[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] fter Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections (which was, by the way, a surprise only to those indoctrinated, seduced or simply bought), Europe, or to be more precise: the European Union is behaving like an orphan, abandoned by its strong father, whose hand it held and whom he(she) followed wherever he went.
Europe does not know. Europe is asking. Europe has to know. Europe is warning. All this is addressed to the new leader who will take over the White House in mid-January next year. When we say “Europe” we think, it should be repeated, on the European Union, although the countries, just a few of them remaining, who are not already members of the EU are equally puzzled, they don’t know what to do and who will give them instructions for their behavior in the future.
This total disorientation and – let us put it frankly – the fear from a situation in which they will have to think for themselves and to take over the responsibility for what they are doing, this is the main characteristic of European countries after Trump’s victory. If we believe him “nothing will be as it was”, but let us be aware of the fact that Europe got accustomed to the role of a US “lackey” from the first days after victory in WW 2 and especially in the days of the cold war and extremely tense relations between East and West. The only exemption was France in the years of President Charles de Gaulle. The general even took his country out of the military structure of NATO, because –as he saw it – the US dominance in the Atlantic Pact did not correspond with the role he wanted his country to play on the international scene. But the rest followed, although the public opinion in these countries would from time to time openly rebel against the American policy (just two examples: demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and against deploying the Pershing missiles in Germany). What is however important, is the fact that, despite these vigorous protests, the ruling elites in Europe accepted the role of followers of the US, without asking any unpleasant questions.
Even in recent years, when it became known that the US National Security Agency is spying world-wide whomever it wants, including leading politicians of the allied countries, not a single one of these allies dared to do, what any country with a sound self-respect would have done: send a protest note, sharply demand the spying to be stopped and recall its ambassador from Washington for consultations for an undefined period. No, the Old continent whose history gives him in many senses the right to think of itself as superior to the US (not economically and militarily, of course) choose to continue playing in the front row in a game it did not either plan or execute.
Such a position could have to a certain point been understood in the times when Europe was divided between the West (democratic) and the East (authoritarian, socialist). At that time “big brother” from the other side of the Atlantic was seen as a necessity in the West – as counterweight to the hegemony that threatened from the East. Although even then it was quite clear to anybody who was willing to see things as they were, that in Europe it is possible to wage a policy aimed in the first place on the benefit of Europe. The most evident proof of this is the period of the West German chancellor Willy Brand. To accept the German (East) – Polish border and to find a common language with the “other” Germany (although Bonn never officially recognized Berlin-Pankow), these were things unthinkable of in the – until then – practiced scenario of cold war. But, they were doable, because at that time Nixon and Kissinger forged in Washington the détente strategy, trying (and they will succeed!) in calming down US – Soviet relations and putting them on the normal track.
“In Europe, the continent of the sharpest ideological divide, with practically two halves militarily confronting each other all over the core sectors of the continent (where Atlantic Europe was behind some of the gravest atrocities of the 20th century, from French Indochina, Falklands/Malvinas, Indonesia, Congo, Rhodesia to Algeria and Egypt), and with its southern flank of Portugal, Spain and Greece (and Turkey sporadically) run by the US-backed murderous military Juntas, Yugoslavia was remarkably mild island of stability, moderation and wisdom.” – accurately notes on irresponsibility of superpowers and its satellites prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic.
Indeed, another example of an independent policy in Europe was without any doubt Yugoslavia. And even the movement called “Euro-communism” based on the experience of the Yugoslav independent policy (in regard to Moscow) proved that in Europe there were ideas, there was knowledge and there was courage to emerge on a path that will be nobody’s, but European. And – that there were politicians who were ready to enter this path.
While all this was happening the European project was taking shape. It started as the Coal and Steel community (the first obstacle to possible new wars erected by those who experienced WW2) to become in our days the European Union. But, although the Union (at that time still: Community) experienced its first big wave of enlargement after the collapse of socialism and disintegration of the Soviet Union, thus growing into a truly all-European project, it made at the same time a giant step backwards. For the sake of never totally subdued nationalism in the West and a fast emerging new nationalism in the East it abandoned for good, even as a distant goal, the idea of the United States of Europe. Washington did verbally always support the EU, but objectively speaking, for the strategists there a strong European Union was never seen as their interest. What they wanted was a strong NATO, which they transformed from an exclusively European defense alliance into a mighty tool of its own policy on the global scene. This was, among other things, demonstrated by the unwritten rule that every country aspiring to become EU member had to join NATO first. The membership in NATO was thus treated as some sort of preliminary examination (and qualification at the same time) for the membership in the European Union.
