In spite of East Asia’s rising tensions, not a few pundits have said they are optimistic about China’s future relationship with her neighbours, and with the United States. Yet there are competing reasons to worry, not just about the so-called “China threat” but also the way conflicts are being handled by the region’s political leaders.
International relations experts see the three ways of making peace as deepening economic interdependence, promoting democracy and building international institutions. Unfortunately, political leaders of the major states in East Asia have so far not succeeded in making peace through any of these three approaches. Instead, they are playing the same dangerous balance of power game that European politicians did a century ago.
Although economic interdependence in the region has been deepening, especially since the Asian financial crisis almost 20 years ago, this hasn’t translated into political momentum for peace and cooperation. Business leaders in countries like China, Japan and the U.S. have not been able to mobilise their domestic political influence enough to prevent foreign relations from worsening at the expense of their own commercial interests. By contrast, both the military sector and the military-industry complex in these states have been able to exert their political influence in unconstructive foreign policy-making. The double digit increase in China’s defence budget and the prospering sales of the U.S. arms industry are examples of the wider problem.
International relations scholars have agreed since the days of Immanuel Kant that democratic states rarely fight with each other, leading many American political leaders like President Woodrow Wilson to believe that promoting democracy would increase the chances of peace around the world. In the U.S., opinion leaders have expected that China would be gradually assimilated into the democratic West as the result of engagement policies, assuring peaceful relations between China and the West. Of late, though, they have become less sanguine after watching Chinese political leaders become much more confident of their own authoritarian development model since the 2008 financial crisis. The Chinese leaders seem to believe that the days of the ‘Washington Consensus’ are gone, and those of ‘Beijing Consensus’ are now coming.
The Chinese political leadership seems, for instance, to have decided that the U.S. is no longer willing or able to exercise international leadership as the result of the 2008 economic crisis and America’s huge budget deficit
This ideological incompatibility between China and the U.S. is making the peaceful shift of relative power more difficult, if not impossible. More than a century ago, in the mid-1890s, the United States, the rising power, and Britain, the established power, were able to maintain peaceful and co-operative relations because they shared a common culture and values. In contrast, Chinese leaders tend to think that the United States has been deliberately trying to undermine the domestic political stability of China by raising issues like human rights and political freedom. President Xi Jinping’s domestic policy direction these days seems to suggest a widening divergence rather than convergence of the Chinese and western political systems.
The crucial characteristic of the foreign relations in East Asia is the absence of international institutions for security cooperation. Europe has institutions like the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the NATO alliance which have principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures that affect the international behaviours of their member states. East Asia has the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), but it is too weak to influence the behaviour of each state effectively. The lack of such institutions has made international relations in the region unstable and beset with rivalries, with political cohesion among democratic countries much weaker since the end of the Cold War.
Political leaders in East Asia, and in the U.S. too, used to stress their interest in promoting multi-lateral institutions. But this amounted to little more than political rhetoric as those leaders didn’t actually invest much political capital in institutions concerned with security co-operation. The almost defunct Six Party Talks mechanism on the de-nuclearisation of North Korea may be the only exception to this, but in general major Asian states appear to think themselves too big and too important to be constrained by the international rules or norms.
All the liberal roads towards international peace thus seem to be closed for the time being, leaving East Asian political leaders to depend on power politics as the modus vivendi for international relations. Yet the dangers of realpolitik were clearly demonstrated exactly a century ago by the disastrous events leading to World War I. Until then, a few masterminds of power politics – Austria’s Prince of Metternich after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 or German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck after German unification in 1871 – were able to craft international alliances, but today there are no comparable political geniuses. Those at the top in Asia’s major states seem captivated by their own narrowly defined national interests.
The Chinese political leadership seems, for instance, to have decided that the U.S. is no longer willing or able to exercise international leadership as the result of the 2008 economic crisis and America’s huge budget deficit. That judgment may be behind Beijing’s recent assertiveness in foreign policy and Chinese leaders may have also been testing the U.S. will to defend Japan in the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku (or in Chinese Diaoyu) Islands.
If so, they seem to be underestimating the fact that the United States, though weakened economically, is still by far the predominant superpower militarily. The U.S. has also had a century-long history of military and political commitment in East Asia since the late 19th century. Just as Britain when still the world’s naval superpower would never give in to the German challenge of naval supremacy in the early 20th century, the United States will not easily acquiesce to any challenge by China in the western Pacific. Still less so with most East Asian states so frightened by the China’s assertive behaviour that they are pleading the United States to maintain its commitment in East Asia.
