ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
Article by H.E.Mr.Alexander Ivanov, Ambassador of Russia to ASEAN: ASEAN-Russia: Sharing Strategic Future
Last November Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and the Leaders of ASEAN Member States met in Singapore to take a historic decision on elevating the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership to a strategic level. Is it just a symbolic gesture or it has a material substance? To answer this question one has to look at it in the context of specific issues of ASEAN-Russia cooperation and prevailing trends in the global and regional situation.
First of all, this decision once again underlined the important, stabilizing role ASEAN-Russia relations play at the time of global volatility, political and economic turbulence, growing competition between major international players, rise of protectionism and unilateralism, spread of terrorism and other trans-boundary threats and challenges. The participation of President Vladimir Putin in ASEAN-Russia and East Asia Summits in Singapore was highly appreciated by ASEAN Leaders and considered as a clear signal that Russia is the indispensable player in the region.
The decision taken in Singapore is well grounded and has solid reasons. Russia strongly believes that the evolving ASEAN concept of regional architecture, which should be open, transparent and inclusive, is the only alternative to the chaotic regional structure based mostly on military alliances and guided by the rule of force. As the most ASEAN countries we are also concerned with attempts to impose on the region outside strategies and new geographic chimaeras, based on “containment” theories and aimed at promoting self-interested concepts. Having this in mind, Russia firmly supports ASEAN centrality and unity, its Community building efforts and believes that the ASEAN-centric system should become a cornerstone for the regional interaction.
Together with ASEAN Member States Russia is a proponent of multilateral discussions within the East Asia Summit on the regional security architecture. By strengthening and increasing effectiveness of the existing ASEAN-led mechanisms we are seeking to build a regional system based on mutual trust and full respect for legitimate interests of all states, where national security of any country should not be ensured at the expense of security of others.
Both ASEAN and Russia understand that today our common region is at a crossroads. Either we move towards dividing lines by declaring that all players belong to different categories – allies, privileged partners, competitors, “destructive forces” and outcasts with all corresponding destabilizing consequences, or we exercise all our efforts to promote collective strategic trust based on equality of all participants, the UN Charter, norms and principles of international law, multilateralism, and not some vague “rules” worked out by one or several countries which they try to impose on others. By no means ASEAN and Russia believe in the latter pattern of regional architecture.
That is why Russia firmly supports the ASEAN’s growing role in the regional developments and considers ASEAN as an independent center in the emerging multipolar world order. And that is why all ten ASEAN countries unanimously welcome Russia’s further involvement into regional affairs. They have a clear understanding that Russia has no hidden agenda in this region.
The road towards ASEAN-Russia strategic partnership was not an easy one. It was influenced by attempts of some Western powers to discredit Russia not only in other parts of the world, but also in the Asia Pacific, as well to put on Moscow a label of destructive force in the region without any proof – which became a saucy trend in Western rhetoric. We have a Russian saying in this regard: “One should take the mote out of one’s eye before talking about the chaff in someone else’s”. However, our ASEAN friends are not naive to believe in fake news. This year ASEAN adopted a number of documents on minimizing the harmful effects of fake news. It’s time to think about relevant cooperation between ASEAN and Russia. It is a matter of a paramount importance that ASEAN and Russia believe that justice and truth should govern international relations.
The decision of our leaders on strategic partnership will undoubtedly give a great impetus to all areas of ASEAN-Russia bilateral cooperation, open new horizons for mutual support and dialogue.
Strategic partnership means more trust in the sensitive issues. One of them is the fight against terrorism, which is unfortunately on the rise in Southeast Asia. It is well known that Russia is one of the global leaders in combating this evil. The operation of the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces in Syria contributed dramatically in fighting ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups and in restoring peace in that war-torn country. Russian security experts already share with ASEAN professionals their experience in fighting terrorism, the spread of terrorist ideology. Now it is time to deepen this cooperation. Having in mind the issue of foreign terrorist fighters coming to the region, we can do more in terms of intelligence sharing and capacity building.
Today all countries with no exception have become vulnerable in front of attacks against their ICT infrastructure. Very often we have to deal with well-coordinated and organized attempts of misusing information resources or technologies for criminal, political or terrorist purposes. Repelling literally hundreds of cyber-attacks a day, Russia has acquired an enormous experience in developing the relevant protection systems and is open to share this experience with its ASEAN partners. We believe that the decision of our leaders to promote an ASEAN-Russia Dialogue on ICT security will help both ASEAN and Russia to combat this challenge.
Our countries strongly support the multilateral trading system based on the WTO rules. Though ASEAN does not have an FTA with Russia, like with most dialogue partners, our trade dynamic is very positive - plus 35% in 2017. In Singapore ASEAN and Eurasian Economic Commission – the regulating body of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) - signed a Memorandum of cooperation. We hope that soon we will launch a feasibility study on a future ASEAN-EAEU FTA that promotes our trade and thus creates new opportunities for our manufacturers.
Strategic partnership opens new perspectives for technological cooperation in such sensitive areas like outer space, aviation, energy, including nuclear, military industry. Compared to some other states Russia is quite flexible with technology transfer, which is an additional competitive advantage for us to implement specific joint projects.
With the new level of partnership, we are looking for opportunities to contribute more into implementation of ASEAN strategic plans on connectivity and narrowing development gap. Russia has supported the ASEAN Smart Cities Network. Implementing successfully relevant projects on its territory our country is ready to share its experience on inclusive and sustainable urban development.
In the area of cooperation in disaster management and emergency response ASEAN and Russia have agreed to sign a relevant MOU, which will serve as a foundation for enhancing cooperation in this field. Recent natural disasters in Indonesia once again prove how critical this area is. We stand ready to assist our ASEAN partners using Russian vast experience and technological potential in emergency response.
We have great perspectives for people-to-people contacts and exchanges. More than 2 million Russian tourists come to Southeast Asian countries every year. There is a growing interest in Russian culture and traditions in ASEAN that is proved by more and more people from the region coming to see Russia.
Generally, ASEAN and Russia have a huge potential to explore. We are certain that our Strategic Partnership will definitely help our cooperation to gain momentum and to ensure our common strategic future.