25 November 2016, Quezon City– The New Era University-ASEAN Studies Center hosted a roundtable discussion on “Russia’s Bilateral and Multilateral Relationship with the Philippines and ASEAN” on 25 November. Featured as resource speaker was Dr. Ekaterina Koldunova, Deputy Dean, School of Political Affairs and Senior Expert, ASEAN Center, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
Dr. Koldunova remarked on the status of Russia’s bilateral and multilateral relations with the Philippines and ASEAN, and identified present challenges and opportunities. She noted that earnest efforts to strengthen relations and build cooperation between Russia and the Philippines began only in the 1990s. This is in contrast with other countries in ASEAN such as Thailand and Vietnam, with whom Russia has shared a long history with. Nonetheless, Dr. Koldunova pointed out that there is nothing that prevents Russia and the Philippines from building stronger relations.
In pursuing bilateral and multilateral relations, Koldunova said that parties should keep in mind the highly turbulent international environment that influences both Russia and ASEAN. Power alliances are not as simple as they were before. There are now a wide range of actors ranging from superpowers to emerging ones, in contrast with the scenario decades ago when power structures were more bipolar, with only two superpowers playing leading roles. Currently, countries aspire to make relations more equal and more rules-based, with an obvious emphasis on strengthening regional infrastructures. According to the speaker, the proliferation of political and economic agreements indicates that the way forward is to find and begin with elements that stabilize relations.
Koldunova noted that Russia has begun to strengthen relations with ASEAN by exploring opportunities for trade and technological exchange. She opined that, besides these avenues, there is most potential in starting with socio-cultural activities, such as education exchanges, field trips, programs on Russian and ASEAN studies, and business missions. “We have to learn more about each other… Not knowing the country, you will not be able to do anything creative.”