Monday, October 02, 2023

The question of Britain’s tilt to the Indo Pacific and its relationship with China

Britain is one of the key partners of the multilateral coalition to enforce FOIP operations to defend the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in view of maritime challenges by China. Ever since the Johnson administration released the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy entitled “Global Britain in a competitive age” in March 2021, the United Kingdom has been proceeding strategic tilt to the Indo Pacific. In accordance with this strategy, Britain is deepening strategic partnership with Japan and India. Particularly with Japan, Britain signed the RAA (Reciprocal Access Agreement) this year to faciilitate access to mutual troop facilities and bilateral operational and training cooperation between their armed forces. Also, both countries conduct joint research and development of the GCAP (Global Combat Air Programme) with Italy. With India, Britain provides technological assistance for its indigenous next fighter project to supplant Russian sponsored FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft). Furthermore, the United Kingdom singed the AUKUS deal with the United States and Australia. In view of those agreements, Britain is supposed to be deeply committed to the FOIP against China along with regional powers like Japan, India, and Australia, and most importantly, through the “special relationship” with America. However, some restraints of domestic politics, notably the Labour Party and the financial lobby, could erode Britain’s solid commitment to the deterrence against China. Also, the Sunak administration is not necessarily harmonious in their stances against China, unlike their approaches against Russia.

Let me mention the Labour Party first. Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey questioned Tory national security strategy of the tilt to the Indo Pacific initiated by the Johnson administration, in view of growing threat of Russia since the outbreak of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Secretary Healey said that Britain should focus its limited budgetary resource on the defense of its home turf and the Euro Atlantic, as commented "The first priority for Britain's armed forces must be where the threats are greatest, not where the business opportunities lie” (“Labour defence chief questions using UK's 'scarce resources' in Indo-Pacific”; Forces Net; 8 February, 2023). The point of Labour argument is that Britain should rearm to meet the requirement to defend Europe, the Atlantic and the Arctic, while its military stockpile at home is depleting to support Ukraine (“Labour calls for UK rearmament and end to military cuts”; UK Defence Journal; February 7, 2023). But does the Labour Party belittle the threat of China, although it encroaches Britain’s homeland via secret agents, cyber manipulations, etc? Current party leader Keir Starmer assumes himself a Blairite, but his party’s defense initiative seems more like Harold Wilson’s who decided to withdraw British troops from east of Aden in 1968, rather than Tony Blair’s whose global trotting foreign policy explored to let Britain punch above its weight.

If the Labour Party is not obsessed with anti-colonialist woke ideology, how would they strike a balance between Britain’s strategic necessity around the globe? Rather than denying the tilt to the Indo Pacific, Veerle Nouwens of the RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) suggests that the Labour Party tailor the tilt to their priorities. Geographical distance is no reason to disengage from the Indo Pacific. After all, the Tory defense plan does not argue that Britain keep solid permanent military presence in Japan or Australia. The Labour should bear in mind that the Indo Pacific strategies of France and Japan stretch from East Africa to the South Pacific. Furthermore, she comments that Britain does not necessarily keep military presence to the furthest in the Indo Pacific, but it has to make full use of existing UK facilities in Indian Ocean, ie, the Middle East, East Africa, and Singapore. That would be helpful for the British troop to react to an emergency in the Far East, when China or North Korea defy global rules and norms such as freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and nuclear nonproliferation in this region. While Shadow Defence Secretary Healey stresses limited budgetary resource, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy does not deny the tilt, but proposes the “three Cs”. That is, Britain should challenge and compete against China geopolitically, but cooperate with them on some issues such as climate change when necessary (“How Labour Can Reform, Rather Than Do Away With, the UK’s Indo-Pacific Tilt”; RUSI Commentary; 14 February 2023). After all, I would argue that Healey’s vison is a sheer denial of Britain’s historical status as a maritime trade nation.

For diplomatic consistency, Britain’s Indo Pacific partners, notably Japan and Australia, need to talk with the Labour shadow cabinet to reconfirm the imperative of the FOIP for global security and common interests in this region. Quite importantly, the general election in Britain is scheduled no later than January 28, 2025, which is quite closely dated to the US presidential election on November 5, 2024. According to the latest opinion poll by Ipsos from August 11 to 14, 56% of UK voters think that Starmer will defeat Sunak in the forthcoming election. While Starmer leads 9 out of 12 points, particularly on being in touch with ordinary people, understanding the problems facing Britain, and being an experienced leader, Sunak leads on being good in a crisis (“Majority of Britons think it is likely Keir Starmer will become Prime Minister”; Ipsos Political Pulse; 24 August, 2023).

The FOIP is multilateral by nature, and Quad members and other regional and global stakeholders need to send a message so that a Labour Britain would not fall into radical anti-colonialist. Above all, Starmer needs to outline a Labour national security strategy, around the world. He told that his cabinet would seek a bilateral security and defense treaty with Germany quickly if he were elected (“UK Labour would seek security and defense treaty with Germany”; Politico; May 16, 2023). But it is not clear how he would adjust Healey’s Euro-Atlantic focused defense and Lammy’s three Cs against China in the Indo Pacific.

The left is not the only problem. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne who was an architect of the Anglo-Chinese Golden Era under the Cameron administration, has become a fintech lobbyist to embrace money from China and Russia to the London financial market, after his retirement from politics. Even though David Cameron quit his political career after the Brexit referendum, Osborne remained in the House of Commons as a backbencher. However, he was forced to resign as he was appointed to the editor of the Evening Standard though he was an MP. Ever since he was the chancellor, Osborne wanted to make London a global hub of fintech (“Osborne wants London to be 'global centre for fintech”; Financial Times; November 11, 2015), but his policy was critically concerned, because it seemed that he prioritized the relationship with China at the expense of human rights and US-UK relations. Also, Cameron refused security commitment Britain’s traditional allies in South East Asia when he visited Singapore in 2015 so as not to provoke China (“In for a Yuan, in for a Pound: Is the United Kingdom Making a Bad Bet on China?”; Council on Foreign Relations Blog; October 20, 2015). Osborne also had some dubious ties with Russia, as he accepted donations from a Russian oligarch in 2008 (“George Osborne admits 'mistake' over Russian oligarch”; Guardian; 27 October, 2008). Brexit is a disaster for Britain and the global community, but had Cameron stayed in the office, Osborne would have advanced his pro-Sino-Russian fintech policy at the expense of national security.

As if representing the financial lobby led by Osborne, Sherard Cowper-Coles, head of public affairs at HSBC Holdings PLC, criticized the British government so “weak” as to follow America to curtail business ties with China (“HSBC Executive Slams ‘Weak’ UK for Backing US Against China”; Bloomberg News; August 7, 2023). His remark is “too market-oriented”. Certainly, London has been an offshore financial market where traders can deal with currencies out of American regulation, notably the Eurodollar from the Soviet Union and the petrodollar from OPEC nations. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine shattered Cold War notions of rational deterrence, and the financial market is required to reject politically risky foreign money more strictly today. Nevertheless, it is quite hard to keep Britain’s open economy, while stopping money laundering by China, Russia, and other revisionist powers (“Why Britain’s Tories are addicted to Russian money”; Politico; March 7, 2022). Regarding the supply chain with China and energy dependence on Russia, Germany and France are frequently criticized, but we have to watch Britain’s handling of these issues as well.

The Sunak administration may not explore the Golden era with China, but the prime minister’s background is business oriented. Having graduated from Oxford University with a BA in PPE, Rishi Sunak acquired an MBA from Stanford University, where he met his wife Akshata Murty whose father is an Indian IT business tycoon Narayana Murty. Sunak himself made his career in hedge fund business before entering politics. In view of his business instinct, he could be tempted to prioritize economic interests with China and take lukewarm attitudes to its threats in the Indo Pacific and the UK homeland, although he declared the end of the Golden Era (“Rishi Sunak: Golden era of UK-China relations is over”; BBC News; 29 November, 2022). Therefore, House Foreign Affairs Committee MPs raised critical concerns with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, when he visited China at the end of this August. This backlash was led by Conservative MP Alicia Kearns who chairs the committee, arguing that he should have been tough on Chinese espionage in the UK homeland, human rights abuse in Xinjian Uyghur and Tibet, and UK security role in the FOIP operation (“James Cleverly urged to be ‘crystal clear’ with China on ‘the rule of law and human rights’”; Politico; August 30, 2023). Criticism comes not only from Sunak’s party, also from his own cabinet. Minister of State for Security Tom Tugendhat has been a renowned China hawk, and he was banned from entering the country in 2021 (“Cleverly asks Bryant to withdraw ‘Chinese stooge’ claim amid row over Beijing”; Independent; 13 June, 2023). As an HM army veteran, he was so alert to China’s overseas police station in the United Kingdom that he eliminated them, because they were not permitted by the British government (“Chinese 'police stations' in UK are 'unacceptable', says security minister”; Sky News; 6 June 2023).

