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