Transparency and China’s Military Build-up

Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro as the dinner speaker

Wednesday, 8 April at 19:00 – 22:0030775

Naval and Military Club

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speaker will be Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro from Georgetown University, who will speak about the Chinese military spending and issues of transparency at the Naval and Military Club on the 8th of April. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.

Despite the current optimism underlying the recent China-Japan-Korea trilateral meeting in Seoul this month, it is clear that there are deep systemic fissures in Northeast Asia, pushing the area towards open competition. One of the oft-repeated reasons for the growing tensions has been double digit growth in Chinese defense spending over the past 20 years and the lack of transparency in that spending. Dr. Mastro will speak on why Beijing’s strategic culture leads directly to this opaqueness and what impact it’s having on the wider region.

Who:         Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro

When:       19:00 April 8th, 2015

Where:      The Naval and Military Club (the “In&Out”)

As always, diners are picked on a first-come, first-served basis and come from academia, the media, and the foreign and security policy community. Diners pay for their own meal, and we all pay collectively for the Speaker’s dinner. Please also note that there is a dress code at the Club which diners are expected to adhere to. As is the usual custom, all remarks are off the record and discussion occurs in an equanimous atmosphere: diners disagree with each other without being disagreeable.

Speaker’s Biography

Orgiana Skylar Mastro is an assistant professor of security studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University where her research focuses on Chinese military and security policy, Asia Pacific security issues, war termination, and coercive diplomacy. She is also in the US Air Force Reserve, for which she works as a reserve Air Attache for the Asia Pacific region. Dr. Mastro has worked in the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), RAND Corporation, and US PACOM. She holds a BA in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and an MA and PhD in politics from Princeton University.

She speaks Chinese.


The Long-Term Impact of Japan’s Hostage Crisis

International Relations and Security Network, March 19, 2015
Flag of Japan, courtesy of  Luc De Leeuw

The recent murder of Japanese hostages by ISIS has renewed debates about the country’s role in the world. The event has 1) strengthened the country’s resolve to ‘normalize’ itself, 2) illustrated the weaknesses of the pacifist Left, and 3) highlighted Shinzo Abe’s dependency on ‘Kantei Diplomacy’.

The kidnapping, attempted ransoming, and murder of two Japanese hostages by ISIS in Syria this January led to an intense debate in Tokyo and in the bureaucratic corridors of power in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo’s version of Whitehall. There have since been a number of attempts to understand the significance of the event for Japanese security and foreign policy-making. The conclusions, however, seem clear: first, the security policy that supposedly ‘set off’ the hostage crisis is not a recent phenomenon, and trying to frame the event as the immediate result of Abe’s nationalist or so-called militaristic agenda is simply wrong. Second, the crisis has seen a long-term shift to the right in Japanese domestic politics that has all but neutered the once-strong pacifist-oriented left. Third, and finally, the crisis showed that Kantei Diplomacy is alive and well, and that, although the fledgling National Security Council has added to the growing strength of executive power, it was unable to play a large role in the crisis due to a lack of intelligence-gathering capabilities.

A long policy trajectory

For those who would pin the blame for the crisis on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his recent shift towards a nationalist agenda, the reality is that Abe is simply the latest in a line of LDP figures who have pulled Japan out of the Yoshida Doctrine – Japan’s Cold War policy of economic neo-mercantilism – bringing it closer to the US and into a more global posture. While the taking of the hostages was directly linked to Abe’s commitment of $200 million in non-military aid to the fight against ISIS, the policy direction it represented long preceded his tenure in office. In fact, Japan’s foreign policy shift towards the Middle East dates back to the early 2000’s. In the days following the September 11th attacks, when most global leaders were still trying to comprehend the import of what had taken place, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged Japan’s full support to the United States. He was among the first to do so, along with NATO’s Secretary General Lord Robertson and the UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair. With Koizumi’s personal blessing, the Japanese government passed legislation that allowed Japanese forces to lend logistical support to maritime forces around Afghanistan and to commit the proverbial ‘boots on the ground’ in Samawah Province, Iraq, where Japan’s SDF would carry out reconstruction work. At that time, another Japanese citizen – Shosei Koda – was beheaded by Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2004.