China appeasers are witnessed beyond partisanship. On the left, there are anti-colonialist wokes. On the right, there are financial lobbyists and their sympathizers. Old fashioned right-left dichotomy is meaningless to analyze correlation of foreign and domestic policy. Britain’s Indo Pacific partners need to be deeply in contact with both ruling and opposition parties to reconfirm security environment in this region and international agreements such as the G7 declaration and the UK-Japanese accord in Hiroshima. Also, it is necessary to reexamine Britain’s own security guidelines like the Integrated Review of Security in 2021, the Strategic Review in 2023, and House Foreign Affairs report led by Kearns this August. Most importantly, Britain’s military presence in Asia would be helpful in the special relationship with the United States, which would ensure a successful Global Britain. At the House of Lords, ex-Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen argued that Americans were more concerned with military adventurism of China than ongoing war in Ukraine, and it would be advantageous for Britain to show its shared security objectives with them in the Pacific (“British carrier in Pacific bolsters US-UK alliance”; UK Defence Journal; September 30, 2023). Though Lord Owen was a secretary of state in the Callaghan administration of the Labour party, his views on the Indo Pacific tilt is completely different from that of current Shadow Defence Secretary Healey. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lammy upholds the “three Cs”, but it is still unclear. After all, it is not ideological label or partisanship, but views and understandings on the Indo Pacific tilt and the Chinese threat that critically matter. Beware of domestic politics in Britain.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Democracy in Africa and Western countermeasures against Russian penetration

The global community has been astonished at unexpected influence of some pro-Russian and autocratic nations in Africa at UN General Assembly vote on the Ukrainian crisis. However, the African Union reaffirmed to suspend the membership of pro-Russian military dictatorship regimes in the Sahel region, that is, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, and Sudan to show zero tolerance against unconstitutional changes of government at the 36th AU summit in Addis Ababa in February this year. Just before this summit, the ECOWAS also (Economic Community of West African States) announced to maintain halting the membership of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea (“African Union reaffirms suspension of Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Sudan”; Africa News; 20 February, 2023). Those actions by the AU and the ECOWAS are hopeful signs for democracy in Africa. Therefore, we should not fall into “pessimistic realism” to embrace the fall of democracy and the fall of the West in a supposedly forthcoming multipolar world. In a revisionist world order that Russia and China uphold, our history would devolve and degrade into repression and chaos. The consequence of our defeatism would be fatal to the global community. We have to reconfirm that values of democracy, freedom, and human rights are not restricted within the West, and not completely alien to Africa.

To begin with, we have to understand the overview of democracy in Africa. According to Freedom House, freedom index in Africa has been declining for years recently, as with the case of the trend worldwide. That is in resonance with penetration of Russia and China in this region. However, “African countries have also showed signs of improvement and resilience”, according to Tiseke Kasambala, Director of Africa Programs, though resurgence of military dictatorship, particularly in the Sahel, destabilizes the continent. Quite importantly, the AU adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1981, which is supposed to be very progressive to defend human rights, but many member states are reluctant to implement it. Meanwhile, the government is weakening constitutional rule of law in South Africa, although it was invited to the Democracy Summit by US President Joe Biden both in 2021 and 2023. However, the judiciary, civil society, and media barely manage to maintain democracy collectively, against populist autocratic attempts by the ruling ANC (“How African Democracies Can Rise and Thrive Amid Instability, Militarization, and Interference”; Freedom House Perspectives; September 1, 2022). In view of long one-party rule after the fall of apartheid, more attention needs to be paid to the Ramaphosa administration’s invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg this August, to assess the rule of law in this country as a member of the International Criminal Court.

Interestingly, a reverse of world history is witnessed in Africa, that is Russian penetration. Remember that shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, East European nations including some former Soviet republics jumped into joining the EU and NATO. That is entirely their own sovereign preference. Rationally, nothing of Russia is appealing in view of its poor governance, economy, technology, and also, its anachronistic neo-Eurasianism. But strangely, African countries do not necessarily think so. At the UN General Assembly on Russian invasion of Ukraine in March last year, nearly half of African nations did not support the resolution to condemn the aggression. Some ruling élites in southern Africa feel nostalgic of their cooperation with the Soviet Union in their struggle against colonialism and apartheid during the Cold War era, but that is merely at the governmental level. Unlike commonly believed, Africans are not necessarily obsessed with anti-colonialism today. Also, they are not concerned with the great power conflict on geopolitics and ideology in Europe and Asia. They choose partners through their perceived self-interest, whether Russia, China, or the West. Regarding African views on Russia and the ongioing invasion of Ukraine, the Economist and Premise conducted opinion polls in six leading African nations including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, which reveals that people in those countries do not necessarily agree to foreign policy direction of their government. While South Africa, Uganda, and Mali abstained from the UNGA vote to condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine, the rest of them approved it. Among those ruled by pro-Russian government, South Africa is a sample of democracy in southern Africa where the ruling party is engrossed in anti-apartheid nostalgia, while Mali is a sample of military dictatorship in the Sahel where anti-Western regime depends on Wagner in counterterrorism.

As shown in Table 1, the approval rate of Russian invasion of Ukraine is the lowest in democratic South Africa, but highest in Wagner sponsored Mali. Also, as shown in Table 2, people in Mali are the most likely to blame the West for the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, those in South Africa are the least likely to blame NATO and the United States (“Why Russia wins some sympathy in Africa and the Middle East”; Economist; March 12, 2022).



After the military coup d’état in 2020, Mali has been isolated from the global community, as France withdrew counterterrorism troops and the membership of the AU and the ECOWAS was suspended. Wagner seized this opportunity to infiltrate there. Impoverished and poorly educated people are easily misled by propagandas that Russia and the military regime spread.

That is not the case with South Africa, where checks and balances by parliamentary opposition, the judiciary, and the media are balking the ANC’s revisionist foreign and domestic policies. Particularly, the Democratic Alliance (DA) which succeeds from anti-apartheid white liberal Progressive Party, is launching a fierce campaign against President Cyril Ramaphosa’s invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg this August. The DA applied for litigation so that the Gauteng High Court can enforce the ICC rule to arrest Putin upon his arrival to South Africa to attend the BRICS summit (“DA launches court application to compel the arrest of Putin in South Africa”; DA News; 30 May, 2023). Also, DA leader John Steenhuisen even warned that the ANC administration sent some weapons to Russia in an interview with CNN, according to Briefly News, a South African digital media, which displays “Stand with Ukraine” banner on its web site (“John Steenhuisen Says President Cyril Ramaphosa Is a “Political Swindler” Who Fooled the Country”;; June 1, 2023). Furthermore, he criticizes Ramaphosa’s intermediation between Russia and Ukraine as a waste of taxpayers’ money and diplomatic stunt. More importantly, the DA blames the ANC’s close association with autocracy like Putin’s Russia (“How much did South Africans pay for Ramaphosa’s failed diplomatic PR stunt?”; DA News; 17 June, 2023). As shown in the recent draft of race quotas for water use, which would impose huge burden on farmland owners that consume 60% of the resource, the ANC seems to be obsessed with an ideology of class struggle and victimhood (“Parched Earth: ANC introduces Race Quotas for water use”; DA News; 1 June, 2023). Right or left, such victimhood minded populists would easily befriend dictators like Putin.

