Week's top letter #2: Important for Asean to keep Russia engaged in region

Asean is right to welcome Russia's presence in the region (Doors are open for Russia to play major role in Asia; Nov 17).

Asean's advocacy has been one of an open and inclusive architecture, where regional and global powers can fruitfully engage one another.

Despite repeated lip service that its vision of Indo-Pacific will not dismiss Asean's centrality, the Quad (United States, Australia, Japan and India) has fallen short of convincing Asean, and Asean is right in remaining circumspect and distancing itself from great-power politics and rivalries in the region.

Asean neither supports the Quad as a mechanism to contain China nor welcomes China's enduring aggression in the region, particularly in the South China Sea.

This is where the entrance of Russia can infuse a breath of fresh air to the current power dynamics by counterbalancing a growing Chinese influence and preventing the Quad from taking centre stage.

At the end of the day, it is imperative for Asean that all major powers actively engage in the region lest one country overrides all.

As such, Asean has a role for Russia - an active one that would contribute to harmony, stability and collaboration on joint progress in the region.

Asean welcomes Russia's interests and presence in Asia as it brings about an international order of a multilateral system.

Russia's pivot towards the region will also serve to advance the economic potential between itself and Asean.

Additionally, Russia has a lot to offer Asean in areas of cooperation, such as counter-terrorism, cyber-security, disaster management and energy.

It should be highlighted that unlike the United States, which erects itself as a Chinese challenger, Russia sets itself up as an ally who is ready to collaborate with China and the rest of the Asian countries.

Asean's interest is not in taking sides, but on generating political stability and economic prosperity in the region.

The roller-coaster temperament of the US White House administration also runs counter to Russian President Vladimir Putin's calm and collected demeanour, which is well-received with respect in Asia where stability is prized.

Mr Putin's inaugural attendance at the East Asia Summit has prominently raised his country's profile in Asia.

What Russia needs to do next is devise mutually beneficial stratagems for its relationship with Asean so as to keep up the momentum and further strengthen political and economic relations with Asean.

Lily Ong (Madam)