There are many inside and outside Japan who believe that this policy direction sets a dangerous precedent. After all, as the 70th anniversary of the Second World War approaches, many in the region still remember the atrocities committed by Japanese troops and see the changes as a return to militarism. This is far from the case, however, as Japan’s shift has been driven by regional insecurity rather than nationalism or expansionism (though nationalism has been a personal motivation for Abe and those close to him). In fact, two of Japan’s harshest critics over this ‘normalization’, North Korea and China, have themselves built two of the region’s largest military forces, with China doubling its defence spending since 2008 and now spending more than four times as much as Japan. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China, fostered since the early 1990s, has also been utilized by Beijing to justify its salami-slicing expansionism towards Japan’s southwestern maritime corridor. As a result of this, LDP leaders have hewed closer to the United States and sought greater inter-operability with its and other allied forces, including those of Australia, NATO and South Korea. To some extent, Japan’s nationalists have also benefitted politically from this Chinese creeping expansion. While a number of senior bureaucrats and members of the LDP see this ‘normalization’ in nationalist terms, this may represent a ‘peak’, with some anticipating a return to liberal internationalism post-Abe.

The weakness of the left

The second result of the hostage crisis was to highlight the gradual loss of power and influence in Tokyo’s policy-making sphere of Japan’s pacifist left. This long-term decline has occurred for a number of reasons. The first is linked to the above-mentioned changes in Japan’s immediate region. Many say that the 2010 Fishing Boat crisis in the Senkaku Islands fostered a shift in Japanese public opinion, after Beijing was perceived to have acted heavy-handedly towards Japan over the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain who rammed a Japanese Coast Guard cutter in Japanese waters. The belief that Chinese military power has grown may have led to more domestic support for Abe, though it is true that his election campaign was fought over the economy first and foremost.

Another more straight-forward reason that Japan’s pacifist left is weakening is that many of its members and constituents are simply growing old. Historically, the movement was the strongest immediately after the Second World War, when Japan’s devastated cities were a visible reminder of the case for peace. As Richard Lloyd Perry – a long–term resident in Japan and the London Times Asia Editor – remarked, “one inescapable fact of the weakening of the pacifist left is that many are simply dying out. You can also see it in the ages represented at the rallies.“ These rallies are increasingly marked by low attendance rates, with an April 2014 gathering attracting only 3,000 people . On the other hand, a poll conducted by the left-of-centre Asahi Shimbun newspaper indicated that 64% of Japanese citizens remain opposed to re-interpreting the Constitution, indicating their reluctance to completely abandon the status quo. That said, the Japanese public was initially skeptical of its first forays into peacekeeping in the 1990s, and polls have shown that support has only grown.

The strength of ‘Team Abe’

Third and finally, the crisis was marked by strong leadership by the Prime Minister and his aides. Indeed, Abe was aware that the hostages had been taken when he committed aid to the fight against ISIS, showing remarkable determination and confidence. That confidence is down to Abe himself, but it is also the result of having a strong team in place. ‘Team Abe,’ as it might be called, has benefitted significantly from ‘Kantei Diplomacy’, or the rise of the office of Prime Minister and the cabinet secretariat in a landscape traditionally dominated by the bureaucracy and by political parties. First used by a Japanese academic, Tomohito Shinoda, in his book on the subjectKantei Diplomacy has seen the powers of the Prime Minister and the size of his team increase. This larger secretariat – which can provide expert advice independently of the ministries – has enabled the Prime Minister to draft legislation and to manage crises more confidently. While the three DPJ Prime Ministers who followed Koizumi were ultimately unable to harness the power of the Kantei, Abe has been more successful in doing so, largely through his choice of key bureaucrats and politicians in positions of power around him. For instance, many in the bureaucracy believe that choosing LDP strongman Yoshihide Suga as cabinet secretary has been key to Abe’s success. Because Suga does not want the premiership, Abe has been able to entrust his deputy with considerable power. This has enabled the no-nonsense Suga to manage and discipline the bureaucracy quite effectively, often by reassigning recalcitrant bureaucrats to less glamorous posts. Abe has also managed to harness the power of the MOD and MOFA by filling the National Security Council from among their ranks. Shotaro Yachi and Nobutsuke Kanehara are two senior NSC staff members from MOFA, while the MOD has been represented by Nobushige Takamizawa.

Overall, the hostage crisis revealed a Japanese leadership more willing to take risks in the field of security policy and more hardened to changing domestic fortunes. While the death of the two journalists was a shock for the Japanese public, the Prime Minister’s foreign policy agenda was not widely blamed. Indeed, as one diplomat stated, it is as if everyone came out of the crisis more convinced of the rightfulness of its direction. This has included the pacifist wing (though they seem to have little influence on decision-making). Finally, it must be said that while the Prime Minister was able to handle the crisis from within the cabinet, it is notable that the National Security Council did not play a large role during the 18 day crisis. Most of the action took place in the basement of the Kantei, as the NSC’s inability to provide raw intelligence prevented it from being the locus of activity. Doubtless, the creation of a unified framework for Japan’s intelligence community, safely regulated as behooves a liberal democracy, is the next step in Japan’s evolution towards normal statehood.

