – former Russian president
Dmitry Medvedev has lashed out against the leader of Ukraine for his call to retaliate against all Russians globally
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky wants the West to seek inspiration from German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claimed on Tuesday.
Medvedev, who now holds the position of deputy chair of the Russian national security council, blasted Zelensky over his call for the collective punishment of Russians.
The NATO-backed leader has called for all Russians – regardless of their leanings or circumstances – to be deported from Western countries.
“Adolf Hitler tried to implement such ideas about an entire people,” the Russian official remarked. “Any more questions about the nature of the Ukrainian authorities?”
Nazi Germany’s extermination of undesirable groups of people, including Jews, Roma, LGBT, disabled individuals and communists, was among the most extreme examples of collective punishment in history.
The rebuke, released on Medvedev’s social media, came in response to an interview with Zelensky published by The Washington Post on Monday. Speaking to the US newspaper, he called for Western nations to oust all Russians living on their soil and ban new entries. The proposed expulsions should apply even to opponents of the Russian government, Zelensky said.
“The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can. The population picked this government and they’re not fighting it, not arguing with it, not shouting at it,” the Ukrainian president was quoted as saying.
Zelensky appeared to suggest that Russians abroad who would be forced to return to their home country against their will would then put pressure on the Russian government and make it reconsider its policy towards Ukraine.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.
Sooner or later Europe to wonder if Zelensky is doing everything right — Kremlin
MOSCOW, August 9. /TASS/. European countries supporting Kiev will sooner or later begin to wonder whether Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is doing everything right, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, commenting on Zelensky’s interview with the Washington Post, in which he said, among other things, that Western countries should ban all Russians from entering their territory.
“Zelensky should understand that European countries that are trying to punish Russia, as they say, are already actively paying the bill for it. The countries themselves are paying the bill, and the citizens are paying the bill. And sooner or later these countries will also begin to wonder, ‘is Zelensky doing everything right, why do our citizens have to pay for his whims?’ So the Ukrainian side should be aware of this,” Peskov said.
Moscow confirms readiness to assist in IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhya NPP
MOSCOW. Aug 9 (Interfax) – Moscow is ready to give the maximum assistance in organizing a possible visit to the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant by an international mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
The route and schedule of the IAEA international mission’s travel to the Zaporizhzhya NPP were fully approved by Russia and heads of the IAEA Secretariat on June 3, the ministry said in a statement on its website.
“IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi planned to personally head the mission, which also includes prominent specialists from a number of countries. In the course of close interaction with the Agency, we managed to resolve all difficult problems related to the organization and accomplishment of the mission, which is so challenging under the current circumstances. Yet the UN Secretariat’s Department of Safety and Security turned on the red light at the very last moment. The trip was thwarted,” the ministry said.
“Hopefully, the UN secretary general realizes his full responsibility in this situation and will not hinder the IAEA mission via the Secretariat’s department accountable to him or any other parts of the UN mechanism. For our part, we are ready to give the maximum possible assistance in dealing with every organizational issue,” the ministry said.
Strong ruble draws foreign workers to Russia
Over 3.12 million people entered Russia in the second quarter of 2022 to work, TASS reported on Monday citing data from FinExpertiza audit and consulting network.
“In the second quarter of 2022 there were 4.16 million foreigners on migration registration… while 3.12 million people (75%) indicated work as the purpose of arrival. This is a record high quarterly value for the entire period of available statistics since 2017,” the analytics firm said in its report, seen by TASS.
The number of arrivals seeking work is a third more than the same time last year, when 2.34 million foreigners came to work in Russia.
According to the head of FinExpertiza Elena Trubnikova, the first quarter of the year was marked by an outflow of labor migrants due to the sharp ruble drop amid pressure of Ukraine-related sanctions. However, since the ruble recouped its losses in early April due to changes in Russia’s monetary policy and counter-sanctions, the number of arrivals surged. According to the analyst, while some of the migrants were in Russia before, many new people were registered over the past three months.
