Ukraine war’s impact on PH security interests

It goes without saying that the war in Ukraine has had considerable economic, financial, and geopolitical impact across the globe. Food shortages, disruption in global trade and supply chains, rising inflation, and energy insecurity are among the effects immediately felt in just a few months following the outbreak of war.

As a responsible member of the international community, the Philippines decisively joined other countries in condemning the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory by Russia’s armed forces. Such blatant disregard and violation of international law should never be countenanced and ignored. This action and position is consistent not only with how we conduct our foreign policy, but also with the Philippine constitutional provision that renounces war as an instrument of national policy. The Philippines has made it clear that it stands with others in reminding states of their respective responsibility in establishing a stable and secure global order.

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For the Philippines, the war’s impact at the moment is most apparent in the area of finance and economy, posing challenges to our country’s recovery from the pandemic and quality of life issues for the public due to rising cost of goods and fuel. Unfortunately, other than add our voice in multilateral fora and through diplomacy, we do not have much influence or leverage to affect the conduct or the outcome of the war.

Does this mean that we don’t really have much of a stake in it other than to wait and see what happens, hoping that it ends soon and stability in the global economy is somewhat restored so that efforts to revive economies get boosted? Considering the distance of the fighting from our shores, it may be tempting to think that whatever happens over there and how it turns out would have minimal bearing to the strategic security environment in our region, so long as we get our economy back on track and improve people’s lives. This would be a mistake, because the outcome of the Ukraine war has the potential of affecting the balance of power and security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region. Given that we are in the middle of this region, with various flashpoints (Taiwan, Korean Peninsula) and our own maritime dispute with China, we need to be paying attention to how the war in Ukraine turns out and ends.

The key reason for this is the United States of America. In his essay on the blog site “War on the Rocks” (warontherocks.com) titled, “America’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Runs Through Ukraine,” director Luis Simón of the Centre for Security, Diplomacy, and Strategy at the Brussels School of Governance notes that the security architecture of the European and Indo-Pacific regions is built on US military power. He further notes that the presence of economic and military peer rivals Russia and China poses a challenge for the Americans in terms of strategic trade-offs on which region to prioritize, as the rise in China in particular makes it doubtful that the US can effectively sustain its presence and influence in two simultaneous theaters of operations.

With that, it becomes apparent that the outcome of the Ukraine war becomes crucial to the Indo-Pacific security environment and, by extension, to Philippine security interests, wherein the US will be vital in balancing risks posed by China toward our interests. China today is not the China of the ’80s and ’90s. It is now a global power in its own right. Its power must be balanced by the Americans and vice versa, so no one dominates and exerts undue influence and leverage over the other less powerful countries in the region.

If Russia’s military capability is severely degraded and an expanded Nato can effectively maintain stability in Europe, this will allow the Americans to prioritize the Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, while the fighting in Ukraine is thousands of kilometers away from us, we need to watch closely what happens so we can be ready to face and address the potential geopolitical impact it will have on our region.

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Moira G. Gallaga is an author. She served three Philippine presidents as presidential protocol officer, and was posted as a diplomat at the Philippine consulate general in Los Angeles and the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

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