 


The Future of UK-Japan Defense Ties

Junichi Nishiyama, Director of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies as the dinner speakerJunichiNishiyama201211-277x300

Thursday, 19 March at 19:00 – 22:00

Naval and Military Club

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speaker will be Junichi Nishiyama, who will speak about current trends in the UK-Japan defense relationship, while touching upon possible future cooperation in defense industry and space technology. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.

The relationship between the UK and Japan has begun to grow rather quickly over the past 10 years, and the recent 2+2 (foreign and defense ministers meeting) in London this January saw a number of future defense and security agreements made. Among these include defense cooperation in industry, cyber and space.

Of these, the latter has quickly grown in importance as a facet of national security. Meanwhile, there has been a steady decline in UK defense research and development, coupled with decreased defense spending. The combination has meant that the UK must do more with less, and this requires it to reach out to defense partners across the globe, who reflect its values and commitment to human rights. Japan fits the bill, having remained at peace for nearly 60 years. Similarly, Japan faces a broad range of challenges in the Asia Pacific, including continued North Korean bellicosity and growing Chinese military power. For that reason, Japan defense industry has begun to reach out for foreign partners, as Japanese political leaders lean more and more towards the West as a means of hedging their threats.

Who:          Junichi Nishiyama

When:        19:00-22:00, 19 March, 2015

Where:        The Naval and Military Club (map)

Please note that dinners are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Please also note that there is a dress code at the Club and diners are expected to adhere to that.

All remarks and discussion taking place after the initial speech are off-the-record and not-for-attribution, so as to further the warm and informal nature of the dinners. Should you wish to book seats or have any other questions, please let John Hemmings know immediately by emailing him at j.hemmings1@lse.ac.uk

Speaker’s Biography

Mr. Nishiyama is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Future Engineering, a Director at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a senior adviser to the Lower House of the Japanese Diet on technology. He began his career at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in 1971, and has worked on missile systems development, the Patriot System, and Ballistic Missile Defense as an engineer. He became a General Manager of the Guided Weapons Department in 1998, and Deputy General Manager of the Aerospace Headquarters in 2004. In 2011, he became a senior advisor to MHI and since then worked in and around policy-making in the think tank community, working and speaking with AFCEA, CSIS, JFSS, among others.

Mr. Nishiyama continues to give advice to a number of senior politicians within the LDP on space technology, among other areas of research.


Japan-UK Ties and the Quiet Revolution in Japanese Foreign Policy

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International Relations and Security Network, February 7, 2015

On 21 January 2015, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Gen Nakatani met with their UK counterparts, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michal Fallon in London at what was the first UK-Japan Foreign and Defence Ministerial. The meeting – known as a 2+2 – was remarkable for two reasons. The first was Tokyo’s commitment to an ambitious program of policy cooperation with London. The second was the realization in Whitehall that Japan’s approach towards security has fundamentally changed. While the Western press and policy community have written much on Japan’s changing security stance, and even more about the man behind those changes –Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – there has been less consideration of the implications for British and European security. Overall, the January meeting raised important questions about the nature of Japan’s new security posture. As Japan pivots away from the ‘neo-mercantilist’ policies it pursued during the Cold War, it is increasingly embracing the principles of liberal internationalism in its foreign policy. This makes Japan a highly appealing security partner for Britain and Europe.

A quiet revolution

Until recently, Japan was seen as a ‘pacifist’ country: its leadership disdained geopolitics and seemingly had few ambitions to wield hard power or enter into security relationships beyond its primary relationship with the United States. In a strategy that became known as the Yoshida Doctrine, the country focused on being a ‘neo-mercantilist’ power that remained uninvolved in Cold War flashpoints. Over time, however, this policy stance became a victim of its own success. Though Washington was bound to defend Japan, it received little by way of burden-sharing or regional security cooperation in return. Tensions grew during the 1980’s when many in the West – such as Paul Kennedy and Ezra Vogel – predicted that Japan would overtake the US as the world’s largest economy. Washington believed that Japan was free-riding on US defence spending and shirking its commitments to the alliance.

