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HomeBERITAAsia House: Tun Dr. Mahathir discusses global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict

Asia House: Tun Dr. Mahathir discusses global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF A SESSION WITH ASIA HOUSE.

MODERATED BY MICHAEL LAWRENCE OBE June 15, 2023.

Michael Lawrence:

Good morning to everyone here in London. Good afternoon and good evening to everyone who’s joining us in Middle Eastern Asia. And it’s my great pleasure to welcome to Asia House His Excellency, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, and one of the most influential political figures in Asia over six decades. It’s a great pleasure and great privilege to have you here. When we heard Dr. Mahathir was in London, we invited him to come and have a small meeting to talk about a whole range of issues. But there was such a clamour from our international members. We’ve opened it up to those online, welcome to you all.

Dr. Mahathir, I guess a framework for the discussion, we’d very much like to get your views on the global picture. We have continued tensions between the US and China, we have a conflict in Ukraine, we have a very uncertain economic outlook. So, your view of the geopolitics and the world at large would be very helpful. Particularly curious about your views on Asia, in the Indo Pacific, where the tensions between the US and China are playing out. And also like your view on Taiwan, and what happens there, the potential flashpoint, and it would be missed not to speak about Malaysia itself, as we were just chatting about upstairs after years of political turbulence doesn’t seem to be any immediate likelihood of that ending. So, your take on the Malaysia political outlook, and what that means for the economy would be immensely helpful. It will be a normal Asia House session, which is we encourage a free and frank exchange of views. And I’m absolutely sure that no issue is off the table when you’re speaking to someone like Dr. Mahathir. So, with that, sir, I’ll hand over to you welcome to Asia House. And if you can, please make some opening remarks.

Dr Mahathir:

Firstly, thank you for this invitation to meet this very influential people here, I have my own views about things, which is not the usual views. So, I’ll begin by saying that the world is in the state of turmoil. We are faced with many common problems, and we seem to be unable to solve those problems. Firstly, the population of the world is now 8 billion people and 8 billion people producing rubbish would be a big problem for the world. We have to deal with rubbish and all the things that people bring out as they live in this world.

 

But beyond that, we find that governments now are quite unable to rule properly because the people now have the numbers and the strength to oppose the government. So, any decision made by governments will be challenged, sometimes just peacefully, at other times there may be demonstration, street demonstrations, even violent and sometimes what amounts to civil war. So, governments today cannot really rule the way they used to rule before where decisions made by the government are accepted and respected by the people, but not now.

And now, of course, with this huge number of people, mobility and the policing of borders, people are migrating moving away from poor countries to rich countries, this will become more and more of a problem. We had this experience in Malaysia. But the numbers were, were quite small. But now we have about 4 million people coming to Europe, it will change the character of Europe. I don’t think Europeans like that. And they are trying to see how they can stop that. But so far, they have not been able to do very much about it. So, we have to deal with the problem of migration and we seem to be unable to resolve this problem. Of course, with big numbers of people, all problems become very big and difficult to handle.

Now, apart from that, there is climate change. And climate change has to be handled not on a country basis, but worldwide, because it affects the whole world. Climate change needs people to come together to have some kind of central authority in order to deal with climate change. There are lots of things happening. We see floods, everywhere we see tsunamis, storms, terrible storm, fires. And you know there is at present a big fire in Canada, affecting even the US. But the way they handle the fire does not show that they are really serious about putting out the fire. I used to compare this with the bombing of Dresden during the war, 1000 planes flew over Dresden and dropped bombs simultaneously and wiped out the whole city. But we could do the same with fires. But sending one plane with a little bit of water to put out fires like that is doesn’t seem to show that you are serious. The world needs to have a fleet of bombers like that at any place, a huge fleet of water bombers, you can fly over the affected area and drop a huge amount of water. Then that may be effective. I’ve made this suggestion before but nobody listens. Of course, I was not the Prime Minister. But there are lots of things that need to be done together.

Now, apart from climate change, of course, we have a pandemic. And now because people are mobile, anything happening in one place can very well spread out to the world. And this is what we saw with regard to the COVID-19. It may have started in China, but it became worldwide. So, there is need also to establish some central authority to manage that. And what we see is that rich countries have access to vaccine, the poor countries have no access to vaccine, but people move. Just imagine a crowd of poor people migrating to Europe with no vaccine, they are not protected, they may reinfect because the disease, it has been shown that once you have it, one vaccine is not enough, you may have to repeat and you don’t know yet what intervals you have to repeat. So, this requires, again, some kind of a central research authority to ensure that we can deal with future pandemics. Creatures from other wworlds are not going to invade us as H.G Wells say, but creatures from this world will invade us and they are tiny creatures you can’t even see but the effect is the same. The whole world is exposed to this danger.

Then of course there is the economic effect of the pandemic. Our first reaction was to lock up and stop all economic activities. And so, we have a lot of problem dealing with the economy.

Finally, we come to wars. Two wars were fought, millions of people were killed with the intention of doing away with wars. But war is very profitable for some people. So, they like wars, they want to sell arms. So, they like conflicts. And we see efforts are being made to have conflicts, to have wars. I don’t know why Iraq should be accused of having weapons of mass destruction. And then it was attacked, only to find that it has no weapons of mass destruction, but in the meantime lots of people were killed. And we have the Cold War, of course it did not result in a World War. But it was a cold war, which had disruptive effect on many people.

