ASEAN Centre in MGIMO-University the MFA of Russia


Dr. Marty Natalegawa on East Asian Security Problems and Prospects of ASEAN-Russia Cooperation

Dr. Marty Natalegawa on East Asian Security Problems and Prospects of ASEAN-Russia Cooperation


With the kind permission of Dr. Marty Natalegawa we publish the text of his key-note address at the Opening Ceremony of the Inaugural Meeting of Network of ASEAN-Russia Think-Tanks (NARTT) at MGIMO.

“ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership in the Regional Security Landscape”

Remarks by Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa* before the Inaugural Meeting of the Network of ASEAN-Russia Think Tanks (NAART)

MGIMO University, Moscow, 20 April 2018

Ladies and gentlemen,

I should like to begin by expressing my deep appreciation to the ASEAN-Russia Centre at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) for the invitation extended to me to share some of my thoughts - very much my own individual and personal ones - on ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership in the regional security landscape before this inaugural meeting of the Network of ASEAN- Russia Think-Tanks (NARTT).


Given the body of knowledge, experience and expertise assembled in the present forum on matters to do with ASEAN and its relations with the Russian Federation, I hesitate whether I can add much of relevance and pertinence.

Nonetheless, it is a task that I very much relish given the past investment of diplomatic efforts to the promotion of ASEAN’s relations with the Russian Federation.

Before all else, please permit me to acknowledge and pay tribute to the Centre for its remarkable achievements in the relatively short period of time since its establishment in 2010.

Indeed, the Centre manifests the ever-strengthening ties between ASEAN and the Russian Federation since the establishment of Dialogue Partner relationship in 1996. The 2016 ASEAN-Russia Sochi Summit, commemorating two decades of 1 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (2009-2014), Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN (2007-2009); Ambassador of Indonesia to the Court of St James’ and to Ireland (2005-2007), and currently, inter alia, a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Mediation.

Dialogue Partner relations, was especially instrumental in injecting further momentum to that relationship. Specifically, the Sochi Declaration; the 2016-2020 Comprehensive Programme of Action; and the recommendations of the ASEAN- Russia Eminent Persons Group - all impressive in their breadth and scope - suggest that there is no shortage of work in the years ahead that would help deepen and widen the partnership.

I have every confidence, given the requisite efforts all around and the strong commitments by all concerned, the years ahead would witness the fulfilment of these important goals.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, in speaking on ASEAN-Russia dialogue partnership in the regional security landscape, I am reminded that any effort at promoting ASEAN-Russia relations does not take place in a vacuum, oblivious and disconnected from the wider context.

As a matter of fact, notwithstanding the scrupulous and meticulously crafted plans on ASEAN-Russia cooperation cited earlier, developments within ASEAN; within the Russian Federation; and, the focus of the present talk, within the wider regional landscape – the external milieu so to speak- would inevitably impact on the further evolution of ASEAN-Russia relations.

More significantly, if it is the intention of both sides not only to react and respond to the dynamics prevalent in the wider region, rather to anticipate, pre-empt, as well as positively influence them, then clearly ASEAN and the Russian Federation would need to develop enhanced conversations on the region’s security landscape, indeed, even developing basic common understanding on them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am of the view that over the past five decades of its existence, ASEAN has proven particularly adept in managing Southeast Asia’s and the wider region’s security landscape, its dynamics so to speak.

Indeed, I would argue that ASEAN’s influence has been nothing less than transformative.

Transforming the security dynamics amongst countries of Southeast Asia, one initially marked by “trust deficit” and in fact, of open conflict and hostilities, to one  of “strategic trust”, manifested in the ASEAN Political and Security Community.

Transforming the role of Southeast Asian countries in the wider region’s security dynamics, beyond Southeast Asia to East Asia, the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific.

Ushering ASEAN “centrality” and “driving seat” role in this wider region’s security architecture building, in sharp contrast to situations past, in particular during the Cold War, when countries of Southeast Asia were divided and riveted by the then raging East-West conflict.

