US move to involve Asia-Pacific countries in Ukraine policy04 September 2014
Ibne Siraj :
Turning to the Asia-Pacific, the United States has already launched a subtle diplomatic move to seek broader supports on economic sanctions against Russia. How big are the chances that Washington's appeal is heard is not important but the question is: whether the countries in the world's biggest continent would trap themselves into the sweet words of the United States. Washington has reportedly invited China, South Korea and Singapore to join sanctions on Russia over what the US has termed as Moscow's aggressive policy in Ukraine. The US sanctions have already been joined by the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Although the West is propagating that Russia has already been "seriously affected by the sanctions," but in reality it is yet to be estimated as to how much Moscow has suffered till to date. However, the US State Department is constantly looking for ways to apply more pressure on its once cold war rival.
China has already rejected the offer saying, "the Ukrainian crisis requires a political solution. In a real situation, sanctions do not solve the problem; on the contrary, they might cause new problems not to meet the interests of all sides and the initial intention to resolve the crisis". It is worth mentionable here that China and Russia have already bound themselves into several sustainable deals including the long-term gas agreement and by joining a newly floated global bank called BRICS Bank. Therefore, China will not respond positively to the US call to strain the just developed friendship of Beijing with Moscow, a new and seemingly sustainable tie between the two super powers. Hence, it appears that the US is not in a position at this moment to offer a lot economically to other Southeast Asian and South Asian nations, so that they join the West's current Anti-Russia move. Because, the US is simply not in an economically advantageous position to do so as it has already spent a lot in wars in the Muslim countries. On the other hand, the economic interactions between Russia and South and Southeast Asia, except India, have traditionally not been as strong as the trade relations between Russia and the Europe. Therefore, Washington's attempts to engage the Asian nations in its unholy sanctions on Russia would indeed not work as Moscow maintains gentleman's diplomacy with the world's largest continent. The US has the traditional allies like Japan, South Korea and Singapore in Asia. For example, the economic relations between Singapore and Russia are big in terms of finance, but Singapore is an entrepot economy. So, whether it would follow the US footsteps in terms of "imposing sanctions" on the Russian economic activities in Singapore is a matter to be seen in remote future. On the other hand, South Korea at present is in a position to try to be friendlier with Russia, because Seoul has greater concerns with North Korea and would like Russia to play a stronger role in terms of inducing Pyongyang to abandon the nuclear weapons programme.
Although traditionally Japan and Russia have some arguments over certain islands during the past several years, both the countries are getting closer economically with Tokyo requiring huge oil and gas from Moscow and Moscow trying to use some of those technical know-hows from Tokyo. It is understandable that China won't take part in any anti-Russian campaign as both the countries are now strategic partners. South Korea is the strategic partner of the US. So Seoul's interests in the global politics are much wider than just its alliance with Washington. Again, there is a big economic interest, because South Korea is very much interested in developing economic partnership with Russia. And the second matter is Russia's cooperation with the Koreans in settling the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the settlement of the Korean issue in general. South Koreans are very practical and pragmatic people and they would not join any campaign, which brings no benefit. Singapore, a financial hub in the Asia-Pacific region, is not supposed to join such a wanton move as it has a very strong partnership in the financial activities with Russia.
The United States have long been deadly against the Islamic world and the countries, which may pose challenge to its power. That is why, the US along with its other western allies have been behaving always in a very unpredictable manner. Everything the West led by the US is doing in the Asia-Pacific and rest of the world is a repetition of its policies of the 1950s and the 1960s. In fact, the West is again up to revive the Cold War in the Asia Pacific by way of its sanctions on Russia, but the region is not that fool to swallow any more venomous sweetmeat offered by the West. On the other hand, Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is playing an important role in the global affairs in general for commendable benefits to the Asia Pacific. Then, of course, many of the Asia Pacific countries including Bangladesh have a good memory of the Soviet Union, the predecessor of Russia, supporting their national liberation movements. From that point of view, Russia at present can also play a very important economic and political role at least through its energy resources in the Asia Pacific countries.
Asia Pacific in general is the net importer of oil and natural gas and Russia can supply those to this region. Russia's recent agreement with China, an enormous contract of the century for $400 billion gas supply, is very indicative in that sense, because it can serve as a basis for the general Asia Pacific energy partnership where Russia can take the lead. The other aspect is the Russian transit potential, because the development of the Northern Sea Route via the Arctic Ocean can change the whole map of the global shipping. And for all the countries, especially of the northeast Asia, it will be much more advantageous to transport their goods to Europe via the Northern Sea Route than via the traditional route of the Suez Canal. Since there are so many other opportunities as well, Russia may have a demand in Asia, where Moscow does not participate in any direct conflicts but can act as an intermediary for the long fostered peace in the world's largest continent.
Over the years, relations between Russia and Asian Nations have seen positive trends, but no qualitative shift to a new level of cooperation. Nevertheless, Moscow's increasing economic and diplomatic reorientation towards Asia, coupled with a confluence between their priorities in regional politics and security, have the potential to make Russia-Asia cooperation more versatile and multidimensional. However, here arises the acceptability of superpowers in Asia. What is the difference between Russia's and America's understandings of the role of a superpower? In Russia's understanding, a superpower is a country, which cannot be commanded by anyone. In the American understanding, a superpower is a country, which commands everyone. Since the difference is understood, Russia can perhaps stand for a multipolar Asia Pacific, while the Americans want the region to be their dominion. Therefore, there is quite a lot of pro-Russian sympathy in the Asia Pacific, and not just in China, but also in so many other countries.
(Ibne Siraj is a regular contributor to The New Nation)