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Risky Business: Keeping an Eye on Chinese Investment

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Politico.eu, 26 July, 2017

If money talks, Chinese money is particularly loud these days. In the past five years, Chinese investment abroad — largely dominated by the country’s giant state-owned enterprises — has tripled. Today, China accounts for nearly 10 percent of global foreign direct investment outflow.

In an era of austerity, influxes of investment are often appreciated. But not all Chinese money receives a warm welcome — as evidenced by Germany’s recent decision to limit investment into its strategic infrastructure. This is especially true when it comes to granting China access to Western infrastructure and sensitive telecoms and high-tech companies.

Western countries are right to pay careful attention to what Chinese companies do with their money. The trouble, however, is there is no agreed-upon standard for determining when an investment poses a security risk — and no coordination even among the closest Western allies in deciding which investments should be blocked. As Chinese money continues to flow westward, the future of European and North American security could depend on governments in those regions coming up with a common policy on where that money can be spent.

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Is America Still the Anchor of European Defense?

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The National Interest, 23 February 2017

The recent Munich Security Conference once again highlighted the difference between Americans and Europeans on security matters. Unfortunately for the West, many European leaders—and even some American ones—took the opportunity to grandstand about the new American president. While it is true that the U.S. leader presents internal challenges to Western cohesion, this grandstanding ignored the very real external structural threats to the Western alliance. Those threats are really threefold: first, there is the inability of western Europe to safeguard its own border; second, there is Europe’s inability to defend its easternmost member states; and third, there is China’s ongoing effort to take control of a main artery of Europe-Asia trade in the South China Sea.

If Donald Trump and his parochial America First vision for the world present one internal threat to the cohesion of the West, then certainly the second internal threat—by no means unrelated—is that of European passivity in global affairs and a propensity to see the global order as an American construct. This is simply wrong, and ignores western Europe’s long history in creating and defending the rules-based system—including its crucial role in creating international law, the UN and NATO itself. Despite this, more and more European elites speak of China’s challenge to the American order, which neatly obviates their responsibility for its defense. While it’s true that European passivity has not precluded much diplomatic activity, over Iran, over Syria and even over Ukraine, it should be noted that power is a mixture of hard and soft power. One cannot forfeit one without forfeiting the other.

The origins and nature of European passivity are, to some, a matter of academic debate. However, whatever their feelings for the current president, the fact is that he has the ability to defend the Baltics and Poland from Russia, and they do not. This single fact says everything that is wrong with Europe at the moment. Quibbling over the NATO 2 percent rule, one forgets that the real argument is about capability. Is German able to retain troops or take care of its equipment adequately? Can France airlift its troops abroad when it wishes? Can any of the big three drop munitions on an enemy for more than one or two weeks? Can Luxembourg—a wealthy banking state paying a shoddy 0.44 percent—patrol its own airspace? Do any of the European states have the C4ISR to even carry out a modern air war? European protestations about how much they spend on development aid, institutions and refugees are merely “what about” arguments, and do not answer the core criticism about capability.

The simple fact of the matter is that if Russia decided to retake the Baltic states—states it has historic claims to and has indeed invaded in the past—Western Europe’s great powers would be unable to do anything about it. Equipped with three-quarters of a million troops, more tanks than any other nation and the world’s third-largest air force, Russia has one of the largest militaries on the planet. But it has also spent large amounts modernizing that military, so that it outnumbers Europe not only in quantity, but also in quality. In this context, aid and institutions are meaningless. Even diplomacy, with a determined enough opponent, would be meaningless without being backed by military might. Peace comes through strength, so the adage goes, not through passivity.

Europeans who are shocked by the Trump’s administration’s transactional approach toward NATO should take note that the trend began under the Obama administration, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates castigating Europe in a final speech in 2011. In an address to a think tank in Brussels, he stated, “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress—and in the American body politic writ large—to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources . . . to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” Given those sentiments, Gates could have predicted a Trump-like figure coming to power in the American polity. This makes German leader Angela Merkel’s reaction all the more mystifying. Rejecting James Mattis’s pressure to increase spending, she insisted that NATO is equally valuable to the United States as it is to its other members. It was as if a roommate who never did the washing up insisted that you should keep doing it, as clearly everyone benefited from a clutter-free sink.

