International Affairs / Mezinárodní dění - Page 2

Jacques Sapir komentuje revoluci na Ukrajině

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Tento týden byla média opět plná komentářů, které se jedním nebo druhým způsobem dotýkaly Ruska a Ukrajiny. Možná i kvůli oslavám 17. listopadu a zahraniční návštěvě Bohuslava Sobotky do Spojených států (zlé jazyky by řekly,  že český premiér se jednoduše vydal skládat účty našim imperiálním vládcům), se ale tradiční anti-putinovské články objevovaly s ještě větší frekvencí, než je obvyklé. Naši trpěliví novináři čtenářům pravidelně opakovali, že demonstrace proti Milošovi Zemanovi jsou v zahraničí vnímány jako důsledek odklonu od “světové”, lidskoprávní politiky Václava Havla, a že politici napříč Amerikou roní slzy nad opětovným příklonem České republiky k Rusku. Tuto hitparádu špatné novinařiny pak zřejmě korunoval rozhovor s Carlem Gershmanem, prezidentem National Endowment for Democracy (která je známá spíše jako “nevládní” odnož CIA), publikovaným v Hospodářských novinách. Keep Reading

Energy security in the V4: Assessment of possible cooperation to enhance security and development

Energy security has become one of the most important issues on the agenda of the European Union since the second gas crisis of 2009 when Russian gas flows to Europe were interrupted in the course of Moscow’s dispute with Ukraine over transit fees and higher gas prices. Even though energy security is of importance for the EU as a whole, with the Commission estimating that the import dependency of the Union will reach 73-79 per cent by 2020 and close to 90 per cent by 2030, especially the new twelve member states will be affected by any decision Russia makes about future (oil and) gas exports.1 In particular the Visegrád countries face a number of common challenges that make cooperation within the V4 setting not necessarily obligatory but highly recommendable.

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Show 1 footnote

  1. Note that the security of supply with regards to oil is not covered in this paper due to the fact that oil is a globally traded good with relatively stable costs, regardless of its origin. This allows even the V4 countries to diversify their imports away from Russia to some degree. Nonetheless one should not assume that the situation is significantly better but interconnection is somewhat better and ensures a relatively stable supply of this commodity.

Why Russia will never back down? Reasons behind supporting the Assad regime

On June 12, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised U.S.-Russian tensions over the crisis in Syria by publicly accusing Russia of providing MI-25 attack helicopters to the Assad regime. Clinton detected, “We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria.”

Accusations that Russia is supplying the Assad regime with weapons to attack civilians mark a significant hastening of tensions between the two countries caused by America’s frustration over the letdown of the UN peace plan for Syria. To nobody’s surprise, the accusations are currently being received with rage by the Putin administration in the short term, but there is a good chance that they could advance U.S. policy goals over the long term.

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Igor Lukes: ‘US attitude towards Europe is above party lines’

We present to you an interview with Igor Lukes, Czech-born professor of History and International Relations at Boston University. Our correspondent Jakub Janda questioned him about Republican Primaries, role of foreign policy in American political campaigns, and the puzzlement of the Europeans over distinguishing the Republicans from Democrats.

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Is Israel willing to go alone against Iran?

It should not come as a surprise that after experiencing a new stalemate in solving the Iranian nuclear crisis, „intelligence sources” leaked that Israel would not warn the US before attempting to destroy Iran’s unchecked and secret nuclear facilities. The real question is what would be the result of such a pre-emptive attack and if it is a viable threat or just a bluff?

