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Ukraine-Russia conflict: International relations based on 'might is right' make world a dangerous place for small countries, says PM Lee

Ukraine-Russia conflict: International relations based on 'might is right' make world a dangerous place for small countries, says PM Lee

Activists protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a rally in front of the Russian embassy in Washington on Feb 27, 2022. (File photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan)

SINGAPORE: The concept of "might is right", if applied to international relations, would make the world a dangerous place for small countries like Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (Feb 28).

"This is why Singapore staunchly supports international law and the UN Charter, which prohibits acts of aggression against a sovereign state," Mr Lee said in a Facebook post addressing the crisis in Ukraine.

In Parliament earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced in a ministerial statement that Singapore will impose sanctions on Russia "in concert with other like-minded countries", citing “the unprecedented gravity" of the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

The measures will include imposing export controls on items that can be used directly as weapons in Ukraine, and blocking certain Russian bank and financial transactions connected to Russia.

In his speech, Dr Balakrishnan described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a clear and gross violation of the international norms and a completely unacceptable precedent”, saying that it “is an existential issue for” Singapore.

“We cannot accept one country attacking another without justification, arguing that its independence was the result of ‘historical errors and crazy decisions’.

“Such a rationale would go against the internationally recognised legitimacy and the territorial integrity of many countries, including Singapore.”

In his post, Mr Lee reiterated points made by Dr Balakrishnan, and reaffirmed Singapore's support for international law and the United Nations Charter.

“What is happening in Ukraine now is important to us. Singapore strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and affirms that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected,” he said.

Mr Lee added: "As a small country, we strive to maintain good relations with all countries big and small. We do not choose sides, but chart our own course based on consistent principles and long-term national interests."

Dr Balakrishnan also spoke about the importance of National Service and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), a point Mr Lee highlighted.

“We must never lose the capability to defend ourselves. National Service and a strong, operationally ready SAF is our best deterrent against aggressors,” Mr Lee wrote in his post.

Dr Balakrishnan’s speech on Russia’s actions in Ukraine was not the first by a Singapore Foreign Minister. In 2014, then-Foreign Minister K Shanmugam spoke in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

"The lessons for us, then and now, are stark. When treaties and diplomacy fail, we cannot rely on others to protect us,” Mr Lee said.

Concluding his post, Mr Lee spoke of the importance of national unity.

“We must remain a united and cohesive nation. Domestic politics must stop at our shores,” he said.

“We have been lucky to enjoy peace and stability now for more than 50 years. Russia’s attack on Ukraine reminds us how precious this is, and how important it is for all of us who call Singapore home to work together to preserve this happy state of affairs.”

Source: CNA/kg(ac)

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