Ukraine war cloud over Asia

Asian Insider examines the impact of the crisis as tensions continue to mount.

Any conflict on Ukraine's border with Russia will have significant consequences for Asia, with China, Japan and India doing their best to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. In Europe and Australia, however, there is growing unease that war may not be avoidable. 


China aligning with Russia but unlikely to support any invasion

When Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping just before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games, they issued an exceptional 5,300-word joint statement that described the friendship between their two countries as having "no limits".

Significantly, China came out for the first time against Nato expansion, backing Russia's objection to Ukraine joining the Western military alliance.

"The sides oppose further enlargement of Nato and call on the North Atlantic alliance to abandon its ideologised Cold War approaches, to respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries..." the text read, albeit with no mention of Ukraine.

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Taiwan keeping close watch on Ukraine situation as tensions grow

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen held a high-level security meeting late last month to discuss the situation in Ukraine and its possible impact on the situation in the Taiwan Strait.

At the end of the meeting, she ordered the National Security Council to form a Ukraine task force to monitor "developments in eastern Ukraine and any possible impact on our national security", according to a statement issued by the presidential office.

Taiwan was able to empathise with Ukraine's situation because the island has also faced "military threats and intimidation from China", she was quoted as saying.

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India walking a tightrope between Russia and America

Last month, India decided to abstain from a procedural vote to discuss the Ukraine crisis at the United Nations Security Council.

Russia, with only Chinese support, lost the vote by a 10 to two margin with three abstentions - resulting in a Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Jan 31. India, Gabon and Kenya, which are all non-permanent members of the council, abstained.

The move to abstain allowed India to sidestep the issue, but Moscow nonetheless thanked New Delhi, a longstanding partner dating back to the days of the Soviet Union.

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Japan treading carefully in showing solidarity with Ukraine

In a show of solidarity with Kyiv, Japan’s Lower House has adopted a resolution that says Tokyo is “gravely concerned and always with the Ukrainians who hope for the stability of their country and region”.

But the resolution on Tuesday (Feb 8) skipped a direct mention of Russia, as policymakers carefully weigh their best approach in the worst-case scenario of an invasion of Ukraine.

Japan’s security ally, the United States, is reportedly urging it to take a firm stance by imposing sanctions if tensions were to flare, along with other Western democracies that champion a rules-based international order.

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For Europe, Macron's diplomacy offers hope but sceptics abound

Governments in Europe are expressing hope that a diplomatic initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron may avert a Russian military intervention against Ukraine, and a broader security showdown on their continent.

Yet there is also a great deal of scepticism, particularly among Central and Eastern European governments, about what Mr Macron may have promised Russian President Vladimir Putin in exchange for a possible reduction in tensions.

And although the current focus of attention is on diplomatic manoeuvring, the build-up of Russian troops around Ukraine continues unabated, with Western military intelligence experts predicting that the coming week could well be the peak of the crisis.

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In Ukraine, calm amid soaring tensions

Bomb shelters are ready, people are signing up for training to defend themselves in the event of conflict, but Ukrainians report calm - even if an uneasy one - in the country as tensions with Russia soar.

Part of the reason for that lies in the belief that the involvement of Western powers will be a major deterrent against any overt Russian aggression.

"Many do not believe that war can start at any moment, because of the attention of the West to the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border, and we believe in the US as a major deterrent force," Mr Mykola Siruk, a freelancer for the Glavcom Internet media outlet in Ukraine, told The Straits Times.

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Australia's approach to Ukraine crisis influenced by ties with US, UK

At a security meeting in Canberra on Monday morning between Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and an inner grouping of his most senior ministers, the first item on the agenda was not the usual fare such as China tensions or the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, the National Security Committee of the Cabinet - which includes the Prime Minister and seven senior ministers - began by discussing the crisis in Ukraine.

Australia is not a member of Nato and does not typically view events in Eastern Europe as being at the top of its priorities, but it has firmly declared its concerns about the threat that Russia poses to Ukraine.

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Singapore food prices, flights may be affected if crisis worsens: Experts

Singapore can expect the cost of food and other goods as well as international flights to be affected if tensions between Russia and Ukraine degenerate into conflict, experts told The Straits Times.

The impact might not be immediate and the Republic is unlikely to adjust its security arrangements, they said, adding that Singapore probably would not take sides should the situation worsen.

Dr Ian Storey of ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute pointed out that Ukraine was a big exporter of food, and a prolonged conflict with Russia would cause its agricultural exports to the region to be affected. Ukrainian exports include grains, vegetable oils and a host of other products.

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