Record and Challenges of Regionalism in Southeast Asia


On August, 8th, 2017 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turned 50. Five decades ago on that day the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines and the Vice-Premier of Malaysia signed the Bangkok Declaration thus establishing ASEAN. In so doing, the Association’s founding fathers were longing to mitigate mutual contradictions and conflicts (including territorial ones) for the sake of one common goal – repelling the ‘communist threat’ emanating from within the then ASEAN member states as well as from neighboring Indochina and China. It was hard to imagine at that time that in the early 21st century the People’s Republic of China would head the list of key trade and investment partners of ASEAN; that ASEAN would embrace Vietnam as its member and that the Association itself would turn to be a model of regional cooperation for developing countries. ASEAN’s achievements are evident, though they did not come easily. Internal problems in certain Member States and transnational challenges complicated intra-ASEAN interaction. ASEAN countries had to resist external pressure, too. That only emphasizes the fact that the ASEAN phenomenon is not the result of a happy coincidence. Rather, ASEAN success stems from well-thought-out and coherent efforts. This article, thus, analyses the Association’s achievements in overcoming intra-regional cleavages, then it talks about challenges ASEAN is facing today and ends up with a brief assessment of strategic goals common to both ASEAN and Russia. The article argues that cooperation in achieving these goals could help the dialogue partners to find a common response to numerous global and regional challenges.


ASEAN; ASEAN-Russia; dialogue partnership; Asia-Pacific; ASEAN Way

Authors: Victor Sumsky

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