“This was affected primarily by the unexpectedly strong ruble, as a result of which the Russian labor market has become more attractive to foreigners, because their earnings in foreign currency increased,” she stated.
Besides the strengthening of the ruble, analysts said that growth in the construction industry had attracted many newcomers, as this sphere traditionally employs a large number of foreigners.
According to FinExpertiza data, around half of all migrant workers (1.54 million people) were from Uzbekistan, about 52,000 came from Tajikistan and a growing number of workers arrived from Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, China, Ukraine and Moldova. Data shows that apart from the former Soviet republics, many workers came from the EU, the US, China, India and the UAE.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section
Russian military comments on blasts in Crimea
Explosions at the Saki airfield were caused by the detonation of aviation munitions, defense ministry has claimed
Russia’s Defense Ministry has released an official statement on the explosions at the Saki military airfield on the Crimean Peninsula, explaining that the incident was caused by the detonation of aviation munitions stored at the site.
The blasts occurred near the city of Novofedorovka on Tuesday afternoon, with locals reporting hearing several explosions coming from the airfield and sharing videos online showing smoke coming from the area. According to eyewitnesses, the blasts had knocked out the windows in houses near the airfield.
Moscow has stated that no one has been injured in the explosion and that none of the aviation equipment at the airfield was damaged by the blasts.
“Measures are being taken to extinguish the fire and find out the causes of the explosion. According to a report from the site, there was no fire impact on the bunded ammunition storage area at the airfield,” the Defense Ministry said.
Local authorities have said that all necessary measures have been strengthened to ensure the safety of infrastructure facilities and of the population near the airfield.
Novofedorovka is located on the coast of Crimea about 40 kilometers northwest of the regional capital, Simferopol. The Saki air base is on the outskirts of the settlement and some personnel live in the town.
During Soviet times the airfield was a training center for pilots of aircraft carrier jets. The Russian navy has been using it to train pilots since Crimea rejoined Russia in 2014.
Initial Lebanese buyer of Ukrainian grain aboard Razoni vessel refuses to accept cargo
MOSCOW. Aug 9 (Interfax) – The initial buyer of the Ukrainian grain being transported by the Razoni vessel has refused to accept the cargo, Ukrainian media outlets said, citing Ukraine’s embassy in Lebanon.
“According to the information provided by the shipper of the Ukrainian grain aboard the Razoni, the buyer in Lebanon refused to accept the cargo due to delays in delivery terms [by more than five months],” the embassy said on social media.
The shipper is now looking for another port in Lebanon or another country to unload the cargo, it said.
As reported, the UN-brokered Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukraine’s Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny (Yuzhny) ports was signed by Ukraine, Turkey and Russia in Istanbul on July 22.
Kremlin not witnessing any positive change in attitudes of German, Austrian politicians
MOSCOW, August 9. /TASS/. The Kremlin is not witnessing any positive change in attitudes of German and Austrian politicians towards Russia yet, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, commenting on German media reports alleging a surge in public support for Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin in Germany and Austria.
“Unfortunately, we are not witnessing any such change,” Peskov said, when asked if the Kremlin could see any behavioral change in the two countries’ politicians.
The Russian presidential spokesman expressed his hope that the electorate in Western countries would persuade their authorities to treat Russia with more political wisdom.
“Hopefully, it [the change] will arrive sooner or later, given that the voters will recommend a certain adjustment in attitudes towards this country and impress on those elected by them the need to act with more political wisdom,” he said.
Ukraine halts Russian oil supply to EU
Crude transit through the southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline has been stopped, RIA Novosti news agency reports
Ukraine’s state oil pipeline operator Ukrtransnafta has stopped pumping Russian crude through the southern branch of the Druzhba system to the EU, RIA Novosti news agency reported on Monday, citing Russia’s Transneft.
According to the report, transit supplies have been halted to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Igor Demin, spokesperson for the president of Transneft, told the agency that transit through Belarus in the direction of Poland and Germany continues.
Demin explained that Russia cannot make payments for transit due to EU sanctions, although the Ukrainian company is insisting on 100% prepayment for its oil transportation services.
