A first-ever joint Chinese-Russian-Iranian naval exercise signals that closer Chinese military ties with a host of Middle Eastern nations does not translate into Chinese aspirations for a greater role in regional security any time soon.
If anything, the exercise, coupled with notional Chinese support for proposals for a multilateral security approach in the Gulf, suggests that China envisions a continued US lead in Gulf security despite mounting rivalry between the world’s two largest economies.
That is the message China is sending by playing down the significance of the exercise and hinting that it would only contribute non-combat forces.
China’s participation is expected to involve its anti-piracy fleet that is already in Somali waters to protect commercial vessels as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian relief personnel rather than specially dispatched units of the People’s Liberation Army.
China’s preference for a continued US lead in maintaining Gulf security, even if it favours a more multilateral approach, was evident earlier this year in its willingness to consider participating in the US-led maritime alliance that escorts commercial vessels in the Gulf and seeks to secure shipping lanes and was created in response to several attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
So far, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Britain and Australia have joined the alliance that started operations last month.
Despite favouring a continued US lead, China sees a broadening of security arrangements that would embed rather than replace the US defense umbrella in the Gulf as a way to reduce regional tensions.
China also believes that a multilateral arrangement would allow it to continue steering clear of being sucked into conflicts and disputes in the Middle East, particularly the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.
A multilateral arrangement in which the US would remain the key military player would fit the pattern of China’s gradual projection beyond its borders of its growing military power.
With the exception of a military facility in Djibouti, China’s projection becomes less hard core the further away one gets from the People’s Republic borders.
Proposals for a multilateral security architecture could also cater to US President Donald J. Trump’s transactionalism as well as his insistence on burden sharing.
Getting from A to B is however easier said than done.
If the US security umbrella was geared towards defense again Iran, a multi-lateral approach would have to involve Iran.
Such involvement could be based on some kind of agreement on non-aggression, a proposal put forward by Iran and implicit in Russia’s call for a regional security conference along the lines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE.
To get there however the United States and Saudi Arabia would have to reduce tensions with Iran, credibly signal that they have no intention of toppling or destabilizing the Iranian regime, and resolve the crisis stemming from the US withdrawal from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.
That would seem a tall order even if Saudi Arabia and Iran have not closed the door on stalled contacts aimed at dialling down tensions.
Chinese support has, moreover, so far lacked enthusiasm for a Russian proposal that calls the United States, Russia, China and India to be involved in a multilateral approach.
While backing Russia’s proposal in general terms, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stopped short of specifically endorsing it. Mr. Geng welcomed “all proposals and diplomatic efforts conducive to de-escalating the situation in the Gulf region.”
China’s refraining to more wholeheartedly endorse the Russian proposal is rooted in differing approaches towards multilateralism in general and alliances in particular. China shies away from alliances emphasizing geo-economics rather than geopolitics while Russia still operates in terms of alliances.
Looming in the background is the fact that in the ultimate analysis China is likely to view security in South and Central Asia as interlinked with security in the Gulf, which in turn raises questions about the sustainability of the Chinese security approach.
The geographic layering of China’s approach is evident not only in China’s robust posture in the South China Sea, but also in countries like Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
China has recently made progress on the construction of a road through Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. The road serves multiple geo-political goals.
It will facilitate the movement of troops, together with a military base in Tajikistan and Chinese cross border operations in the corridor.
The question is whether the Chinese moves will jeopardize the presumed division of labour between Russia and China under which Russia shoulders responsibility for security in Central Asia while China concentrates on economic development and if it does what impact that would have on Chinese reliance on a potential Russian role in the Gulf.
There is little doubt that the Gulf is gradually moving from a unilateral security arrangement to a multilateral one driven by Gulf concerns following the September attacks on Saudi oil facilities and a US response that has reinforced nagging doubts about the reliability of US security guarantees.
The doubts are further fed by the direction of US policy starting with the Obama administration and now with the Trump administration that suggests a re-evaluation of US national security interests in the Middle East.
China’s belief that economics rather than geopolitics is the key to solving disputes has so far allowed it to remain above the breach but has yet to prove its sustainability.
China’s approach is unlikely to shield it from the Middle East’s penchant of ensuring that it is at the heart of concerns of major external parties.
Said Jiang Xudong, a Middle East scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences: “Economic investment will not solve all other problems when there are religious and ethnic conflicts.”
