How Asian countries are reacting to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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The impact of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine continues to be felt in the region and around the world.

On March 8, experts from the Brookings Foreign Policy program held a Twitter Spaces conversation about the impact on Asia and the response of key Asian countries.


Mireya Solis (@solis_msolis)
Director, Center for East Asian Political Studies

Japan’s response to the crisis has been remarkable. prime minister [Fumio] Kishida condemned Russia’s war of aggression, made a real connection and said that these acts of using violence to change borders [are] pose a challenge to the international order and are therefore important not only in the context of European security but also for Indo-Pacific security. So there’s no such thing as a ‘this isn’t our problem, it’s happening in distant countries’ mentality here… And what I find even more remarkable is that the Japanese public, by and large, agrees. A number of polls have been conducted in recent days, including one by Nikkei, which showed that 61% of the Japanese public approved of the sanctions imposed on Russia. And Yomiuri‘s more recent shows that 80% of respondents agree with this course of action, believing that a violent seizure of land by Russia could encourage China to do the same in Asia. For example, Japan has been in lockstep with the G-7 in imposing punitive sanctions, e.g. B. Freezing assets of Russian banks, removing those banks from the SWIFT messaging system, restricting central bank transactions, freezing the assets of Putin and his close associates, imposing export controls to limit access to advanced technology. But there are two other very rare measures Tokyo has taken. One of them is that it has offered to bring back Ukrainian… refugees, which Japan has not done often, and also the decision to send non-lethal equipment… in addition to humanitarian aid, which Japan has traditionally done… Former Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe’s policy towards Russia is essentially dead… The notion that economic engagement could prevent a close strategic partnership between Russia and China is now discredited… Because the timing of the crisis in Ukraine comes at a time when Japan itself is launching its own national Security strategy reformulated and rethinking its own defense planning documents…how…this being incorporated into the new strategy will have longer-term implications…In Japan we’re not seeing the kind of security revolution you’ve seen in Germany, but notable ones Changes are in progress.

Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan)
Director, The India Project

One thing we know from history about India’s talks first with the Soviets and the Russians is… if India wanted to be very blunt about what Russian actions are doing to Indian interests… those talks will be private, not public. And we’ve seen this in historical readings where India will very openly possibly say, and that’s my speculation, that ‘Hey, you know, President Putin, if another Indian citizen gets killed in Russian shelling, think about what that will have repercussions on Russo-Indian relations”… What will this do to India’s economic growth, and especially at a time when India, like other countries, is facing inflation concerns? … What will this do to India’s ability to use its economic capabilities to enhance military capabilities for deployment in the Indo-Pacific? … India … is watching China very closely … Views differ as to whether President Xi would seize this moment to take military action elsewhere. In DC we often [ask] Will China take the option to do something about Taiwan? Well, India is actually concerned that … there could be an escalation [China-India] back at the border… There’s also this concern about shipments from Russia for frontline gear. It’s not just a question of how to pay them, but at this point, if the Russian defense contractors have to…dedicate themselves to Russian troops and Russian equipment, will they really be able to supply India?

Andrew Yeo (@AndrewIYeo)
Senior Fellow, Center for East Asia Policy Studies and SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies

North Korea launched another ballistic missile in late February. It’s their ninth test of the year and just this morning I was reading reports that… there are satellite images of activity going on at a nuclear facility where it looks like they are building some construction sites. Now, as for North Korea doing this under US cover and the rest of the world being distracted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I’m inclined to think the North Koreans are moving to their own pace. So maybe it’s not a necessary time because of Ukraine, but it’s certainly convenient for the North Koreans to be able to test ballistic missiles. They’re also running some tests with a recon satellite, so they’re upgrading their satellite technology to possibly develop a new weapon system… So the danger is that the rest of the world is rightly focused on Ukraine, could North Korea push its nuclear program, it could perfect his rocket skills. But while we’re getting reports of this, there isn’t much political will from the US or around the world to try to address this issue now. A fire is underway in Europe that needs to be put out, and it has wider implications in the Indo-Pacific.

ryan hate (@ryanl_hate)
Senior Fellow, Center for East Asia Policy Studies and John L. Thornton China Center

As tragic as the situation in Ukraine is, and as heartbreaking and maddening as it is, it does not predict events, there is no inevitability of events in Taiwan, and I think it’s important that we keep these distinctions in mind, if we evaluate the situation severity of these two cases. I think the point you also made about economic determinism is really important because Chinese foreign policy thinkers have long assumed that countries, especially Western democratic countries, are guided by their material interests and that China is becoming increasingly central to global value is becoming chains and the global economy that it is becoming more prohibitive to challenge China on issues where China asserts its interests. And what we’ve seen in the last two weeks is that sometimes there are principles and ideals that take the place of material interests. And I think it should be helpful for the Chinese to reassess some of their histories and assumptions about how countries function in the midst of a crisis.

Patricia M Kim ()
David M. Rubenstein Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center and Center for East Asia Policy Studies

I don’t know if the United States can use this situation to their advantage, but I think it has certainly put a spotlight on the fact that we seem dangerously closer to a divided world where we have China and Russia half and the western or democratic side on the other half. And I think that kind of world, as history has shown us, is dangerous and prone to instability. And I think we would be much better off if China were willing to support a less divided but more diverse world where global civil society can at least agree to stand by fundamental principles like state sovereignty and territorial integrity. And that, although we were disappointed [China’s actions so far on Ukraine]I think it’s important for the United States and its allies to continue to signal Beijing at this point that China has more to gain by playing a constructive role in the future, even if it hasn’t until now, and to make good on their promise to be a force for peaceful negotiations in the crisis.

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