We should also discuss the Russian presence in Africa from Russian perspective. Joseph Siegle at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies testified about Russian activities in Africa at the hearing of the US House of Representatives. He mentioned three main pillars of Russian strategy in Africa. The fist pillar is to gain influence on the sea lane from southern Mediterranean to the Red Sea through Suez and Djibouti. The second pillar is to remove Western influence from the continent. Wagner activities in Central Africa and Mali are one of the most noticeable. The third pillar is to reshape rule-based world order, by disrespecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of member states, which is displayed in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin’s involvement in Africa pleases only autocrats and disinformed people, as its strategy of those pillars just destabilizes political economy of this region (“Russia’s Strategic Objectives and Influences in Africa”; Africa Center for Strategic Studies; July 14, 2022). After all, Russia hardly cares about local development, empowerment, and well-being and simply wants to make use of Africa for siloviki’s perceived national interests. That is entirely at odds with the ideal of the AU, the ECOWAS, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Most fundamentally, Paul Stronski at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace quotes a speech by US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills that Wagner presence in the Sahel aggravates human sufferings without resolving real causes of instability, such as poor governance, broken institutions, long term displacement, and armed groups proliferation (“Russia’s Growing Footprint in Africa’s Sahel Region”; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; February 28, 2023).

Russia is too opportunist in its charm offensive in Africa, because its influence is declining in former Soviet CIS, Eurasian Economic Union, and CSTO, since the invasion of Ukraine, but the Kremlin still wants to display their diplomatic power in a multipolar rivalry of geopolitics in this century. That is the background of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to seven African countries including South Africa, Eswatini, Mali, Mauritania, and Sudan early this year. However, Vadim Zaytsev, an independent expert on Russian policy in Africa, comments that most of the African nations take cautious neutrality, and do not want to risk their ties with the West, although they rhetorically resonate with Russia’s contradictory denouncement of neocolonialism that dismisses the colonial nature of the invasion of Ukraine (“What’s Behind Russia’s Charm Offensive in Africa?”; Carnegie Politika; 17 February, 2023). It is not only Western experts who are critical to Russian penetration. African experts also warn the danger of Russian presence. Peter Fabricius at a South African think tank Institute for Security Studies (ISS) comments that Russia deepens its relations with Africa through military dimensions, rather than increasing the amount of trade and investment. He argues that Russia penetrates in Africa through exploiting instability in the target country. In Mali and Burkina Faso, Wagner filled the vacuum after the withdrawal of French troops. That weakens AU deterrence against military dictatorship. Meanwhile in Cameroon, Russia provokes separatists in the Anglophone region. It is likely that they want to overturn the regime to use this country a gateway to export natural resources from the Central African Republic. Such natural resource export is one of the means for Russia to finance its war in Ukraine and elsewhere, along with organized crimes such as trade of illegal weapons and drugs, money laundering, hacking to cryptocurrency, etc (“Africa shouldn’t ignore Russia’s destabilising influence”; ISS Today; 24 February, 2023). Fabricius is a white South African, and submitted some policy recommendations on African development to the World Economic Forum from African point of view.

After the Prigozhin mutiny, the foresight of Wagner activities and Russian influence in Africa is unpredictable. Kimberly Marten at Columbia University comments that it would be relatively easy for the Russian defense establishment to replace Yevgeny Prigozhin with someone else. Meanwhile, Jędrzej Czerep at the Polish Institute of International Affairs argues that everything depends on whether African clients perceive Russia strong and reliable enough to achieve their goals (“What next for Wagner’s African empire?”; Economist; June 27, 2023). Either way, what should America and its allies do to edge out Russia from Africa? Last August, the Biden administration released “US Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa” to address new opportunities and partnership between the United States and African nations. Joseph Sany at the US Institute of Peace comments the following. Not only does it pledge aid surge to resolve regional problems such as food security, agriculture, supply chains, and climate change, but also stresses the necessity of listening to Africans. Thus, US embassies need sufficient work force led by accredited ambassadors. Furthermore, he argues that America enable African nations to resolve their problems by their own initiative (“The New U.S. Africa Strategy Is a Moment We Must Seize”; USIP; August 11, 2022). Regarding Wagner presence, Sany says that moral condemnation does not work. African clients are forced to sign with brutal Wagner out of desperation because international counterinsurgency operations have not wiped-out terrorism. But he mentions that bipartisan American policymakers have found past US policies are too myopic and too narrowly focused on military aspects, without giving sufficient consideration to governance and the economy of target countries (“In Africa, Here’s How to Respond to Russia’s Brutal Wagner Group”; USIP; April 6, 2023).

Despite Russian penetration through Wagner, Africa shares our values of freedom and democracy. At G7 Hiroshima, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may have had to invite AU Chairman Azali Assoumani and South African DA leader John Steenhuisen to confirm this, rather than Wagner supported Mozambiquan President Filipe Nyusi. In order to deepen partnership with this region, the Western alliance needs to upgrade their diplomatic presence. For this objective, the United States should reconsider the Jacksonian system of political appointment of ambassadors. Senate confirmations are delayed frequently, and appointed ambassadors are not necessarily well qualified. One of such examples is Lana Marks, a handbag designer, whom the Trump administration nominated to the ambassador to South Africa for her contribution to their election campaign. Remember, those who make great contribution to the campaign are not necessarily well-acquainted with foreign policy. Some of them are narrow-sighted vote grubbers. I would like to talk about such an example from my experience. In the past, I had some opportunity to see a Japanese LDP diet member’s office from inside. One day, when a senior staff of the office was watching TV news during the lunch break, and he paid keen attention to reports about Nagata-cho politics and domestic election, but no sooner had the news reported about international affairs than he shut out information from the TV with contempt. It was very startling, and he appeared quite a strange creature for me. Though he graduated from Kyoto University, he behaved like a poorly educated bumpkin. Therefore, any US president should abstain from appointing such an irresponsible vote grubber to the ambassador. After all, it is our firm commitment that would enable us to outcompete with Russia in Africa.

Monday, May 22, 2023

China’s Notion of Sovereignty Could Split the Sino-Russian Axis

China is a vocal critic of current international rules and norms, because they regard the rule-based world order today as being based on Western values. Accordingly, Chinese policymakers claim idiosyncratic notions of national sovereignty and international law, which leads them to face frequent territorial dispute with their neighbors and philosophical conflict with the global community. In view of this, there is some possibility of a future conflict between China and Russia despite their common defiance against the Western liberal world order, as Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye made a gaffe that the sovereignty of post-Soviet republics was questionable (“China’s ambassador to France questions 'sovereign status' of former Soviet nations”; France 24; 23 April, 2023). In other words, the Sino-Russian axis is breakable, and the notion of sovereignty is one of the causes to accelerate the split.

The ambassador’s remark was so controversial that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning responded quickly to deny this to soothe criticism from the global community, and emphasized that China respected the sovereignty of former Soviet countries (“China affirms ex-Soviet nations’ sovereignty after ambassador comments”; PBS News; April 24, 2023). However, Masanobu Abe, a Japanese journalist based in Paris, argues that Western experts regard Ambassador Lu’s comment as common understanding of post-Soviet national sovereignty among Chinese foreign policy makers (“China’s Real Intention? Why the Ambassador to France Casted Doubt on Ukrainian Sovereignty?”; Toyo Keizai; April 27, 2023). Lu may have wanted to deny Ukrainian territorial legitimacy in Crimea, but theoretically, it implies that China does not recognize the sovereignty of Russia as well. Potentially, that could trigger a Sino-Russian clash in Outer Manchuria or the Russian Far East. For China, this is a historical range of Manchurian Qing Empire, but taken forcibly by Russia through the treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the treaty of Peking in 1860. At the end of the 1960s when the Sino-Soviet border conflict broke out, relations between both countries turned worse.

In view of such historical context, recent remark by Chinese President Xi Jinping could provoke a bilateral territorial dispute in the Russian Far East again, as he demanded that Russian geographical place names in this region be renamed in Chinese, such as Vladivostok into Haishenwai. That implicitly suggests China’s deeply rooted territorial grudge against Russia, although Outer Manchuria was out of the Han Chinese sphere throughout history. Despite the anti-Western axis, China wants to prompt Russian decline in the economy and demography, to make this country more dependent on them to gain more access to natural resource in Siberia (“Goodbye Vladivostok, Hello Hǎishēnwǎi!”; CEPA; July 12, 2022). Xi’s remark insinuates China’s hidden territorial zeal to retake this area as Russia is exhibiting in Ukraine now, which could spark a bilateral conflict in the future.