Problems of US Military Presence in Middle East and Reasons Behind
Authors: Yang Yizhong and Luo Yusen*
The United States has hundreds of military bases across the globe. It set bases in several countries such as Italy, Japan, Honduras, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Thailand, and Philippines. The military presence secures US interest and regional stability. Yet the US faces obstacles to maintain the status quo. In Iraq, internal unrest and violent confrontation against protesters continue. Officials are debating the legal statues of US forces in the country. Popular pressure mounts against US military presence in Iraq. This represents problems and challenges for the United States. What are the problems regarding military presence in the region? What are the reasons for maintaining military presence?
The situation of US encounters in Iraq and The Middle East Region
There are plenty of situations and problems that the United States encounters. First, anti-base protests occur frequently. Also, anti-US sentiments have become normal in Iraq politics. Additionally, terrorism is still a concern in the region. Besides, balance of power and regional conflicts require more resources to be projected to the Middle East, but the inconsistent American Foreign Policy complicates the situation.
The US military presence has touched the feeling of local residents from Asia-Pacific to the Middle East. In the case of Iraq, anti-government protests happened in October 2019 and anti-US protests that happened in January 2020 are the problems. The October anti-government protests were against foreign interference and aimed to overhaul the post-2003 political system established by the US military intervention. The January anti-US protests demand all foreign troops out of the country.
Even inside the Iraqi government, as officials raise more concern on sovereignty rather than security, anti-US opinion would not fade away. Iraq has declared that it would not allow its territory to be used as a launching pad against its neighbors. The Iraqi President Salih stated that “It’s our sovereign responsibility to abide by our constitution, not — Iraq not to be used as a base for any threat against our neighbors. Another example is Karim Alawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament security and defense committee made the statements that the US was going to bring “more than a thousand terrorists from Syria to Iraq through gaps in our borders and airspace” . President Salih and Karim Alawi’s speech indicate that the Iraqi government contains some reinforced internal opponents against the United States military presence.
Third, the inconsistency of the US foreign policy has worsened the situation. US alliances which used to rely on U.S. promise and generousness, start to question the validity of their tie with the US. Security is the main reason for countries to allow US military bases in their countries. However, it is unclear whether the US military presence secures the countries or increases hostility to neighbors. Iraq is extremely cautious about the US missile launched inside the country. Iraq was disappointed to witness the killing of Soleimani in Bagdad.
Fourth, radical extremism and terrorism are also problematic. Despite the defeat of ISIS, the elimination of terrorism has a long way to go. Radical extremists mobilize fighters under the name of jihad. The psychology of radicalism can trace back the Gulf War, in which most Middle East countries were furious about the successful involvement of the United States. The sense of Jihadism reemerged to defend the Muslim world from Western Invaders. On the one hand, the insecurity of a person, a family, and a state make the terrorism and extremism a choice. On the other hand, the unstable political environment enables the soil for terrorism to grow. Radical extremists and terrorists are then able to utilize religion as a political tool to achieve goals. They cause hundreds of civilians and US soldiers dead and wounded.
Fifth, from a grand strategy perspective, the balance of power in the Middle East is the problem for the US to maintain a military presence. As Russia and China seek more influence in the region, it would affect the US strategy. When considering regional affairs, countries do not rely on the United States anymore as they were. Rather, they prefer to gain benefits from both sides. The involvement of other powers undermines the effectiveness of US strategy. For instance, the US wants to sanction Iran and prohibit other countries from purchasing oil products. Iran now would have a choice to trade with China or other buyers. Since August 2019, China and Iran have discussed trade oil in Chinese yuan. It is said that China will invest $280 billion into Iran’s oil economy; an extra $120 billion will go toward improving transport infrastructure.
Reasons of United States Military presence in Iraq and the Middle East Region
Since 2011, the “Arab spring” historic changes have taken place in the Middle East: the Islamic extremist forces represented by ISIS emerged in the Middle East; the de facto fragmentation and failure of Iraq and Syria; losing its bellwether of the Arab world, Egypt was replaced by Saudi Arabia and Turkey; marginalization of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict; Iran’s rapid rise. Within America’s existence in the Middle East, Russia and China jumped in the region for their own stakes. The chaos in the Middle East remains the same, but the pattern has changed dramatically. Because of its great concerns, the United States persists in its military presence in the Middle East and North African Region, especially in Iraq. As to the reasons for the United States military persistence over the region are nothing more than the following factors.
