Sunday, February 28, 2010

Publication in the Policy Review of the Global Forum Japan

The Global Forum Japan, a Japanese think tank that hosted the Japan-Black Sea Area Dialogue mentioned in a previous post, sent me a notification that my commentary to their policy discussion board called “Giron Hyakushutu”, will be published in their policy review in April.

I feel very honored that my commentary was chosen among those contributed to “Giron Hyakushutu” by Japan’s eminent politicians, bureaucrats, academicians, and commentators.

As shown in those links (1 and 2), I insist that Japan should explore much more assertive foreign policy in the Black Sea-Caspian-Middle East area in close partnership with the United States and Europe, based on historical ties with Turkey and Iran as both nations pursued modernization modeled after the Meiji Revolution.

I am delighted to hear the news of publication this time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Obama=Carter?: A Review of FP Cover Story

The cover story of the January/February issue of Foreign Policy is a comparison between the 44th President Barack Obama and the 39th President Jimmy Carter by Walter Russell Mead, Henry Kissinger Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (“The Carter Syndrome”; Foreign Policy; January/February. 2010). Conservative civic groups have been mocking Obama as Carter Ⅱ since his inauguration. But this time, a prestigious journal like Foreign Policy talks about similarities between Obama and Carter. Please see the photo below.


Since the one year anniversary of Obama presidency in January, American media and think tanks discuss pros and cons on his leadership. As mentioned in a previous post this January, challenges to Obama have risen from conservatives at home. Grassroots conservatives launch the Tea Party Movement against state controlled health care system. On national security, Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized Obama’s counterterrorist measures too weak in the debate with current Vice President Joseph Biden (“Cheney criticizes Obama on national security policy, and Biden fires back”; Washington Post; February 15, 2010).

Despite rapid fall of domestic approval rate, President Obama is very popular abroad. A substantial number of global citizens are so naïve as to exalt Obama, simply because he is the first black president of the United States (Alas, choosing the president based on affirmative action?). However, a Princeton student Christiana Renfro says, “The President should stop focusing on maintaining his popularity as an end in and of itself and start making substantive policy decisions even if they disappoint some members of the international community” (“A Paradoxical Burden: Obama’s Popularity Abroad”; American Foreign Policy: Princeton Student Editorial on Global Politics; February 15, 2010).

In the article to Foreign Policy, Mead classifies diplomacy of US presidents into four patterns as the following (Party affiliation is just a general tendency.).

Hamiltonian: Republican moderate
Strong government and strong military; promote business inertest; realist

Wilsonian: Centrists
Strong government and strong military; promote democracy and human rights

Jeffersonian: Democrat left
Isolationist; small military

Jacksonian: Republican right
Grassroots conservative; detest Hamiltonian business links, Wilsonian do-gooding, and Jeffersonian weakness

A Jeffersonian Barack Obama emerged as an antithesis to his predecessor George W. Bush who is a Jacksonian nationalist and a Wilsonian interventionist. Obama believes that the United States can live with bad regimes, and refrain from overseas commitment to concentrate its resources on domestic reform. However, Mead says as the following.

Jeffersonian policy of restraint and withdrawal requires cooperation from many other countries, but the prospect of a lower American profile may make others less, rather than more, willing to help the United States.

He is right. None of the challengers or adversaries is conciliatory to the United States. Jeffersonian foreign policy worked in the past, because America could free ride on the British world order. Also, the Obama administration needs Wilsonian approaches to promote political reforms in Afghanistan and Pakistan, endorse Dalai Lama, and so forth. Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, raises serious concerns that Western appeasement to the Kremlin discourages Russian reformists (“The Kremlin Kowtow”; Foreign Policy; January 5, 2009). Obama needs to reconsider his approaches to the Medvedev-Putin administration. Domestic opponents criticize Obama foreign policy too coward.

A mis-combination Jeffersonian and Wolsonian approaches will make Obama another Carter. Mead concludes that Obama needs to strike a delicate balance to deal with challenger and adversary states, the War on Terror, and antipathy to American intervention. The Foreign Policy article by Walter Russell Mead is highly recommendable to understand historical context of Barack Obama’s diplomacy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

LSE Questionnaire on China

The London School of Economics will launch the 5th LSE Asia Forum in Beijing on March 26 this year. Themed “China and the World: the Challenges of Change”, the Forum will bring together leading LSE academics, policymakers and business leaders to debate key challenges facing China and the world.