In an age that has seen U.S. allies in Asia—like Japan and South Korea—bring more to the table in terms of men and materiel, this European passivity is troubling. Displaying a penchant for misdirection that only clouded the issues, European elites persuaded themselves that the Trump administration is the primary “cause for concern” on the global stage. Simultaneously, they ignored the fact that since the Kosovo air war, western Europe has become unable to stop a conflict on its doorstep. In an age of rapidly growing global challenges and threats, European passivity and free riding are having a terrible impact on Western cohesion. Europeans should note that, due to demographic changes in the United States and economic and political changes in Asia, many in Washington are starting to see Asia as the future global center of gravity. They will no longer be able to take for granted the cultural links that saw Washington place Europe at the center of its global alliance system. In the future, Europeans will have to decide whether it is indeed a Western system or just an American system—and, if the former, one that they should seek to uphold.


When Theresa May meets Donald Trump, China will the be the elephant in the room

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The Telegraph, January 26, 2017

When the Prime Minister sits down with President Trump on Friday in the Oval Office, she will be in a privileged position. She will the first foreign leader to meet the president since the inauguration. Second, she will be entering “friendly” territory. Already hailed by the President as “my Maggie”, Theresa May will feel a warmth from the President that has been lacking in her recent meetings with European leaders.

Naturally, May will wish to capitalize on his open affection for the “special relationship” and hammer out a new “fair” free trade deal, propelling London to the front of the queue. She will also wish to shore up the President’s support for Nato, a bulwark against Russian revanchivism, by calling for greater European adherence to the 2 percent principle agreed by Nato member states.

What is unlikely to come up – but what should – is China. In some ways, Theresa May and Donald Trump share some concerns towards the rising Asian superpower. After all, the delay over the Hinckley Point nuclear power plant deal, backed by Chinese financing, revealed May’s security concerns over Chinese investment. On the other hand, the Prime Minister’s drive for greater access to the Chinese market may put her at odds with the Trump administration’s increasingly bellicose approach.

While it is still too early to say with certainty how serious the Trump administration is about “confronting” China, the selection of Peter Navarro – author a book called Death by China – to head the newly-created National Trade Council is a clear sign this administration will move against perceived distortions and unfair advantages inherent in the Chinese economy. As state owned enterprises (SOEs) still comprise 40 percent of the economy, these distortions have had a global effect this year, including on European steel.

While a US-China trade war could remain bilateral in the strictest sense, many agree that the fallout would be global, impacting China’s beleaguered RMB, leading to a sudden devaluation of the currency – supposedly a part of the basket of reserve currencies. In turn, this could cause jitters in London’s financial markets. Chinese goods might also increase in price if they were to be tariffed out of the American market, which has been China’s top export market since 2012. On the plus side, May might be able to use the issue to press China for greater market access, increasing British exports to the country.

Trade is not the only issue between the US and China that is set to explode this year. The South China Sea has long been a slow-burn issue for the two, but now appears to be leading to crisis. When Secretary of State appointee Rex Tillerson asserted that…

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

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StratfordThe Hub, 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.


Scottish independence would have a negative impact on security

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British Politics and Policy at the LSE, 17 September, 2014

For most of the past few weeks, debates about Scottish independence have focused on the financial impact of separation, dominated in turn by the currency debate. Indeed, what independence will mean for defence and security have been obscured by this debate. Unfortunately, as with currency and EU membership, the SNP seems to have a penchant for having its cake and eating it. The party has laid out defence priorities without due consideration for cost, nor has it considered the degrading of its own (and UK) capabilities by doing so. Its impact can be analyzed at two different levels: firstit can be examined at the transatlantic level, in the realm of intelligence and defence; secondat the UK level, and how it will affect the defence of the British isles.

