Tag Archives: Asia

What should NATO do about Asia?

NATO Asia Wales

Prime Minister David Cameron, host of the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales,  has indicated that one of the five goals for this gathering should be the establishment of a ‘global security network‘ of partnerships.

“we should demonstrate a clear commitment to working with others who share our values and to maintaining an international rules-based order that promotes freedom, democracy and the rule of law. I support the proposed interoperability initiative with 24 of our partners to sustain these skills and relationships and I would like our defence ministers to meet with a smaller group to discuss enhanced opportunities for working together. ” (link)

Good idea. I suggest the Allies begin by looking at Asia.

I can think of at least three reasons NATO should take a position on its role in Asian security:

(A) Just as security in Asia is becoming vital for global economic prosperity, it is also becoming more fragile. We have a stake. (B) America’s alliance structure in Asia means conflict there would likely involve NATO’s leading ally, and Washington would expect NATO Allies’ support. We will be involved. (C) History shows that Asian allies play a key role in successful Western grand strategy: (i) Anglo-Japan Alliance to contain Russia; (ii) Chiang and Mao and finally Stalin for the continental front against Imperial Japan; (iii) Nixon’s turn to China to contain the USSR. We will need Asia again.

Then again, there are also factors that make it difficult for NATO to take a more meaningful position on Asian security:

(a) The greatest driver of instability in Asia is China’s rise, and NATO allies can’t agree on a China policy. We are divided. (b) NATO Allies are focused on collective defence and responding to the threat from Russia in Ukraine and other places on its Eastern Border. We are short-sighted in our thinking. (c) Cuts in NATO Allies’ defence spending have greatly reduced its capability to deploy in Asia. We are weak.

So what should NATO do about it? A new trans-Atlantic bargain – USA supports European Allies’ efforts to deter Russia, and in return European Allies support American efforts to deter conflict in Asia – is probably unrealistic. Rather than one big thing, it might be better to go for a lot of little moves that shift the centre of gravity in the right direction:

1) Differentiate NATO’s partners in Asia according to two groups: those who show a commitment to the organization’s founding principles (democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law), and those who don’t. The former would include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, ROK, Mongolia. They get the full package including consultation on NATO activity, intelligence sharing, joint exercises and other close partnership activity. Those who fail to show such commitment get engagement to build confidence and mutual understanding, but also become the target of an advocacy effort in order to further the principles of the North Atlantic treaty.

2) Make Asian security issues a regular topic of consultations under Article 4, and invite the first category of Asian partners.

3) Beef up aspects of NATO interoperability that are relevant for Asian security, such as maritime cooperation, joint amphibious operations and military support to civil emergency planning for disaster response. Make sure to conduct at least one big exercise in these areas per year, inviting the close Asian partners.

4) Extend cooperation to close Asian partners on doctrine and tactics in fields like cyber, SOF, and conducting ‘grey area’ operations and information warfare.

5) Extend cooperation on Security Sector Reform and civil-military relations to Asian nations such as Myanmar, that are oriented towards closer adherence to NATO principles.

If NATO could agree on these small steps now, then after a few years it would be in a better position to judge whether the protection of its core interests require it to engage more directly in Asian security.

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The UK’s new Asia policy: a ‘multidimensional’ and independent pivot

Hugo Swire, UK minister of state at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibilities for the Far East, Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Latin America, the Falklands, Australasia, and the Pacific.

Hugo Swire, minister of state at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibilities for the Far East, Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Latin America, the Falklands, Australasia, and the Pacific.

 

President Obama’s ‘Pivot‘ or ‘re-balance to Asia’ policy stimulated a lot of thinking, including among European countries on how they ought to respond. In an earlier post to this blog, I divided their reactions into three categories: backfillers (leave Asia to Uncle Sam, and help by shouldering more of the burden of security in Europe’s neighbourhood), ‘me-too’- ists (let’s have our own ‘pivot’), and skeptics (Europe doesn’t ‘do’ security, and certainly not as far away as Asia). The British Foreign Office Minister of State for Asia Hugo Swire gave a speech that leaves no doubt about where the UK sits on this. Entitled “The UK in the Asian Century“, Swire’s speech at the Carnegie institute in Washington DC (on July 15) laid it on the line, not sparing his American audience. These are the messages and themes I noted:

1) Independent. This is not a policy of support for the US Pivot and the UK has no intention of leaving Asia to its American allies. This is a policy about UK interests in Asia, which Swire groups into three areas: prosperity, security and values (note the order). The speech began with a lot of history to drive home the point that the UK interest in Asia is deeply and firmly rooted. There is no antagonism with the US Pivot, though. The theme of independence was tempered by a recognition that the US and UK have a ‘shared interest’ in Asian stability and prosperity, and indeed cooperation could strengthen trans-Atlantic ties. However, there was no mistaking the tone of ‘we would be doing all this even if we had never heard of your pivot’.