First of all, The emerging issue of terrorism makes United States keep its military, United States is committed to fighting against terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The most obvious example is its limited low-intensity war with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. ISIS has been taking up the north part of Iraq and the east of Syria until last year that the United States and Syria government defeated all of them. Therefore, keeping a military presence is useful for United States to combat terrorism in Iraq and the region. Further, considering the sunk cost in the international political economy, the United States has invested trillions of dollars in building a regional order and hierarchy. If the order and hierarchy of the region were destroyed due to terrorism, the investment would become sunk cost, then United States national interest will be violated.
Second, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey see themselves as the heirs of the Persian, Arab and Ottoman empires, Israel as a symbol of the strong restoration of Zionism, and the region’s struggle for dominance has never ceased. The complex ethnic, religious and geographical conflicts in the Middle East determine that the balance of power in the region will always be a dynamic balance. In order to deter Iran, Palestine, Syria, the United States needs to stay in the region to support its alliances, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraqi government. America’s interest is in overthrowing Syria’s secular Government and replacing it with one that would be acceptable to the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family who own Saudi Arabia. In order to do this, America will therefore need to keep its forces in Iraq.
Third, to prevent other great powers from intervening in the region power vacuum after the US’s withdrawal, the United States needs to present its military force in the region. Other great powers such as Russia and China, from their own economic or security perspective, aims to build their networks and relationships. The game between China and US, US and Russia threaten the United States grand strategy to maintain its dominance in the region. At the same time, military force presence can deter Iran and Syria.
Fourth, military presence can secure United States economic interests and contain emerging countries. As is known to us all that United States dollars is the global currency since the 1970s. The economic hegemony is tightly connected and maintained by United States dollars, which greatly influenced by Iraq and the Middle East OPEC members. The demands of oil is soaring with the industrialization and globalization, the world demand per day in 2000 is 75.8 million barrels, while in 2018, according to data published by OPEC, the demand mb/d (Million barrels/day) is 98.82, in total 30.3% increasement tells the story of the surge of oil demand. Therefore, OPEC member states have the power to set discourse on the oil price and a certain capacity to affect America’s currency security. Given the fact that the United States used to be the No.1 country to import the oil from the region, to assure its oil security, it was reasonable for the United States to present their military force in the region. However, Shale gas revolution has endowed the United States independence of energy. China replaced the United States and became the No.1 oil-importing country around the world. Considering East Asia is the region that imports the most oil, to contain China and ensure Japan and South Korea to comply with the United States, U.S. should keep its military force to grasp the lifeblood of oil imports of East Asia.
*Luo Yusen, M.A in United Nations and Global Policy Studies, Political Science, Rutgers University, United States.
After MSC: A New EU and a New Strategic NATO concept?
There are many reactions to the Munich Security Conference and the speeches of Macron, Pompeo, Laschet and Steinmeier. Two are documented here. Firstly, the more pro-Russian perspective in the person of Dr. Alexander Rahr, who calls for a reinvention of the EU and proposes a Franco-German working group that, based on the eroding power and cohesion of the West, has a more European orientation along Macron’s proposals, wants compromises in adhering to liberal values and seeks a balance with Russia.
The conclusion of this year’s Munich Security Conference is that the US is ruthlessly fighting to maintain its global monopoly on power and the status of the only world order power. The EU-Europeans cling desperately to the idea of the liberal order of values under Western leadership, which is waning every year. China and Russia enjoy their power roles, but are still too weak to put their sole stamp on the new world order.
The EU complains about the lack of multilateralism. But what does the EU mean by this: the sole power of the West? Russians and Chinese complain that the EU only hopes for America’s appreciation, but does not want Russia and China to shape the new world order. Meanwhile, the United States is demanding that Germany and other Europeans mercilessly ostracize Russia and China as opponents and stop all technology and gas deals with them. The American Secretary of State Pompeo spoke of the permanent victory of the West, but meant only „America first“.
The helplessness of the EU results in the fact that it continues to lose its role in shaping world politics. Steinmeier, Kramp-Karrenbauer, Maas – they all complained and complained. But today the EU is militarily weak, meanwhile also economically battered and weakened by internal conflicts. Despite constant calls from French President Macron, it lacks the will to take control of the action itself.
Macron tried to wake up the EU at the Munich Security Conference. He envisions a new European architecture that also includes Russia. But the other EU countries do not follow him; if they move closer to Russia, they fear the weakening of the transatlantic community and the sell-off of their beloved liberal values.