“When making a payment for transit through the territory of Ukraine, the funds were returned to the account of Transneft,” he said, adding, “Gazprombank, which services payments, notified us that the payment was returned in accordance with the EU regulations, that is, the seventh package of sanctions.”
Transneft stressed that it is working on alternative payment options for oil transit services via Ukraine, and has sent an appeal to Gazprombank.
Druzhba, which is one of the longest pipeline networks in the world, carries crude some 4,000 kilometers from the eastern part of European Russia to refineries in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
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German opposition leader calls out West’s ‘mistake’ in Ukraine
Alice Weidel, the head of Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD) party, has named what she believes to be the West’s mistake with respect to Ukraine. According to the politician, Kiev’s allies should have fostered an image for the Eastern European nation as a neutral state, instead of dragging it into NATO and the EU.
In an interview with Germany’s ZDF news channel published on Sunday, Weidel was asked to explain why some members of the AFD have been offering justifications for Russia’s offensive against Ukraine or have even been “spread[ing] Kremlin propaganda.” The AFD parliamentary fraction head replied by saying that “in our party and fraction it is undisputed that what we are seeing is an aggressive war by Russia against Ukraine that is absolutely against international law.”
Weidel noted, however, that when talking about today’s conflict in the Eastern European nation, one has to keep in mind the historical background leading up to current events.
“The incorporation of Ukraine and the plans to integrate Ukraine into NATO, as well as the EU, have for decades been something that the Russians would never accept,” the German politician clarified.
According to her, Moscow has always made it clear that it will not accept an “adversarial power in its backyard.” Weidel added that “Ukraine has been a red line for decades [for Russia].”
The AFD fraction chief went on to argue that the West has handled this highly sensitive issue “recklessly” and made a mistake by not setting Ukraine on a course toward becoming a neutral country.
Weidel emphasized that her party sees the current conflict in Ukraine as extremely dangerous, not least for Germany, which is not as far away from the battlefields as the US is. The politician also warned that a Cold-war-like mentality of opposing blocs is resurfacing, with Russia and China developing ever closer ties with each other. The AFD fraction leader opined that such a scenario alone was not in Germany’s best interest.
In late March, Steffen Kotré, an AFD MP in the Bundestag, claimed that the US was using Ukraine as a bridgehead to destabilize Russia. The lawmaker also noted at the time that “if we talk about that, we should also talk about the bio labs that are directed against Russia” – an apparent reference to Moscow’s claims that the US had set up such secret facilities in the Eastern European country.
The following month, Tino Chrupalla, chairman and lead spokesman for the AFD, spoke of “Russia’s justified security interests,” adding that the conflict in Ukraine had “many fathers.”
Chrupalla has also repeatedly demanded that the German government lift sanctions against Russia, as those hurt German businesses and citizens the most, according to the AFD politician.
When asked anew to comment on the individual AFD members’ remarks, Weidel reiterated that the party considered Russia’s military operation in Ukraine an “aggressive war in violation of international law,” adding that those who publicly say something that deviates from the party line are dealt with “internally.” The politician, however, refused to go into detail as to what kind of consequences such party members face.
Twitter blocks Russian foreign ministry
According to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, the seven-day-long suspension was imposed on August 5
Twitter has temporarily suspended the account belonging to Russia’s foreign ministry, officials in Moscow have revealed. According to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, the punitive measure was imposed after the diplomats cited a Russian military commander, who had alleged the US could have been behind the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Zakharova posted a message on her Telegram channel, saying that on August 5, Twitter “blocked for seven days the official account of the foreign ministry in English.” The diplomat explained that the harsh reaction had been triggered by the ministry posting a tweet featuring excerpts from a speech delivered earlier by the head of Russia’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops, General-Lieutenant, Igor Kirillov.
The ministry’s tweet in question cited claims that the United States Agency for International Development could have been behind the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zakharova argued that it was highly doubtful that Twitter had the means to properly check those claims and was in a position to “call into question the defense ministry’s conclusions based on documents and fresh data.”