The potential territorial dispute could develop into a further problem. Currently, Russia exports oil and gas to China and India through huge discount to alleviate the impact of Western sanctions on its economy since the invasion of Ukraine. The export price of Russian oil from Baltic ports is deducted by $11 per barrel for China and $14 to 17 for India (“India and China snap up Russian oil in April above 'price cap'”; Reuters; April 19, 2023). But that sort of bargain sale is self-defeating and unsustainable in the long run, from a fair-trade point of view. Particularly, China would also exploit other natural resource in Far Eastern Siberia, at the expense of the taiga environment. Actually, Chinese lumbermen were notorious for illegal logging there, even long before the war in Ukraine (“Corruption Stains Timber Trade”; Washington Post; April 1, 2007). As Russia loses bargaining power through the ongoing war, China’s selfish appetite for natural resource would devastate the local ecosystem and livelihood of the people. Experts of international politics focuses on state-to-state power interactions so much that they do not pay sufficient attention to conflicts related to global commons. Also, Western environmentalists should be more active to defend Siberian forests as they were to defend Amazonian forests in the 1980s. The issue of natural resource and territorial sovereignty in the Russian Far East is deeply interconnected each other. This is another cause to split the Sino-Russian axis.

Both countries do not abide by the rule-based world order, and therefore, they often behave disrespectfully to mutual accords. Though China and Russia share anti-Western and revisionist views of the world, Russia fears Chinese expansionism in its Far East territory, leading to the Kremlin's imperfect compliance with bilateral trade and investment deals (“The Beijing-Moscow axis: The foundations of an asymmetric alliance”; OSW Report; November 15, 2021). On the other hand, China claims that current international law is insufficient to protect their core interests, and therefore, they have to defend the interest through domestic legislation even if that law is incompatible with global rules. One of the most critical examples of China’s defiance to international law is its infringement of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. Professor Emeritus Shigeki Sakamoto of Kobe University denounces that such arbitrary interpretation of international law would inflict tremendous damage on international maritime order. The focal point is that China does not clarify the condition to prioritize domestic legislation to global rules and norms (“The Anatomy of Chinese Maritime Strategy: Violation of International Maritime Order through Domestic Legislation and Arbitrary Interpretation of UNCLOS”; JFIR; February 13, 2023) If China goes its own way so aggressively, it would face bitter frictions with other countries throughout the world, including Russia. Remember the Sino-Soviet split since the denunciation of Stalinist cult by Soviet Communist Party First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. Just being anti-American cannot keep the solidarity of both countries.

The Sino-Russian axis has been splitting our alliance and democracy, and their manipulations have grown more invigorated after the Cold War. Particularly, Russian election intervention for Brexit and Trump has shaken the foundation of Western democracy. Now, China is intervening the Taiwanese presidential election through inviting Kuomintang candidate Ma Yingjeou to the mainland (“Ma Ying-jeou’s historic trip: Can former Taiwan president help ease cross-strait tensions?”; Japan Times; April 7, 2023). Therefore, we must find every weakness of the Sino-Russian axis to retaliate against those crafty actions. Their solidarity is breakable. While G7 nations made efforts to rift the Global South from China and Russia at the Hiroshima summit, it is more important to drive a wedge between these great powers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

America’s Ukraine Policy after President Biden’s Visit to Kyiv

US President Joseph Biden made a long-awaited visit to Kyiv on February 20 in order to show that the United States would be firmly committed to help Ukraine from Russian invasion. In his subsequent visit to Warsaw, he re-emphasized that Russia would never win in Ukraine, and its neo-czarism was destined to fail (“Biden in Warsaw: ‘Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia’”; Hill; February 21, 2023). Though the Biden administration sent Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Kyiv before, and Biden himself met Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky in Washington, they were so cautious as not to provoke Russia to resort to nuclear warfare. Also, antiwar voices driven by MAGA Republicans and the woke left, frequently under the influence of the conspiracy theory, were hurdles to American commitment to Ukraine.

Despite such foreign policy constraints by extremist isolationist populists the right and the left, it is essential to know how American experts, who understands American role on the world, see the prospect of the ongoing war after Biden’s visit. Quite noticeably, some of those who are skeptical to help Ukraine refer to ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Professor John Mearsheimer of Chicago University frequently, to disguise themselves as consummate realists, thereby propagandizing their views that the United States is reluctant to get involved in this war and allied nations be careful enough not to be drawn into the war caused by a handful of warmongers among the Washington establishment. But, no matter how great their reputation is, neither Kissinger nor Mearsheimer represents the whole Americans. Self-styled realists, MAGA Republicans, and the woke left do not either. I do not know the background of each one of those disengagement advocates, but some of them behave as if they synchronized with specific ideological groups in America, whether right or left. In any case, it is wrong to believe that the majority of the public and policymakers in the United States are against helping Ukraine. I would like to mention viewpoints of American foreign policy opinion leaders to deny such disinformation, without partisan bias.

Regarding diplomatic implication of Biden’s visit, Professor Eliot Cohen at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, comments that Biden came to Ukraine at the critical moment when China was rumored to send weapons to Russia, and Russia was launching massive offense in Donbas to retake occupied lands to commemorate the anniversary of the “Special Military Operation” (“Biden Just Destroyed Putin’s Last Hope”; Atlantic Daily; February 21, 2023). Russian President Vladimir Putin counted on reluctance and political divide on the Western side to help Ukraine, but Anne Applebaum of the Atlantic mentions that his poorly-grounded hope was shattered when Biden finally visited Kyiv to meet Zelensky (“Biden Went to Kyiv Because There’s No Going Back”; Atlantic Daily; February 21. 2023 or here). This is the precedence for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit there as the last leader of G7 nations, which posed restraints to Putin’s diplomatic demonstration of strong Sino-Russian solidarity through hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Moscow meeting (“Japanese and Chinese leaders visit opposing capitals in Ukraine war”; BBC News; March 22, 2023).

Also, we have to understand its domestic implication against “TrumPutin”. As commented by David Rothkopf of the Daily Beast, people around the world reconfirmed the Helsinki US-Russian summit in 2018 that President-then Donald Trump favored Putin’s Russia over American and allied national security organizations, and was willing to abandon Ukraine (“Biden’s Trip to Kyiv is the Ultimate Humiliation for Putin—and Trump”; Daily Beast; February 20, 2023). Why? That is because he detests "the world America made", and takes a hostile view of the “neocon globalist establishment” in the Department of State, the department of Defense, and intelligence agencies. Furthermore, he blames them warmongers who plot World War III of nuclear powers. That real estate agent has no understanding of Russian infringement of rule-based world order and territorial integrity. Ex-Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger raised a critical concern with Trump’s malicious attack on American national security agencies and outrageous praise for Putin. Actually, Kinzinger did not run in the last midterm election, because his party was taken over by rightwing extremists. We have to watch carefully, how Biden and his centrist fellows beyond partisanship strike back those ideocratic isolationists.

Those isolationists and disguised realists need to understand why a lukewarm compromise with Putin’s Russia is more dangerous than Ukraine’s unyielding resistance to squeeze out invaders. When Putin’s invasion had become increasingly imminent, Robert Kagan, who was a foreign policy advisor for the presidential election campaign of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton, commented that his assault on Ukraine would be just the beginning of his ambition to reestablish historical Russian sphere of influence in Eastern and Central Europe, when Baltic states and Poland were nonexistent, and Warsaw Pact nations were virtually ruled by the Soviet Union (“What we can expect after Putin’s conquest of Ukraine”; Washington Post; February 21, 2022). Therefore, we understand that an immediate ceasefire while Russo-Ukrainian territorial issues unresolved would just destabilize the whole of the region, and it is by no means any step toward peace. Rather, China would be prompted to impose critical pressure on Taiwan and other East Asian nations. In view of this, Former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul of the Obama era, tells explicitly that a half-way peace is an illusion, because Putin is firmly determined to conquer Ukraine by all means, and believes that Russian endurance will prevail over Western guile and technology, as he sees Americans and Europeans are unenthusiastic and divided. It seems to me that his success in the election interference for Brexit and Trump seems to have emboldened him excessively. Therefore, McFaul argues incremental military support to Ukraine does not work, and also, sanctions on Russia should be as coercive as possible (“How to Get a Breakthrough in Ukraine”; Foreign Affairs; January 30, 2023).