The liberal European elites, the powerful media and the business world lack the imagination to emancipate themselves from America. This reveals what the sovereignty of the EU actually was in the post-war years and the 30 years after the turnaround. The pressure to act is not yet strong enough for the EU. The transatlantic navel show of a western elite at the Munich Security Conference, which is convinced that it is not doomed, reminds outsiders of the warning words of the late Foreign Minister Westerwelle about late Roman decadence.
France and Germany should quickly set up an informal working group to develop the concept of a future European architecture. The prerequisite is that the group is not dominated by transatlantic think tanks or representatives of Soros foundations. After a lively exchange with Russians, Britons and Central Eastern Europeans, the results would then be presented to the heads of state for further use. Time is short: the EU has to learn to think outside the box, even if it has to cut back on its liberal focus on values. “
The second major contribution is from General ret. Wittmann in the Tagesspiegel, who criticizes the speechlessness of the EU and NATO and calls for a new strategic NATO concept in the tradition of the Harmel report:
„President Macron’s description of NATO as“ brain dead „was certainly unsuccessful. But, critical reference to inadequate consultation and coordination in the alliance was justified. This does not only apply to specific occasions, such as the uncoordinated withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria and their invasion by Turkey. There has always been a debate culture in NATO that spares many sensitive issues. On existentially important questions such as Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions or China’s rise there have never been any serious consultations in the NATO Council. The reason appears to be twofold To be concerned: Disagreement leads in public to the assumption that NATO stands before the breaking up or dealing with a region outside of NATO territory creates suspicion that NATO wants to intervene militarily there, and the alliance must free itself from such inhibitions. It should raise „consultation“ on a new core function of NATO – in addition to the three core functions defined in the strategic concept of 2010: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.
That would be an explicit revaluation and activation of Article 4 of the Washington NATO Treaty. Already in the short “London Declaration” of the heads of state and government after its meeting on the 70th anniversary of NATO in December 2019, there was twice talk of „consultation“: It was reaffirmed that NATO is the essential forum for security consultations and decisions. And the Secretary General was asked to put forward the proposal for a „forward-looking process of reflection“ to further strengthen „the political dimension of NATO, including the consultations“. This is an emaciated version of the proposal, the president Macron and Secretary of State Maas had done. They wanted a more fundamental strategy debate. So it is to be hoped that the “reflection process” leads to the decision leads to renew the strategic concept of NATO .
This is the basic document of NATO, which has so far been decided about every ten years as the decisive specification of the NATO Treaty. The current one dates from 2010 – long before the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which catapulted NATO „back into the Article 5 world“ to the question of the alliance case. The pendulum moved for more than two decades priorities for NATO and member states‘ armed forces towards foreign missions. Defense of the country and the alliance no longer seemed to be necessary. In 2014, given the concerns particularly in Poland and the Baltic States, it had to be demonstrated convincingly: If NATO could not help its partner Ukraine militarily, every square meter of NATO territory is taboo for Russia. With the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO’s greatest reorientation began since the fall of the Berlin Wall: once again towards national and alliance defense.
The consequences affected aspects such as operational readiness, reinforcement planning, exercise, leadership, air surveillance – up to the „improved front presence“ with multinational NATO battalions in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All of this and the new look at Russia is not reflected in the current strategic concept, nor is the development of the past ten years in terms of threats, such as new weapon technology, cyber threats, security-related consequences of climate change, militarization of space and “hybrid warfare”. The latter is not a completely new phenomenon, but it is a new challenge: a method that combines open and covert military and non-military resources and that can (and should) make it difficult for the Alliance to respond collectively. In the Ukraine conflict, Russia demonstrated the seamless orchestration of military and non-military instruments: military threats beyond the Ukrainian border, use of paramilitary units without sovereignty badges, cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and the support of „separatists“ with military equipment.
The threats mentioned are to be countered increasingly by strengthening the “resilience” of societies, military structures and critical infrastructure. This keyword, borrowed from psychology, means resilience and flexible responsiveness. This task of NATO is so crucial that it should also be included as an additional core function in a new strategic concept. Why are you not yet in the process of designing a new strategic concept? Like over ten years ago, there is a fear that this work will be a “divisive process”. Secondly, one wants to avoid a debate on the political and strategic foundations of NATO during Trump’s presidency. On the military side of the headquarters, in the responsibility of the military committee, at least the military strategy policy document MC 400 was revised.