After the attacks of 9.11. (2001.) American policy inaugurated the division of the Old continent to the “old” and “new” Europe. From Washington’s point of view countries of “new” Europe were those ready to obey and do what they were told to do from the other side of the Atlantic. This “new Europe” free finally from the Soviet supremacy and so eager to accept a new one from another part of the world, applauded without hesitating for even a moment the so called Arab spring and supported the confrontation policy towards Russia (a renewed form of the “containment” from the cold war days). Nobody even mentioned that what happened in Ukraine would have most probably taken another course without the active involvement of the West, including the US. Today both the old and new Europe have lost the “father” who guided them by the hand and told them what to do, when and how, regardless of what was in question. And there are no new instructions!
One might judge Donald Trump this or that way – as the devil himself, or as a man with some new ideas, some of them encouraging (rejection of the policy of imposing regimes), some – worrying (non-acceptance of the fact of global warming). But, we are not discussing Trump, we are speaking about Europe. And neither this continent, nor the European Union showed that they deserve to be treated as being mature. The Union, not only yesterday, didn’t use the unique chance to become an equal partner to the US, Russia or China, by being unable to formulate its own, common foreign or security policy, yesterday – a tragic lack of orientation in confronting the refugee wave (that would not be as it is now without the US policy, as it was) and it is demonstrating – today – a total lack of orientation in a situation when it is clear that a candidate (now President-elect) who is not the favorite of mighty either financial, or political circles is preparing to enter the White House.
And this is why Europe is standing lost on the global scene – as an orphan.
EU’s Energy and Politic Approach to Indonesia: Between Hate and Love
Authors: Akhmad Hanan and Mayora Bunga Swastika
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Europe has been forced to seek alternative energy sources other than Russian gas. Previously, Russia supplied around 40% of Europe’s gas needs through pipelines owned by Russia’s Gazprom. However, Russia decided to cut their gas supply to Europe as a counter action of US and its ally economic sanction. As a result, Europe has left no choice but to buy expensive LNG, optimize renewable energy sources, and tap other coal-producing countries.
Winter came, and it tormented Europeans even more. The energy scarcity due to the absence of Russian gas put many European countries into crisis. They had to pay higher for alternative energy sources as a domino effect of the Russia-Ukraine war. They also decided to utilize coal, contradicting their robust commitment towards energy transition goals and the Paris Agreement. Europe’s decision to turn back on coal has also altered the global energy transition’s geopolitical landscape. Europe is seen as a region supporting accelerated energy transitions and encouraging countries outside the region to follow suit. However, currently, Europe is taking steps contrary to efforts to accelerate the energy transition.
At the same time, Indonesia got their windfall profit through the European situation due to the rising coal price in the market. Europe has been one of Indonesia coal exporters, and following the disruption in Europe’s energy supply, Indonesia attempted to capitalize on the situation by increasing export quotas to Europe. This strategy was taken since Indonesia is one of the world’s largest coal producing countries.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade reports coal exports to Europe reached 6.6 million tons in December 2022. Previously, Indonesia only exported less than 1 million tons per year to the same region at the same time. The main reason was some European countries such as Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands, and Germany increased their demand for Indonesian coal significantly.
Additionally, Indonesia became the top global coal exporter in 2022, with a total of 469 million tons, 9% higher than the previous year. Indonesia used to export coal to developing countries, mainly in Asia. As a result, Indonesia’s state revenue exceeded the targets by almost three times higher than expected. The Indonesia’s ministry of finance calculated the realization of state revenue reached 7.8 million USD, 2.8 million USD higher, and it was highly contributed from the coal trading.
Relations between Indonesia and Europe regarding energy commodities are indeed often tug-of-war. Hitherto, the European Union’s relationship with Indonesia was strained due to Indonesia’s decision on palm oil and nickel commodities. Indonesia’s decision to utilize palm as a biofuel source was feared to increase land use change in tropical forests and reduce its capacity to be a natural based solution in climate change mitigation.
Indonesia’s decision to ban nickel export was also being challenged by the European Union at the WTO in November 2019. The EU claimed this decision was unfairly harming its stainless steel industry. However, Indonesia insisted this decision was made for national development. From Indonesia’s point of view, Indonesia’s decision is one of the efforts to protect its national interests to fulfill domestic supply. Indonesia’s downstream plans will be threatened if Indonesia lifts the nickel export ban as desired by the EU. The Indonesian government has a target to build a nickel smelter in Indonesia. However, Indonesia lost the EU lawsuit regarding the nickel export ban.