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Embargo on Iranian oil: A move to save the US Dollar hegemony

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US Dollar Hegemony pictured as a harvester with uncle Sam sitting behind the driving wheel that is on the way to run over the escaping globe @ Dollar Hegemony by Luojie, China Daily, China from www.caglecartoons.com # 85448Acting through its ambassadors, the European Union has announced the imposition of an oil embargo on Iran from July 2012 on as well as placement of sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, which aim to disrupt the funding of the country’s nuclear programme. But will that suffice? Will it have any effect? Or will it rather be importers bearing the costs? In response to the declaration of the embargo, the Brent price of oil skyrocketed between 23rd and 29th January to $111 per barrel.1 Iran is the second largest producing country in OPEC that supplies 2.5 million barrels per day, out of which 450 thousand are sent to EU countries. If the stoppage of the Iranian supply is not substituted by some alternative source, the embargo on the trading of Iranian oil can significantly harm European economies.

The Oil from Saudi Arabia

Speaking through its Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, the European Union boldly announced that imports from Saudi Arabia will cover the Union’s consumption needs. A difficulty lies in the fact that relying on the oil reserve capacity of Saudi Arabia, which has always played the role of a safety measure, is becoming increasingly problematic. Even a short disruption of the drilling of oil in Algeria, and in Libya during the recent civil war, were sufficient to deplete Saudi reserve capacities.

When Wikileaks published diplomatic cables in 2010, what many analysts had been claiming for some time became public: Saudi Arabia has been lying about its oil reserves. They are lower than it officially claims. As everything indicates, it won’t be in the position to extract more than 12 million barrels a day. Given that the whole world experiences increasing demand, this will push up the prices of black gold to yet unprecedented heights. Oil will keep flowing even without Iran, but then we should not be surprised when the price will jump to somewhere between $120 to $150 per barrel during the summer.

Let’s look at the issue from a different angle. Who can lose out on the disruption of Iranian oil supply is obvious. It won’t be Russia, China, India, nor Turkey, but the European Union. (Allegedly, Japan will only decrease the level of supply.) Iran will now have to sell to these countries for a lower price. Higher prices will be especially beneficial to Saudi Arabia, which needs expensive oil in order to have sufficient funds for bribing its inhabitans, whose uprising would cause a true Arab spring and large problems to the United States, which are publicly supported by the Saudi regime that also allows them to build strategic military bases on its soil.

What really bothers the Americans

According to the treaty between the US and Saudi Arabia from the early 70s, the trading in oil with OPEC is concluded exclusively in US dollars (the famous term „petrodollars“ emerged as the result of the treaty). It is quite simple, really: if you ensure that oil will be traded in US dollars only, the countries needing oil for their economy’s development will be forced to obtain your currency. And this is exactly the reason why the American FED can today print dollar banknotes on big scale.

In the 30 years of functioning of the petrodollar system, the US has run a semi-monetarist trade regime, which has in practice entailed that in exchange for its goods, a country in question has received printed dollars. Besides being highly profitable to the US, the country’s foreign trade could prioritise import over export, leading to a decreased demand for the production of export goods.

This model could predominate only as long as the international political standing of the United States was unshakeable. But as the importance of new seats of power of the East and South increases, the appetite for a new, more just global ordering grows too. Emerging economies that have huge consumption of oil suddenly feel that dollar is detrimental to their growth and want to get rid of it. On the other hand, for the US a breakthrough of euro, juan or yen as the means of exchange would entail that they would have to quickly balance out their trade deficit – and for the largest economic entity in the world this would mean a several years long, painful transition.

When mentioning Iran it is useful to remember the fate of its Iraqi neighbour (indeed, among other countries). Since it is highly interesting that the accusation that Iraq own weapons of mass destruction came few months after Saddam Hussein announced that he will sell oil exclusively in euro. The bizarre leader of Libya, Muammar Kaddafi, was on friendly terms with Western politicians for years and no one was concerned too much by repressions against opposition – not until the moment when he announced the plan to create a pan-African oil trading regime, which hoped to force out the US dollar by creating the “African denari”.

In the past, Iran tried to weaken the dollar’s influence on trade and minimise the dollar transactions made for its oil, and at the end of 2008 it completely succeeded thanks to the founding of the Iranian oil commodity exchange. Japan pays for oil in yens, while others in euro.

