Western diplomats call for Russia’s isolation
Putin's attack on Ukraine has sent shock waves through Asia. At an event organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Thailand and its partner ISIS, a think tank at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, Western diplomats in Thailand discussed the impact of the invasion - and called for further pressure on Russia.
Poland's ambassador Waldemar Dubaniowski set an example right at the beginning of his speech: He placed a Ukrainian flag in front of his seat and distributed solidarity ribbons to the other guests on stage.
Dubaniowski explained that Asia was already suffering from the war instigated by Russia. "Fewer tourists are coming to Thailand. The prices of fuel and grain are also rising here. This shows that we need to push Russia to stop the aggression. If we cannot stop this, this might be other countries in future. If we don’t support Ukraine, the other countries will be next."
The EU's ambassador to Thailand, David Daly, also called for decisive action against Russia. He said responses to the Russian invasion were crucial not only for Europe but for the future global order. "It will be seen whether the world is governed by rules and laws or by the law of the strongest," he said. ASEAN states should take a strong stand against Russia’s aggression. Similar comments were made by the other Western representatives on the panel, British Ambassador Mark Gooding and New Zealand's Chargée d'affaires, Mary Thurston.
Numerous Asian states had voted in favor of condemning Russia at the UN General Assembly. States such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore have also adopted sanctions against the country. However, Russia still finds at least partial understanding in some Asian governments. North Korea, China as well as Vietnam and Laos abstained from the UN vote.
Even though some ASEAN states condemned Putin’s invasion, the Southeast Asian confederation ASEAN declared itself neutral in the conflict. "I was disappointed," said Kantathi Suphamongkhon, advisory board member of the RAND Corporation Center for Asia Pacific Policy (CAPP). "I would have thought that ASEAN would have taken a firm stand against aggression. It’s important for ASEAN to send that same message that the international community has been sending: The use of force is unacceptable.”
He also accused the US government of a tactical error: Had US President Joe Biden threatened to defend Ukraine militarily; Putin might have backed down from an invasion. For example, the US government assures Taiwan of its support. Therefore, China is according to Kantathi reluctant to invade.
Kantathi, who represented Thailand as foreign minister between 2005 and 2006, also told an anecdote about Putin at the panel. After a Thai state visit to Russia, Putin had insisted on driving the Thai head of government, Thaksin Shinawatra, personally to the airport. As Thaksin sat in the passenger seat, Putin told Thaksin, "If you trust me, you don't have to wear a seat belt."
Here is a recording of the event