She dismissed the suspension as “yet another awkward attempt to shut our mouth.”
According to the diplomat, this was the first time Russia’s foreign ministry had faced “this kind of sanction.” Zakharova went on to explain that individual tweets by the ministry had been blocked before, but not the entire account, albeit for a week.
She branded Twitter’s decision as “beyond good and evil,” pointing out that Russia is “one of the leading countries in the world.”
The diplomat added that Russia’s embassies in the UK and Germany have also faced similar suspensions on multiple occasions, including over the publication of “facts (real and not made up) over the provocation in Bucha.”
Moreover, Zakharova called out Twitter for failing to deal with a “Russophobic bacchanalia on the part of Western politicians, experts and even ordinary users,” or with the activities of “Ukrainian trolls and bots” online.
The Russian official lamented that “direct calls for violence against Russians” are going unchecked on the social media platform. The foreign ministry’s spokeswoman went on to say that she did not recall any cases in which Ukrainian officials, who are “generating simply wild fakes” about the “atrocities/rape allegedly committed by Russian troops,” had been suspended in a similar fashion.
Zakharova warned Twitter that by “trampling on the principle of free speech” Twitter is “sawing off the branch it’s sitting on.” She claimed that the social media giant “has long been stagnating,” with next to no confidence in it and falling user numbers. The diplomat also cited Elon Musk’s refusal to buy Twitter as further proof of its sorry state of affairs.
She concluded by saying that “of course, you can block us, but the truth will out.” Zakharova added that Russia’s foreign ministry will simply cease using American platforms which have become Washington’s “censorship tool.”
As of late Tuesday, the ministry’s account is viewable, though the last message published there is dated August, 5.
The tweet which led to the suspension is preceded by a plaque saying that it “violated the Twitter Rules on sharing false or misleading info that might bring harm to crisis-affected populations.” The platform noted, however, that it had chosen to preserve the message “for accountability purposes.”
Following the start of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine in late February, Russian authorities have repeatedly claimed that they have evidence pointing to the existence of US secret biolaboratories in the eastern European nation. According to Moscow, the researchers had been experimenting with dangerous pathogens there, among other things.
The US and Ukraine have consistently denied the allegations.
In March, the Russian government blocked Twitter in the country, accusing it of spreading “fakes” about its military campaign.
NATO actions raise risk of nuclear conflict – Russia
The US-led alliance’s practice of “nuclear sharing” must end, Moscow’s envoy tells UN atomic conference
The deployment of US atomic weapons on the territory of non-nuclear NATO members goes against the nonproliferation treaty (NPT), increases the risk of conflict, and hinders disarmament efforts. This was the message the Russian delegation delivered to the UN conference on nuclear nonproliferation in New York, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Tuesday.
“NATO openly declared itself a nuclear alliance. There are US nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear allied states in the bloc,” said Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy director for nonproliferation and arms control at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In contravention of Articles I and II of the NPT, non-nuclear members of NATO are taking part in “practical testing” of the use of atomic weapons, Vishnevetsky added. Such actions “not only continue to be a significant factor negatively affecting international and European security, but also increase the risk of nuclear conflict and generally act as a brake on efforts in the field of nuclear disarmament.”
Moscow’s position is that “US nuclear weapons must be withdrawn to national territory, the infrastructure for their deployment in Europe must be eliminated, and NATO’s ‘joint nuclear missions’ must be terminated,” Vishnevetsky told the UN conference, according to a transcript posted by the Foreign Ministry.
The US Air Force currently has an estimated 150 nuclear bombs at NATO bases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Russian delegate also touched on AUKUS, the September 2021 deal that envisioned the US and the UK providing atomic-powered submarines to Australia. This partnership “creates prerequisite for the start of a new arms race in the Asia-Pacific region,” Vishnevetsky said.
The withdrawal of US atomic weapons from non-nuclear NATO states was one of the key planks of Russia’s security proposal, presented to the US and NATO in December 2021. Neither Washington nor the military bloc addressed it in the responses they sent to Moscow in January.