To facilitate transactions for oil exports to India, Iran recently concluded a treaty with two important Indian banks. And in order to avoid any disputes with the US, Iran has chosen banks that have no direct engagement with the United States. Russian Gazprombank is expected to play the role of an intermediary. Latest information so far indicate that India has  agreed to this unprecedented deal and thus became the first recipeint of Iranian oil who will pay for the supply in gold instead of by dollar.

If joined by China, this initiative will have yet unforeseeable consequences. Gold once again starts to fulfill the role of currency and the United States watch this development with unease. Since more than by the alleged Iranian nuclear programme, they are threatened by a collapse of the dollar’s hegemony. The explanation for the present war drumming and dispatching of flotillas to the Persian Gulf can thus also be an effort to get rid of the weakest link on the ‘anti-dollar front’ that would send to Russia and China a first, but resounding warning signal.

 

* Translated from Czech by Stanislav Maselnik. Originally published on Revue Politika.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Brent is a trading classification of a kind of crude oil sourced from the North Sea that serves as a major benchmark for petroleum production from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Interview with Tomas Valasek: “EU has too few soldiers!”

Tomas Valasek
Tomas Valasek

Interview conducted by Czech political analyst Jakub Janda with respected security expert Tomas Valasek on the question of European defense, Libya, and the future of NATO in the light of the decline of American support.

In your recent study, Surviving Austerity – The Case for a New Approach to EU Military Collaboration, you argue that European countries should be looking to mitigate the effects of financial pressures by pooling military resources with like-minded nations, creating “islands of co-operation”. Could you give us a brief analysis what would it mean in the real world environment?

European countries have too few soldiers with the right skills and equipment. While there are many reasons for this – for example, the Europeans spend less per soldier than the Americans do – chiefly, the Europeans underperform because with 27 different governments managing, equipping and commanding 27 militaries they never enjoy economies of scale when buying and maintaining equipment or training soldiers. My study proposes that European armed forces start doing so together, and that they pool their bases, schools, maintenance facilities etc.  They should not do so at the basis of all 27 EU countries, but among small groups of governments that know and trust each other. In fact, some, such as the Belgians and the Dutch, are already doing so.

You also mentioned, that, there is still a lot of hardware in our (European) arsenals that frankly we have inherited and we don’t really know what to do with. Nowadays many critics say that current European arsenal cannot be effectively compatible with the US Military technology in joint operations, such as NATO interaction in Libya. Is it really that crucial?

NATO’s biggest challenge is not whether the Europeans and the Americans have compatible forces and technology. The greatest problem is that the Europeans have fewer and fewer forces to send to common operations. The Americans have steadily increased their defense budget over the past decade; the Europeans have, on average, decreased it each year. Overtime, a gulf has grown that the Americans find, for good reasons, politically unacceptable. The Europeans are unlikely to start spending more money on their militaries anytime soon – not when the economic crisis here is even more severe than in the US. But what the Europeans can and must do if they want to keep the Americans engaged in NATO is to spend their money more wisely. That means getting rid of some unneeded Cold War equipment, and collaborating on procurement, maintenance, training etc.

In his speech to the NATO ministers of defense, retiring US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out that the USA covers free fourths of the NATO budget and is nor able nor willing to continue in such trend. Does such statement support your argument that Europe should start taking care of its security? Could you expand your arguments what should European countries do?

For the time being, the United States remains the indispensable ally, committed to defend Europe if necessary.  But their attitudes are changing: the Americans no longer want to lead ‘wars of choice’ on Europe’s periphery; those fought in the name of human rights (such as the one in Libya). This is partly because US interests have moved elsewhere, to Asia and the Middle East, but also because American politicians and defence officials have come to feel that European countries are not taking the security of their own continent seriously enough. The allies have big economies and capable militaries, and in the future the Pentagon will expect them to be able to assure security of Europe’s periphery with little US help.

Since we talked about some aspects of European security, could you comment on current situation in Ukraine? Does it pose a threat to European security any aspect, especially in energetic strategies of the EU?

