Monday, May 12, 2014

#LessonsForSmallCountries #Singapore #Ukraine #Crimea

I wanted for some time to make a post on "Lessons For Small Countries", but I've been so busy recently that all I've managed to do was to start a hashtag, #LessonsForSmallCountries, a snarky series of tweets containing well-meaning, but occasionally misguided advice for small nations.
Not trending at the moment, though I think it ought to be. If there's anything good to come out of Ukraine's problems, it's a good example of what not to do. Russia or the US will most probably come out fine, but I worry that Ukraine won't. Mostly because of size. 
Bring a citizen from a very small country, whose vital water supply is still controlled by a larger, occasionally prickly, neighbour, the crisis now has got a lot of us thinking: if we're so small, we can easily be pushed and shoved by larger countries for their own political and economic advantages. We can't always depend on the international community to help us.

Of course I have been accused of victim-blaming for saying that Ukraine has invited this problem into their country, but larger nations simply do not understand that it takes a special kind of stupidity and incompetence to allow their country to be put in a position where they're screwed politically, economically, and militarily. Fact is, nobody will care about the wellbeing of your country and its citizens. Even your most "brotherly" neighbours. You have to be responsible for your own country.
Lots of articles have been written about what the US or Russia should learn from the Ukraine crisis. I think there are lessons to be learnt fromt he crisis that are more relevant to small countries such as Singapore. Of course, I'm not the only Singapore citizen who sees the crisis through this lens. The political community in Singapore is also seeing it in the same way.

The speech that inspired #LessonsForSmallCountries was given by our Minister of Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam

Our PM visited another cute little country and they both found some common views as well:
LUXEMBOURG: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said there are lessons to be learnt for small states from Russia's annexation of Crimea.
He said small states must tend to their network of friends and have an effective foreign policy.
Mr Lee was speaking to the reporters at a joint press session with his counterpart from Luxembourg, Mr Xavier Bettel.
Both leaders stressed the importance of upholding international law.
Mr Lee said: "The only thing a small state has is words and treaties, but in addition to that because depending not (on) the goodwill and good faith of others, we also must have the wherewithal to defend ourselves because in extremis, you must be prepared to stand up and defend your position, if necessary, with our lives."

More recently, PM Lee also expressed his concern over China's land (or rather, sea) grabbing in the South China Sea:
NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must play a constructive role in managing problems in the South China Sea, said Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.
And that also means not taking sides with the countries making various territorial and maritime claims.
Speaking at the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, Mr Lee echoed the sentiments of foreign ministers that ASEAN should have a common position on the issue.
He said incidents, like collisions between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea within the past week, could easily spiral out of control and trigger unintended consequences.
PM Lee said: "ASEAN's view has been that, whereas ASEAN doesn't take a position on the individual, on the merits of the claims, ASEAN does have a view on the overall issue of the South China Sea, because it is happening on our doorstep and we must have a view, because the security, stability of the region depends on what happens in the South China Sea and we cannot, not take a view as ASEAN."

Well, maybe Singapore might have some lessons for Ukraine. I'll leave you with another video from our Foreign Minister and one a couple more tweets. (Updated to include awesome fighter pilot story.)

It's a matter of military advantage as well:
For the first three days, our F-16 pilots, no matter how much they planned and prepared, they were always ambushed by the USAF F-15s. Then they realized that the USAF pilots were eavesdropping on their conversations (not disallowed by the rules), so they switched from plain English to Singlish/Chinese/Malay.
Suddenly the F-15s lost their magic, and for the last three days, found no way through the defensive screen set up by our F-16s.