Were Prime Minister Yoshida alive today, he would barely recognize Japan’s growing global security posture. While Japanese security cooperation with the UK remains less extensive than with other US allies, such as Australia and South Korea, the January meeting was nevertheless impressive in scope. For one, it resulted in aJoint Statementand Annex whereby the two countries pledged to continue cooperating on issues ranging from disarmament and non-proliferation to maritime security and anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. They also acknowledged growing bilateral cooperation in the space and cyber realms, and looked forward to signing an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). This would allow for military-to-military servicing and repair, and would provide the foundation for joint military operations. In addition, the UK acknowledged and supported Japan’s growing cooperation with NATO and the EU, noting that JSDF vessels have been participating in Operation Ocean Shield alongside the EU Naval Force. The core of the meeting, however, was the launch of a number of joint-defence equipment and technology projects, including an air-to-air missile and chemical protective gear, and discussion of the possibility of exporting Japan’s P-1 maritime patrol aircraft to the UK.

Seen from Europe, Japan’s behavior might be explained as realpolitik. After all, Japan has had a front row seat as China has re-emerged as a great power and rapidly built a modern and highly capable military. While China’s economy experienced double-digit growth for more than a decade, Japan’s once-mighty economy stagnated. In 2010, China’s economy surpassed Japan’s in aggregate terms. Certainly, some would argue that Japan’s outreach is merely a way of enticing Europe to become more involved in East Asia. There is some truth to this. Japanese political elites and foreign policy bureaucrats have watched Chinese assertiveness on its periphery with mounting concern over the past decade. Indeed, one Japanese official called the 2010 clash over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands ‘a wake-up call’. Continued North Korean belligerence and its acquisition of nuclear weapons have also sharpened Japan’s concerns about regional security.

But Japan’s outreach to other regions is about more than narrow self-interest. European policy-makers should be aware that the quiet revolution in Japanese foreign policy has internal drivers as well. Japan is in the midst of a serious identity shift, comparable to that which followed the Meiji restoration or the growth of militarism in the 1930s. In the process, it has come to realize that distant regional and global issues directly affect Japan, and that it can no longer expect the West –namely Washington – to ensure its security while it focuses on amassing economic power. Despite criticism of his historical revisionism, Prime Minister Abe seems determined to retain the moral aspect of Japan’s pacifist identity. In Japanese, his foreign policy is referred to as sekkyokuteki heiwashugi(積極的平和主義), which literally means ‘active pacifism.’ In English, this becomes ‘active contributor to peace.’

From neo-mercantilism to liberal internationalism

Abe’s foreign policy outlook, while admittedly fed by Japanese conservatism and nationalism, mixes Japan’s pacifist identity with a strong strand of liberal multilateralism. Nobukatsu Kanehara, one of Abe’s closest foreign policy advisors and a current Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, is the clearest of these voices. He and other members of Abe’s inner circle – such as Shotaro Yachi (Chairman of the NSC) and Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobushige Takamizawa – have been the most active in promoting this new outlook. As they see it, Japan’s challenge is not to oppose or contain China as a rising power – as many in Beijing believe – but to guide China through its ‘bullish’ phase and teach it how to become a responsible, rule-abiding power. Time and time again, Abe and his team have based their foreign policy outlook on liberal democratic values. Odd though it may sound, this marks a clear break from the past: neo-mercantile Japan positively avoided value- based policies during the Cold War, with postwar Prime Minister and Yoshida-Doctrine-adherent Miyazawa Kiichi going so far as to say that Japan’s foreign policy was, in fact, “a pretense of a foreign policy” and that “the only value judgments we can make are determining what is in Japan’s interest.”

This shift is one that European policy-makers would do well to heed. Though it hardly guarantees that Japanese forces will be joining their British counterparts in future military engagements, it does mean that Japan will no longer watch from the sidelines. Tokyo has become an active defender – with hard power, if necessary – of the liberal international order. In practice, European and Japanese security communities are on the verge of a significant increase in security cooperation on issues ranging from ISIS, to Russian revanchism in the Crimea, to evolving space and cyber security challenges. Even with a defence spending cap far below European states (hovering just above 1%), Japan maintains one of the largest and most modern military forces in the world and has much to offer in terms of defence technology. Furthermore, it is likely that its defence spending will rise in the years to come.