Both transformations did not occur overnight and by chance. On the contrary, they were the outcome of deliberate, persistent and painstaking diplomatic efforts by all sides. Not least of all, they were the results of astute, forward-looking, anticipatory, and transformative outlook by ASEAN member states.

Of the former – the transformation in intra-Southeast Asia security dynamics – three landmark dynamics-changing moments are of note. First, the setting aside of the  use and threat of use of force in settling disputes amongst ASEAN Member States through the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (1976). Second, the series of decisions that brought to an end the “two” Southeast Asia and the attainment of the so-called ASEAN10. And third, the initiation of the ASEAN Political Security Community, as a necessary complement to the ASEAN Economic Community and Socio-Cultural pillars.

Of the latter – the transformation of Southeast Asian countries’ role in the wider region – we have been witness to the development of an extensive ASEAN external relations, notwithstanding the wide spectrum of foreign policy orientations of its Member States. Indeed, until recently, ASEAN has been particularly adept in  striking a synergy – equilibrium – between the differing foreign policy orientations and traditions of its Member States. Essentially, that the promotion of the specific interests of each member state and the region’s collective interests are not inevitably divergent.

The most obvious manifestations have been the complex network of ASEAN-led and initiated processes in Southeast Asia and the wider region. The so-called “plus one” processes, including with the Russian Federation, the “plus three” with China, Japan and the ROK, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and, not least the East Asia Summit (EAS) which simultaneously admitted the Russian Federation and the United States in 2010.

Beyond the obvious – namely ASEAN’s convening power – these processes more significantly also reflected the non-ASEAN states’ “comfort level” in seeing ASEAN take the lead in managing the region’s complex and ever changing security dynamics. It is worth underscoring that much of the ASEAN-led architecture- building took place in the period of geopolitical uncertainties in the aftermath of the Cold War and, as well, during the equally significant period of geo-economic shifts as economies in the region rise and wane.

However, in contrast to some other regions in the world, ASEAN – or more accurately ASEAN-led processes – did not become sources for deepening divisions, rather they arguably provided the platform that enabled the major powers of the wider region to nurture a cooperative norms and mind-set.

Thus, for example, ASEAN, through the ASEAN+3 process, helped instil the habit of cooperation among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea hitherto absent. ASEAN too, provided the wherewithal for the United States and China, and not least, the United States and Russia, to engage within a win-win dynamics in the Southeast Asia region and beyond. ASEAN processes, such the ASEAN Regional Forum, provided avenues for these three countries to interact within a common regional framework. Also, in a remarkable demonstration of its positive influence, ASEAN ushered a positive competitive dynamics amongst the non-ASEAN countries to accede to the TAC that had been deliberately set as one of the prerequisites for membership of the EAS. Indeed, personally, the simultaneous admission of the Russian Federation and the United States to the EAS in 2010 was a deliberate outcome of a policy to secure a “dynamic equilibrium” for the region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In short, ASEAN has mattered.

Working closely with its Dialogue Partners, including the Russian Federation, ASEAN has been able to proactively set and influence the region’s security dynamics and landscape in a positive manner, solidifying its peace and stability.

What of the future?

How can ASEAN, the Russian Federation and its other Dialogue Partners help ensure continued positive security dynamics in the region? For even the most cursory review reminds of complex issues confronting East Asia, the Asia-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific. Of the prevalence of long unresolved and simmering territorial disputes; of trust deficit shaped over millennia past; of transnational or so called non-traditional security threats that defy national solutions; and overarching all these, of the often-cited uncertainties associated with geopolitical and geo-economic shifts.

Given the constraints of time, I shall only briefly identify some possibilities  for future ASEAN-Russia cooperation in ensuring continued conducive regional security landscape.

First, of geopolitical and geo-economic shifts.