Russia and Ukraine are tussling over control of Ukraine’s gas pipelines so yes, another gas war is possible and would be bad for the EU. But this is a problem partly of our own making: some of the governments in Europe’s east have failed to invest in alternatives sources of energy to Russian gas. I am frustrated with Ukraine for a different reason: this should be a prosperous place and an important trading partner to the Central Europeans. Ukraine is a large country with a well-educated workforce and mineral and agricultural wealth. If it were better managed, it would be a lot richer – and all of Central Europe would benefit. Eastern parts of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – some of the poorest parts of Central Europe – should in principle be booming and growing from trade with Ukraine. But they are not, mostly because Ukraine has been governed by crooks for most of its independence.

Thank you for your time,
Jakub Janda

Tomas Valasek is Director of Foreign policy & Defence at the London-based think tank Centre for European Reform. He has written extensively on transatlantic relations, common European foreign and security policy and on defence industry issues. He is also a senior advisor to the Brussels office of the World Security Institute.

Previously, he served as Policy Director and head of the Security and Defence Policy Division at the Slovak Ministry of Defence.

China’s peaceful rise and the good neighbor policy

ChinaChina’s road of peaceful development is a brand-new one for mankind in pursuit of civilization and progress, the inevitable way for China to achieve modernization, and a serious choice and solemn promise made by the Chinese government and the Chinese people.’

Peaceful development is the inevitable way for China’s modernization. With these incisive and forceful words, China’s State Council Information Office opened China’s Peaceful Development Road (the white paper has been published on December 2005) and Beijing government inaugurated the new foreign policy strategy.

With Chinese economic miracle, quick and fast-paced industrial development and high annual growth rates of above 9%, Beijing has not only consolidated the strategic cooperation with its Asian neighbors, but also has increased its economic influence on the regional geopolitical chessboard.

The string of Chinese investments and trade agreements with its neighbors have fostered a relationship of economic interdependence with Beijing, which increases in the international community, especially for competitors like U.S. and Russia, suspicions and fear of an imminent ‘Chinese threat’ to dominate and control Asian region and its resources.

First, the Bush administration and now the Obama administration informally adopted a policy of containment of Beijing economic and political influence in Asia to counterbalance this “Chinese threat” and to regain the most important role in Far East. The official statements of U.S. State Secretary, Hillary Clinton, at the 17th ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010, (the United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea‘) and Obama’s recent announcement of the achievement of the broad outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with eight Asian Countries are strong signals of this containment policy.

Beijing’s response to ‘Chinese threat’ perception

In response to ‘Chinese threat’ external ‘misperception’, Beijing government and a Chinese scholar devised a new perspective of thinking, which aims to build a new image of a reliable and credible China, as a responsible stakeholder in the international system.

The cornerstone of this new China’s foreign policy strategy is the adoption of the ‘peaceful development’ ideological doctrine, heping fazhan, for a ‘peaceful rise’, heping jueqi, in a harmonious and multipolar world governed by order and prosperity, where there is no room for a single hegemony. The rhetoric of government seeks to subvert the external perception, maybe a misperception, of the country as a ‘threat’ to the interests of major global powers. This concept, core of China’s new strategic doctrine, has been proposed first by the scholar Yan Xuetong in 1998 and used officially re-introduced by the Chairman of China Reform Forum, Zheng Bijian, during the Bo’ao Forum in 2003.

Since 2003, Beijing began on one side to concentrate the efforts on the dimension of public diplomacy, bound by the multilateral coordination, and also to pursue a peaceful rise, without seeking hegemony. Wen Jiabao stressed once again that China’s goal is not to obtain absolute control nor create a deadlock conflict with the United States or Russia, but rather to build good neighborly relations and strengthen the partnership with neighboring countries.

