Rohingya Crisis: An Opportunity for Russia in Changing Global Dynamics

(Source: Dayan Jaytilleka (2019), “Endgame of the Long Cold War”


In the complex dynamics of international politics, all state actors tend to see the world through the prism of realism where securing the self-interest is of utmost importance. There is no wrong in it; rather rational minds opt for those options that seem the best for them. But there is no unmixed good on Earth; so much self-interest sometimes made the states so parochial that they failed to see the elephant in the room. In today’s world, no crisis remains on the border. Sooner or later, all the countries will have to face the dire effect of it.

The Rohingya crisis, in the present world, is such a problem. The Rohingyas were the victim of genocide by the barbaric military junta of Myanmar. Bangladesh provided the shelter for the sake of humanity despite being one of the world’s most overpopulated countries. They did such benevolence in the world of realpolitik keeping a little hope in mind that the global leaders would spread their hand to solve the crisis. Four years have passed; now the fast-increasing Rohingya population is strangulating Bangladesh in environmental, socio-economic and security sectors. Sooner or later, the spillover effect of the crisis will affect the whole region. But the major global actors are still in hibernation.

However, the situation could have been much more different. In the changing circumstances of multi-polar world order, the realist view of self-preservation requires more engagement in global crises rather than isolationism. Global powers are significantly missing that point which would create a more complex vacuum in future. This article will try to explore how Russia can play a more comprehensive role in global politics using the Rohingya crisis to exacerbate its global influence.

Bangladesh and Russia (from the time of Soviet Union) have observed an amicable relationship since the birth of Bangladesh. The Soviet Union played a vital role in the international arena during Bangladesh’s glorious war of independence in 1971, and needless to say the Soviet’s active diplomatic role paved the way to the independence for Bangladesh. Five-decades long relations of friendship, with the high-level visits of both the counterparts mean that both the countries have so many areas of cooperation. Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing developing countries in South Asia with access to the Bay of Bengal, making it geo-strategically a vital point in the Indian Ocean. Moreover, its political stability compared to its neighbors makes it a more promising actor in the upcoming geopolitical rivalry over the Indian Ocean. Bangladesh holds a place of particular importance in the Russian strategic sphere of influence; that is why it has been relentlessly contributing Bangladesh to develop its energy sector. Bangladesh entered in the league of sustainable use of nuclear energy with the help of Russia. It goes without saying that Bangladesh counts Russia as an important ally and vital strategic partner.

Considering all these options, Russia has enough options to engage in the Rohingya crisis in a more pragmatic way.  In the current global trend where the major powers are isolating themselves from solving the crisis, if a major power steps forward to go against the tide, it would certainly increase the prestige of that country among the other countries in the world. Soft power is more influential than hard power in the era of globalization, and the countries who are taking the responsibilities in solving the global crisis at present, will pave the way for themselves to secure their position of global leadership in future. If we consider the world broadly in three poles-one is USA, other one is China and the third one is Russia, Russia is still carrying the heritage of the cold war where it had a significant global domination; they didn’t add anything new to its baggage after the demise of Soviet Union. So clearly it lags in the race from the other two. The current situation doesn’t allow Russia to have economic domination like China nor have the global value creation like the USA. If they still have the ambition to become a global leader, they must need to go for an alternative option where there is still a void to fill in. Securing arms business in Myanmar may serve their short-term interest, but in the long term they will remain far behind from the place of global domination.

It is accepted that Rohingya repatriation is the ultimate solution to this crisis. The matter won’t be resolved by the rogue nation Myanmar until a major power steps in. Russian activism may prompt China to play a more proactive role. The USA failed to act substantially. But as long as the situation remains at stalemate, it will challenge the regional security of the entire South and Southeast Asian region. Someone should step up in this prisoners’ dilemma game for the sake of collective interest. Russia has an opportunity to grab, but it depends on their prudence to take it.


Writer: Rafsaan Kareem

Rafsaan Kareem is an independent researcher. His area of interest is Regional Politics and Humanitarian affairs. He has done his BSS (Hons.) and MSS in International Relations, University of Dhaka. He can be contacted

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