Russia Approaching Asia: Leaving ‘Rule of Law’ Behind Is Dangerous

If Vietnam turns a blind eye to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and strengthens ties with Moscow, which has defied international law, it will arouse suspicions in the international community that values the “rule of law.”

Vietnam’s excessive leaning toward Russia would threaten the stability of Southeast Asia and, in turn, may have a negative impact on the security of Vietnam itself.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently visited Vietnam, a nation traditionally on good terms with Russia, and expressed his intention to bolster support in areas such as energy and security.

Since the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Putin has focused his foreign visits on allied and friendly countries such as China, Belarus and North Korea. This was the first time he has visited Southeast Asia.

The aim is clearly to approach Vietnam, which is a leading member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and has refrained from criticizing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and to counter the encirclement of Russia by the United States, Europe and Japan.

Vietnam received support from the former Soviet Union during the Vietnam War and other conflicts. Even today, about 80% of its weapons are Russian-made.

For this visit, Putin was invited by Vietnam. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Putin on charges of committing war crimes. Although Vietnam is not a member of the ICC, it seems inevitable that the country will be perceived as having been used in a diplomatic offensive by Putin.

In recent years, Vietnam has been deepening cooperation with the United States as a counter to China, with which it has a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. As the international situation becomes increasingly fluid, Vietnam is not alone in seeking to secure a well-balanced relationship with any of the major powers and gain the practical benefits that come with it.

However, if the principles of the rule of law and respect for human rights are not adhered to, the world may become even more chaotic and all the countries may suffer a disadvantage.

What is worrisome is that during his visit to Vietnam, Putin stated that he places importance on developing a dialogue with ASEAN, and he also expressed a desire to get other member countries to join his side.

Russia is positive about having Thailand and Malaysia added to the BRICS group of emerging countries that it belongs to along with China, India and others. With Russia as the chair country of a BRICS summit in October, there is a possibility that the two countries could be approved as new members at that time.

If the so-called Global South emerging and developing nations in Asia, Africa and elsewhere that have remained neutral on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine pursue practical cooperation with Russia, it will weaken the effectiveness of Western sanctions on Russia and cause the war to be prolonged even further.

Japan has long supported development of the Global South. It is important to continue to advocate the importance of universal values and to deepen cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2024)