Patron: Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

Views from Asia on the Ukraine Crisis

Dr Anita Perkins

The violent conflict in the Ukraine has been a constant backdrop to our thinking here in New Zealand over the past several weeks. Unbearable images of suffering are broadcast on the news daily. According to the Council on Foreign Relations there have been 2,685 civilian casualties and more than four million Refugees fleeing Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on 24 February.

We’ve heard commentary from our own leadership, from the U.S. administration, and from Europe, but what perspectives are forthcoming from major players in Asia?


According to Jude Blanchette of the Washington Post the worse things go for Putin in Ukraine, the more China will back him. “China has tried to have it both ways since Russia invaded Ukraine a month ago. It abstained from key votes at the United Nations criticizing Russia’s actions, avoided directly labelling President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine an “invasion,” amplified Russian disinformation and repeatedly laid blame for the war at the feet of the United States and NATO. At the same time, Beijing has also largely complied with sanctions against Russia, made repeated, if vague, calls for a negotiated settlement to the hostilities and provided humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.”


Writing for Aljazeera, Somdeep Sen says it is not unexpected that India is also standing with Putin’s Russia. “No one should be surprised that India, especially under Modi’s leadership, chose to support Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. […] Since the establishment of diplomatic ties following India’s independence in 1947, relations between Moscow and New Delhi have been shaped by a “high degree of political and strategic trust” […] From the very beginning, Moscow saw its alliance with India as essential for offsetting American and Chinese dominance in Asia. And India always enjoyed the leverage that support from a major power like Russia provided in international politics.”


Sheila Smith of the Council for Foreign Relations notes that Japan has come out strongly in opposition to Putin’s Ukraine invasion and been forthcoming in aid to support Zelensky. “Japan’s attempt to sway Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to his invasion of Ukraine was overshadowed by European and U.S. diplomacy, but once Russia initiated war, Tokyo’s condemnation has been quick and conspicuous.  Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, embracing the idea that Japan had deep stakes in a global rules-based order, met the G-7 call for financial sanctions on Russia and on Russians who support Putin’s war.  Not stopping there, Japan has offered financial, humanitarian, and material aid for President Zelensky.”

Asian economies

Mariko Oi of the BBC reports that Asia economies are divided over Russian sanctions. “China has refused to outright condemn the invasion of Ukraine and has not imposed any sanctions on Russia.

India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Laos and Mongolia also sat out the vote on a United Nations’ resolution to demand the end of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. While Western allies like Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have imposed sanctions, with Tokyo and Seoul blocking some Russian banks from the Swift global payments system, the impact is limited. That is because the Asian nations who joined western-led sanctions make up only 8% of Russia’s global trade.”

It’s clear the Ukraine crisis has impacts for global security, including our own here in Aotearoa. As the conflict rages on it affects everything from breaking hearts, to lowering KiwiSaver balances, and increasing fuel prices. The conflict also influences how we perceive and navigate our geostrategic positioning between China and the U.S.