At the very start of the conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “reckless, dangerous nuclear saber-rattling” aimed at “those supporting Ukraine’s self-defense.” Russian diplomat Andrey Belousov responded that Moscow put its nuclear forces on alert to deter NATO aggression, and that the conflict in Ukraine does not rise to Russia’s nuclear threshold.
Belousov has also addressed statements by US officials about new negotiations on strategic arms control with Moscow, saying that Russia has so far received only “declarative statements,” but no “concrete proposals.”
SPECIAL MILITARY OPERATION IN UKRAINE
Russian envoy sums up US goal in Ukraine
The US is not interested in restoring peace in the country, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington says
Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, has accused Washington of “adding fuel to the fire of the Ukrainian conflict” and claimed that the Biden administration is not interested in a peaceful settlement.
On Tuesday, the Russian Embassy in Washington published a transcript of Ambassador Antonov’s response to a journalist. The comment came out shortly after the White House’s announcement of an additional military aid package for Kiev to the tune of $1 billion.
The diplomat claimed that the “allocation of an additional 1 billion dollars” for military aid to the Ukrainian government proves that the “United States does not intend to listen to reason and is not going to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the crisis.”
The ambassador also slammed as “especially cynical” the Biden administration’s explanation that the additional shipment of weapons would strengthen Ukraine’s position in any future negotiations with Russia. According to Antonov, “it is unclear how one can, in principle, talk about dialogue in conditions when the only goal of the United States is to prolong the conflict as much as possible.”
The official also dismissed as an “illusion” the notion that Ukrainian forces would be able to “exhaust” Russia and secure a victory on the battlefield with the help of additional Western weapons. The envoy went on to claim that by banking on this scenario, the government in Kiev is only increasing the number of fatalities in the conflict, adding that the supply of more weapons to Kiev “will only prolong the agony of the Ukrainian regime.”
He also warned that the US itself is becoming “increasingly drawn into the conflict, approaching a dangerous line in the confrontation with the Russian Federation.”
According to the Russian ambassador, more and more Americans, “experts, columnists of leading publications and ordinary citizens” alike, are starting to raise questions regarding the “unrestrained pumping of Ukraine with weapons.”
Antonov said that this concern largely stems from the “evidence of fraudulent schemes during the transportation of defense products” – an apparent reference to reports in the US and Western media alleging that only a fraction of Western military aid actually makes it to its intended users on the frontline.
The diplomat went on to accuse “Zelensky’s militants” of using the Western weapons that they do receive to “carry out deadly strikes on residential areas of Donbass cities on a daily basis.” Antonov alleged that Ukrainian forces are now “exposing [the] whole [of] Europe to extreme danger by attacking” the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, currently under Russian control. The Russian official expressed hope that the Americans would soon realize “whom exactly their country supports.”
Antonov also argued that developing nations are looking on with great surprise as Washington throws billions of dollars “into the void” with its military aid for Ukraine. The ambassador suggested that those resources would be better spent on the “economic and social demands of Latin America, Africa and Asia,” which were battered particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Antonov’s remarks came shortly after the Pentagon on Monday unveiled its largest military aid package for Kiev since the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out in late February.
ASEAN Reasserting Its Capacity to Act as One Even on Highly Controversial Issues, Professor Says
August 8 marks the 55th anniversary since the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an intergovernmental organization that promotes economic, security, political, educational, and cultural interaction between its 10 member states.
Joseph Camilleri, emeritus professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne and one of Australia’s leading international relations scholars, speaks about the role the organization has been playing in East Asia and reflects on where ASEAN stands now, in a time of dramatic geopolitical tensions.
Sputnik: How effective is the organization? What are ASEAN’S present problems?