2) Multi-dimensional. UK policy towards Asia will consist in cross-regional relationships, nurturing old friendships and developing new ones. Bilateral relationships like that with Japan, and multi-lateral like that with ASEAN – and through the EU. UK interests lie in three dimensions (a) Prosperity and Economy- free trade, exports, FDI, G8 and EU trade deals, bilateral trade deals. (b) Security- ‘make a contribution’ directly. That sounds like military deployments  (Brunei, 5 Power Defence Agreements, Naval HADR), but it can also be measured in diplomacy and support as in Mindinao and Myanmar. Bilateral defence and security cooperation, e.g. with Japan. Diplomacy: ideas, expertise ad capacity. (c) Values: Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law. ASEAN is particularly attractive as a driver of change on these lines. Values can also promoted through defence engagement, e.g. with Myanmar and now Thailand. And don’t forget, Hong Kong and DPRK.

3) Open to cooperation on UK and US common interests which lie in regional stability, open trading arrangements, Human Rights and freedoms, and the rules-based international system.

Mr Douglas Paal (moderating for Carnegie) focused on two areas of possible dissonance between UK and US policy. (i) British cooperation (with ships!) with US efforts to uphold Rule of Law in dealing with China? Swire pointed to ASEAN as the focus for the solution, which is ‘local’.  (ii) Tibet – is the UK going soft on Human Rights there? Swire says the position is not changed, and the issue is best handled through the bilateral relationship with China.

Questions came from the audience on North Korea and rights, democracy in China, stability in Pakistan. Swire pointed to the ability of the UK to get information into NK (via its Embassy and British Council activities). UK does not resile from commitments to Hong Kong. UK is sensitive to peace and stability in Pakistan because of the UK’s Pakistani diaspora and the risk of links to jihad in Afghanistan and also Syria. Speaking of Hong Kong, Paal noted how gratifying it has been to see Britain NOT dropping its interest in Asia after the return of the colony to China.

So it all ended on a friendly note. However, there was no mistaking the tone of the message: The UK has permanent interests in Asia and regardless of what other countries or organizations decide, it has a strategy – including a military component – for achieving its objectives.

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Will NATO ‘regroup’ in Asia?

towards-an-asian-nato-300x210

What will this September’s NATO Summit say about the alliance’s role in Asian security?

Chatham House’s Director Dr Robin Niblett is arguing that NATO needs to step up  (link) -

“NATO members would all be seriously affected by an outbreak of hostilities in East Asia. Western companies with global supply chains rely on smooth transportation links between Asia, the US and Europe. The notion that the US alone among NATO members should take responsibility for helping to manage crises in the Asia-Pacific region while its European allies focus on commercial interests would erode the foundation of the Atlantic Alliance at a time when changing demographic profiles and geographic perspectives are weakening the transatlantic instinct…
…The Wales summit may see NATO begin to distinguish between its different types of partners. For example, long-term enhanced, cooperative arrangements would make sense with the small number of countries in Europe and beyond – such as Finland, Sweden and Australia – that share the transatlantic community’s principles and have participated in recent military operations alongside NATO forces. Countries such as South Korea and Japan, which have not been as closely involved in operations, but are also treaty allies of the US, could constitute the next level of cooperative arrangement. “

 

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Hugo Swire on UK’s Asia policy ‘far beyond China’

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.15.11 PM

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s recent visit to London was widely hailed as a great commercial success, leading to energy and finance deals worth billions. Yet the UK’s future in Asia extends far beyond China. Going beyond mutually beneficial bilateral relations, the UK is focused on reinforcing a multi-faceted approach encompassing business, security, and values.

The Rt Hon Hugo Swire, MP, minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, addressed the UK’s Asia-Pacific policy and explained both the UK’s current involvement and future aspirations in the region. Carnegie’s Douglas H. Paal moderated.

