A Russian romance that's now bearing fruit

From an interview with The Nation's Suthichai Yoon
"The Nation", November 25, 2014

From an interview with The Nation's Suthichai Yoon, Russian Ambassador to Thailand Kirill Barsky discusses relations between Thailand and his country
Q: How do you plan to strengthen relations between Thailand and Russia?

A: First of all, I would like to say that Thailand and Russia have a long tradition of friendship, which was established in late 19th century by HM the King Rama V and Russia's Tzar Nicholas II. It is a very rare thing between two nations. In the year 2017, we will celebrate the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations. This is our great asset based on an amazing foundation for promotion of cooperation. It is a good opportunity to promote our relations, starting with political dialogue between our leaders, economic and trade cooperation, cultural and people-to-people exchange. I'm sure that we are on the threshold of a new stage of the relations between Thailand and Russia.

Q: Russia is coming back to Asia...

A: Well, Russia never left it. We have been here. Geographically speaking, Russia is a part of Asia. Historically speaking, we have had relations with Asia for a very long time. The Soviet Union, Russia's predecessor, granted assistance to many Asia nations in their struggle for independence and supported them in building their economies in 20th century. Russia, as the successor of Soviet Union, has continued those relations with most Asian countries. Now we are eager to take part in many new developments in the region, joining the integration in the Asia-Pacific region. We do this for the stake of ourselves and for the sake of regional security, stability and prosperity.

Q: The United States is talking about its pivot to Asia - a rebalance of power to Asia-Pacific. Are you trying to balance US influence?

A: No, the world has changed. It is no longer a world dominated by one country or one military block. We are moving very quickly to a multipolar world. Like it or not, this is the reality - and it should be reflected in multilateral relations. What we need now is not the leadership of one country but a collective leadership of all Asia. Asia should belong to all of us. Russia is trying to play the role of a country that offers a uniting and positive agenda, coming up with interesting proposals on security cooperation, economic integration, etc. We are willing to join hands with all Asian nations.

Q: So you don't see a threat of a new cold war from confrontation with the US?

A: I believe in reasonable political forces in the world … all countries want a peaceful world. Nobody wants cold war or conflict. Russia is a country that wishes to have good relations with the European Union, Asian countries and, of course, the US. But what we also want from our partners is respect for our position, and to conduct dialogue and cooperation on an equal basis.

Q: Do you regard the economic sanctions against Russia over Ukraine as confrontation?

A: No, the sanctions are illegal and unfair. We are the victims of the sanctions, which are based on the desire of certain political forces. It is ridiculous to limit Russia's economic development. The sanctions contradict the reality of today's world, which is looking for cooperation and integration. But we do not care.

Q: Do you want supply from Asia to cope with the sanctions?

A: Today's world is multipolar. The world is not limited to just the US or the European Union. Russia has plenty of good friends and partners all over the world. We are seeking new markets, looking for new partners and exploring opportunities for cooperation. Of course, we are not turning our back on Europe. Europe has been, is and continues to be our major partner, but Asia-Pacific is the most dynamic economy in the world. Of course, there are huge opportunities offered by China, India, Asean, Japan, Korea, and of course we are already working closely. Russia is reaffirming commitment to promotion of cooperation with Asia-Pacific.

: The US and the EU say you have more or less invaded Ukraine.

A: No, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. They cannot be, since we respect international law. How can we. I hope the open-minded people of Thailand and open-minded mass media will dismantle this theory in your coverage. What Russia stands for is the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of a country. We are against "coloured"-revolutions, and this is what is happening in Ukraine. The US and the EU supported a coup d'etat, which discriminated against a number of the populace. The only thing they can do is to resist, defend their interests. The majority of people in the eastern part and southern Ukraine are Russian-speakers. Many have affiliations with Russian citizens living in Russia. They have relatives. But, Russia has a view that conflict in Ukraine should be resolved by peaceful means by parties concerned - between the authorities in Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. What Russia can do is to facilitate the institution of agreement.

Q: What about the coup in Thailand, what is Russia's position?

A: Well, Russia is a democratic country so we believe that all problems in Thailand should be resolved in a democratic way through dialogue and peaceful means within the constitutional framework. But how to achieve this is in the hands of the people of Thailand. We cannot interfere in the domestic affairs of Thailand. Only the people of Thailand know what to do and how to do it. But as a friendly country, we are ready to promote good relations and to maintain contact with the interim government for cooperation. We don't see any obstacle to that. Relations will not be affected. We will maintain political contact and economic cooperation. A joint committee on economic relations and the sub-commission on trade will meet in Moscow in late November and pave the way to the signing of agreements between government agencies and private companies on many areas of cooperation.

Q: Russian investment in Thailand is still quite limited. How do you propose to expand it?

A: Investment is bilateral. We are interested in more investment. CP has investment in agriculture in Russia and at the same time Russia wants to invest more in Thailand, including in the energy sector. We have signed a memorandum of understanding on the use of nuclear power. We will start with small things but in the future we could have full cooperation in this field. The construction of hydropower plants, export of Russian energy equipment to Thailand, the construction of electricity transmission lines, and infrastructure development are also sectors of interest. Our investment in industrial zones is another option.