But it cannot remain there, not least because this document is classified as „NATO-confidential“. With the decision at the time to publish the strategic concept of 1991, NATO opted for transparency and confidence-building the public. She owes the world her right to exist, discloses the threats and skills required under the circumstances that have changed since 2010. It is time for a new strategic concept for the transatlantic alliance. This was also intended to counter the nonsensical talk about an „identity crisis“ of NATO. The new strategic concept must analyze the changed conditions in the field of security policy, represent the interaction between institutions and actors, and convincingly explain the continuing importance of the transatlantic link and the growing responsibility of Europe for its own security. „Consultation“ and „Resilience (Development)“ should finally be understood as core functions.
Also needed is a new strategic concept that substantiates the role of the “European pillar” in NATO, based on the “Common Security and Defense Policy” of the EU, which can only be successful, complementary, not competitive with NATO. The strategic challenge should also face up to the challenge posed by China and Russia’s place in the European security order. A Dedicate concept – provided that Russia ends the violation of the rules agreed for them. The range of dialogues offered by NATO based on the harmony philosophy (defense and relaxation, firmness and willingness to talk) should be specified.“
Brigadegeneral Retired Dr. Klaus Wittmann is a senior fellow of the Aspen Institute Germany and teaches contemporary history at the University Potsdam.
A new NATO concept expanded to include the functions of consultation and resilience is certainly necessary, as well as paired with a new version of the Harmel report (the latter has also been suggested by General ret. Kujat). In my opinion, however, this will not happen while Trump is still in office, as the transatlantic relationship after him will no longer be the status quo ante. In addition, the suggestion of Prof. Alexander Rahr is interesting no longer to wait, but to set up a Franco-German working group that at least design an architecture of the European pillar that was in line with Macron’s proposals, so that one finally has a basis for discussion. This is no longer expected under Merkel, but hopefully the next black- green government will tackle this question. Armin Laschet accused the current Merkel government of inactivity in Europe on the MSC, while, despite being invited, Spahn and Merz never even came to the MSC.
However, Merz who is considered to be more transatlantic than Laschet due to his former position as chief of the Atlantic Bridge and member of Blackrock also pointed out that Germany and the EU should now actively react to Macron´s proposal as in the future there won´t be a better and more pro-European French president and Marine Le Pen was just waiting for her chance in the next presidential elections. And Merz is now also a supporter of a China Bridge, a new organization pushed by former CSU minister Friedrichs. At the MSC Laschet and Baerbrock had a panel together, but Baerbrock has no concrete ideas except the normal phrases that she was for „more Europe“ and for human rights. While the Greens would have with Omnid Omnipour or even with Cem Özdemir an excellent foreign minister, their time is over at the Greens. Hopefully, Laschet or Merz as next chancellor will make foreign and security policy a chief issue and not delegate it to green idealists.
Remember the last green foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who made no significant contributions except for the Yugoslavia war and the Iraq war, and Schröder made clear to him who was the waiter and who was the chief and cook, especially in relations with China and Russia, in which Eurasianist Schröder had even the Eurasiazisation of the G7 to a G9 with Russia and China in mind. The Green Fischer was more the liberal human rights transatlantic and had a strong ally in Madeline Albright, who later included him in her consulting firm and as a lobbyist for the Nabucco pipeline, while Schröder accepted positions with Putin, Gazprom and Rosneft as well as Rothschild, whereby Macron was also employed by Rothschild before he started En Marche.
AKK, which had already unsuccessfully wanted EU or NATO missions in northern Syria, was also speaking at the MSC and their suggestion of an EU mission in the Persian Gulf with German participation was gratefully received by Macron as France is already there with the first warships and Macron proposed a vote in the EU about such a joint mission to get a picture of the mood, as well as sending a Coalition of the Willing as the first European mission to set a precedent. However, the Europeans do not want to participate in the US mission in the Persian Gulf, since they do not share Trump’s maximum pressure policy and the termination of the Iran deal and do not want to be drawn into a U.S.-Iranian war, but first only to secure the international trade routes and their own ships Which position a Brexit-Gb under Johnson will take remains to be seen.
Three comments on General Wittmann’s contribution to a new strategic NATO concept in the Tagesspiegel. The Harmel report proposed a new NATO strategy based on the transition from Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to flexible response and the willingness to engage in dialogue with the Eastern Bloc. Similarly, one might also have to expand the flexible response, also based on the new weapon systems and new international players
Furthermore, the question arises to what extent a new strategic NATO concept also takes into account the questions that Michael O Hannon raises in his recently published book „The Senkaku Paradox“ – that is, how NATO will react to a limited hybrid warfare of Russia, be it in the Baltic Gaps or on the part of China around Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea- whether NATO and the USA respond massively to this or contain the local aggression of small stakes and respond with massive economic warfare, as he outlines in his book:
America needs better options for resolving potential crises
In recent years, the Pentagon has elevated its concerns about Russia and China as potential military threats to the United States and its allies. But what issues could provoke actual conflict between the United States and either country? And how could such a conflict be contained before it took the world to the brink of thermonuclear catastrophe, as was feared during the cold war?
