Amid ‘more dangerous’ world, Asia must learn ‘right lessons’ from Ukraine conflict to avert catastrophe: Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE – The world has become a more dangerous place since 2019, with deepening divisions and a decline in global cooperation as countries emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen has said. .

In this context, Dr. Ng said on Sunday June 12 during the last plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia must learn the “right lessons” of preemption and prevention of war in Ukraine, in order to avoid any potential calamity in his own backyard.

Separately, in response to questions from the media at the close of the three-day security summit, Dr Ng said that while conflicts cannot be resolved overnight through dialogue alone, such in-person meetings nonetheless add value to diplomatic relations.

DEEPENING THE DIVIDE, STRENGTHENING SECURITY ALLIANCES

Dr Ng said that since the last meeting of the Shangri-La dialogue in 2019, divisions have deepened in many areas, including but not limited to ideology, alliances and even in terms of health. public, with a striking contrast observed in the rates of vaccination against Covid-19 in rich and poor countries.

He said it was made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which impacted the price and supply of wheat, fuel and metals.

“Inflation coupled with supply shocks puts millions of people, especially among the poor, at risk in all countries, for access and affordability to food and basic commodities. In sum, countries have become more inward looking,” Dr Ng said.

This would cause setbacks for responses to pressing global challenges such as climate change, human trafficking and terrorism.

He also highlighted how security alliances are hardening, with security arrangements and military capabilities being built between various groups.

“Defence spending in Europe will increase. Already, six NATO member states have pledged increases of around US$133 billion (S$184.6 billion) so far,” he said, referring to the military alliance. between 30 Member States across Europe and North America.

For Asia-Pacific, it has already grown by more than 60% over the past decade, he said.

Due to the convergence of these factors, Dr Ng said: “It is no exaggeration that we now find ourselves at a potentially dangerous moment in our history.”

ASIA MUST BUILD STRATEGIC CONFIDENCE TO “AVOID CALAMITIES”

Dr. Ng identified two areas of focus for altering trajectories and averting disasters.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, he stressed how a protracted conflict would be disastrous for both sides.

Russia would need “a significant buildup of soldiers and armaments” if it was to achieve its goals, he said, which would come at a financial cost and great political risk. Meanwhile, for Ukraine, a protracted war will test “the continued support of international leaders and incumbents.”

“I am stating the obvious, but a cessation of hostilities would offer a reprieve to all parties,” Dr Ng said.

Closer to home in Asia, the defense minister called on countries in the region to “heed the passionate and poignant advice of President (Volodymyr) Zelensky for preemption and prevention”.

“Asia must learn the right lessons from Ukraine,” he said. “Once conflict erupts, it’s too late.”

And while Asian countries expressed respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as a fundamental principle of foreign relations, he said: “We must ensure that our deeds match our words if we are to avoid a calamity like Ukraine”.

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