See the following link for a transcript of the speech:

“The UK in the Asian Century”

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EU Centre Singapore summarises EU partnerships in Asian security

indexThe European Union Centre in Singapore has published a new background paper that offers a nice summary of the EU’s advance into Asia as security partner, with a provocative title:
The European Union and global security: is the EU becoming the indispensable partner?

Author: Dr. Cesare Onestini, EU Visiting Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy National University of Singapore

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Vladimir Putin is a threat to Asia. Discuss.

Victor Cha is a senior adviser and the inaugura l holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is also director of Asian studies and holds the D.S. Song-KF Chair in the Depa rtment of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Victor Cha, senior adviser and the inaugural holder of the Korea Chair at CSIS, director of Asian studies and
holds the D.S. Song-KF Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

 

Victor Cha thinks Vladimir Putin is a threat to Asia. I have my own reasons to agree with the general idea that what is happening now in Ukraine can have consequences for Asian security. Read about his reasons here.

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Ukraine, Crimea and Asian Security

rusland-china-map

What does the present crisis in Ukraine have to do with Asian security?

Here (link) is an article that provides some ideas: Ukraine’s Lessons for Asia.

For me the main point to take away is that China’s choice not to condemn Russia’s action reveals that its rhetoric about standing up for the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign nations is tactical and expedient, rather than a genuinely held ideological position. Bonnie Glaser at CSIS thinks Beijing is agonizing about this, but so far their actions speak louder than words. It is therefore reasonable to assume that China will not be constrained by this principle against taking action similar to that currently under way in Crimea. Russia may, ironically, be among those to suffer the consequences.

Lessons so far:

1. China’s support for non-interference principle is a tactical rather than a genuinely ideological position.

2. UN Security Council members and the international community are not willing to uphold UN Charter principles to defend sovereignty where the interests of a militarily powerful and/or nuclear armed state are at stake.

3. NATO, US and EU are war-wary and cannot be relied on to back up talk with action on the ground in support of a partner or just cause.

4. Putin’s Russia is a gambler emboldened by success. Fuse of over-reach is lit and burning down.

5. Ethnic solidarity is the stratcom successor to the ‘humanitarian intervention’ trope. Beware passport diplomacy and ‘protection of nationals’ narratives.

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More active & intense EU-Asia relations

Asean_EUShada Islam gives us a useful summing up of where EU-Asia relations are headed, and offers some proposals on how to go further:

Not yet a “pivot” – but EU-Asia relations get more active and intense

Shada strikes a sober tone -

“Developing a truly European strategy for sustained engagement with Asia, however, will require more than a few discussions, visits and communiques.  EU policymakers need to undertake a more in-depth reflection of Europe’s many interests, significant strengths and weaknesses in dealing with a more self-confident Asia.  Yes, there is a marked improvement in EU-Asia engagement-and this should be celebrated. But much still remains to be done.”

Indeed. For all the talk of ‘strategic’ this and ‘comprehensive’ that in this article and in the official documents, most of the EU action is still about trade and investment. So-called ‘non-traditional’ security may play to EU strengths, but I can’t help wondering – how much interest can it excite from Asian nations with increasingly serious ‘traditional’ security worries?

This reminded me of another article on ‘friends of Europe‘ by former EU Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, who takes quite a different view -

‘…in order to restart, Europe needs decisions and leaders, and in reference to Europe’s international influence, this means engaging simultaneously in a soft, smart and also hard power game.”

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Europe’s undeclared role in Asian security – time to bring the arms trade under strategic control?

eurofighterPeople sometimes ask ‘what should be Europe’s role in Asian security?’, but surely we have first to understand the role European nations and their institutions are already playing.

Something that doesn’t often get discussed (excepting the EU embargo on arms to China) is the increasingly important role played by Europe as supplier of defence equipment and technology to Asia, Continue reading

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European military presence in Asia – Who Dares?

HMS Daring

HMS Daring

JDS Kashima passes Fort Blockhouse as she enters Portsmouth Harbour, July 2013

JDS Kashima passes Fort Blockhouse as she enters Portsmouth Harbour, July 2013

The must-read blog on UK defence ‘Thin Pinstripe Line‘ has details about the UK Royal Navy deployment way East of Suez this year:

Another Daring Deployment? Continue reading

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