Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The ties that bind Mahathir to Moscow

Malaysian leader looks to Russia for arms and deals to rebalance his diplomacy away from China and the US

Malaysia and Russia’s friendly ties were on full display at last week’s Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, where Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad led a delegation aimed at spurring bilateral investment and defense links.

Speaking at the forum’s key event, Mahathir said Russian efforts to develop its most sparsely populated region “may mean the opening of a new market for Malaysia” and that Malaysian investors would flock to Vladivostok if greater economic opportunities in the region beckon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has identified the development of his nation’s Far East as a priority in pursuit of deeper engagement with Asia-Pacific economies. Mahathir’s three-day visit follows recent high-level defense consultations, including sales pitches for Russian-made aircraft.

After locking horns with China in a bid to renegotiate costly infrastructure deals and snubbing US President Donald Trump’s trade war, Mahathir’s embrace of Russia signals his bid to diversify Malaysia’s big power diplomacy. Against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter Sino-US rivalry, the Kremlin is all too willing to oblige.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.