Last but not least, the Russian community is huge here in Thailand, with investments in such areas such as property, retail, jewelry and IT. I'm sure our investment in Thailand, along with Japanese investment, contributes to the Thai economy.

Tourism also has big potential. Last year 1.7 million Russian tourists visited Thailand and we expect more this year. The trend is growing. Every year the number of Russian tourists increases 20-40 per cent. Russians have a longstanding "romance" with Thais. The people of Russia are in love with Thailand. Perhaps there is a chemistry between the Russian and Thai people. Or maybe compatible national characteristics, values and the way of life make Russian people feel comfortable with Thais.

Q: Do you have plans to sell more Russian products here?

A: Yes, not only in traditional areas such as oil and agriculture. We are also looking at non-traditional exports, such as military equipment, from Russia to Thailand. We have a lot to offer. Russian weapons are famous all over the world. We have registered interest from the Thai Army in purchasing more arms and equipment such as helicopters and aircraft. We will start here and move to other areas of cooperation such as tanks and armored vehicles, submarines and so on.

H.E. Kirill Barskiy, the new Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Thailand talks about his initial steps in a new place and Russia's foreign policy. "Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. It has modern industry and far-reaching plans for development. For Russia, it is a very important and promising partner and in many different areas. Take, for example, the growing demand of the Thai economy for hydro-carbons and electric energy. Cooperation with Russian companies in the areas of oil and gas extraction, hydro-electric station construction and peaceful nuclear energy would help Bangkok solve many potential problems .Russia is prepared to actively support the implementation of Thailand's ambitious infrastructure development plan."

H.E. Kirill Barskiy, the new Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Thailand talks about the US and European Union imposed sanctions on Russia because of Ukrainian crisis. "Today, it is clear to any reasonable, unbiased observer that the sanctions imposed by the USA and several other countries on Russia have the purpose of weakening Russia and "punishing" Moscow for independent domestic and foreign policy. Ukraine is just an excuse . From the point of view of international law, these sanctions are illegitimate and flimsy pretexts were found for their imposition. If there had been no Ukraine, they would have found something else. There is no international isolation of Russia and there cannot be. Most countries do not share in or support such a policy. The USA and Europe are not the whole world. Russia has many reliable partners and good friends. In order to prove this it will suffice to list just a few of our recent foreign policy successes: Vladimir Putin's visit to China in May, the signing of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union on 25 May, the BRICS July summit in Brazil and the Russian president's tour of Latin America".

H.E. Kirill Barskiy, the new Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Thailand talks about essence of what happened in Ukraine. " In February this year an unconstitutional coup took place in Kiev with a direct support of the USA and European Union. The legitimate head of state was overthrown by force. As a result of the coup, a group of populist right-wing radical politicians came to power and turned the course towards Europeans integration to the detriment of Ukraine's traditional ties with Russia. which a significant part of the country's population did not support, especially in southern and southeastern Ukraine. The adoption of a law prohibiting the use of the Russian language and the nascent persecution of those who did not agree with the policies of the new rulers of Ukraine provoked the formation in many regions of the country mass social movements calling for protection of the legitimate interests. Instead of working to attain the national consensus Kiev unleashed a war on its own people that has yet to end. From the very beginning Russia has stood for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. At present, in part as a result of Moscow's efforts, a long awaited truce has been archived in Southeast Ukraine. Russia will do everything in its power to facilitate this process."

H.E. Kirill Barskiy, the new Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Thailand tells, if Crimea could become a dangerous precedent for the solution of territorial disagreements in Southeast Asia. "The history of Crimea is absolutely unique. Crimea is originally Russian land that illegally ended up under the jurisdiction of another state twice in the past 60 years – in 1954 and 1991. In the first case, Nikita Khrushev, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU (Communist party in USSR- noted by TRCC),did it in violation of the Constitution of the RSFSR (Russian Federation Socialist Republic in Soviet Union- noted by TRCC) "giving" the Crimea Oblast (region- noted by TRCC) of the Russian Federation the Ukrainian SSR. And 37 years later Boris Yeltsin, the President of RSFSR, agreed at the time of Soviet Union disintegration to leave Crimea in Ukraine, through he did not have the authority to do so. It is no accident that after the coup in Kiev, 97% of Crimea's inhabitants voted for this territory's independence in the referendum of March 16. The territorial disputes in Southeast Asia are of a completely different nature. The most bitter of them is the dispute over the islands and waters of the South China Sea. Its essence is the difficulty of resolving the issue of territorial demarcation when several parties make conflicting claims on various sections of the land and sea. Russia is convinced that the path to the solution of this complex problem lies solely in peaceful and politico-diplomatic means where negotiations continue between participants in the territorial dispute and where there is no internationalization and meddling from without. At the same time, it is necessary to work out and adopt a code of conduct in the South China Sea as soon as possible to insure its compliance by all interested sides, and with it guarantee the security of shipping in the region. It would also be useful to come to an agreement on the staged implementation of military sphere confidence-building measures in the waters of the South China Sea."

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