While a multilateral rules-based international order had been drawn up in the wake of World War II to protect nations from the aggression of other states, Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has shown that such an order can be ignored.
To examine the conflict in Ukraine, and its implications for small states and the range of responses available to them, the National Security Studies Programmes at RSIS hosted a webinar on 19 April 2022. Professor Martijn Kitzen, Chair in Irregular Warfare and Special Operations at the Netherlands Defence Academy, and Mr Loro Horta, former Timor-Leste’s Ambassador to Cuba, were the guest speakers for the session, which was attended by academics, professionals, and public servants from various institutions.
Professor Kitzen presented his views on the conflict using the various instruments of national power – Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence, and Law (DIMEFIL). He pointed out that all of these aspects had been affected by the war, and that states would have to strengthen these domains promptly, while European small states would have to secure their interests through the EU, NATO, and other international bodies. These diplomatic efforts are likely to be backed by an increase in defence expenditure. Professor Kitzen stated that the economic consequences of the war remained to be seen. It was possible, however, that a realignment of strategic blocs was on the horizon, and that Europe might soon become a decisive, major player on the world stage. There might thus be far-reaching implications for Europe as a result of the war.
In his analyses on the Ukrainian conflict, Mr Horta drew reference to Timor-Leste’s experience in being invaded by Indonesia. He echoed Professor Kitzen’s views on the need to maintain resilience through diplomatic channels, as Timor-Leste had done, and for small states to continuously forge close and cordial relations with their neighbours. Mr Horta highlighted that the economic repercussions of the Ukrainian war might be even sharper in the coming months. He hoped that the war would have a sobering effect on large regional powers such as India, China, and even the United States. While Asia had its fair share of tensions, whether in the South China Sea or Taiwan, Mr Horta hoped that the tragedy in Ukraine would “put some common sense in many capitals” and remind observers of the dire, far-reaching consequences of war.