How Has the Russia-Ukraine War Impacted Cambodia’s Foreign Policy?

The country and its prime minister, Hun Sen, have been unexpectedly outspoken about Ukraine’s plight.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of this year undermined the basic principles of the United Nations, including the first article of the organization’s charter, which states that “conflicts between countries should be solved by peaceful means only.” While many countries have been reluctant to condemn and isolate Russia for its aggressive action – including, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Pakistan – Cambodia has been remarkably outspoken on this issue, coming down in Ukraine’s favor.

The war has reinforced the security concerns of small states like Cambodia, which fear that larger powers will invade their territory or meddle in their domestic affairs. Consequently, they count on international law to protect their national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Cambodia’s choice to extend its support to Ukraine and condemn Russia is a clear indication of the government’s effort to maintain these international norms.

In the early phase of the war, it was initially assumed that Cambodia would abstain from any votes condemning Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. This assumption seemed to make sense for two reasons.

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