Prior to the event, the LSE conducts this survey. Please take this questionnaire through this link, even if you are neither alumni nor faculty members.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Japanese Defense at Crossroads over the Futenma US Base Problem

The other day, Hidemi Nagao requested me to write a post on the Futemna base issue, as he is critically concerned with deterioration of US-Japanese relations and growing threat posed to Japan by China and North Korea. In a previous post, I introduced his book, entitled “Eternal Japan-US Alliance” on this blog.

Living in Japan, I am well aware of significant effects of this dispute on Japanese foreign and national security policy. However, the primary focus of this blog is US foreign policy and the world order. Therefore, I have been writing posts on Atlantic, Eurasian, and Middle Eastern affairs, which diverted my attention from the US-Japanese military base problem. It is quite symbolic that President Barack Obama is hardly in touch with this issue, while it stirs up a nationwide controversy in Japan, from leading politicians to the public.

In order to understand basic facts about the Futenma problem, see this link. At first, the Hatoyama administration tried to overturn this deal, and move US troops out of Japan such as Guam and Saipan. Though cabinet members found it difficult, leftist ministers like Mizuho Fukushima, still push for transferring Futenma forces out of Okinawa.

Yoshiko Sakurai, a pro-American nationalist columnist, comments some dark sides of this dispute in her article to a conservative journal widely read among Japanese middle class businessmen. She warns that the result of the mayoral election in Nago city of Okinawa on January 24 will pose a critical challenge to the Hatoyama administration, because a leftist candidate Susumu Inamine was elected. Inamine insists that current plan to move the US marine base from Futenma to Nago be suspended, and those US military facilities get out of Okinawa. Sakurai is critically concerned that Inamine will be aligned with Mayor Nagateru Ohhama of Ishigaki city, another leftist in Okinawa to block the US-Japanese negotiation. Far left politicians and activists launch huge scale protest rallies to the visit of US navy ships in Okinawa. Meanwhile, the threat of China around this area is growing as shown in the case of Chinese submarine intrusion into Japanese territorial water on November 10, 2004. Sakurai criticizes those leftists for ruining Japanese national security. Furthermore, she denounces that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is obsessed with his slogan of “fraternity”, and his appeasement to left wing protestors delays to implement the US-Japanese Okinawa base deal (“Japan Renaissance, No. 397”; Shukan Shincho; February 4, 2010). Mayor Ohhama will run for the mayoral election on February 28.

According to Hidemi Nagao, Shimoji airport in Miyakojima city is very close to Taiwan, and it was one of the candidate sites to transfer US forces in Futenma, before both US and Japanese sides agreed to select Nago. Moreover, he proposes that Japanese Air Self Defense Forces build their bases at Shimoji, along with US troops.

Retired General Yasuhiro Morino, Former Chief Commander of North Eastern Army of the Japanese Ground Force, explored how much Japanese security would be endangered, in case of Sino-American and Sino-Taiwanese military conflicts. Morino, who currently runs his own think tank called Morino Military Institute, argues that southern Okinawa is the frontline of the clash among the United States, China, and Taiwan, and policymakers in Tokyo must be more alert to the rapid growth of Chinese threat in the East China Sea area (“Dreadful impacts of Sino-Taiwanese conflicts on Kyushu and Okinawa: A Simulation by a Self Defense Force Veteran”; Sunday Mainichi; June 11, 2000).

China is not the only problem in North East Asia. Sung-Yoon Lee, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, warns that North Korea will fall into turmoil after the death of ailing Kim Jong Il. He says that possible Chinese military intervention will trigger further tension across the Far East, and the Obama administration is not prepared for this highly likely crisis ("Life After Kim"; Foreign Policy; February 2010).

