Proceed with caution in our relations with Russia

Professor Tommy Koh is undoubtedly right that Russia has an important role to play in this region and Singapore should continue to exercise caution in its diplomatic approach, given what we know about Moscow's destabilising activities elsewhere in the world (Moscow holds the key to better Asean ties; July 31).

Russia is, as Prof Koh notes, a major world player in terms of both soft power and hard power.

But recently, it has often been in the news for the wrong reasons - questionably entering the Crimean peninsula, destabilising American democracy, and even being implicated in the attempted murder of two of its citizens through the use of chemical weapons.

This attempt resulted in the inadvertent death of a British civilian.

And, of course, in Russian domestic affairs, President Vladimir Putin is known for his harsh clamping down of political dissent.

The Asean-Russia dialogues, potential free-trade agreements and cultural exchanges Prof Koh discusses should certainly not be abandoned.

There is nothing wrong with wishing to maintain a cordial relationship with a superpower, and there are definite benefits to be had from it, not least in helping to defuse tensions arising from a result of Russia's actions.

That does not mean, however, that Singapore should let down its guard. A closer relationship with Russia could well damage our relations with others.

It is essential that our Government be careful with what aspects of Russia we choose to associate ourselves with.

At some point, we may well have to take a stand on what we consider to be acceptable behaviour for states to engage in.

Dillon Lim