S’pore Also Imposing Sanctions on Russia Due to Russia’s Invasion


In the growing list of countries that are either verbally condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and/or following suit of other Western countries in imposing sanctions, Singapore will be joining the list as well.

The Specified Sanctions

In Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s speech in the Parliament session on 28 February, he announced that sanctions will be placed upon Russia:

  • Exports controls on items such as weapons, which can be used to directly inflict harm or subjugate Ukrainians
  • Blocking of certain Russian banks and financial transactions connected to Russia

The Foreign Minister adds that the specifics of the sanctions are still in the works, and they will be announced shortly.

But even his two listed examples come as no surprise, since the likes of America, European Union (EU), Canada, and Japan have done the same thing, with the shared goal of strangling Russia’s financial and economic resources, as well as their access to additional weaponry.

Singapore’s History with Sanctions

As Dr Balakrishnan states in his parliamentary speech, “Singapore has always complied fully with the sanctions and decisions of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. But we have rarely acted to impose sanctions on other countries in the absence of binding Security Council decisions or directions.”

To put it in simpler terms, Singapore isn’t exactly in the position to impose sanctions willy-nilly, especially given our reliance on both imports and exports to feed and fuel our economy.

Nor is Singapore willing to impose sanctions unless it’s absolutely necessary, since the small city-state has always prized itself as a global hub for trading and commerce; arbitrarily offending another nation by imposing sanctions or additional tariffs isn’t common practice.

We can’t afford to be isolated or charged with too much taxes either.

For instance, Singapore didn’t cut off trading ties with North Korea until 2017, when it was revealed that North Korea had been carrying out a series of nuclear tests.

Rather, Singapore had merely signed and ratified the resolution drafted by the United Nations, of which included censure and sanctions.

To this day, North Korea still maintains an embassy in Singapore, and just as recently as 2018, North Korea and the United States (US) had deemed Singapore as a place neutral enough for both parties to hold peace talks.

That is owed to the good relations Singapore carefully maintains with both countries.

In the same vein, the act of Singapore imposing sanctions on Russia before any UN resolution is passed—though one probably will in the emergency UN General Assembly meeting in New York today (28 Feb)—is almost unprecedented for our country.

We tend to follow the trend (sans death penalty), not take such steps pre-emptively. 

The Reasoning Behind the Sanctions

Before all else, Dr Balakrishnan reiterates that Singapore does not take sides.

It does not have anything against Russia or the Russian people, but it must uphold its founding principles.


“And in this case, the principles at stake are independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”

He adds, “The situation in Ukraine is important to us. It goes to the heart of international law and the UN Charter that prohibits the use of force and act of aggression against another sovereign state. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a clear and gross violation of the international norms and a completely unacceptable precedent.”

The Foreign Minister is aware this decision will have implications on Singapore’s businesses, citizens, and the general impression of Singapore.

But the costs are not as heavy as what might come to be, if Singapore doesn’t stand up for those fundamental principles that literally makes a country: “However, unless we as a country stand up for principles that are the very foundation for the independence and sovereignty of smaller nations, our own right to exist and prosper as a nation may similarly be called into question one day.”

Therefore, such violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity of another sovereign state cannot be tolerated.


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Further Actions

Dr Balakrishnan vows to continue working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and international partners to take a strong stance against the invasion of Ukraine and to stop further violence and death tolls and to reduce the tensions between the countries.

He also remarks that Singapore is one of the 82 co-signatories of a recent UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, except the resolution was promptly vetoed by Russia.

Once more, to the founders of the United Nation Security Council, why are veto powers even a thing?

Seriously, any resolution passed by the General Assembly is non-binding while the resolutions passed in the Security Council are, but what’s the point of the entire global organisation if the permanent members are the culprit of the conflict?

And as history has shown, they usually are?

Besides that, some pertinent questions were brought up during the Parliament session.


For one, Mr Gerald Giam from the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) asks how Singapore will maintain its own interests with the other countries involved, namely the United States (US), Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of Europe.

Ms Denis Phua from the Jalan Besar GRC chimes in with a question along the same lines, asking if the government will be reviewing its ongoing projects and enterprises with Russia.

Towards these questions, Dr Balakrishnan stated that Singapore’s foreign policy has always been consistent and coherent, and notes that there have been instances where he had to deny a superpower’s request.

“But [these instances] have not stopped us from being able to sit at the table, look at each other’s eyes, shake hands, explain where and why we differ, and at the same time pursue areas of cooperation where out interests alight and where our principles are shared,” he said.

That has how it has always been for Singapore ever since its independence.


There are never no enemies, only long-term profits to gain. Putting aside superficial differences in lieu of beneficial cooperation is the better option that the Republic prefers to pursue.

Similarly, towards Ms Phua’s question, he reassures her that the country has no enmity with the Russian people.

Having noticed that Ms Phua was hinting towards the Russian Culture Centre in Singapore, where a Russian Orthodox Church will eventually be hosted, he stated that there isn’t any reason why it’s construction shouldn’t continue, since it doesn’t have any impact on the politics or conflict.

It’s the act of aggression that Singapore has taken issue with, not the people themselves.

It would be ridiculous to blame a building, or take your anger out on a random Russian passing by on the street, for the Russo-Ukraine war after all. 

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Featured Image: YouTube (The Strait Times)