Considering these security challenges, the Hatoyama administration is too conciliatory to leftists and local protestors. People in Okinawa may feel some burden as 75% of US forces in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. However, people in other area accept burden, according to their local specialties. This is a division of roles to make Japan safe and prosperous. People in Tokyo accept the burden of rush hours, and people in Fukui accept the burden of nuclear power plants.

Quite interestingly, an American diplomat in Tokyo hardly tells serious concern with the Futenma issue, as he thinks that US forces can stay in Okinawa, whether Futenma, Nago, or even Shimoji. In my view, the American side is so optimistic, because the current deal is a product of long time negotiations and they believe no Japanese leaders can overturn it. It is asymmetrical while Japanese leaders from ruling to opposition parties are preoccupied with this issue, the United States sends just senior State Department officials, and neither President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joseph Biden are involved in the Futenma negotiations.

On the other hand, I was impressed that Europeans mentioned keen interests in this issue at the Japan-Black Sea Area Dialogue. NATO nations have the same problem as Japan does, regarding US military bases. Things are not just Asia-Pacific, but global.

Finally, I would like to remind Japanese policy makers and the public that lukewarm appeasement to leftists and local protestors will undermine Japanese security in the Asia Pacific region, and erode the trust to Japan among Western democracies. Therefore, US troops must stay in Okinawa.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Post Election Ukraine in Turmoil as Expected

Prior to the presidential election in Ukraine, Sergei Molchanov at the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal of Canada warned that Ukraine would fall into turmoil after the election whoever wins (“Ukraine: Elections or Emergency Rule?”; Global Research; February 1, 2010). Things are going as he said.

It is a week since the election, but Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko still rejects to concede her opponent Viktor Yanukovich. Tymoshenko insists that over one million fraud votes had led Yanukovich to win this election. While Tymoshenko tells her supporters not to appeal for demonstrations on the street, she is exploring another Orange protest against Yanukovich. She says that some election monitors of the OSCE will support her at the court(”Premier Says Fraud Tainted Ukraine Vote”; New York Times; February 13, 2010).

Meanwhile, European monitors praised fair election, and American and European leaders, including US President Barack Obama, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and EU President Herman Van Rompuy, congratulated the winner Yanukovich. As Rasmussen says, they explore strategic partnership with Russia and former Soviet republics, rather than “overstretching” to the east (“NATO, EU follow U.S., welcome Ukraine's Yanukovich”; Washington Post; February 12, 2010).

Nevertheless, Tymoshenko still claims fraud votes in this election. Previously, I quoted a commentary by Mark Medish, Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on this blog. Ukraine is a patchwork nation, lacking of political cohesion. Ethnic and regional divide is one of the reasons for messy disputes after the election. Also, Ukraine dos not have sufficient history as a sovereign nation state.

Let me review the article by Molchanov to understand the post-election confusion. Quoting a nationalist blogger’s comment, “I vote for Tymoshenko in the hope that either she wins and a pro-Russian criminal will not become our President or she loses by a minimal margin and take the case to court if not start fighting. Then the current President will have to disqualify both candidates and impose an emergency rule to avoid bloodshed”, Molchanov foresees two scenarios. The first is the introduction of emergency rule as Tymoshenko does not accept Yanukovich’s victory in the election. The second is uprising by Ukrainian nationalists and ethnic minorities like Cremian Tatars to support the coalition of outgoing President Yushchenko and unconceding Tymoshenko. I think that a destabilized Ukraine may lead to further clash between Russia and the West, which will ruin the Obama-Rasmussen initiatives for engagement.

Yanukovich said that his administration would admit Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to stay at Sevastpol base beyond 2017 withdrawal timetable signed under the Yushchenko administration (“Yanukovich says ready for Russian fleet, gas deals”; Reuters; February 13, 2010). Ukrainian nationalists will protest vehemently against continual Russian military presence in Ukrainian territory. Also, tensions between US bases in Romania and Bulgaria and Russian bases in Ukraine could be intensified.

Even if Tymoshenko concedes, it will be quite hard to soothe Ukrainian nationalists around Kiev and north western regions. Therefore, careful observation is necessary.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

NATO Should Engage with Challengers and Rising Powers?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fough Rasmussen said that NATO develop strategic partnership with Russia, China, India, and Afghan neighbors furthermore, at the Munich Security Conference (German link here) on February 7. Secretary General Rasmussen emphasized multilateral cooperation to defeat terrorists in Afghanistan. However, Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian state Duma, expressed skepticism to the West (“Nato calls for more global partners”; Financial Times; February 8, 2010).