Right now, in spite of the deepening economic interdependence of China and the United States, and in spite, too, of the 60 or so inter-governmental channels that exist for annual talks between Washington and Beijing, a perilous tug-of-war is taking place between the two over the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and the western Pacific. And what is making matters more complicated is the difficulty that top Chinese leaders have in coordinating the conflicting interests of their country’s diverse government departments and interest groups, especially when related to military and security matters. China is no longer a monolithic state in which the top leadership firmly and consistently controls external security policy. This trend in China’s decision-making procedures towards a greater diversity of power risks causing misunderstandings and over-reactions on security matters.
Another source of danger is the psyche of today’s Japanese leaders. Two decades of economic stagnation in Japan at a time of China’s rapid rise has resulted in the rise of nationalism and of over-reaction. A major problem is that Japanese leaders who had become accustomed to the Yoshida doctrine of leaving security policy to the United States, no longer seem to have their own constructive vision for international peace, despite being the world’s third biggest economic power. Instead, their world view seems to be stuck in the 1930s, witness Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine honouring Japan’s war dead, including war criminals, and his regressive remarks on the country’s wartime history.
At the same time, the United States has seemed mainly interested in boosting Japan’s military role. From a U.S. military perspective, that may make sense strategically and financially, but it seems to lack serious consideration of the political dimension. U.S. leaders have tended to underestimate the worries of Japan’s neighbours over the retrogressive behaviour of some of the current Japanese leadership and the risk is that Washington may soon find Japan becoming more the source than the solution of international problems. Put bluntly, the United States may unconsciously be providing Japan with a diplomatic carte blanche, and may someday find itself hostage to Japan.
These and the many other factors in play mean it is high time for leaders in the Asia-Pacific to wake up from today’s dreamy and complacent politics. Some major compromises and a serious effort are needed to begin the process of institution-building for Asian security co-operation. If not, the Asian century may increasingly be fraught with peril.
First published by the Europe’s World, article re-posted per author’s permission
Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region
The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that combines large-scale conventional military threats, internationalized civil wars and protracted conflicts, as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) challenges. As such, a fragile set of states caught between the Euro-Atlantic community, on the one hand, and Russia and its allies, on the other, has emerged as a key interface between the two security communities.
Since the 1990s, most of the world’s identified cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials—fissile materials, in particular—have been located in countries around the Black Sea. The nuclear security situation in the region is further complicated by the existence of areas with unstable governance and protracted conflicts such as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and areas of Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
The Washington’s open, aggressive behavior in the international arena pushes traditional allies away from it. But despite the escalation of the conflict with Turkey, the United States, being the founding member of NATO, is still pursuing the goal of strengthening its presence in the Black Sea.
main allies of the White House in this region are the leadership of Georgia and
Ukraine, who dream of entry into NATO and accept all the imposed conditions.
However, for more than 80 years the presence of warships of non-Black Sea powers, that could enter the sea via the Bosphorus, has been regulated by the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. According to it, the total non-Black Sea tonnage, with few exceptions, is limited to 15 thousand ships. It prevents the emergence of something more significant there than a detachment of light forces, one or two large warships. At the same time for warships there are restrictions on the class and duration of stay. In particular, ships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the water area for no more than 21 days.
Any attempts to violate this document will be extremely negatively perceived by Turkey, that should be one of the leading players in the region. It is impossible to revise the convention without the consent of Turkey, and only supporting by Ankara country can provide overwhelming superiority in the Black Sea.
In such a situation, the Pentagon considers it possible to use the navigable channel of Istanbul for the passage of American aircraft carriers, that will connect the Marmara and the Black Sea. A channel of about 50 km in length will run parallel to the Bosphorus, while the Montreux Convention will not extend to it. The construction of Channel Istanbul will be completed in 2023.
By the end of construction, everything will depend on the leadership of Turkey. If Ankara concedes and allows the passage of the US Navy aircraft carriers through the new channel, it will surrender all its positions in the Black Sea to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, NATO member countries (this is not about Bulgaria and Romania) maintain a military presence in the Black Sea region. The Sea Shield 2019 naval drills ended in mid-April, and the reconnaissance ship HMS Echo of the British Royal Navy continues to carry out its mission in the Black Sea.
The US Navy already has 11 atomic high-speed aircraft carriers, each with about 90 aircraft. If we imagine that a small part of them will be placed in the Black Sea, then Russia will receive a defensive response. And then all the terrible scenarios of hostilities are likely to happen.
There is a hope that the Turkish government has enough resilience and determination in confronting the harsh rhetoric of other NATO partners.
Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons
After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.
Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.
Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.
During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.
The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.
The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.
The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.
Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States
States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise
The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.
Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.
There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.
The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.
It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.
BulgarianMilitary.com quoted Russian Minister of Defence Sergei
Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only
defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would
like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do
not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises.
We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a
response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow
From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.
“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.
As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.
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