But now I would say the US seems to want to provoke a confrontation. It doesn’t work towards getting people to peacefully settle their problems. Southeast Asia is not a part of the US. But the US feels that it has a duty to stop confrontation in that area. But what it has done is to increase tension there by sending Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker to Taiwan. There was no necessity for doing that. Knowing full well that if you do that, you’re going to cause China to react. And sure enough, China reacted. Now the tension is higher than before. Before we had this problem, China claims Taiwan is a part of China, but they could have invaded Taiwan if they wanted to. But they didn’t invade Taiwan because Taiwan was useful to China. From Taiwan, China gets a lot of investment, a lot of technologies, etc. So that relationship was good. Of course, China will claim that it is a part of China. But the fact remains that Taiwan was quiet independent carrying out its own foreign affairs and all that. But when you send the Speaker to Taiwan, now there is tension, there is rearmament, and we find that Taiwan has to rearm because China is a threat now and of course when you have to rearm you have to buy arms, Taiwan does not make all those sophisticated arms. So, America is now selling weapons to Taiwan. So, for America it is profitable. We didn’t need this tension at all. We don’t need the visit of the US in Southeast Asia. But they went anyway because they assume that they are the police of the world. We don’t think so.

Then we have the Ukraine problem. Of course, Russia does not like Ukraine to join NATO. I can’t understand the attitude of Western Europe. You partnered with Russia during the war, to fight against Germany. Because of that you were able to defeat Germany. But immediately after Germany was defeated, Russia was practically openly declared as the new enemy. So, they set up NATO. What is NATO? NATO is about a military exposition directed at Russia because Russia was not invited to join. So, the reaction of Russia was to set up the Warsaw Pact. And there was then the Cold War, etc. But NATO wants to expand and get more and more members. And of course, Russia feels threatened. But even then, we know that the Warsaw Pact was disbanded. When the Warsaw Pact was disbanded, the threat from Russia lessened. But the response of NATO was merely to enlarge NATO by getting the countries in Eastern Europe which were liberated by Russia, no longer members of the USSR, they were invited to join NATO. What is the purpose? Obviously to increase the threat against Russia. And of course, Russia was weak, but it has recovered its military strength somewhat. And then you wanted Ukraine to join NATO. Ukraine is on the border of Russia; it has a long border with Russia. When you have NATO coming nearer and nearer to Russia, Russia of course, would feel uncomfortable. What is the need for Ukraine to join NATO? Russia took Crimea of course, but Russia was not invading NATO, of course, you have problems with Russia. But those problems should be solved peacefully. But instead, you keep on inviting, telling Ukraine to join NATO. But it took a long time. Had NATO accepted Ukraine, then, if the Russians attacked Ukraine, then NATO would have to go to war against Russia. But NATO doesn’t want to go to war against Russia, but they want to test Russia’s strength. So, they let Russia confront Ukraine, Russia preempted and invaded Ukraine. And now because Ukraine is at war with Russia, NATO is not at war with Russia. NATO is encouraging Ukraine to fight by providing weapons, by providing money and all that. And you see Ukraine suffering terribly, because the NATO is not fighting is not suffering from Russian attacks. But Ukraine is taking the full force of Russian invasion. And, of course, we can see that the idea is that Ukraine should defeat Russia. I don’t think Russia is going to accept defeat, they may be forced into a corner, they may even use nuclear weapons and then when they do that NATO may have to use nuclear weapons and we have a nuclear war. That is a possibility. Although I thought that people had understood that nuclear war would wipe the people on this earth. But you keep on pressing a nuclear power, pushing the nuclear power to a corner. And when they are desperate, you know what they can do. So, I think the policy of NATO is the wrong policy.

When Warsaw Pact was disbanded, NATO should reduce its membership, should become less aggressive. But NATO simply sees that as an opportunity to enlarge NATO, be more of a force that threatens Russia expecting Russia to give in. But I think you have to accept that Russia is a world power, it may have problems, but it’s not going to accept being pushed down or attacked by NATO. So, I see this idea that the US seems want to see pairs of countries confronting each other and the US will give support. For example, Saudi and Iran. They have been against each other for hundreds of years. But the US is giving encouragement to Saudi to confront Iran. Strangely, it is the Chinese, Xi Jinping who went to Iran and to Saudi and now these two countries, which had been rivals for so many years, have now decided to stop that and even establish diplomatic relations. So, it would seem that the West wants war. And even the Chinese do not want war, but we are provoking the Chinese to show that they will do something bad, some accidents might happen. And we will have a war in Southeast Asia, which is not wanted by either the Northeast Asian or the Southeast Asian. So that is my view of what’s happening around the world today. I will stop there.

Oh, about Malaysia. I will tell you later.

Michael:

Okay. We’ll get on to Malaysia. Thank you. Thank you very much. Your Excellencies we open up the questions now. In a moment I’ll go to and we’re going off the record now, just to be clear.

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