Joseph Camilleri: ASEAN could of course be much more effective than it is now. And yet it remains the single most important regional organization in East Asia. It has been going for some time. It has survived. It is only as strong as its members, of course, and their political fortunes. It’s fair to say that until recently, the two countries that have been most forceful in leading the ASEAN position on various issues have been, of course, Indonesia, because it’s by far the largest country in the organization. And in years gone by Malaysia when it had a forceful leader, Mahathir period. Nevertheless, it has continued to function. It has tried to retain its independence from the United States on the one hand, and China on the other. And even though some countries are closer to the United States, while others are closer to China. Nevertheless, on balance they have tried to steer a kind of middle position, which I think has made ASEAN one of the most important institutions contributing to stability and peace in the region. There are problems, of course. But nevertheless, it has been playing a useful role at a time of increasing tensions in this part of the world.
Sputnik: What are the key achievements of this style of cooperation?
Joseph Camilleri: It has, of course significantly improved economic and cultural links between the ten member countries. It has expanded over the years from the original five or so countries to its current membership of ten. So it can be said that it includes more or less the whole of South-East Asia and it has developed useful dialogue partnerships with all of the great powers, including the United States, Russia, China, the European Union and Australia as well. And that has provided a forum where difficult and sometimes conflicting positions are discussed. And for example, in relation to the South China Sea, a number of the ASEAN countries are claimants to some of the disputed islands. And it has been pushing together with China to see whether there can be some agreement on a lasting, durable, meaningful code of conduct. And to say that this year is an important milestone in trying to develop such a code of conduct, and if it is to come about, then it would be another very significant contribution to stabilizing what is now a rather tense region in the world.
Sputnik: What role would ASEAN countries play amid all the shifts happening in the world right now?
Joseph Camilleri: As I was just suggesting it can pay be a stabilizing influence in the sense that it’s not prepared to identify exclusively either with the United States or China or any other great power. And for example, even Vietnam, which is in a dispute with China about the Paracel islands, in other words, a territorial dispute. Nevertheless, it is able to maintain a very effective relationship with China on many fronts, particularly, economic cooperation and related issues. So that’s a very useful contribution. The ASEAN countries have been hamstrung to some extent because of their commitment to not interfering in the internal affairs of any of the member countries. In one way, this is quite a useful position. It prevents interference. On the other hand, it is tested, when one of those ten member countries engages in gross violations of human rights, which could then verge into instability in the region. And it’s very interesting to see that as a result of its last summit meeting it has decided to put Myanmar on notice. That is to say, unless it is able to pursue the five point agreement to which they had previously agreed by way of resolving the very unpleasant internal situation in Myanmar, then Myanmar will not be able to attend any future meetings of ASEAN. So that is an a sign that the ASEAN countries are beginning to reassert their capacity to act as one, even on highly contentious and controversial questions.
Sputnik: How do you see cooperation between Russia and ASEAN countries developing as Russia’s foreign minister has been holding talks with South-east Asian countries?
Joseph Camilleri: By and large, the relationship has been reasonably effective. And there are, of course opportunities for improvement, further improvement, economic in particular, between Russia and the ASEAN countries. Most Asian countries have been very careful not to come down clearly or sharply on the Ukraine conflict, either on one side or the other. They have attempted to maintain a position of neutrality. And of course, when we say Ukraine or Russia, we are really to some extent saying the United States or Russia. Even those that have close links with the United States, including, let’s say, Singapore and Thailand, have been careful to avoid coming down on positions which are highly contentious in ways that would put them at odds with Russia in this case. So I think there’s probably the makings of a useful ongoing dialog relationship between Russia and ASEAN and including in that of course Vietnam, but also a number of the other ASEAN countries.
Sputnik: What are the challenges facing ASEAN countries as tensions escalate between the US and China after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan?
Joseph Camilleri: The big challenge is whether ASEAN can make its voice heard. Clearly, ASEAN does not want to see a major conflict, military conflict emerging around the Taiwan Straits. So it’s very anxious that its voice will be a moderating influence in that region. It’s a difficult one to pursue because of course it wants to maintain very good relations with China. For ASEAN, China is one of the major trading partners for virtually every country in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, it does not want to cut off its links with Taiwan. It would ideally like to see a peaceful resolution. The countries of ASEAN, by and large, are committed to the one-China principle and would like to see that outstanding conflict being resolved peacefully. And I think we could expect ASEAN to do whatever it can perhaps even more forcefully than it is now to ensure that that particular dispute is resolved peacefully, if at all possible.