Indonesia-Europe relations and Indonesia’s defeat in the nickel export ban lawsuit show that the issue of international relations is still closely interdependent. A country cannot only pay attention to its domestic interests but also pay attention to common interests. In this case, Indonesia and EU benefit from each other when conducting economic cooperation, especially export-import. This can be seen from the benefits when coal exports to the EU increase. Of course, the benefits of this cooperation will not be obtained if the two countries do not cooperate.
Apart from Indonesia’s interest in securing domestic supply, Indonesia should be able to take opportunities to cooperate with other countries, including the EU, in the energy sector. Cooperation between countries that cannot be avoided in the era of globalization should be the foundation for Indonesia in making and carrying out foreign policy. Indonesia must find a win-win solution in its relations with other countries because doing protection in this era is not a solution.
Europe’s relations with Africa and Asia are on the brink of collapse, and Russia is benefiting
More than one year since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the world remains caught in the middle. Against a backdrop of high energy and food prices, ravaging inflation, social unrest and fears of another global recession, Western and Russian blocs are once again vying for support from nations of the developing world.
Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, Sergei Lavrov, Qin Gang, and Anthony Blinken are just some of the names that have made high-profile visits to Africa in the last 12 months. All have largely focused on cooperation and trade, yet each has done so with a discourse reflecting a kind of Cold War reboot, with Ukraine as one of its most prominent symptoms.
Each in their own way, armed with their respective propaganda, these superpowers wish for nations of Africa and Asia to pick a side. Yet, unlike the previous century, those nations cannot so easily be made to choose, nor should they have to. Russia understands this. The West does not.
It’s no secret that Africa has been reluctant to overtly condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, or to participate in Western efforts to sanction and isolate the warring country. Instead, African and Asian nations have continued to welcome these longstanding partners with open arms – widely condemning the war, but not Russia.
In Malawi, for instance, Russia’s deliveries of tens of thousands of tonnes of fertiliser amidst global shortages are seen as a gift from heaven by struggling farmers. Malawi’s minister of agriculture shook hands with the Russian ambassador, describing Russia gratefully as “a true friend”. Russia’s announced plans to send 260,000 tonnes of fertiliser to countries across Africa, is certain to spread similar sentiments.
In my country Congo-Brazzaville, the government signed five major cooperation agreements with Russia in the midst of its war with Ukraine, including for the construction of a new oil pipeline and to enhance military cooperation.
This charm offensive, prominently led by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who has visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola, Eritrea, Mali, Sudan and Mauritania just since January, is already nourishing pro-Russian sentiment throughout the continent, and stands in sharp contrast to the damp squib that was President Emmanuel Macron’s recent African adventure.
In his press conference with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President, Felix Tshisekedi, in what was perhaps the most deaf-tone faux pas of his entire trip, President Macron was repeatedly asked to condemn Rwanda’s support for M23 rebels causing havoc in eastern DRC – a situation that closely resembles Russia’s covert support for Donbass separatists in recent years. For all intents and purposes, he failed to do so.
Instead, when a French journalist quizzed him on former Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s disparaging mention of an “African-style compromise” in relation to President Tshisekedi election in 2019, Macron proceeded to lecture the Congolese President on freedom of the press – much to the disbelief of those witnessing the scene.
Despite President Macron’s effusive rhetoric about ‘new relationships’ and ‘new starts’, his outburst was yet another bitter reminder of Europe’s longstanding paternalistic and dissonant attitude towards the continent. This is the same attitude whereby decades of European political and military influence on the continent have failed to generate meaningful progress when they did not actively undermine those efforts. Africans are wise to this and refuse to take it anymore, as evidenced by the growth in anti-French sentiment in West Africa. Russia, China and others, though far from being without reproach, are merely seizing the presented opportunities.
Just as the share of EU aid going to Africa has declined significantly, similar problems are afoot with Europe’s relations in Asia. Its share of Southeast Asian merchandise trade, excluding China, fell by over a third over the last two decades. Western Europe was the destination for less than a tenth of Malaysian, Singaporean, South Korean and Taiwanese exports in 2021. Russia is again moving fast to fill the gap, adopting China as its main trading partner, and consistently exporting oil and gas to eager Asian buyers, rather than to the West. When Russia suspended its double taxation treaties with “unfriendly” countries around the world in mid-March, most Southeast Asian countries were exempted from this measure.
Moreover, Russia has over the last decade become the largest arms supplier to the region, recently running joint naval exercises with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia have all rejected imposing sanctions on Moscow, whilst Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia to improve agricultural trade earlier this year.