Japan’s quest for security over the past two decades has led it to abandon the narrow mercantilism it once trumpeted. Situated in a dynamic region with not one but two rising powers – China and India – Tokyo has come to realize that it can no longer passively accept regional security guarantees from others. In coming to this realization, it has developed active and willing partnerships with Canberra and Delhi, among others. Moreover, Japan has begun to ask a question that it has avoided for nearly six decades, i.e., what is Japan’s moral role as an international actor? Though far from answered, the fact that an answer is now being attempted should be welcome news for Europe. While Japan’s militarism is still remembered by many in Asia, it has unquestionably become a positive contributor to international stability. With its heavy lift capabilities, its large naval force, and growing cyber capacities, Japan has become an increasingly useful partner for the UK, for NATO, and for other EU states. In a world beset by challenges – including economic ones – Japan now offers a capable and welcome hand.


Understanding the US Pivot: Past, Present, and Future

RUSI Newsbrief, 26 November, 2014

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With the resurrection of Russian revanchism on Europe’s Eastern borders and the near-collapse of the Iraqi and Kurdish states under the onslaught of ISIS, it seems as though the American pivot to Asia may be over before it has begun. Certainly, America’s ‘first Pacific President’, as he has been described, has found it more difficult than anticipated to end America’s wars in the Middle East and swing the country’s focus towards the Asia-Pacific.

The Obama administration’s ‘pivot’ to Asia was created during the re-election campaign by a group of the president’s closest advisors, with personal input by the president himself. Initiated with the prediction that Asia would become the centre of the global economy by 2050, by the belief that the US’s political absence had been bad for regional security, and by the notion that the US had become bogged down for too long in unwinnable wars in the Middle East. Emerging as a term to describe the US’s new Asia policy, a key assumption was that despite the challenges posed to the West by Islamists non-state actors and terrorist groups like Al-Qa’ida, these threats were manageable and the true focus of the US should instead be on Asia. The need for the US to shift its diplomatic, economic and defence resources to the region was perceived as especially urgent with the rise of Chinese regional power and influence, and China’s apparent inclination to exercise its burgeoning military power in territorial spats with its neighbours. The fact that these spats affected sea lanes vital to the US and its allies meant that their peaceful resolution was of direct concern to Washington. While these circumstances continue to exist, however, it is clear that growing insecurity in Europe and the Middle East mean that the US and its allies will now have to co-ordinate a much more holistic global strategy for the future.

In the three years since the pivot was unveiled, the policy has been much criticised, much maligned, and some would argue, much misunderstood. This is perhaps because it challenges a number of assumptions inherent to the ‘pre-pivot’ world. First, it challenges the notion that Europe is the global centre of gravity; second, it challenges the notion that the Middle East should be Washington’s overriding security priority; and third, it implicitly challenges the assumption that China will become the region’s lead power. At home, its domestic critics claim that the policy represents mere Democratic posturing, representing – at best – a simple repackaging of various Bush-era policies, including the trilaterals – a unique set of quasi-alliances with Japan, Australia, South Korea and India established between 2002 and 2010 – closer ties with Tokyo, and capability-building among Southeast Asian states. Why claim that the US would return to Asia, they puzzled, when it had actually never left.

Asian critics of the pivot also emerged, viewing the policy as overly-antagonistic toward China, and likely to fuel great-power rivalry, which might force regional states into an unwanted binary choice. Oddly, this saw the same Southeast Asian states that had back-channelled requests for greater US presence in the region voice disquiet as the policy was rolled out, fearing a Chinese backlash. This was not long in coming, as Chinese officials and media blasted the policy as a euphemism for containment – one they claimed rested on a Cold War, balance-of-power logic. Despite the administration’s insistence that this was not the case, the charge became a handy weapon for Beijing to keep Washington on a back foot as President Obama and others toured the region in April.

In Europe, understanding of the policy was even less apparent. Many US allies viewed the shift with alarm, and despite Hillary Clinton’s claim that the US could ‘walk and chew gum at the same time’, there was a concern that the prioritisation of Asia was at Europe’s expense.

Indeed, the ‘pivot’ represented an unfortunate choice of nomenclature as it implied that the US only had one face, and like a player on a basketball court, would pivot either in one direction or another in order to move up court. This debate caused led to an unfortunate dumbing down of the actual issues behind the policy, and one that led to increased misrepresentations of overall US global strategy.

Attempts to correct this definitional issue foundered in light of the fact that President Obama personally liked the term, leaving American diplomats floundering between the use of ‘pivot’ and ‘rebalancing’. In some ways, the debate came to resemble that which had clouded China’s 2003 ‘Peaceful Rise’ policy, in which China’s efforts to reassure the region backfired when many observed the balance of power connotations in the term ‘rise’. Obama administration officials at the coal face of the policy, such as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, worked hard to get the debate back on track by focusing on substantive issues and de-emphasing the policy name on his visits around the region. However, by 2012, the fiscal climate in Washington had begun to deteriorate, sowing new suspicion that Washington could ill-afford the new policy.