Uniting the Un-Unitable: ASEAN Turns 55
Ilya Tsukanov, Sputnik News
Monday marks the 55th anniversary since the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – a ten-member intergovernmental organization promoting economic, security, political, educational and cultural interaction and integration among a highly diverse group of countries.
The ASEAN Declaration was signed on August 8, 1967, in Bangkok by the five founding members: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. Its core principles included economic and security cooperation, non-interference, and good neighboring relations, while collaboration on matters of “mutual interest and common problems” facing member countries, including poverty, social instability, and underdevelopment, also featured. Brunei joined ASEAN in 1984.
Behind the scenes, Asian diplomatic affairs academic Wen-Qing Ngoei characterized the bloc’s history in the late 1960s and 1970s as a tool of US imperialism, serving as an “arc of containment” against Soviet and Chinese influence.
Its members, the scholar wrote, forged “intimate economic and military relations with the United States to resist Chinese influence and to strengthen their hands against homegrown socialist forces inspired by [Moscow-backed] Vietnam’s communist revolution. In so doing, ASEAN leaders contained China and reinforced US predominance in the region.”
This state of affairs began to change in the last decade of the 20th century, with both China and Russia initiating dialogue with ASEAN in 1991.
But the breakthrough which gave the bloc impetus to become a genuine tool for regional cooperation and economic development took place between 1995 and 1999, when the five founding members’ erstwhile ideological enemies – Vietnam and Laos – as well as Myanmar and Cambodia, were permitted to join the association.
China signed a ‘strategic partnership for peace and prosperity’ with the organization at ASEAN’s 2003 summit in Bali, Indonesia. In 2018, China and ASEAN agreed to an updated strategic partnership blueprint for cooperation up to the year 2030.
Russia became a full-fledged dialogue partner in 1996 during the 29th ASEAN ministerial meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia in 2004.
In 2005, Russia and ASEAN signed the Joint Declaration on Progressive and Comprehensive Partnership, committing the two sides to harmonious co-existence, address challenges posed by globalization, make joint efforts to enhance regional peace, security, and development, and, significantly, to work together to build “an international system that is fair, balanced and just.”
The same year, Russia and ASEAN signed an agreement on economic and development cooperation, which laid out measures to establish a favorable climate for the development of multifaceted economic cooperation, trade and investment, with the Russian side committing to recognizing ASEAN’s goals of enhancing “self-reliance, economic resilience as well as social well-being of its peoples.”
The economic agreement included a series of measures to improve cooperation in a broad range of areas, including energy, transport, finance, agriculture, science and technology, tourism, and sport, balancing economic interests with environmental protection and sustainable development.
In November 2018, Russia-ASEAN relations were upgraded to strategic partnership status, with the parties committing to further strengthen and deepen ties at a special 30th anniversary of relations summit held by video conference last October.
Since ASEAN’s 1990s expansion to include Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, the bloc has largely succeeded in freezing a series of border disputes and ideological battles which plagued the region throughout the Cold War.
One of ASEAN’s most significant security accomplishments over the past twenty years has been mediating the Thai-Cambodian border dispute, which has roots dating back to the region’s colonial domination by the French. Between 2008 and 2011, dozens of Cambodian and Thai troops and civilians were killed in clashes over the 11th century Preah Vihear and 13th century Ta Moan temple complexes.
ASEAN played a direct role in defusing the conflict, with the Cambodian and Thai governments allowing unarmed Indonesian military and civilian observers to monitor the disputed territory after an ASEAN summit in Jakarta in February 2011. In July that year, the International Court of Justice ordered both countries to withdraw from the disputed area and enabled ASEAN troops to oversee a United Nations Security Council-backed ceasefire. The mediation has proven successful over time, preventing the border rift from escalating into a major regional conflict. Last month, Bangkok and Phnom Penh agreed on the need to speed up the demarcation of the remaining 14 percent of the frontier.
