Thanks to Michael Matthiessen, the EU Visiting Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore for another voice on the European Pivot to Asia (see some related posts from this blog here, here and here)
According to a recent study by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), which tracked the perception of the EU in seven Asian countries, the EU is close to invisible. Michael Matthiessen explains that Asia is not invisible to the EU and it’s time to address this imbalance.
(First published in Global-is-Asian, Issue 15 (Oct-Dec 2012) by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS)
Julian Lindley-French’s blog is always worth reading.
Regarding Europe’s position between the US and Asia, he had this to say recently:
“Within a decade all strategic relationships will have been transformed by the rise of Asia. Be it NATO membership and and its now plethora of partnerships they must all be seen in that context, i.e. part of a world-wide web of security partnerships.
Why? Because NATO’s true utility can only be defined once its place in American grand strategy has been established and that is a-changing. Especially so as the more the Europeans cut defence the more reliant they are on the US. Unfortunately, implicit in the ‘pivot’, the ‘rebalancing’, the ‘global Yank’ (shiver) or whatever one wants to call Washington’s potential zweifrontenskreig, a new strategic contract beckons between NATO and its erstwhile member America. That contract is essentially simple; NATO must take care of security for both members and partners in and around Europe to ease pressure on the US elsewhere. If not the American security guarantee will over time fade.”
“[the]East China Sea dispute could in time be seen as the true beginning of a contest that will come to define the twenty-first century as much as the coming war between Iran and Israel; the struggle for power dominance in East Asia.”
I thought the two extracts make an interesting juxtaposition.
Three European nations – those referred to as ‘the big three’ in the corridors of the EU – spoke for Europe at the recent 2012 Shangri-La Dialogue. The UK sent the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and Director-General, Security Policy. Germany sent their Parliamentary State Secretary for Defence. The most significant showing was France’s Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who used a speech on Emerging Risks to Global and Asia-Pacific Security to communicate the intention of France, representing Europe more broadly, to step up its involvement in Asia-Pacific security.
France’s rationale was placed in the context of the rising economic importance of the region, the US ‘pivot’, and the inter-dependence of European and Asian security. France’s historical involvement and ongoing ‘territorial and military presence’ were noted to remind the audience that France had never left the region. Then the high rhetorical tone was brought down to earth by an honest acknowledgement that all this had been said before, but now it was “… high time to transform words into action“.
What kind of action does the Minister have in mind? I found three main lines of note: Continue reading
Three historic shifts are transforming the global security environment. There is an economic shift of wealth generation and finance from West to East, the climate shift to higher temperatures and sea levels, and a geopolitical shift to a multi-polar world order. All of them will bring about changes that cause Europe and Asia’s security interests to overlap to an extent not seen since the onset of the Cold War period.
First the economic shift: Asia is fast becoming the most important part of the world for Europe’s economic interest. In a recent round-table hosted by FRIDE and the EU-Asia Centre, the European Union External Action Service’s (EEAS) Director for Northeast Asia,Gerhard Sabathil, pointed out that the EU’s trade with East Asia (28%) now exceeds transatlantic trade (23%). If Asia has a security sneeze, Europe will catch a cold in its export trade with big knock-on effects for the rest of its economy. Then there is the importance of Asian finance power for our public and private debt and investment. But this economic shift is only the most obvious reason we should be more attentive to what happens ‘over there’. Continue reading
Sir Malcom Rifkind, (a former British Foreign Secretary) writes in ‘The Diplomat’ that ‘while the United States’ “pivot” is welcomed by much of Asia, it is causing concern to the nations of Western Europe’. How does he think Europe should react?
He recommends three priorities for Europeans -
- Do more for their own security (through increased contributions to NATO and interoperability)
- Do some of their own ‘outreach’ to Asia – but his examples are only of economic development and trade initiatives.
- Be happy the US is ‘back’ in Asia because we can ride on their coat-tails.
Considering his present role (chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee), these three seem a bit meagre. (1) is old wine in new bottles. The UK has been playing this tune since before the pivot was a twinkle in Obama’s eye. (2) and (3) are lacking punch in security or diplomatic terms.
Could it be a simple matter of that famous UK Conservative party ‘euro-scepticism’? Continue reading
The fact is, much of what is read online and in other media about Asian security and defence issues is produced in the United States, and with good reasons. Historically, the US has looked across the Pacific to Asia as well as across the Atlantic and has had a productive academic community that reflects the country’s strong political and business interests in Asia. Since WW II, when the US took over from the Europeans as the major external regional power in Asia, it has had a series of alliance and economic responsibilities to cope with, all requiring understanding of the region. For much of the post-war period, perhaps because Asia lacked the economic or military power to assert itself beyond the region, interest in Asia outside of the US was rather limited, and what it produced was no match for the volume of US output. But in recent years, things have changed. Continue reading