Although the Munich Conference is just an unofficial forum on global security among leaders of major stakeholder nations, it is noteworthy that NATO Secretary General proposed strategic cooperation beyond nation-state rivalries. As the Prime Minister of Denmark, Rasmussen was in close ties with President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He was one of the leading proponents for the Iraq War. Such a conservative is appealing for common security initiatives with Russia and China, regardless of political regimes and values.

In addition to Afghanistan, Rasmussen says “NATO should become the global forum with other nations on a host of security issues extending from terrorism, cyber attacks, nuclear proliferation, piracy, climate change and competition for natural resources.” However, the Kremlin has become increasingly suspicious of the West since the Georgian conflict in 2008 (“NATO should be global security forum: Rasmussen”; Washington Post; February 7, 2010).

Even though President Barack Obama showed conciliatory attitude to Russia during his visit to Moscow last July, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved a new military doctrine which indentifies NATO expansion as a threat and reaffirmed the right to use nuclear weapons unilaterally (“Russia names NATO expansion as national threat”; Reuters; February 5, 2010). Kremlin leaders see Ukraine and Georgia their sphere of influence, but NATO Secretary General Rasmussen refutes such state to state antagonism (“Russian doctrine does not reflect real world: NATO”; Reuters; February 6, 2010). The Russo-Western gaps are hard to be filled. On Twitter, while Rasmussen says NATO is no enemy to Russia (“AndersFoghR”; Twitter; February 6, 2010), Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin asks “Americans and their allies want to surround Russian bear's den? (“Rogozin”; Twitter; February 10, 2010)”

The dispute over US interceptor missiles in Romania against Iranian nuclear threats poses another critical problem to the Russo-Western relations (“Russia condemns US move to put missiles in Romania”; Daily Telegraph; 7 February, 2010). When the Obama administration withdrew the missile plan in Poland and Czech, the United States was to build alternative sites in the south, closer to intercept Iranian missiles. The Kremlin is more concerned with geopolitical zero-sum games with the West than nuclear non-proliferation across the globe.

In a rapidly globalizing world, the concept of security may change, and transnational endeavors are required. However, we should remember that the chasm between Western democracy and Russo-Chinese autocracy is growing, and this is the reason why Robert Kagan talks of intensified nation state clashes in his book, “The Return of History”.

As seen in the operation in Afghanistan, NATO is globalizing, and it needs new partners. It is right that NATO explore strategic partnership with Afghan neighbors such as India and Pakistan. As I mentioned before on this blog, NATO is developing ties with Asia-Pacific democracies, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. I have no doubt that NATO can cooperate with them to manage transnational threats extending from terrorism, cyber attacks, nuclear proliferation, piracy, climate change and competition for natural resources, beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.

The problem is, can NATO build trustful relations with Russia and China, though radical nationalism is rampant in both countries? Has the sovereign state rivalries really ended? The idea cited by NATO Secretary General Rasmussen and supported by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, sounds too Kantian. The Munich Conference shows that the reality of word politics remains savage and Hobbesian.

Further reference:
NATO’s New Strategic Concept

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

At the Third Japan-Black Sea Dialogue

As I mentioned before, I attended the third Japan-Black Sea Dialogue at the International House of Japan, which was hosted by the Global Forum of Japan with the help of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Embassy, Bulgarian Embassy, and the Wider Europe Research Center at the University of Shizuoka.

At the beginning of this event, President Kenichi Ito at the Global Forum of Japan mentioned common policy agendas between Japan and Black Sea nations, ie, the global financial crisis and the Russo-Western conflicts. Secretary General Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and Director General Yasuaki Tanizaki of European Affairs Bureau at Japanese foreign Affairs Ministry outlined the importance of the Black Sea area in security and the economy of the world. The Black Sea area is located at the crossroads among Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. It is a cradle of ancient civilizations, such as Scythia, Thrace, Anatolia, and Greek colonists.