The Scottish White Paper, released by the SNP, identifies five defence priorities for an independent Scotland:

  • Maintaining the commitment to a budget for defence and security in an independent Scotland of £2.5 billion
  • Securing the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland.
  • Building a focus on maritime capabilities, such as air and sea-based patrol, and specialist forces able to operate around Scotland’s coasts. These assets will initially be drawn from the current Royal Navy.
  • Progressively building to a total of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel over the 10 years following independence.
  • Reconfiguring the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s needs, including the transition of Faslane to a conventional naval base and joint headquarters of Scottish defence forces. This approach would appear to be focused on maritime defence.

In addition, the Paper also states that Scotland would establish a Scottish intelligence agency (SIA), that would combine the work of the three agencies that currently do such work in the UK, MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. The White Paper also establishes that Scotland would seek to remain inside NATO, playing a more ‘Nordic’ role in defending the Alliance’s northern maritime border.

Scottish independence would affect transatlantic security at two levels: at the five eyes, intelligence-sharing level, and at the NATO level. In terms of the five eyes, an intelligence-sharing network dating to World War 2, which counts the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as members, it’s likely that Scotland would be pushed outside the tent of this force-multiplying alliance. Certainly, the other five agencies would seek to continue a relationship with the new SIA, due to their areas of common concern such maritime security and terrorism. They might even lend a hand to ‘capacity-building’, helping the new agency get on its feet. But in terms of sharing wider global intelligence, there would be little incentive to share too much with an untested and potentially leaky new agency.

Furthermore, though the new SIA could potentially professionalise quickly with a cadre of Scottish employees from UK agencies, it would have to make do with fewer resources – the White Paper claims a minuscule £2.5 billion per annum without reference to start-up costs, no small matter for developing costly cyber defence capabilities. In terms of intelligence-sharing, it would be a question of what Scotland brought to the table to justify it. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has argued that this would be a two-way vulnerability, as Scotland would be a soft target for foreign intelligence services, impacting the UK as a whole.

Another area of concern involves the SNP’s goal of remaining inside NATO while at the same time reducing NATO’s nuclear capabilities in the form of a Trident base at Faslane. This is one of the most incredible cases of cake/eating put forward by Salmond. By removing one of only two independent nuclear capabilities in Europe, the SNP will be hurting its own case for NATO membership – indeed, this was discussed at a private meeting on July 6th in the Brussels NATO HQ between Scottish civil servants and senior NATO leadership. At a time of increased insecurity between the West and Russia, chaos in the Middle East, and a potentially ‘revisionist‘ China, the West as a whole will be made considerably weaker. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, himself a Scot and former Secretary General of NATO, has stated that “the global balance will be substantially upset should one of the West’s key unions and its second-biggest defense power, split up.”

Along with defence capacity, defence industry in both Scotland and the UK will suffer as British companies like Rolls Royce, Thales, and BAE Systems move south of the border. Maintaining their classified building programs in a foreign country would be near impossible without strong intelligence guarantees, something a nascent SIA would be hard-pressed to provide for at least a decade. With such a move, British ship-building would be seriously undermined, possibly forcing London to buy off-the-shelf platforms from NATO providers.

All in all, Scottish independence would not destroy the West or NATO, nor would it lead to irreparable harm to the UK, but it would have negative consequences for UK standing and capabilities, for NATO nuclear deterrence and for the global and European balance of power. For a Scottish nationalist, this may seem a reasonable price to pay, but not all will agree. Their behaviour – though democratic and part of a positive search for identity – will have repercussions, and they should acknowledge them and seek to minimise them. The damage might be relatively short-lived – say a only decade long – if Scottish agencies quickly came up to scratch, the new country spent the required amount on defence (2 per cent of GDP for NATO membership), and if it offered some sort of compromise on the nuclear issue. However, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ before this issue is resolved. We will become extremely familiar with these ‘ifs’ should the vote go against the union on September 18th.


NATO and the ‘Pivot’ after Wales

 

David Cameron hosts the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales.International Relations and Security Network, 12 September, 2014

 

Now that the NATO Summit in Wales is over, analysts are working to understand its implications for the strategic landscape around Europe. One issue that lay behind many of the discussions was the impact of US global strategy on the force-posture of US military assets in and around Europe. Although Hillary Clinton famously quipped that the United States “can walk and chew gum at the same time”, European allies still wonder how the US ‘pivot to Asia’ will affect its ability to defend the European continent and manage instability in the Middle East.