The sequestration in 2013 and ensuing budget cuts to the Department of Defense (hitting the Navy particularly hard) have led some, like Senator John McCain, to question the administration’s ability to fund the policy, despite its insistence that such funding was ring-fenced. At a defence industrial event in March 2014, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland told the audience that ‘the pivot is being looked at again, because candidly, it can’t happen’. Within hours of her remarks, McFarland sought to withdraw them, contacting Navy Times, which was due to publish her comments, with a correction. The unfortunate back-and-forth served only to heighten the gathering suspcioun both within Washington and in the Pacific region that the administration will be unable to follow through on its intentions.

And yet, despite its fiscal challenges, the Obama administration maintains that its efforts in the Asia-Pacific will continue, and despite naysayers, has demonstrated its commitment to the pivot through a major political and military outreach programme. This has included an increase in presidential visits to the region – Obama having carried out more than any other sitting president – significant changes to the country’s defence posture in-region, with new deployments to Australia and Singapore, and an increased American presence in regional fora such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit (EAS). On top of that, it has sought – with limited success so far – to re-energise its economic relationship with the region through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

However, despite all of this, perhaps critics of the pivot are right in one way: US attention to the region cannot come at the expense of others. As the economies of the Asia-Pacific grow, for example, so too do their dependence on Middle Eastern energy supplies, linking the security of the two regions. The US will therefore have to adopt a more holistic approach to its global strategy and continue trying to co-ordinate with its allies to establish what each can do, and where they can best do it. The pivot to Asia cannot leave behind security of the Middle East, when so many of its Asian and European allies depend on the region for their energy supplies.

US allies in Europe and in Asia can play a constructive role in developing and implementing this linked-up strategy, as a loose bloc to defend and augment the current rules-based order. Indeed, there have already been some nascent signs of this as allies in the Asia-Pacific have become more integrated into NATO missions in the Middle East and the Gulf of Eden, and in Brussels. There have also been signs of European allies integrating politically with Asian powers. Further institutionalised co-operation between these states and NATO is a good way forward, also helping to build up capacity in key target areas, like cyber-security and maritime security. This has already begun – on a limited capacity – between key US allies like the UK, Australia, and Japan.

Those European allies pushing for the US to recommit to Europe will also have to put their own houses in order and recommit to NATO spending targets, despite the recession. The fact that last year the US accounted for more than 73 per cent of all NATO defence spending (up from 68 per cent in 2007), is a sorry state of affairs that simply cannot continue. The US simply cannot carry the weight of all of its allies.

European allies will also have to acknowledge Asia’s importance in US global strategy; after all, Asia – as the future centre of the global economy – is becoming more important to them too. As such, in addition to taking on more stepping up in Eastern Europe and in the Mediterranean, they should help to free up those US assets that are needed in Asia. They can also adopt a more co-ordinated approach towards defence exports to China – one more in line with a broader Western strategy. Meanwhile, another little acknowledged facet of China’s build-up has been its use of European military technology, acquired in civilian joint ventures with firms like Eurocopter, Agusta Westland and Pratt & Whitney. The US should not have to deal with advanced European systems in its bid to maintain stability and a balance of power.

Finally, US strategy in the Asia Pacific region must continue to try to manage the Thucydidean trap presented by China’s rise by careful hedging, combining political engagement with hard balancing. Whether referred to as a pivot, rebalance or something else entirely, Washington must pursue policies that strengthen its Asian allies, including new models of security co-operation, while also trying to deter China from military revanchism. If one compares this period to the 1930s, when Western liberal democracies and the League of Nations were in disarray, one might see that the cards are stacked more in the Western power’s favour. Unlike in that period, the US is fully and proactively committed to the defence of global stability, and its allies – though in financial straits – are co-ordinated and committed to the same. Going forward, this generation must not repeat the mistakes of the past and lose sight of the need to defend the current rules-based order