In fact, Beijing needs to strengthen collaborative and non-confrontational relationships, to neutralize the risk of an unexpected growth-braking. In the speeches of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao the ‘heping jueqi’ is described as the focal point for the development of the Country:

Peace, opening-up, cooperation, harmony and win-win are our policy, our idea, our principle and our pursuit. To take the road of peaceful development is to unify domestic development with opening to the outside world, linking the development of China with that of the rest of the world, and combining the fundamental interests of the Chinese people with the common interests of all peoples throughout the world. China persists in its pursuit of harmony and development internally while pursuing peace and development externally; the two aspects, closely linked and organically united, are an integrated whole, and will help to build a harmonious world of sustained peace and common prosperity.

China’s new diplomatic approach: periphery policy and good neighbor policy

With the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of China to international markets, a new type of political culture is born in Beijing. In the wake of Deng Xiaoping’s mission of modernization, China inaugurates its pragmatic strategic behavior: tao guang yang hui, you suo zuo wei, ‘keep a low profile and never take the lead’.

For its own interests, Beijing works to promote a multipolar community, duojihua, where both cooperative and friendly relations with neighbors and principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in internal state affairs, can preserve regional stability. The “good-neighbor” integrated regional policy is the China’s new diplomatic approach. Before the 1980s China was not able to create a good network of relations with its neighbor countries nor to make an integrated regional policy or to promote economic cooperation.

But with the open door policy and the end of international isolation, Chinese leaders offer a new perspective of development related to a new ideology: zhoubian zhengce, an integrated ‘periphery-policy’, known as the ‘good neighbor policy’, mulin zhengce. Establishing good relations with neighbors, China can convert its image as a responsible power willing to promote stability, security and regional cooperation, increasing its influence in world affairs, soft power and moral authority.

The key-points of this strategy seem to be: the multilateral diplomacy with the normalization of the relations with several Southeast and Pacific-Asian countries; the emphasis on the emergence of a ‘new Asianism’; the participation in Asian regional organizations (first of all the ASEAN + 3 and the SCO) and the activism within the most important international institutions.

During last ASEAN Summit, held recently in Indonesia, Premier Wen Jiabao has highlighted how China intends to strengthen good-neighbor policy in maintaining the status quo equilibrium in the region:

We are committed to a policy of building good-neighborly relations and partnership with our neighboring countries, and we abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The disputes over the South China Sea between the relevant countries in the region have existed for many years. They should be settled through friendly consultation and negotiation between the sovereign states directly concerned.

The desire to consolidate the diplomatic and economic relations with Old Europe and U.S. reflects Beijing’s goal to put itself forward as the great debt crisis solver and as guardian of equilibrium in a new peaceful international order. In the words of the ideologist Zheng Bijian:

China’s cultural tradition, featuring ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘priority to peace,’ also goes a long way toward facilitating China’s harmonious coexistence and sharing of prosperity with the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

Conclusion

China chooses the road to peaceful development to strengthen its soft power and its international influence, but this strategy serves not only to Beijing for its economic development or for its regional affairs, but also to increase its political and diplomatic weight.

Indeed, the construction of a peaceful world, orientated to maintaining the status quo relationship with Taiwan, the economic interdependence and the participation in Asian Regional Fora keep off the risks of possible military confrontations in the South China Sea and neutralize U.S. influence in the area.

Few days ago, President Hu Jintao alerted military personnel to ‘make extended preparations for warfare in South China Sea. Hu Jintao’s statement has provoked strong reactions and more than one question: is China’s rise really peaceful? How can China’s rearmament and the increasing in military spending be consistent with Beijing’s good neighborly strategy? A war in South China Sea would be a war for the assertion of hegemony, but it is improbable that China intends to address a military dispute in this time of global crisis. Hu Jintao’s call seems only a demonstrative test of the military strength of an ambitious rising power.

We can thus say that if China’s rise was first a big problem for the interests of the West, now the real “China’s threat” is its peaceful rise, that allows Beijing to build new relations of good neighborliness, to exercise more political influence and to regain international credibility.