Overall, the Summit was a success: 28 world leaders came together as a symbol of transatlantic solidarity and moved past much of the awkwardness that had characterized US-German and US-EU ties over the past year. Vladimir Putin’s revanchist policies had reminded them of the purpose of the alliance, as had the growing instability on Europe’s southern border. On the whole, there were no significant differences of principle among member-states, and the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, the UK, and others committed – on paper, at least – to keep Europe “ whole, free, and at peace.”

Some have called the crisis over Ukraine a ‘Munich moment’, referring to the Munich Conference of 1938, when Germany won control of Sudetenland, a Czechoslovakian territory. However, the comparison is a favorable one for this generation. Rather than accepting the dismemberment of Ukraine, NATO member-states pledged support to Kiev in the form of a planned military exercise in Western Ukraine to show the alliance’s commitment. Furthermore, NATO members agreed to invest in reinvigorating the Alliance’s capabilities in three ways: 1) through the development of a new 4,000-strong deployment force, 2) through increased defense spending, and 3) through strategy readjustments to cyber warfare and ‘ambiguous warfare’.

Losing focus?

At a joint NATO-Cardiff University Conference held prior to the official summit, policy-makers and academics struggled to understand how the pivot would affect America’s ability to defend Europe. More than once, the US commitment to allocate more military resources to the Asia-Pacific was questioned. Some even wondered if the pivot was still in place, given the amount of traction that the Ukraine crisis and rise of ISIL were getting in Washington. This was despite US efforts to allay such fears at a press conference held on the 14th of August, where Admiral John Kirby stated that, despite instability on Europe’s eastern and southern flanks, the US remained very committed to the pivot, as illustrated by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent trip to Asia (his sixth as Secretary).

At the August 14th press conference, Admiral Kirby pointed out that five out of seven US treaty allies were located in the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to 350,000 troops and 200 ships. He might also have pointed out that the region is home to some of the world’s largest militaries and now outspends Europe collectively on defense. In addition, as powers like China and India rise, fissures and tensions along their peripheries have begun to threaten the stability of a region that already dominates global trade and is predicted to represent 51% of global GDP by 2050. If the US continues to turn towards the Asia-Pacific, it is out of long-term strategic necessity. Its European allies must recognize this.

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NATO Wales and the Future of Western Grand Strategy

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International Relations Security Network, 7 August, 2014

By John Hemmings for ISN

By all accounts, the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales is likely to be one of the most important since the end of the Cold War. Originally cast as a post-Afghanistan ‘lessons-learned’ and maritime security summit, events in Ukraine and Crimea have dramatically shifted the agenda since February and highlighted the need to redevelop NATO’s core mission of collective defense and deterrence. The sudden massing of Russian armor and more than 150,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border in February at the height of the crisis, reminded Western leaders – particularly those in Poland and the Baltic states – of their vulnerability to old-fashioned conventional forces. However, it has already become clear that these threat-perceptions of Russia are not held equally by all 28 member states in the Alliance, as Germany and Italy balance their security concerns with dependence on Moscow’s energy imports.

These differences may emerge as a serious problem during the summit, stymying a collective path forward. Worse still, European policy elites continue to worry about shifts in US global strategy, particularly the US Pivot strategy and how the shift of US attention away from the European theatre to the Asian one will affect force posture in-region. These fears are likely to run into US frustration over NATO members’ under-spending, a common feature of every NATO summit since the 1990s, and one that will have real – rather than symbolic – meaning this year. Of course, despite all of these challenges, NATO remains the most powerful global defensive alliance, in terms of its combined GDP, military spending, and military technology. As with all collective efforts, its real weaknesses lie in coordination. With the US Pivot to Asia likely to become a permanent feature of its global strategy, the NATO Wales Summit must find a strategic posture for the West that accepts and complements that reality.

What does the Pivot mean to Europe?

The US Pivot to Asia is still poorly understood in Europe. Some believe that the policy is merely rhetorical in nature, while others see it as a misjudged containment attempt towards China, one that – as Australian academic Hugh White contends –fans the flames of great power rivalry. Primarily, European elites view the Pivot in terms of its effect on European security.

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