Since it is almost impossible to settle a peace agreement through diplomatic talks, we have to explore how should the United States crack down Putin’s bigoted ambition from military perspectives. Regarding the strength and capability of the Russian armed forces, ex-US Army General David Petraeus commented that their exercise prior to the invasion was irrelevant to supposed operation in Ukraine, and they were poorly trained to implement inter-service coordination within their own forces (“What We’ve Learned from the War in Ukraine”; Foreign Policy; January 10, 2023). That implies the failure of Putin’s nation building for decades implicitly, and the Western alliance should consider how to help Ukraine defeat such a dull and inept Goliath Russia. Currently, Ukraine is on the second stage to retake in the east and the south. Though anti-interventionists are skeptical of further military aid to this country, in an interview with CNN, Petraeus evaluates highly of their morale and competence to restore their territory in this war, because Ukrainian soldiers understand the objectives of this war clearly, while it is questionable whether Russian soldiers understand that as they are disproportionately recruited from ethno-sectarian minorities of Dagestan, Buryatia, and Krasnodar. Also, he says that Ukraine has made substantial achievements in recruiting, training, equipping, organizing and employing additional forces, with the support of the US-led Western alliance.

From his comment, we can infer the following points. The opinion poll may show high approval for Putin’s illegitimate invasion, but that is quite unreliable, because most of the Russky do not mind the plight of those ethno-sectarian minorities as long as they manage to live normal life every day. The Russky are not determined to sacrifice their life for their mother land. In addition, the governance in Ukraine can be improved after the war potentially, in view of rapid organizational restructuring of its military in parallel with Western support. Consequently, Petraeus supports Biden’s determination, though he comments that the president should have sent next stage weapons such as tanks and fighter jets much earlier (“Gen. David Petraeus: How the war in Ukraine will end”; CNN; February 14, 2023). It was Britain that provoked Germany and other NATO allies to make up their mind to send tanks to Ukraine. Also, the Sunak administration is the first among trans-Atlantic stakeholders to train Ukrainian pilots for NATO standard fighter jet. Meanwhile, America vacillated whether to boost military aid before Biden’s visit to Kyiv. Remember, General Petraeus defeated terrorists in Iraq through the surge. His viewpoints as a military strategist are combat-proven, which is not the case with Mearsheimer.

Even from MAGA Republicans’ favorite FOX News, ex-Army General Jack Keane argues against isolationism. He is completely at odds with rightwing populist anchorman Tucker Carlson at this TV station. Keane helped Petraeus plan the 2007 surge in Iraq along with Frederick Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War. Regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine, he agrees with Petraeus, mostly. Furthermore, he argues against isolationist obsession with nation building at home. Fiscal conservatives do not tolerate massive but necessary spending for Ukraine, but Keane tells them that a Russian victory in this war would embolden China and Iran. Also, he refutes xenophobic right-wingers who believe that America should care more about the US-Mexican border, rather than the Russo-Ukrainian border. That is because both issues are completely irrelevant each other, and the border control problem at home cannot be resolved through an abandonment of Ukraine (“What would a win in Ukraine look like? Retired Gen. Jack Keane explains.”; Washington Post; March 6, 2023). Like Petraeus, Keane is also a combat-proven military strategist.

As the United States and NATO allies are providing further military aid, there are some issues to be considered in the phase of Ukrainian counteroffensive. The most critical one is whether Putin would resort to nuclear attack on Ukraine, if he saw the war disadvantageous for Russia. Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, points out that the Biden administration has taken effective measures. They told directly to Russia that a use of nuclear weapon would bring fatal consequences, because the Western alliance would resort to further measures on Russia through various economic, diplomatic, cyber, and conventional military responses. Also, China and India would not tolerate a nuclear attack, despite their long friendship with Russia (“Why Hasn’t Putin Used Nuclear Weapons?”; Daily Beast; February 9, 2023). Regarding such sensitive Sino-Russian relations, ex-Ambassador McFaul questions Putin’s deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus, because it contradicts with the joint statement of the Moscow meeting between China and Russia, which denies the use of nuclear weapons in this war. Putin may have broken international promises frequently. Therefore, McFaul argues that the United States drive a wedge between both countries (“Are Putin and Xi as Close as Everyone Assumes?”; McFaul’s World; March 28, 2023). Meanwhile, China exploits Russia’s preoccupation with Ukraine, as President Xi Jinping demanded Russia to rename Russian Far East geographical names into Chinese ones, such as Vladivostok into Haishenwai, for example (“Russia will never recover from this devastating collapse”; Daily Telegraph; 1 April, 2023 or here, and “China Challenges Russia by Restoring Chinese Names of Cities on Their Border”; Kyiv Post; February 26, 2023).

Another issue is strategic value of Crimea. Ex-Commanding General of the US Army Europe and Africa Ben Hodges (Lieutenant General) talks about this repeatedly. Come to think of it, this war has not begun in February 2022, but March 2014. Hodges says that Russia could obstruct Ukrainian export of food from Odesa and Mariupol as long as it occupied Crimea, even if the whole of Donbas were liberated. Also, massive missile launch from there would continue to be a critical threat for Ukraine (“Russia’s Nuclear Weapons More Effective as Propaganda, Retired US Lieutenant General Says”; VOA News; February 1, 2023). Hodges is also a veteran of America’s most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his opinion is combat-proven as well. Quite interestingly, Hodges refers to an article by Professor Rory Finnin of Cambridge University on Twitter, which articulates historical legitimacy of Ukrainian sovereignty in Crimea and other Russian occupied areas in the east and the south.

According to Finnin, Crimea has been persistently plagued with ethnic cleansing, violence, and so forth throughout the Romanov Russian and the Soviet rule in history. Therefore, the majority of the residents preferred to stay in Ukraine before the 2014 invasion. Finnin reviews history since the Crimean Tatar Khanate, which dominated Crimea and neighboring steppeland along the coast of the Black Sea and Azov Sea, before the conquest by Catherine II. In the 19th century, Alexander II Russified this peninsular by sending immigrants from the mainland. After repressive Stalin rule, Prime Minister-then Nikita Khrushchev decided to transfer impoverished Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 (“Why Crimea Is the Key to Peace in Ukraine”; Politico; January 13, 2023). From such backgrounds, if Ukraine retakes Crimea from Russia, historical and cultural implication of it will be insignificant.

Nevertheless, we still need to be cautious of MAGA Republicans, no matter how they are bigoted and poorly aware of international affairs. William Kristol, Director of Defending Democracy Together, mentions repeatedly that the Republican Party today has become too Trumpified, and increasingly America First. Typically, he criticizes a recent article of National Review Online defends cold-blooded and fake realism Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is just a territorial dispute and irrelevant to American national interest (“What Ron DeSantis Got Right in His Ukraine Statement”; National Review Online; March 18, 2023).

Deplorably, DeSantis does not even strike back constant verbal abuses by Trump. It seems that the Florida Governor is afraid of the risk to challenge the former president who has become the standard bearer among MAGA Republicans (“Why Does DeSantis Keep Letting Trump Take Shots at Him?”; Bulwark; March 29,2023) (“Trump widens lead over DeSantis in 2024 GOP presidential nomination showdown: poll”; FOX News; March 22, 2023). Rather than winning the presidential election by himself, DeSantis may think of solidifying his position in the party through assisting Trump as Chris Christie did in the 2016 election. Moreover, MAGA Republicans are so infuriated with recent indictment of Trump by the Manhattan District Attorney of New York County that they deny due process of law in this procedure through agitating the fear of “liberal establishment” (The unhinged GOP defense of Trump is the real ‘test’ for our democracy; Washington Post; March 31, 2023). Such conspiracy theory can easily lead to Lindbergh isolationism, and we must be vigilant how much will those MAGA Republicans obstruct serious foreign policy effort to help Ukraine, in view of the 2024 presidential election.