As for Japan’s role in this region, the focus tends to be those on economic and development cooperation such as infrastructure building and so forth. Director General Mithat Rende of Economic Affairs Bureau at Turkish Foreign Ministry mentioned Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada’s visit to Turkey from January 3 to 4 to commemorate “2010 Year of Japan in Turkey” as a breakthrough in Turkish-Japanese relations.

Since the Black Sea region is a frontline of the Russo-Western conflict and a route of energy resource, multilateral interaction cannot be dismissed to talk about Japanese diplomacy in this area. BSEC nations possess the second largest reserve in oil and gas after the Middle East. Particularly, Russia and Azerbaijan are major producers. Regarding the oil and gas trade and geopolitical rivalries, China is supposed to pose significant influences as it does in Africa. However, it is not clear how China gets involved in the energy dispute and geopolitical interactions.

Quite interestingly, comparisons of EU and ASEAN regional integration were discussed, and explored how BSEC integration should proceed. While the EU is a common political value club, ASEAN is more focused on economic cooperation within the region. In case of BSEC, the Russo-Western tug war in the former Soviet Union makes things complex.

In security, Europe and Japan share many agendas in common as democratic allies of the United States. Issues like US military bases are one of them, in view of the Futenma dispute between Okinawa residents and US armed forces. As Romania and Bulgaria joined NATO, the United States has military facilities close at hand Russia. However, Former Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Pascu, currently Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, points out that those facilities jointly used with Romania and Bulgaria, not exclusively by the United States. Thus, he says that things are completely different from the Futenma case in Japan.

Toward more multilateral approach to this region, I am impressed with a comment by Director Atsushi Kaifu of Central and South Eastern Europe Division of European Affairs Bureau at Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He mentioned the New Silk Road Speech by Prime Minister-then Ryutaro Hashimoto and the Arch of Peace and Prosperity Speech by Foreign Minister-then Taro Aso as breakthroughs for Japanese commitment to global security and well-being. The latter speech sounds something like echoing foreign policy of George W. Bush. In a journal jointly published by the Institute for Central Asian and Caucasian Studies in Sweden and the Institute of Strategic Studies of the Caucasus in Azerbaijan, Gursel Ismailzada, Counselor of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Japan, presents an extensive analysis on the Aso Speech (“A New Pillar of Japanese Foreign Policy: The Arc of Freedom and Prosperity—Japanese Policy toward the GUAM Organization”; CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS Journal of Social and Political Studies; No. 3-4 (51-52), 2008).

I appreciate Aso’s speech much more than current Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s controversial East Asian initiative, because I firmly believe that Japan be at the heart of the Western alliance of free nations along with the United States, Britain, Germany, and France. Japan should be a member of the anchor of world peace and prosperity, constituted of top industrialized democracies. Through this “best and brightest” club, Japan will augment its political presence on the global stage.

As Kaifu advocated more active Japanese involvement beyond the neighborhood, I wish he had talked furthermore. Generally, people see Japan and the Black Sea area has been remote each other, and new relationships are currently being built. However, I strongly disagree to such a viewpoint. In my eyes, it appears that policymakers are obsessed with “Scandinavian” roles for Japan, ie, economic and development assistance. I would argue that Japan also pursue “Anglo-American” liberal imperialist roles, such as commitment to the War on Terror and a regime change.

I firmly believe that Japan has a historical role in the Black Sea, the Middle East, and the Caspian Sea area. Most notably, Turkey under Kemal Ataturk and Iran under Reza Shah Ⅰ followed Japan’s path for modernization in the Meiji Revolution. Japan can help de-Islamification of Turkey, and endorse Turkish membership for the EU. This will be an invaluable contribution to defeat Islamic radicals in the War on Terror. In addition, as a top industrialized democracy, Japan should actively get involved with governance reform in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union to help eastward expansion of the alliance of free nations.

The Japan-Black Sea Dialogue was a great opportunity to understand Japanese diplomacy and interactions among global powers in this region. I really appreciate the Global Forum of Japan for inviting me to this event. It is a pity that I cannot mention so many valuable views and insights presented by the panelists in this post.