Bilahari Kausikan: Singapore’s Position on Russia-Ukraine Conflict, Bullying of Smaller Nations Should Not Become a Norm

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In a podcast hosted by Plan B yesterday (13th Mar), former diplomat Mr Bilahari Kausikan, who used to serve as the ambassador to Russia (1994 to 1995) gives his take on the on-going Russia Ukraine conflict.

The following is a summary of the key points that Mr Bilahari said during the 24min podcast.

The positions taken by various countries, in relation to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, are mostly motivated by interests, and not by values of supporting democracy or denouncing authoritarianism.

Many in the world (especially Westerners) were shocked, when India (the world’s largest democracy) abstained from the UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions against Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. This was not surprising, given that India has large stockpiles of Russian made military equipment and weapons left over from the Soviet Union. India could not afford to oppose Russia, and risk not being able to keep their Russian type weapons operational. This is particularly so, as India has concerns over China in the Himalayas, and China’s ally Pakistan in the region.

Singapore makes  known its position on international issues, by way of giving political support and not through direct intervention. For instance, Singapore has always supported a two-state solution in relation to the Palestine/Israel conflict. To this end, Singapore has always supported Palestine, by way of appointing an envoy to Palestine, giving technical assistance, and more importantly, by supporting Palestine resolutions in the UN.

However, when considering what position to take, Singapore’s major consideration is always the principle at stake. Singapore will never support anything that questions the rights of Israel to exist, or something which confuses the right of self-defence with war crimes.

In relation to the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict, the Russian and Ukrainian communities living in Singapore are reminded that they should respect the laws in Singapore. They should not let their private thoughts translate into actions, where the authorities have to step in and take action. In the past, actions have been taken against foreigners living in Singapore during the Sri-Lanka civil war, Sikh-Hindu conflict, Muslim-Buddhist conflict in Myanmar. The foreign communities living in Singapore are reminded that whatever the conflict is happening in their own country, has got nothing to do with Singapore.

Lastly, the most important and fundamental point that Mr Bilahari wishes to make is that, Singaporeans should keep their focus on Singapore’s interest, which is very simple.

“It is not in Singapore’s interest to allow the fact, that a bigger guy can come rearrange your face, just because he doesn’t like it, to become a norm.”

The full 24min podcast episode #369: Russian Ukraine With Bilahari Kausikan is available for listening on Spotify.

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