Those who are skeptical of Western support for Ukraine, including fake realists who actually synchronize with the far right and the far left in the United States, seem to worship Mearsheimer so much. But America is the land of the free, and opinions there are diversified. The keypoint to understand America’s Ukraine policy is to review such diversified opinions beyond partisanship, but focus on highly professional ones. There is no partisan bias in my choice of pundits. Robert Kagan was a foreign policy advisor for presidential candidates of both parties. Michael McFaul was the Ambassador to Russia in the Obama era, and is currently a Senior Fellow at conservative Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Also, pay more attention to combat-proven opinions and analyses. Among some of such ex-generals whom I mentioned, David Petraeus has made unrivalled achievements in the battle field. He is also a renowned scholar of military strategy who received a Ph.D. degree from Princeton University. He is due to publish "Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine" this October, which is coauthored with British historian Andrew Roberts. More importantly, ex-General is completely unbiased against the Biden administration.

John Mearsheimer may be a big name, but I would rather say that a careful observer of American foreign policy should "stop admiring him" for his academic fame. We must think again how much his opinions and analyses represent those among policymakers and the public in America. Most importantly, I wonder why so many experts and people in the media do not take combat-proven viewpoints more seriously to foresee American strategy in Ukraine. This is a war, and there is no prospect of immediate diplomatic negotiation for ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, or Russia and the West.

Monday, February 27, 2023

How should Japan show its political presence at a bilateral meeting with Ukraine?

There is a nation-wide debate about the invitation to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit Ukraine from President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, it is unlikely that Kishida replacement will happen so soon, though the media reported about possible case of it some while ago, due to low approval rate of his cabinet. Then, how should Kishida manage the situation when he visits there?

Japanese opinion leaders are somewhat skeptic of prime minister’s visit to Ukraine. That is from the following reasons. First, some worry that Japan itself would be imposed considerable burden by making a promise to the global community. Also, some points out that the current administration is preoccupied with domestic political schedule including the diet session, and even US President Joseph Biden has not visited Ukraine. Furthermore, Japanese-Ukrainian working-level talks can make progress without face to face meeting of leaders, and if Japanese prime minister were to have a bilateral summit in Ukraine at war, the media could leak sensitive information, because there is no legal framework regarding confidentiality. In such case, it would be difficult to ensure safety of both leaders ("A country without the duty of confidentiality: How can Japanese prime minister visit Ukraine?"; Nippon Broadcasting System; January 28, 2023).

Despite those concerns, symbolic value of face-to-face meeting cannot be dismissed. At present, only Japanese prime minister has not met President Zelensky one on one among G7 leaders. The United States has already sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Ukraine, although President Biden has not visited there yet. In addition, Biden himself met Zelensky in Washington (NB). On the other hand, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is the only Japanese cabinet member who met the Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Poland ("Japan-Ukraine Foreign Ministers' Meeting"; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; April 2, 2022). In view of this, would the global community regard the current administration as passive pacifist like the Kaifu administration during the Gulf War, if Japan did not respond to the request for a bilateral meeting continually? At that time, even though Japan reluctantly paid a huge amount of money for the reconstruction of Kuwait, that gave uncooperative impression to the coalition force.

Then, what should Japan do at a bilateral summit with Ukraine? In policy aspects, it is unlikely that Ukraine expects Japan to fulfill military roles. Actually, when Zelensky delivered a remote speech at Japanese national diet last March, he expressed high expectation to steady engagement with postwar reconstruction, but not military support ("Read The Full Speech by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Japan’s National Diet"; Japan Forward; March 24, 2022). While exploring reconstruction assistance after the war, Japan needs to provide some help for living and safety of Ukrainian people at ongoing war. Among those issues, repairment of infrastructures is urgent as Russia is committing any crime to destroy them without giving any consideration to international humanitarian laws of war, which is indispensable to provide logistics for Ukrainian forces, conserve the route of food export, and maintain living of the people such as utility. Also, Japan has long experience to engage with demining operation in Cambodia, and train Ukrainian staff there under auspices of the JICA ("Strengthening Ukraine's capacity in Humanitarian Demining"; JICA; January 24, 2023). Both countries are expected to cooperate in medical and mental care of war victims, and investigation of Russian war crime. However, it is unlikely that Japan will provide direct military support for Ukraine, and the detail of Japanese aid plan will be discussed after the war.

Besides the above-mentioned policy aspects, we cannot dismiss public diplomacy aspects of a Japanese-Ukrainian direct bilateral meeting. The most critical thing for the Zelensky administration is global public attention to the invasion of Ukraine. If Japan were to have a bilateral summit, it would impress the global community that the Ukrainian crisis beyond geopolitical conflict within the Euro-Atlantic sphere. That is to say, Japan should rather behave as a “good man from somewhere far away”. As with the case of a summit, a joint press conference or a speech would be held on that occasion, and since Japan is a late comer but needs to impress its political presence to the global community, and therefore, it would be a good idea for this country to boost “sympathy and exhilaration” to Ukraine among the global public. It is widely known that Zelensky takes great pains in “display diplomacy”. Successive Japanese administrations focused on practical negotiations at numerous diplomatic summits, but they were poorly aware of sending messages to the global community to boost “sympathy and exhilaration”.

Regarding international “sympathy and exhilaration” to Ukraine, the Global South is still too conscious of the gap between their position and the of the West, and they care their relations with Russia too much. I would like to talk about major powers among them. India should have already known how unreliable Russian defense technology is in its indigenous next generation stealth fighter, which was to be jointly developed with Russia. That is why India cancelled the project. Also, it is contradictory that post-apartheid South Africa tries to maintain friendly relationship with racist Putin administration. Even after the invasion of Ukraine, some Western far right still resonate with Russia behind the curtain. In addition, the Putin administration is in denial of the Holodomor in Ukraine by the old Soviet Union, and this is the same line of racist thought as holocaust denial among Nazi sympathizers. As to Brazil, some worry that this country would take distance from the United States as leftist Lula administration was elected again, but actually, previous rightist Bolsonaro administration was pro-Trump rather than pro-American("Russian Invasion of Ukraine Reveals Incoherence of Jair Bolsonaro’s Foreign Policy; Providence"; March 2, 2022). In other words, pro-Russian Brazil can treat Putin’s propaganda favorably, whether governed by the right or the left. Of course, we cannot make sweeping generalization of the Global South which includes more than some tens of countries, and after all, if the Japanese delegation could boost “sympathy and exhilaration” to the global public, we would be more advantageous in the ongoing war.

Prime Minister Kishida says that he places emphasis on “trust and sympathy” both in domestic and foreign policy. But according to a communication expert, Professor Shoji Azuma of Utah University, he is good at report talk to explain his policies rationally, but not good at rapport talk to appeal for emotional sympathy to listeners ("Why don't PM Kishida's words appeal to the people?"; Jiji Press; October 7, 2022). That is typically the case, when Kishida faced vehement backlash from the public regarding women’s reskilling during maternity leave. In Ukraine, Russian troops impose tragedies on noncombatants from various kind of violence to abduction of school children. Under such circumstances, it is First Lady Olena Zelenska who sends rapport talk messages to the world to appeal for restoration of peaceful life and family bonds as early as possible.

If that is the case, since Japan puts more emphasis on the role in reconstruction than in military support, rather than Kishida himself, his wife Hiroko might be more in fit to deliver a speech to boost “sympathy and exhilaration” along with First Lady Olena, at the bilateral summit. Hiroko graduated from Tokyo Women’s Christian University and she was an executive assistant at Mazda. Judging from her experience, she has sufficient level of fundamental educational background and communication skills. Also, she is fluent in English and has some charming atmosphere. Of course, Hiroko herself may not have deep knowledge and experience in politics and diplomacy, but if she were to stand side by side with Olena for the speech to send a message to appeal for humanity to the global public, she would do the job very well. In that case, Prime Minister Kishida should rather focus on practical discussion at the summit, and watch the Japanese-Ukrainian First Ladies speech from behind, along with President Zelensky.

