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Singapore's Stance on Russia Shows Support for Sanctions Isn't Limited to the West, Says Think Tank

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  • It was "important" for U.S. President Joe Biden to meet with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as it shows the world and President Vladimir Putin that sanctions against Russia are not just supported by the U.S. or its European friends, according to a think tank.
  • Singapore, "which is not a U.S. treaty ally formally ... has been very even-keeled on many global issues," said Ankit Panda, Stanton senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • Lee met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss Indo-Pacific security, the Ukraine war, and investment between the countries.

It was "important" for U.S. President Joe Biden to meet with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as it shows the world and President Vladimir Putin that sanctions against Russia are supported not just by the U.S. or its European friends, according to a Washington-based think tank.

Singapore, "which is not a U.S. treaty ally formally ... has been very even-keeled on many global issues," said Ankit Panda, Stanton senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the country "strongly condemns any unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country under any pretext. We reiterate that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected." The city-state soon after announced targeted sanctions against Russia.

Japan also joined global efforts to hit Russia with sanctions in February. In addition to cutting access of certain Russian banks to the SWIFT international payment system, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country will freeze the assets of Russian government officials including Putin.

Lee met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss Indo-Pacific security, the Ukraine war, and investment between the countries.

'Potentially existential' stakes

During their joint press conference, Biden said that Lee's visit shows "Singapore's strong leadership on the issue" and makes clear that "Putin's war is unacceptable … in every region of the world."

"Today, Singapore and the United States are united in sending the message to all nations — to all nations, regardless of their size or population: They are equal in the right — in their rights on the global stage. They have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity and to determine their own future free from violence and intimidation," Biden added.

What's also clear are the "potentially existential" stakes for Singapore, Panda told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Thursday.

"If larger countries are simply allowed to invade their smaller neighbors and violate the U.N. Charter, that has serious consequences for a world in which we do have countries like Singapore, who have a very small amount of territory, even if they do have tremendous economic power," the think tank added.

"In the context of the Ukraine crisis, both countries have seen this visit as an important way to celebrate the contributions that Singapore can make."

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