One cannot fault these nations for engaging in partnerships and cooperation with international partners, in the interest of addressing their most urgent societal priorities. Nor can one fault African and Asian countries for taking with a pinch of salt a discourse on international values and change, when this supposed change stems not from recognition of current flaws, but from the impositions of emergent global trends.
What lessons can be given about territorial integrity and justice, when the events of 2011 in Libya, as well as their enduring consequences, remain traumatically fresh in African minds, or when the posture of African countries relative to the war in Ukraine is almost identical to that of Europe relative to the conflict in the eastern provinces of the DRC?
What lessons should be drawn from European courts proceeding to the seizure of Malaysian assets and properties worth $15 billion – including lucrative oil and gas assets – based on a questionable arbitration authorised by a Spanish arbitrator facing criminal prosecution from the Spanish authorities? And who will really benefit, given that this claim on sovereign territories, derived from a mid-nineteenth agreement between a long-vanished Sultanate and a colonial-era British company, is funded by unknown third-party investors?
The willingness of European courts to confiscate the resources and assets of a sovereign Asian nation on such flimsy grounds is not lost on observers in Africa and across the developing world.
Whatever the answer to these questions may be, it is evident that relations between the old and new worlds will continue to strain as long as underlying assumptions and beliefs do not evolve. Specifically, change is needed in those attitudes that continue to consider developing nations as oblivious to the many contradictions of rhetoric and practice that characterise the world as we know it – whether in terms of: a system of aid and trade that nourishes the imbalances and ills it purports to address; a discourse on international law and values that crumbles in the face of past transgressions and current drives for reforms; or even negotiations on climate finance in which urgency stops when economic interests begin.
The Western world can only reverse this trajectory by seeking out a genuinely new footing in its relations with the countries of Africa and Asia – challenging its own assumptions and understandings about what a respectful partnership between equally legitimate nations truly means. This is not about paying lip-service to ideals struggling to remain convincing, nor is it about entirely conceding these ideals on the altar of economic pragmatism.
Rather this means accepting a due share of responsibility for the current state of affairs, understanding expectations for the future, being willing to make real concessions, and aligning discourse with dollars and deeds. In doing so, the Western world will reassure those of us that continue to believe in the promises of the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that these were not merely pretences to maintain hegemony in the face of existential threats, but rather an enduring vision for a better world that remains worth fighting for today.
A Muscular U.S. Foreign Policy and Changing Alliances
Imagine a country rich in fossil fuels and another nearby that is Europe’s premier industrial power in dire need of those resources — is that a match made in heaven?
Not according to Joe Biden who quashed it as if it was a match made in hell. Biden was so much against any such rapprochement that to end all prospects of a deal, he ordered the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines. Two out of four lines were severely damaged, about 50 meters of them and Russia chose not to conduct repairs. Instead,it is pumping its gas up through Turkey.
So far, Russia has not responded to this act of war but a leader can not afford to lose face domestically or internationally, and one may not be surprised if an American facility or ship suffers an adverse event in the future.
In the meantime, Russia has become fast friends with China — the latter having its own bone to pick with Biden. China, a growing industrial giant, has almost insatiable energy needs and Russia stands ready to supply them. An informal deal has been agreed upon with a formal signing ceremony on March 20, 2023.
So who won this fracas? Russia gets to export its gas anyway and China, already generating the world’s highest GDP on a purchasing-power-parity basis, has guaranteed itself an energy source.
Of course there is Ukraine where Biden (like the US in Vietnam) is ready to fight to the last Ukrainian. Despite a valiant resistance, they are not winning, for Russia continues to solidify its hold on Ukraine’s east, most recently by taking Soledar and capturing parts of the transport hub Bakhmut itself.
And then there is Saudi Arabia: hitherto a staunch U.S. ally, it is now extending a hand of friendship to Iran, which its previous king used to call the snake in the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia is keenly aware of the vassal-like manner in which the U.S. has treated Germany, its ally with the largest economy in Europe, over its desire to buy cheap gas from Russia. The deal was nixed and observers estimate it cost Germany a couple of points of GDP growth. Such a loss in the U.S. would translate to almost zero growth.
India used to be a neutral country between the great powers. In fact, its first leader after independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a leading figure in the non-aligned movement. It is now being tugged towards the US.
The latest tug is ICET or the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies. Its purpose is to find ways to engage through “innovation bridges” over the key areas of focus. This coordination between the two countries is to cover industry, academia and government.
On the other hand, India’s arch rival Pakistan used to be in the US orbit for decades. Now it is virtually a Chinese client state even though for a time, particularly during the Afghan war, it was a source of much help for the US.
Such are the vagaries of alignments in a multi-polar world, particularly when under pressure from major powers.
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