 

Bibliography:

Suisheng Zhao, China-U.S. relations transformed: perspectives and strategic interactions, Routledge 2008.

C. Fred Bergsten,Charles Freeman,Nicholas R. Lardy,Derek J. Mitchell, China’s Rise: Challenges and Opportunities, Center for strategic and international studies 2008.

Sujian Guo, Challenges and Opportunities for China’s “Peaceful Rise”, in:  http://bss.sfsu.edu/sguo/My%20articles/006%20Introduction.pdf.

Zheng Bijian, China’s Peaceful Rise: Speeches of Zheng Bijian 1997-2004, in: http://www.brookings.edu/fp/events/20050616bijianlunch.pdf.

Putin’s Eurasian Union: A danger or strategic opportunity?

Putin and EurasiaWhen Vladimir Putin recently published an article in the Russian daily Izvestia that officially announced his plans for the establishment of an Eurasian Union in the geographical space of former USSR countries, he caused quite an uproar in the Western media.1 The headlines such as those in the Telegraph run that Putin’s wish is nothing short of re-forming ‘a pseudo-Soviet Union’ reassuring readers that the plan is about ‘reclaiming the Russian Empire’,2 even though in the same article Putin explicitly rejected any comparison with the USSR. Newspaper commentaries are naturally inclined to exaggeration and the use of catchy words to raise readership figures, but they still reflect general fears of the West towards the resurgent Russian foreign policy of the last decade. The essential policy question for the EU and US is whether these concerns about a Eurasian union are justified and reflect a real threat of some ‘incoming Russian empire’. Or perhaps, if considered from a different angle, the Putin’s and Russian administration’s plans might just as well present the NATO allies with a real strategic opportunity.

A short notice to readers about my argument’s presuppositions is first due, however. In the grand realm of foreign policy, one can speak about natural allies and interests only with a grain of salt. If the cultural and value-based factors remain excluded, economics, energy, nor even geography can offer clear-cut answers on choosing a country’s allies and by extension, also its enemies. To say that Russian foreign policy now poses a threat or strategic opportunity then implies taking a particular normative stand, which is in turn arguable based on the principles adopted. In this short piece, my purpose is singular: to contrast the arguments of those on the side of the EU and US who claim that the Russian initiatives in the Eurasian basin should be opposed with those less numerous voices to which I also humbly join, who argue that Putin’s ‘Eurasian Union’ is a sound initiative of regional integration that can serve the EU’s and US’s interests in stabilising the whole region thus creating a strong ally to balance out other rising superpowers such as China.

Flags of the three present members of the Customs Union
Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia already form a Customs' Union, Eurasian Union will be its successor

The critics of the Russian foreign policy generally argue that Russia under Putin and Medvedev is simply rebuilding its former empire, sometimes using its leverage in energy resources, sometimes outright military aggression as in case of Georgia. In their interpretation, such efforts must be vigorously opposed, as the result will be nothing but Russia’s domination of its ‘Near Abroad’ that will prevent countries such as Ukraine and Georgia in making a free choice to join the international community of liberal democratic states. These arguments are often joined by those in the EU who believe that the Union’s foreign policy should be based on stabilising its neighbourhood through spreading of its norms, functioning as a sort of ‘a neo-medieval empire’ (Jan Zielonka) or ‘neoliberal empire’ (Warwick Armstrong and James Anderson). Naturally, approaching Russia, a country that has consciously adopted a development strategy of ‘modernisation without Westernisation’, with this approach is inherently ineffectual, as the EU as Russia’s equal ally does not have any leverage that it could impose on its eastern partner. The result is that Europe’s prominent politicians such as German FM Guido Westerwelle and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski, who recently addressed a joint letter to the EU’s chief of foreign affairs Catherine Ashton, where they urged her to reorient her policy towards realpolitik of securing energy supplies and modernising Russian economy.3

