Interview with Viktor Sumsky
Russia Today: Russia is taking this quite seriously. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, is heading there as part of the Russian delegation. What is it so important that Russia should be there?
Viktor Sumsky: To put it in the nutshell, ASEAN is the most successful regional integration project in the non-Western world. It has been there for 40 years now. Most of its members have been able to combine relative political stability with impressive economic dynamism and of course if you look at what south-east Asia used to be 40 years ago and at what it is now the difference is really dramatic. It is no longer the hot spot it used to be. It is booming, a more and more prosperous area and Russia is interested in being part of this dynamism.
RT: What is the history of the relationship between Russia and the ASEAN group?
V.S.: I would say that it is quite interesting and somewhat promising. We started in 1992 as a guest of the annual ASEAN ministerial conference. By the second half of the 1990s we were already a full time member, a full time official dialogue partner, as they are called, of the ASEAN. And then, of course, a regular member of the ASEAN regional forum. In other words – a participant in the only Asian organisation which is openly focused on problems of regional security and is attempting to identify potential crisis spots.
RT: A lot of this is about money as well. As we may learn from history, that Russia, for example is enjoying an economic boom in the same way as the Asian countries. So the two can really benefit from each other, a lot of it is about the economy as well as counter-terrorism?
V.S.: I would say so. In fact – what these countries need most at this stage of their development is what we might broadly define as energy security and access to modern technologies and I think Russia in the state of things it has reached now is able to provide something and be friends.
RT: Presumably some of the emerging economies, for example Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos will they benefit from the economic input from Russia?
V.S.: I would say so. It is quite encouraging that we are now repairing some of the damage done to the Russian-Vietnamese relations in the early 1990s. Vietnam is now our biggest trading partner in ASEAN and interestingly the place where much of Russian investment in the ASEAN area is concentrated. The numbers themselves are not too impressive as such but I think trend is important.