Letter From the Editors

No rest for the geopolitically weary this week as two summits drew officials from across the globe. The first was the much-anticipated NATO Vilnius summit, where many expected Ukraine to be granted membership in the alliance. But that did not come to pass, much to President Zelensky’s chagrin. He did not hold back on his disappointment, even angering the US delegation, according to some insider sources. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (who was elected to lead the alliance for another year) set the tone for the meeting, saying that “the most important thing we can do is to continue to provide weapons, ammunition, military support to Ukraine.” And it certainly got plenty of that – Ukraine will receive French SCALP missiles and almost 1,000 Norwegian Black Hornet reconnaissance drones. On top of that, the West will start training its pilots on F‑16 jets in late summer.

However, according to Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Igor Romanenko, the West’s “one step forward, two steps back” approach only emboldens Moscow. “Everything was done in such a way as to avoid escalation. And to keep the issues addressed by NATO from angering Putin,” he said in an interview with Republic’s Farida Kurbangaleyeva. As for additional weapons and pilot training, Western partners “are always late,” he lamented. For instance, Ukraine still has not received 50% to 80% of the equipment it was promised at the last Ramstein meeting. And the F‑16 pilot training program was initially slated for spring, according to Romanenko.

Emotions were not running quite as high at the other international summit this week – the ASEAN meeting in Jakarta. Perhaps the hosts went out of their way to prevent any awkward moments, since Russian FM Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not cross paths at the summit (except maybe at the pool).

Nevertheless, the event presented ASEAN with the opportunity to boost its profile and show that it holds significant political – and economic – clout. But just who are they, these ASEAN nations, wonders Yevgeny Shestakov: “Secret friends who are afraid to quarrel with Europe and the US, and can therefore only show sympathy for Russia behind the scenes? America’s ‘chorus line,’ who are being forced to conduct a dialogue with Moscow to avoid a clash with China, which has enormous weight in Southeast Asia? Or pragmatists. . . who still hope to sit on both or possibly more sides of the fence, and are therefore pointedly playing a double game?”

One Asian state in particular gets the spotlight this week. India, according to Ekspert columnist Vadim Popov, has been increasingly claiming the role of a major global power player as it tries to hold its own with such heavyweights as the US and China. And while New Delhi’s relations with the former are cordial, it has always been wary of its eastern neighbor. In fact, “opinion polls conducted regularly by India Todayshow that most Indians think a war with China is inevitable unless the two countries find another way to resolve their territorial disputes,” the expert writes.

Given such a tense atmosphere and India’s ambitions, Moscow would be wise to strengthen ties with New Delhi to help offset Russia’s current political and economic isolation. However, according to expert Olga Solodkova, even though the relationship between Moscow and New Delhi is largely based on a common legacy and emotional affinity, the two are not sufficiently leveraging this symbolic and organizational potential. For starters, Russia needs to realize that business in India is done not through top-down government decrees, but through establishing connections with private entrepreneurs. “This means that Russian companies should have India experts on their staff,” says expert Aleksei Zakharov.

Whatever their next steps may be, it’s becoming clear that Asian nations are no longer willing to play second fiddle on the global stage. How the East and West choose to interact when it comes to global challenges will set the tone for decades to come.