If the Russian leadership’s military solutions to the Georgian and 2nd Chechnyan conflicts can regarded as controversial, Putin’s latest initiative shows that the Russian political elite clearly realises that their country’s influence on its neighbourhood can be achieved only if it brings benefits to both sides and is not based on force. Far from being a Russian empire, the Customs Union, which is to be a first step towards a full Eurasian Union, was joined by Kazakhstan and Belarus of their own sovereign decision and they will retain a proportionate control over the decision-making of the whole union. Indeed, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan already have submitted their own bid for the membership. Similarly, where Russia once had relied on its hard currency reserves to gain from its neighbours political concessions through cheap provision of loans and direct subsidies of fuel, the new policy aims at elevating the economic prospects of the entire region with Russia serving as a natural gravity well.4 While Russia will over time benefit by reinforcing its status as the region’s financial and business centre, the other countries of the Union will be more competitive in agriculture and heavy industry such as steelmaking, gain investments for their backward, Soviet-style economies (this especially applies to Belarus), just as benefit from the competitive advantage of their cheaper labour force.

For the EU and US, the Russian effort to lead a regional integration brings a possibility of an alternative form of the international ordering. Without making any positive or negative judgements, the present international order can be broadly labelled as the global military hegemony of the US with the support of its NATO allies. This hegemony has been supported by the combined economic might of the US, EU and Japan, but as the economies of indebted Western countries will be experiencing their relative decline, their military control will inevitably wane too. The obvious alternative is that this hegemony will be replaced by another – that of the Asian or Chinese century. As this is naturally an infeasible outcome for the European and American interests, maximum effort should be made to seek out other options, the most significant of which is a return to the principle of balance of power remodelled for the purposes of the ‘grand scale’ of the globalised world. While the original international order of nation-states presupposed the relative equality of countries in the still rather localised world of the 19th century, sovereignty in the postmodern world becomes intangible but for the largest of polities that possess a broad control over the world’s natural and economic resources. Thus, political equality in the 21st century can be achieved only on the level of ‘grand spaces’, by political groupings that are sufficiently large and powerful to maintain an effective control over their territory that would balance out that of other similar entities.

A Eurasian Union, modelled on the EU is a clear step into the direction of such a multipolar world. As its plans develop from the current Customs Union to a full economic union, it is based on fully voluntary grounds and is expected to bring benefits of peace and economic growth to all its members – not just the Russian giant. In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, a Eurasian Union could well become a strong ally of the EU and US and help them to ensure that their relative strength will remain preserved, even against the odds of the rising Chinese dragon.

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Vladimir Putin, ‘Новый Интеграционный Проект Для Евразии: Будущее, Которое Рождается Сегодня / Buduscheie, Kotoroie Rozhdaeietsa Segodnia / Novyi Integratsiovannyi Proiekt Dlia Evrazii’, Известия, 3 October 2011 <http://izvestia.ru/news/502761> (accessed 4 October 2011).
  2. Andrew Osborn, ‘Vladimir Putin’s Plan to Create a Eurasian Union Is About Reclaiming the Russian Empire’, The Telegraph, 5 October 2011 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/8807720/Vladimir-Putins-plan-to-create-a-Eurasian-Union-is-about-reclaiming-the-Russian-Empire.html> (accessed 11 November 2011).
  3. Andrew Rettman, ‘Putin’s Return Poses Questions for EU Strategy’, EUobserver, 14 November 2011 <http://euobserver.com/24/114266> (accessed 15 November 2011).
  4. Andrew E. Kramer, ‘Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan Form Customs Union’, The New York Times, 5 July 2010, section Business Day / Global Business <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/business/global/06customs.html> (accessed 1 July 2011).

China-U.S. Competition to lead Asian Development

A new ‘Great Game’ in Asia-Pacific arena arouses the antagonism and the rivalries between old and new world powers. The future of the United States is closely connected to and dependent on the Asian geopolitical chessboard. Therefore, last week, President Obama said in his speech to the Australian Parliament that:

Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in. With most of the world’s nuclear powers and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.