Shinzo Abe’s Balancing Act with Russia

International Relations and Security Network, 30 October, 2014

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Japan and Russia have been engaged in a diplomatic cat-and-mouse game for many years now. The latest round of events saw Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet briefly on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan, with the two agreeing to continue their discussions at the APEC Summit in November. For both men, however, the stakes of this game are rising. Japan needs to diversify its energy supplies following the post-Fukushima nuclear shut-down, and building an energy relationship with Moscow would offset growing Chinese dominance of the continent. For Russia, the stakes are equally high: Putin shares Abe’s desire to balance against growing Chinese continental strength and wants to carry out his own ‘pivot’ to East Asia and the Arctic. He aims to do this through a combination of smart diplomacy with powers like Vietnam and Japan, and by shifting Russia’s energy focus from the stagnant European market to the growing Asian one. He also plans to economically develop Russia’s East and gradually restore its military power in the region. But despite these high stakes and compatible interests, closer ties between the two countries remain hobbled by uncertainly over one issue in particular: the future of the disputed Kuril Islands. Tokyo would like to regain its lost “Northern Territories,” seized by Stalin immediately after the Second World War, but it is unclear whether Moscow is willing to make a deal.

Foreign policy matches

By any account, Putin’s foreign policy has been in shambles since last year’s successful chemical weapons deal protecting the Assad regime. Since then, Russia has become increasingly isolated and marginalized diplomatically, first over anti-homosexual legislation, and then over Ukraine. The unexpected fall of key ally Victor Yanukovych in the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution precipitated a conflict on his doorstep and provoked an impulsive decision to secure Russian naval interests in the Crimea by force. The decision to annex the Crimea, while popular at home, has come at a great price, wiping out decades of good-will in Europe and the United States. Putin, however, does not seem to mind Russia’s isolation, which puts him in good company with the Japanese Prime Minister. Under Abe’s leadership, Japan has become similarly isolated in Northeast Asia, where Abe’s nationalist leanings have offended the Koreas, China, and even the US. Despite long-standing institutional closeness within the US-Japan alliance, Abe’s nationalism has caused some frostiness between him and the White House, with his decision to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrinelast year drawing a rare rebuke from Washington.

Until a few years ago, discussions between Moscow and Tokyo were dominated by the territorial issue and by a long-discussed proposal for a gas-pipeline or LNG deal to supply Japanese and South Korean energy needs. These two states are the two largest LNG importers, and would represent a sizable catch for Putin if he can land them. James Byrne, an energy consultant at the Tokyo-based Mathyos Energy states: “Faced with declining demand in Europe, Russia and Gazprom must break into new markets in China, Japan and South Korea. The recent pipeline deal with China forms the backbone of a much larger planned far-eastern supply network that includes an LNG plant that would supply Japan. Also under consideration is a large-diameter gas pipeline.” According to Interfax, as Putin was pushing through the agreement to annex the Crimea through the Russian parliament, Igor Sechin – a Rosneft official close to Putin – was simultaneously in Tokyo offering Japan sizable concessions at a Russia-Japan Investment Forum, saying that Russia was “prepared to offer the most extensive opportunities for cooperating in meeting potential demand” as well as offset opportunities in shipbuilding.

Despite the domestic debate in Japan over the energy deal and concerns about crossing Washington over Crimea, Abe sees the current situation as an opportunity to gain concessions. On the one hand, he has followed the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow and promised US$1.5 billion in aid to the new Ukraine government. But, on the other, he met with Putin five times in the 18 months prior to Ukraine and initiated a2+2 meeting (featuring the defense and foreign ministers of both countries). If he can sweeten the pipeline negotiations with a deal on the islands, he will make his mark on Japanese politics as a historical leader: after all, the issue has become a perennial one for Japanese Prime Ministers, with Hatoyama, Kan, Aso and now Abe all pushing to be the man who brings the islands back into the fold.

The Great Game: Northeast Asian style

Close observers of Abe have noted that the Japanese Prime Minister is interested in more than just energy and the islands. Indeed, he has a far more complex foreign policy towards Moscow than previous Japanese leaders, which contains a personal element: his father Shintaro Abe was instrumental in improving Russo-Japanese ties in the early 1990s and had a close relationship with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. As his father’s secretary and aide, Abe’s formative political years were spent working on ties with Russia. Because of this relationship, Abe sees the bilateral with Moscow as crucial in the growing geopolitical contest for Northeast Asia. In April 2013, he met Putin in Moscow and signed a memorandum of cooperation on a number of different projects, including joint development of the Magadan oil and gas field under the Sea of Okhotsk, an agreement for Rosneft to sell 1 million metric tons of LNG annually to SODECO, 1.25 million metric tons to Marubeni, and to establish a joint LNG plant in Vladivostok.

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the US$400 billion deal between Moscow and Beijing in May of this year, a deal that shook energy markets. Although the dealpromises to bring down LNG prices across Asia, the formation of a Sino-Russian bloc would be a disaster for Japan, given its close proximity to the borders of both. It has territorial disputes with both states, and cannot risk having them coordinate their efforts.

