Ukraine Crisis: About Time Singapore Foreign Policy Moved Away From Neutrality

Should Singapore take a stand on the conflict in Ukraine or remain silent like its neighbours?

Taking clear sides isn’t exactly what Singapore has been known for. Singapore, a small country, has historically gone to great lengths to maintain bilateral relations. However, its recent condemnation of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine is a distinct break from its usual preference for neutrality.

When foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced plans to impose sanctions on Russia, there was outcry among some Singaporeans who felt that a small country like Singapore should know its place and not meddle in other countries’ affairs lest it ruffles Russia’s feathers and become a future target of aggression.

A Singaporean writer even went so far to say that the war in Ukraine is self-imposed. In her view, the situation Ukraine is in now has as much to do with Russia as it does with Ukraine itself.

For people who share similar views with Tanveet Kaur, there is probably no reason to sanction Russia because the fault does not lie with Russia. It was Zelensky who provoked Putin and now expects the world to back Ukraine.

To those who opposed Kaur’s views, they see Russia as the clear aggressor. There is no way any Ukranian leader is going to let Putin annex the whole Eastern part of Ukraine and Crimea outright without getting lynched as a national traitor.

But even if Russia did start the war, should Singapore poke its nose into the two nations’ conflict or remain silent like its neighbours?

Singapore’s Stance on the Ukraine Crisis

Observers think to take a clear stance is the right direction for Singapore’s foreign policy.

To not do so would be to normalise the kind of naked aggression and historical revanchism being displayed by Russia in Ukraine, a world where it is even more so that “the big do what they want, and the small suffer what they must”.

Singapore’s proactively strong stance in sanctioning Russia and being very open and unequivocal in its condemnation of Russia isn’t just for Russia to see and hear. It’s for China as well.

To put things into the local context, what Russia is doing in Ukraine now is akin to a scenario like the following:

If India suddenly invaded Singapore one day and stirred shit in Singapore using Indian nationals to self-declare that Changi Business Park, Serangoon Gardens, and Marina Bay Financial Centre are to become independent from Singapore because most of the people in these locations are Indian nationals, and they want to join India as an overseas colony, PLUS India invaded and occupied PSA at Pasir Panjang, do you want Singapore then to just meekly surrender and accede to India’s demands to cede all these territories out of our sovereign control?

Political Commentator

Wanting to avoid confrontation does not mean it should be done at all cost. There must be bottomlines. It is a negotiation, not unconditional capitulation.

What kind of world would we live in if we normalise great powers bullying and blackmailing smaller countries into curtailing or giving up their self-determination rights to chart their own independent national course in international politics and through history, simply because said great powers want their own interests and spheres of influences protected with no regards for changing times and societal sentiments?

About time Singaporean foreign policy moved away from mealy-mouthed neutrality/abstention/non-alignment for the sake of continuing to play middle man making money off everybody. Because the way the world’s going, the middle ground is going to shrink more and more and everybody is going to have to take a side.