At the latest annual ‘two plus two’ Australia-UK (AUKMIN) meeting on March 11, there were more signs confirming the UK pivot to Asia.
According to the UK Foreign office website, a “critical element of these talks will be opportunities for collaborating on defence engagement in the Asia Pacific region”.
Here are the highlights based on a subsequent report -
- When the Australian Minister of defence was asked about the possibility of a permanent UK base in Australia, he extended a broad invitation to British forces. “It will not be a basing, it’s an opportunity for them to utilise our facilities.“(And) we welcome such a similar utilisation at every opportunity for the Royal Navy or any other of the services from the United Kingdom to come to Australia and to interoperate with us, to train with us and to do things that are mutually beneficial.”
- UK Minister of Defence Hammond confirmed the UK is ready: “As our focus increasingly turns to the Asia Pacific, I would expect us to send ships more regularly in future into the Pacific, but I wouldn’t envisage at the present time basing ships in the Pacific. Extending visits on a more regular basis is likely to be our immediate objective.”
- The four ministers also launched a new dialogue on Asia, based (according to the UK Foreign Office website) on “a partnership between the British Ditchley Foundation and the Sydney-based think tank, the Lowy Institute for International Policy”. The first meeting will take place at Ditchley Park in June. “Its aim will be to promote our common interest in a stable and prosperous region.”
- The two governments signed a new agreement on diplomatic network co-operation that will see the Australian embassy in Baghdad move into the British embassy building to cut security costs.“This is about identifying the synergies that make our respective diplomatic efforts more efficient and effective,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
People 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
It’s that bear again. Big exercises in Asia, and now this: Russia’s Pacific Fleet to Receive New Warships in 2014
Russia the double-headed eagle – It’s European, it’s Asian. Makes you think, doesn’t it? French built warship, Russian flag and soon to sail the Pacific. These are the first ships added to their Pacific fleet since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Continue reading
Pivot watchers may assume that what Don Rumsfeld called ‘new Europe’ (countries that joined the EU and NATO in latter post USSR years) are concerned at the US Pivot to Asia because the drawdown of America’s commitment to European security will reduce the credibility of the deterrent against Russia on their borders. Some members of ‘old Europe’ further west are Continue reading
UK Defence Engagement in Myanmar
Is this more evidence for the vigour of the UK Pivot to Asia? Myanmar’s President Thein Sein is visiting the UK and France. The headlines about the visit to France refer to cooperation on energy and warnings on human rights. Is the UK alone in Europe in engaging with Myanmar on security issues? Or is Paris just being more discreet about such issues so as not to raise hackles in Beijing?
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