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.