The Finlandization of Asia
Most Asian countries have refrained from vocal or vociferous condemnations of Russia’s war on Ukraine. This makes a united front between the US, South Korea, and Japan all the more important to regional security.
TOKYO – “Finlandization” describes the commitment to strategic neutrality that a small country might make, in order to avoid provoking a much larger and more powerful neighbor. The term is derived from Finland’s longstanding policy of strict military non-alignment with either the Soviet Union or the West – a policy that it maintained vis-à-vis Russia after the end of the Cold War but that its recent application for NATO membership has upended. But even as Finland abandons Finlandization, many Asian countries may well be set to adopt it.
Unlike Finland and its European partners, most Asian countries have refrained from vocal or vociferous condemnations of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Of the 35 countries that abstained from the United Nations General assembly’s March 2 vote on a resolution demanding that Russia end its invasion of Ukraine, 11 were in Asia.
Two of those abstaining countries were large powers: China and India. For China, the decision to abstain may have been less about Russia, with which it signed a cooperation agreement just weeks before the invasion, than about the West. China’s leaders harbor plenty of skepticism about Western values, and they fear the weaponization of Western-led international institutions. If and when China decides to invade Taiwan, it hopes to avoid the high international costs Russia has incurred over its aggression in Ukraine.