Last week, President Biden met with the leaders of nine Southeast Asian nations — the first such gathering since 2016 and the first ever at the White House. The event was greatly overshadowed by the ongoing war in Ukraine, but it took on added significance precisely because of the events in Europe. East Asia/Southeast Asia is very different from Eastern Europe/Ukraine, but viewed through a strategic lens, there are some remarkable analogies.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is all about the imperial ambitions of an authoritarian great power that seeks to dominate and control smaller countries on its periphery — and the role of other European nations helping the targeted victims defend themselves. Those European efforts are crucially supported by a distant superpower, the U.S., that sees its own interests and values under attack. In Southeast Asia, including the surrounding maritime space, we have another region confronting a giant authoritarian neighbor with imperial ambitions — China.

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