If the Kishida administration were forced to step down, who would assume the role of sending a message for “sympathy and exhilaration”, which is uniquely suitable for Japan? Talking about ex-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who leads the Kishida replacement campaign, he behaved so unconfidently at the photo-taking session of the G7 Carbis Bay, as if “I do not speak English well, and I feel quite awkward to be in a photo with Americans and Europeans”. Such attitude appears like that of Japanese prime ministers in the 1960s and 70s, and that is almost desperate for the job to send an appealing message around the world. At that time, he appeared completely different person from the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Abe administration who replied calmly to media questions at the press conference. It is reported that Suga will back up Digital Affairs Minister Taro Kono ("Soichiro Tawara: Ex-PM Suga steps toward Kishda replacement --- Considering of backing up Ditgital Affirs Minister Kono"; AERA; February 2, 2023). Kono graduated from Georgetown University, and he has experienced foreign minister and defense minister positions. Of course, he is fluent in English and speaks in a crisp tone in the speech, and furthermore, he is charming enough. But he shows intolerant attitude occasionally to those who have different views on Twitter behind his outspoken manner, which makes his credential questionable whether he really sympathizes with war victims and people socially weak in Ukraine. After all, whoever is chosen to send Japan’s message globally, every candidate has his or her advantages and disadvantages.

There may be some hurdles for a bilateral meeting such as secrecy, safety, schedule, etc, but it not favorable that only Japan has not had the summit yet. It is possible to hold the meeting in the third country, other than Ukraine and Japan. As to the meeting schedule, it is preferable to be held before G7 Hiroshima, if possible. “Display diplomacy” is a part of hybrid warfare, and if we made every effort to form a global public opinion for our victory, it would be helpful to crack down Russian ambition of destroying the world order. That would be also helpful to check China that exhibits its ambition of taking global hegemony. The discussion on bilateral summit in Japan is liable to focus exclusively on practical working level, and poorly aware of “display” aspects. Both countries need to consider thoroughly how the Japanese-Ukrainian summit should be held.

NB: Biden visited Kyiv on February 20, 2023, after the original article was published on February 8.

Monday, January 30, 2023

International Affairs Surrounding the JEF of Britain and Northern Europe

I would like to explain the JEF (Joint Expeditionary Force) that I mentioned in the 2nd paragraph from the bottom in the post of this blog on November 7, and to tell how it is related to various international problems, notably ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. As cited in the post, this is a multilateral coalition of Scandinavian and Baltic nations led by Britain. Currently, the following counties join the coalition.

Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden

First, let me talk about the genesis of the JEF. Originally, Britain had the JRRF (Joint Rapid Reaction Force) , which was composed the three services of its armed forces, and the troop was sent in response to emergencies such as the Sierra Leone Civil War in 2000 and the conflict in North Macedonia in 2001. However, since the 9-11 terrorist attacks onward, Britain had been forced to spare military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq disproportionately, and therefore, it had become quite difficult for this country to meet the requirement for a rapid response troop by itself. In view of this, former Commander of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), based on advices by HM Army General David Richards ("Speech by General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff"; RUSI; 17 December, 2012), multilateral coalition force was founded in parallel with NATO Wales Summit in 2014. That is the JEF ("The UK Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF)"; IFS Insights; May 2018).

It can be said that the foundation of the JEF is an actual implementation of Britain’s strategy to “boost the tilt to the Indo Pacific, while augmenting presence in the Euro Atlantic region” ("Global Britain in a Competitive Age"; March 2021). Then, what sort of organization the JEF is? It is a multilateral coalition force to respond to the emergency in Northern Europe and the High North, ie, from Greenland to the Barents Sea national border region between Norway and Russia. Along with its own missions, the JEF can collaborate with international organizations such as the United Nations and NATO, and each sovereign state like the United States, France, Germany, etc, to defend its operational areas ("Ready to Respond: What is JEF?"; Strategic Command; 11 May 2021). The distinctive feature of this coalition is that its troop is organized on ad hoc basis by countries that can manage the situation on specific occasion to meet the requirements for rapid response, rather than unanimous approval and participation of all the members. This March, Prime Minister-then Boris Johnson boasted that the JEF was the most rapid to respond to the expansion of threat to Scandinavia and the Baltic area from Russian invaded Ukraine ("The Joint Expeditionary Force: Global Britain in Northern Europe?"; CSIS Commentary; March 25, 2022).

Incidentally, since the operational areas of the JEF are Scandinavia, the Baltic, and High North, it is necessary to watch whether independence campaigns of Scotland would pose negative impacts on military cooperation among Britain, Northern Europe, and Baltic nations, as it is located at the center of the above regions. The British Supreme Court rejected the bid by the Scottish government for judicial procedure to hold a referendum for independence without approval of the British parliament, on November 23 ("Blow for Scottish nationalists as UK court rejects independence vote bid"; Reuters News; November 24, 2022). Above all, could Scotland govern a sovereign the state on its own, even if it won independence and joined the EU successfully? The incumbent Sturgeon administration implements quite a high level of welfare policy such as providing period products for all the women for free. That requires strong foundation of the economy, but there is not so much value-added industry in Scotland today. It is too wishful to pursue such a highly developed welfare state, while dependent on the primary industry.

In England, the are some world class IT industry bases such as Cambridge, but not in Scotland. Also, most of the Britain’s aerospace businesses are based in England. Under such circumstances, it is British defense industry that brings value-added business there, and particularly, the Royal Navy creates demand for high-tech warships in the ship building industry, in which Scotland is strong traditionally. If First Minister Nicola Sturgeon really were to materialize her ideal of welfare state, she should be well aware of economic relations with the United Kingdom.

Britain and Scotland are in win-win relations on defense, too. Since the Cold War era, Russian threat comes from the Murmansk area via air and sea. Against such threats from the north, Britain has been checking them with its navy and air force, in cooperation with NATO allies. Particularly, Scotland is strategically important in those missions. Among numerous military bases, Clyde naval base in Faslane is favorable to keep confidentiality of nuclear submarines thanks to complex terrain, and the US navy and air force also have their bases in Scotland. Does Sturgeon believe that their autonomous state can manage Russian threats without being defended by Britain and America? It does not make any sense for Scotland to bring uncertainty to the JEF.

However, more critical international problem that needs attention in relation to ongoing Ukrainian crisis is that Sweden and Finland apply for NATO membership while Turkey insists on reserving the approval of the bid because both countries protect asylum seekers who are designated terrorists in the Turkish homeland. Britain and Scandinavian nations have been in deep-rooted friendship since the old EFTA era, which is also a background component of recent foundation of the JEF. On the other hand, Anglo-Turkish relations have been close, because both countries have been EU outsiders each other. Britain’s bids for EEC membership were rejected twice by De Gaulle’s France, and though this country finally managed to join the Community in 1973, it dragged the progress of further integration of Europe frequently. Meanwhile, successive administrations of Turkey have made efforts to join the EU, but that has not been accomplished yet. Prior to an agreement with the EU, Turkey concluded the bilateral trade deal with Britain in December, 2020. Also in military cooperation, Turkey receives technological assistance from Britain in its next generation fighter jet project.

Currently, Turkey provides Ukraine with Bayraktar TB2 as a NATO member country, and launched corvettes for the Ukrainian navy in October last year, which were ordered in 2020 ("Turkey Launches 326-Foot Warship For Ukraine, Won’t Arrive Until 2024"; The War Zone; October 3, 2022). At the United Nations, Turkey votes consistently for denouncement and sanctions on Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, this country impresses its political presence to the world by intermediating Russia and Ukraine to settle a grain export deal. Turkey can assume such a role due to deep economic relations with both Russia and Ukraine in construction and tourism, wheat import, and fruit export. Furthermore, Turkey is a leading exporter of pasta and flour with wheat import from both countries ("Turkey not to suffer shortage in grains: Ministry"; Hurriyet Daily News; February 26, 2022). In view of this, would Britain fulfill some role along with the United States, the NATO leader, considering its vital strategic relations with both Turkey and the two Scandinavian nations? As mentioned in the explanation about the JEF in this post, Sweden and Finland are no longer neutral, but deeply associated with the Western alliance. NATO expansion is intended to bolster the alliance furthermore, and it is also a vital issue to envision the world order after the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Both international and Japanese media may not report about British military organization frequently. However, its international relations are beyond Britain and its neighbors. Since the Anglo-Japanese defense cooperation is deepening these days, we have to pay more attention to British national security.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The ANC’s pro-Russian Diplomacy is a Sheer Betrayal to Their Fellow Blacks in the West

TrumPutin: The axis of racists between Russia and the Western far right

Despite unprecedented confrontation with the West since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia keeps close relations with African nations, and nearly half of them have abstained from denouncing and imposing sanctions on the Russian aggression at UN General Assemblies. Among them, South Africa is a critical focus because ruling ANC makes a fatal and completely self-defeating mistake, as they maintain friendly relationship with Russia, even though this country is the worst racist regime in the world under the Putin administration.

