Why the Russia-Ukraine War Continues in Southeast Asia

Despite the Russia-Ukraine war’s geographic distance from Southeast Asia, the conflict continues to be a major concern for the region’s elites, particularly in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Two years after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 22, 2022, the war’s impact on global energy and food prices helps explain why Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are a major concern.

As stated therein State of Southeast Asia 2024, the Russia-Ukraine war is one of the main geopolitical concerns of the region. The Israel-Hamas conflict ranks first (46.5 percent), China’s aggression in the South China Sea ranks second (33.9 percent), and the Russia-Ukraine war and global fraud are joint third (33.4 percent).

Interstate war in Europe even trumps the ongoing civil war in Myanmar (26.6 percent) and tensions in the Taiwan Strait (7.6 percent), both of which have the most direct impact on the region’s security.

The Russia-Ukraine war is the top geopolitical concern for Laos (61.9 percent) and Cambodia (57.7 percent) and Vietnam (67 percent). in the South China Sea (72.5 percent).

More than two years after Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, why is war still a major concern, especially for three Southeast Asian countries?

The survey confirms that the impact of war on food and energy prices – 68.4 percent – ​​is ten percent higher than in 2023 and remains a major concern for the region.

The conflict continues to disrupt global food and energy markets, as Russia is one of the world’s leading oil and gas producers, while Russia and Ukraine are major exporters. Wheat and sunflower oil, both of which are predominant in Southeast Asia. Wheat is a key ingredient in making noodles, while sunflower oil is widely used for cooking. Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of fertilizers essential for crop production, including rice.

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There is a close relationship between energy and food prices: natural gas is used in the production of fertilizers, while oil is used to transport food by land, sea and air.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, oil prices rose and Russian attacks on the country’s ports on the Black Sea halted wheat exports from Ukraine.

Oil prices have risen since then withdrew to pre-war levels, and Ukraine has resumed by eliminating wheat exports One in three Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and Rooting It transports its grain through the territorial waters of NATO-friendly countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Yet both energy and food markets continue to fluctuate, fueling food insecurity concerns as reflected in the study.

In contrast, concerns that Russia’s aggression has undermined the rules-based international order have declined (from 25.9 percent in 2023 to 14.5 percent in 2024), as well as whether the conflict will increase divisions within ASEAN (from 7.4 percent to 4.4 percent).

The conflict continues to disrupt global food and energy markets, as Russia is one of the world’s leading oil and gas producers, while Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and sunflower oil, both of which are staples in Southeast Asia.

Of the ten ASEAN member states, why are Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam the most angry about the war?

Vietnam and Laos adopted a different position from Cambodia. Because of their decades-long friendship, the Cold War has started again. Hanoi And Vientiane refrained from criticizing Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. Both countries have abstained from all United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) votes condemning Russian aggression.

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In contrast, Hun Sen, Cambodia’s prime minister at the time of the invasion, was highly critical of the Kremlin’s use of military force against Ukraine and ordered the country’s ambassadors in New York to co-sponsor UNGA resolutions.

All three countries have lucrative agricultural sectors. Their concerns about the impact of war on food and energy prices rose significantly: 86.3 percent for Laos (up from 52.3 percent in 2023), 73.5 percent for Vietnam (up from 58.8 percent) and 68.8 percent for Cambodia (up from 52.3 percent).

None of the three countries are major importers of Ukrainian wheat. Before the invasion, only 6 percent Vietnam’s wheat is sourced from Ukraine compared to 26 percent for Indonesia. But they all use it Fertilizers From Russia, it has reduced exports since the start of the war (thus raising prices worldwide). This has hit the world’s third and eighth largest rice exporters, Vietnam and Cambodia, hard. Both countries have to get fertilizers from other countries.

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia import very little Russian oil, but all three countries have been affected by fluctuations in global energy prices, with Laos, in particular, facing a severe blow. Economic problems.

Other factors may have contributed to the anger in Vietnam and Laos. As the ISEAS survey reveals, they rank Russia’s strategic importance to the region much higher than other ASEAN members. Among ASEAN’s 11 dialogue partners, Laos ranked Russia a surprising third (behind the US and China), and Vietnam a healthy fifth (behind the US, China, Japan and the EU). The damage the war has done to Russia’s reputation around the world worries policymakers in Vietnam and Laos. Also, the conflict is very much on their minds as the media of both countries cover the war extensively.

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Cambodia, on the other hand, has mixed feelings about Moscow’s support for the Vietnamese occupation in the 1980s and ranks Russia eighth out of 11 dialogue partners.

Phnom Penh seems more concerned about the war’s impact on Sino-US rivalry and how smaller states might navigate it. In the 2024 survey, 9.5 percent of Cambodians identified it as their second most important concern related to conflict, up from 5.2 percent in 2023 and higher than the ASEAN average of 8.2 percent. Cambodia has been at loggerheads over the past few years between the US and China Rheem Naval Base Is China’s naval presence at the facility permanent (Cambodia insists it is not)?

Although the Russia-Ukraine war appears to have reached a stalemate, its impact on food and energy prices and global supply chains continues to have ripple effects around the world. With the war not likely to end anytime soon, Southeast Asians will continue to worry.


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