Defense expert Michael O’Hanlon wrestles with these questions in this insightful book, setting them within the broader context of hegemonic change and today’s version of great-power competition.
The book examines how a local crisis could escalate into a broader and much more dangerous threat to peace. What if, for example, Russia’s “little green men” seized control of a community, like Narva or an even smaller town in Estonia, now a NATO ally? Or, what if China seized one of the uninhabited Senkaku islands now claimed and administered by Japan, or imposed a partial blockade of Taiwan?
Such threats are not necessarily imminent, but they are far from inconceivable. Washington could be forced to choose, in these and similar cases, between risking major war to reverse the aggression, and appeasing China or Russia in ways that could jeopardize the broader global order.
O’Hanlon argues that the United States needs a better range of options for dealing with such risks to peace. He advocates “integrated deterrence,” which combines military elements with economic warfare. The military components would feature strengthened forward defenses as well as, possibly, limited military options against Russian or Chinese assets in other theaters. Economic warfare would include offensive elements, notably sanctions, as well as measures to ensure the resilience of the United States and allies against possible enemy reprisal.
The goal is to deter war through a credible set of responses that are more commensurate than existing policy with the stakes involved in such scenarios.“
The third question is to what extent such a new Harmel report also considers the possibility of diplomatic solutions in the sense of a New Eastern Policy with Russia, as well as arms control agreements after the terminated INF contract, the possible termination of START and other new weapon systems for which there are still no arms restrictions as cyber or space weapons. At the moment, all the militaries in the world are currently busy modernizing their weapon systems and China has announced that, on the one hand, it wants to increase the scope and, on the other hand, it will only be ready for armaments agreements once the modernization has been completed and negotiations should take place on this new basis.
From our partner RIAC
“Westlessness” of the West, and debates on China during Munich Security Conference
The Munich Security Conference, which traditionally brings together heads of state and government, foreign and defense ministers in February, is usually expected to bring some kind of intrigue. This time round, the role was claimed by the conference report, titled “Westlessness,” whose main message was the loss by Western countries of their global leadership and, as a consequence, the growth of nationalist sentiment in Western countries and the loss of their monopoly on resolving international conflicts.
Expectably enough, Russia and China were blamed for the world and the West itself becoming “less Western.” The organizers of the Munich Conference urged China to responsibly handle its role as the world’s new non-Western center of power, and expressed hope that China would over time “adopt liberal values and become a “responsible stakeholder” in a liberal world led by the West.”
A pretty unlikely scenario though. A separate chapter in the report’s “Actors” section is devoted to China. Describing China as the “Meddle Kingdom” (similar to the Middle Kingdom), the authors view the country’s growing economic might and political sway as a potential threat to the world order that exists today.
The authors are concerned about looming Chinese superiority in foundational emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and connectivity technology, as well as surveillance technology and “know-how” in the field of internet regulation. In the case of 5G, they write about an intense debate over how to balance close economic ties with China amid growing security concerns. And, in a truly Freudian slip, they write about “the growing concern that the future holds a technological segregation of the world into those countries operating on Western technologies and norms and those running on Chinese ones.”
The section of the report on China is chock-full of graphs, charts and diagrams reflecting European fears of Chinese technology and investments. However, when carefully examined, these charts show that despite strong opposition from Washington and Brussels, more than half of “respondents” perceive technologies and investments from China positively.
The participants in the Munich Conference also spent a lot of time trying to present the coronavirus epidemic as a “Chinese threat,” even though China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Munich that his country would soon be able to check the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking at the conference, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized: “We are prepared to join efforts on other pressing issues of the global agenda, including epidemiological threats. We are ready to work together on other pressing issues on the world agenda, including epidemiological threats. In this regard, I would like to note China’s open and responsible approach to international cooperation in combating the spread of the coronavirus.”
The Munich conference never found a cure to the problem of “Westlessness” though. Well, maybe they should look at themselves instead of faulting China, Russia and others? At least, Russian and Chinese representatives reaffirmed their readiness to engage in a constructive and inclusive dialogue.
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