What would you give for an island?

It is difficult to know whether Moscow would be willing to make a deal on the island. Putin has offered a compromise in which Russia would keep two of the larger islands and give two of the smaller ones to Japan, but no Japanese leader has favored such a deal. Instead, many inside Kasumigaseki – Japan’s equivalent of Whitehall – believe that Russia’s estrangement from the West bodes well for Japan’s chances of regaining all four islands. Despite Abe’s careful maneuvering, however, it is not clear what President Putin intends to do. On the one hand, Putin needs Japanese investment, technology and energy cooperation; on the other, he knows that Japan needs to buy his LNG as much as he needs to sell it. Talk of an American shale revolution exporting to the Asia market has yet to materialize, and Japan needs energy in the meantime. Putin is also keen to fight Washington’s efforts to isolate him. A deal with Japan, a close American ally, would drive a wedge between the two and serve his East Asian foreign policy push.

But while many argue that Putin is a pragmatist before he is a nationalist, he may still be unwilling to give up Russian territory for two reasons in particular: first, the mood of the country is against it, and second – in a real twist of fate – many of the 30,000 inhabitants of the islands emigrated from the Ukraine during the Cold War. Moving them forcibly would present him with grave domestic challenges, to say the least. As it stands, Russia has already carried out a US$630 million policy of investment into the islands, and expanded its military presence there. Russia, therefore, may continue to dangle the islands in front of Japan, and Japan will continue to play for them. Although neither country quite believes in a deal, neither is quite willing to give one up. It will be interesting to see how this odd game of cat and mouse plays out.


The Islamic State and the Future of Iraq

Rear Admiral Christopher Parry as the dinner speakerchris-parry_hi_def__2__Homepage Box

Tuesday, 21 October at 19:00 – 22:00

Naval and Military Club

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speaker will be Rear Admiral Christopher Parry, who will speak about the Islamic State (IS) at the Naval and Military Club on the 21st of October. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered. The Islamic State, also known interchangeably as ISIL or ISIS, is an organization which has created headlines worldwide for its radical take on Islamic doctrine and, especially also, for its barbaric means of achieving its goal to exercise political control over Muslim-inhabited regions in the Middle East and beyond. A U.S. military intervention was launched in September 2014 with subsequent support from regional and international allies, to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ the group. To date, international efforts have been unable to deter, much less destroy, IS or diminish its appeal amongst radicalized communities regionally and internationally.

The status quo prompts a range of questions: Which combination of factors led to the formation of IS? Will Western-led military intervention help or hinder further radicalization of the group? Which strategic specificities are essential to heighten prospects of military success and minimize mission creep? How to intercept the war-economy that sustains IS? Which security threats (material and normative) does IS pose for the West, including its non-radical Muslim community? What does the future of the Iraqi state(s) look like? Such questions are necessarily interlinked and equally crucial to understanding the complexity of Islamic State, and implications of the group’s existence for international security, economy as well as issues related to faith.

Who:          Rear Admiral Christopher Parry CBE

When:        19:00-22:00, 21 October, 2014

Where:        The Naval and Military Club (map)

Please note that dinners are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Please also note that there is a dress code at the Club and diners are expected to adhere to that.

All remarks and discussion taking place after the initial speech are off-the-record and not-for-attribution, so as to further the warm and informal nature of the dinners. Should you wish to book seats or have any other questions, please let Magdalena Delgado know immediately by emailing her at m.c.delgado@lse.ac.uk.

Speaker’s Biography

After reading Modern History at Jesus College Oxford, Chris Parry spent 36 enjoyable, rewarding years in the Royal Navy as an aviator and warfare officer.  He also had five Joint appointments with responsibility for operational and developmental issues relating to all three Services.

As well as sailing every sea, he experienced regular operational tours and combat operations in Northern Ireland, the Gulf and the Falklands, where he was mentioned in despatches for his part in rescuing 16 SAS from a glacier in South Georgia and the detection and disabling of the submarine SANTA FE.  As a Rear Admiral, he was responsible for determining the future strategic context for operations and leading the conceptual development of all three armed forces out to 2030.

Nowadays, he runs his own strategic forecasting company, advising governments, leading commercial companies and banks about strategic issues, high-level leadership and systemic risk.  A regular broadcaster and commentator in UK national newspapers and magazines, he is an active author, most recently the best selling ‘Down South – a Falklands War Diary’, published in February 2012 and ‘Sea Power in the 21stCentury’, published in May 2014.

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