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.