I believe it essential that there be full recognition that such shifts and change is permanent feature of the region’s security landscape. Change is permanent. Not least of all, that geopolitical and geo-economic shifts are not inevitable sources of tensions and conflicts.

Thus, our perspectives and the our vision for the region’s architecture, must embrace such reality rather than seek to freeze frame a temporary power and security constellation – commonly described as securing a “balance of power”. In our contemporary world, rather than Cold War-type of prism with its focus on “balance of power”, we should focus as much on the “dynamics of power” where the question of states’ “intent” is as important than a static notion of power. And not least, that such dynamics are shaped and determined by states’ policies. In other words, the alternatives between positive and negative dynamics are not preordained. In short, ASEAN and Russia must contribute to a fresh perspective fit for contemporary and future purpose: ridding the region of Cold War, zero-sum mentality, and anchor the region’s cooperation on recognition that security are common goods – common security.

Personally, I have spoken in the past of promoting a dynamic equilibrium for the Indo-Pacific through the EAS.

Second, ASEAN, Russia and the other Dialogue Partners should develop a more enhanced and timely crisis management capacity in the East Asia, the Asia Pacific and the Indo-Pacific. Given for instance the presence of territorial disputes, notably in the maritime domain, it is critical that the region has the wherewithal to manage such potentials for conflict, specifically, a more timely and relevant crisis management capacity.

In the past, I have spoken in favour of building such capacity within the EAS though the establishment of an EAS Peace and Security Council that would convene at the ambassadorial level in Jakarta on a regular basis to review regional and international developments, with the possibility of the deliberations’ elevation to a ministerial or leaders level as the situation require.

Closely related, I continue to believe that ASEAN, Russia and the other Dialogue Partners should actively consider a TAC-like binding commitment by the countries of the EAS to the peaceful settlement of disputes and the renunciation of the use of, or threat of use of force. – an EAS Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation (Indo- Pacific Treaty), building on the EAS Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations (Bali Principles) adopted by EAS leaders in Bali in 2011, and of course, on the 1976 TAC that has already been acceded to by all the non-ASEAN EAS member states. In so doing, ASEAN and the Russian Federation can demonstrate their firm belief in the efficacy of diplomacy as the preferred mode for managing and resolving disputes among nations.

All of the above involve the strengthening of the EAS.  Indeed, the EAS – from its very inception, in particular through the composition of its participants that extends beyond East Asia – manifests an early promotion of an Indo-Pacific perspective by Indonesia. In particular, to provide a vehicle for the extrapolation of the positive ASEAN experience to the wider region.

Third, ASEAN, Russia and the other Dialogue Partners, should continue to develop the region’s capacity to deal with transnational and non-traditional security challenges that defy national solutions alone. Essentially, to ensure that ASEAN- Russia cooperation are responsive to 21st century challenges that often transcend national boundaries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The security landscape of the region is replete with challenges. No doubt, each of us would be able to cite a litany of actual and specific cases that have been and continue to seize countries of the region. However, to be impactful, I believe we must delve beyond the headlines; we must seek to have better comprehension of what are the underlying dynamics behind them. Today, I have suggested only some: geopolitical and geo-economics shifts; trust deficits; territorial disputes; and the complex nexus between internal and external domains as reflected in the  prevalence of non-traditional transnational challenges.

I believe that it is incumbent that ASEAN, Russia and the other Dialogue Partners work cooperatively to anticipate and address such challenges, and not least, to seize the positive opportunities still ahead. The decades of peace and stability in our region – Southeast Asia, East Asia, Asia-Pacific, Indo-Pacific – have been precious in allowing for economic development to take root, lifting millions out of poverty.

I have every confidence that ASEAN and Russia would continue to work as strong partners in waging peace and prosperity.

Thank you.

* Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (2009-2014), Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN (2007-2009); Ambassador of Indonesia to the Court of St James’ and to Ireland (2005-2007), and currently, inter alia, a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Mediation.