The ANC is wrong and self-defeating to pursue pro-Russian diplomacy, ideologically. We all know that this party had fought against apartheid for decades until the end of the Cold War. Their fellow blacks in Europe and America showed strong solidarity with their anti-racism struggle. However, as if they had forgotten their long history of resistance, current ANC is befriending racist Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. This is an innocent betrayal to those who supported their effort for multi-racial democracy, because Russian President Vladimir Putin is the most notorious sponsor for the far right in the West to weaken liberal democracy, which led to Russian election interferences for Brexit and the Trump presidency. Even after the worldwide shock of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some of those rightwing populists still resonate with Putin in order to propagate their aversion to socio-cultural diversity associated with globalization and devotion to White Christian nationalism. The party that advocates racial egalitarianism should never forget murky ties between Russia and Western racists.

Deplorably, the ANC betrays them unconciously.

Those pro-Russian right-wingers earn a horrible reputation in the United States. MAGA Republicans claim that America disengage from the conflict with Russia over Ukraine in the name of a “small government” ideal. Such right-wingers in the House are Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG), Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Maddison Cawthorn, etc. In addition, former Trump administration officials, including ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, ex-White House Advisor Peter Navarro, and ex-Senior Councilor to the President Steve Bannon justify Putin’s aggression of Ukraine, as if they spoke on behalf of the Kremlin. Some of those extremists ridiculously regard Volodymyr Zelensky as “a globalist puppet for Soros and the Clintons.” Above all, Donald Trump himself praised Putin a genius when he invaded Ukraine (“Meet the pro-Putin Republicans and conservatives”; Republican Accountability Project). There is nothing Reaganite in their national security visions.

Also in Europe, some far right politicians still show pro-Putin posture, even though their countries face more direct threat of Russia than their fellows in America. After the Italian general election this September, newly-elected Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni from neo-fascist Brothers of Italy have overturned her position regarding Russia, but her right-wing colleagues in the cabinet such as Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi still remain pro-Putin (“Putin’s Friends? The Complex Balance Inside Italy’s Far-Right Government Coalition”; IFRI; November 28, 2022). Russia was also behind the German far right coup attempt led by Heinrich XIII this December. One of the suspects was approaching Russia on behalf of Heinrich (“Germany arrests 25 accused of plotting coup”; BBC News; 7 December, 2022). Pro-Russian demagogues and arsonists are found in the right wing media as well. Tucker Carlson of FOX News tells his TV audiences to take sides with Russia over Ukraine. Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage of GB News speaks more discreetly to support Russia indirectly by propagating skepticism about Zelensky’s competence to govern the nation.

The list of those Western far right on both sides of the Atlantic is filled with creepy and scary people. Why should a party of black empowerment associate with the axis of “TrumPutin” racists? Remember, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed wholehearted sympathy to white nationalists in the United States this April, as he blamed “anti-white aggressions” (“Russia Warns of Anti-White 'Aggression' in U.S.”; Moscow Times; April 1, 2021). Actually, it is not just racism, anti-feminism, and anti-LGBT values that the Kremlin and the Western far right is in agreement. Putin’s Russia and Western racists share much more deeply fundamental values, which is called nationalist democracy by Israeli rightist historian Yoram Hazony, and sovereign democracy by former Russian Presidential Advisor Vladislav Surkov. That is an ideology totally in denial of the universal value of liberal democracy, and strongly nativist and anti-modernist. Those “TrumPutin” racists detest enlightenment and globalism, both of which are strongly endorsed by the Western establishment.

Furthermore, Putin’s aggression of Ukraine has also revealed domestic racism his country. The casualty rate of soldiers of ethnic minorities such as Mongolian Buryats and Caucasus Muslim Daghestanis is much higher than that of Russians (“Young, poor and from minorities: the Russian troops killed in Ukraine”; France 24; 17 May, 2022). More critically, I suspect that Putin’s interpretation and implementation of the Russky Mir notion reflects his racist vision of the world. In the well-known article “On Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, he expresses deep-rooted grudge against Western superiority in the post-Cold War international politics and sheer disrespect to Ukrainian culture and history to deny their independence and sovereignty. With such contemptuous attitude, there is no wonder why the Russian troops have committed so many crimes in Ukraine, including rape, burgling, torture, murder, and any other kind of violence. Appallingly, Putin awarded a prize to those shameless rapists of Bucha (“Putin honors brigade accused of war crimes in Bucha”; Washington Post; April 19, 2022).

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the ANC owed significantly to Soviet help in the past in their struggle against apartheid. As in the United States, racial equality activists had almost no choice but leaning to the left. Their alignment with the communist super power was a natural option in those days, but that was too provocative for both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, in view of the Soviet-Cuban presence in Angola and Mozambique. Fortunately, the party leader Nelson Mandela proved that he could be in partnership with the West and white South Africans to develop multi-racial democracy, and won support from the global community. After all, the Soviet regime had collapsed, but the ANC leaders still seem to feel emotional and nostalgic ties with Russia.

It seems that Africans share the same kind of sentimentalism with Japanese. Typically speaking, late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pursued his father Shintaro’s unfinished job to settle the peace treaty with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by having the Norther Territories returned. Abe sought to develop economic cooperation with post-Communist Russia. However, his wishful dream ended in failure, because he dismissed ruthless nature of Putin’s rule of power. Putin is not Gorbachev. From the current Kremlin’s point of view, Japan is just a subordinate ally of the United States, and Russia does not have to return the territory in consideration of economic cooperation. The problem is not just reciprocity. Ideologically, the old Soviet Union and current Russia are completely at odds, as the former sponsored communists worldwide while the latter sponsors far right racists in the West. Therefore, it does not make sense that the ANC still regards Putin’s Russia as their friend. Like Abe, they see Russia very illusionally. Think again. America and Israel were on very friendly terms with Iran ruled by modernist Shah, but both countries shall never treat current Shia theocracy of this country as such. A different regime makes a totally different country.

Rather than befriending Russia, the ANC is in a good position to denounce Putin’s nuclear blackmail racism. His Russky Mir essay shows an implicit sense of Russian superiority to Ukrainians, and it is such disdainful thinking that makes him so cruel to the enemy whether Chechnyans, Syrians, or Ukrainians. Without Western deterrence, he would not mind mass murder against any enemies who deny his Russky Mir values. To the contrary, South Africa is the only sovereign state that has abolished nuclear weapons by itself, while autocracies in the Global South such as Iran and North Korea commit nuclear proliferation. Remember, both of them help Putin’s savage invasion of Ukraine. Why should a party of multi-racial democracy make friends with the axis of racists, anti-globalists, and anti-enlightenment, which is primarily constituted of Putin’s Russia and Western far right?

Deplorably, most of the media do not criticize tremendous contradictions associated with the ANC’s unconscious betrayal to racial egalitarians around the world. It is no use to report their historical relations with the Soviet Russia so “sympathetically”. Putin’s Russia no longer upholds the value, “Workers of the world, unite!” In the name of traditionalism, his Russia provokes racist unrest in the West.

Among African nations, South Africa draws my attention from the following reasons. This country is located in a position to link the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific area, which is quite important in the 21st century geostrategy. Also, the prospect of multi-racial democracy in this country is a global attention. In addition, this country belongs to the Anglo-Saxon politico-cultural sphere, since it was founded as a white dominion of the British Empire historically. Therefore, South Africa stimulates my interest, as my main focuses are the United States and Britain. And therefore, I would like to call an attention from the media and academics around the world to review fatal contradictions of pro-Russian diplomacy of the ANC more critically.