Another area of ASEAN’s crucial but as-yet unfulfilled potential is centered around the bloc’s negotiations with China aimed at resolving the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, where ASEAN members and Beijing have staked competing claims to waters containing untold hydrocarbon and fishing riches, and which serve as a strategic area through which trillions of dollars in trade pass every year.
In 2002, ASEAN and China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a landmark strategic blueprint for resolving disputes in the body and “enhanc[ing] favorable conditions for a peaceful and durable solution of differences and disputes among countries concerned.”
Unfortunately, ASEAN-China negotiations on the South China Sea have slowed to a crawl, with the United States, which has formally paid lip service to supporting the 2002 declaration, seeking to undermine it through its actions. In a 2010 visit to Vietnam, Hillary Clinton characterized the South China Sea as a matter of “national interest” for the United States, which looks to maintain the “freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law” in the body of water.
Over the past decade, the US has systematically deployed Navy and Coast Guard ships to the region to challenge Chinese sovereignty, and has sought to forge or shore up bilateral security ties with South China Sea countries to the detriment of the proposals outlined in 2002. China has repeatedly criticized the US over its approach, and called on Washington, as a non-claimant to any South China Sea waters, to butt out of the region’s affairs.
Nukes, No Thanks
Another major security-related accomplishment of ASEAN is its success in keeping nuclear weapons out of the region. In 1995, members signed the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, committing ASEAN to keep nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction out of the area. The bloc has successfully abided by the provisions of the treaty for more than a quarter of a century.
The 1995 treaty gained new significance in 2019, when the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, and began the process of soliciting ASEAN and other regional nations to station new ground-based missiles in the 500-5,500 km range on their soil. Then-Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte publicly lashed out against Washington over the idea, vowing that he would never allow the deployment of nuclear weapons in his country, and that Manila had absolutely no desire “to fight China.”
Earlier this year, the Rand Corporation, a major California-based global policy think tank, somberly concluded that Washington would have a hard time getting its allies within ASEAN or other regional partners like Japan, South Korea or Australia, to station the US’s new nuclear-tipped strategic weapons.
Economic and development cooperation, both amongst ASEAN members and with external partners, has been another key driver in advancing and strengthening the organization. The ten-nation bloc has a population of over 661.5 million people, and a combined GDP of over $3 trillion.
In 2002, the ASEAN Free Trade Area Agreement stepped into force, resulting in a significant expansion in regional trade. At the bloc’s 17th Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2010, bloc members approved the so-called ‘Masterplan on ASEAN Connectivity’, an ambitious project designed to deepen economic and general integration by consolidating the region’s transportation, information, communication and social infrastructure.
The “masterplan” received several updates in the years that followed, with the current version, agreed in late 2021, featuring a broad range of “strategic objectives” including: a) increasing public and private infrastructure investments in each ASEAN member b) sharing best practices between member states, c) providing assistance for technological advances, d) lowering supply chain costs, e) harmonizing standards and regulations for products in key sectors, and f) measures to ease travel and study across the bloc.
Normative Power of ASEAN
In 2016, Fudan University assistant professor He Jiajie penned a pioneering article in the International Studies Review journal on the similarities and differences between the normative power of ASEAN and the European Union, pointing out that while the EU’s normative power serves as an “agent of ‘Europeanization beyond the EU’,” ASEAN’s normative role, by contrast, “is featured as a dialogue-driven process and stresses the importance of negotiation and renegotiation.”
“Unlike the EU’s hegemonic approach, ASEAN seems reluctant to move away from the doctrine of non-interference and sticks to the so-called ‘ASEAN talk shop’,” He stressed.
Given ASEAN’s incredible national, ethnic and cultural diversity, which includes more than 350 ethnic groups, differences in economic and social development, wildly divergent histories – including countries’ colonial past, experiences during the Second World War and the Cold War – and ideological differences, from Thailand’s constitutional monarchy to Vietnam’s socialist republican system, the “talking shop” approach referred to by the academic may very well be the key component driving ASEAN’s success.