Speaking during the Committee of Supply debate for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mr Shanmugam pointed out that the crisis in Ukraine — where Russians troops are in control of some parts of the country — not only impacts Singapore at several levels, but also offers several lessons.
Noting Russia’s agreement in 1994 with the United States and the United Kingdom – to not threaten or use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine – Mr Shanmugam said that “when it comes to the crunch, treaties are only meaningful if you have the ability to enforce them”.
Size matters in international relations, he added, and a country which cannot protect itself puts its sovereignty and its people at risk.
Mr Shanmugam also pointed out that the United Nations’ Security Council “cannot always act decisively to protect smaller countries”.
And when squeezed between two big powers or blocs, a smaller country like Ukraine can became a pawn, he said.
“The country caught in between can be sacrificed if the two contending powers or blocs decide to reach a wider accommodation with each other, trading off their various interests. Smaller countries must always be aware of this.”
The crisis in Ukraine, which is the second largest country in Europe, made him consider Singapore’s situation, Mr Shanmugam said: “If we do not constantly run hard to make sure that everything works, that we out compete the world, that we can defend ourselves, how long will it take for our situation to unravel?”Update: March 6, 8:40pm
Big bullies small. Imagine Indonesia is Russia but we are not Ukraine since it is relatively big but we are a district of the Crimea. That's about right as a little red dot.