‘We are here to stay’ is a strong message directed to the great rising power, China, the most ambitious player in the competition to gain the regional hegemony in Asia-Pacific. The Sino-US relations, oscillating between competition and cooperation, seem to have inaugurated a new course. Officially, Barack Obama emphasizes the importance of the US-China cooperation and recognizes Beijing’s balancing role in the region:

We’ve seen that China can be a partner, from reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula to preventing proliferation. We’ll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing, including greater communication between our militaries to promote understanding and avoid miscalculation.

US-China trade © Forbes
US-China trade © Forbes

On the unofficial side, Obama’s strategic goals are glaring and China knows them: Washington aims to regain the leadership in the Far East, implicitly carrying out a policy of containment of Beijing’s political and economic influence. The United States define their role in Asia  just when in the West people live out through the peak of global crisis,with Euroland  looking to China, already the largest single holder of U.S. government debt, and to its 3200 billion USD foreign exchange reserves as the only resource for the rehabilitation of the public debt.

The first significant sign of U.S. interests in Asian geopolitical space is the announcement of the imminent dispatch of a military aircraft and up to 2.500 marines to Darwin in northern Australia, only 500 miles from Indonesia. The U.S. goal is to strengthen alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines and protect core U.S. interests across Asia. By 2016, the number of American troops stationed in Asia will be staggering: 2500 marines stationed in Australia, 50000 already stationed in Japan and 28000 stationed in South Korea.

New Asia-Pacific order

The new chapter of the Washington’s Asian policy started at the last Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu. During the APEC Forum, which brought together 21 Pacific Rim Countries, the ‘member economies’ that seek to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region, President Obama has defined new conditions to Beijing government. Obama insisted that China should appreciate its official currency, the renminbi. A faster rise of its value would balance global trade and make American goods more competitive, but also it would discourage the inflow of foreign capital to China. We’re going to continue to be firm that China operate by the same rules as everyone else. We don’t want them taking advantage of the United States‘, stated President Obama.

While the United States are not afraid of China’s rise, China begins to worry about Obama’s recent  announcement of the achievement of the broad outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement negotiated among the United States and 8 other partners (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam). The TPP will exclude China and Russia from this free trade regional area in Asia-Pacific, with a related market of 500 million consumers.

China’s response: ASEAN + 3 is the keystone of Asian development

Beijing’s swift response arrived at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, held recently in Bali, Indonesia. Premier Wen Jiabao has summarized in four key-points his proposal for South-East Asia’s development, highlighting how China intends to strengthen multilateral relations and participation in regional organizations in maintaining equilibrium and balance in the region.

First, we should enhance strategic consultation and mutual trust. We are committed to a policy of building good-neighborly relations and partnership with our neighboring countries, and we abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The disputes over the South China Sea between the relevant countries in the region have existed for many years. They should be settled through friendly consultation and negotiation between the sovereign states directly concerned.

The second China’s priority is the regional economic development and a common coordination of strategies:

Second, we should pursue economic development and social progress as a top priority. Both China and ASEAN Countries are in a crucial stage of development. We should better coordinate development strategies, draw on mutual strengths and promote cooperation in more fields and at a higher level.

The third key-proposal of Wen’s speech at the Bali Summit points out that the development of cooperation in Asia should be addressed through the mechanism of ASEAN 10 +3 (China, Japan and South Korea). This is a way to strengthen the partnership with Japan and South Korea, historical allies of the United States. On the other hand, in these days the United States and Russia for the first time take part at the East Asia Summit and aim to strengthen the mechanism of ASEAN +8, to counterbalance China and ASEAN +3.

Third, we should adhere to ASEAN centrality in promoting East Asian cooperation. China supports ASEAN integration and community building and welcomes a stronger and more influential ASEAN. We are confident that ASEAN is fully capable of leading East Asian cooperation. China will open a permanent mission to ASEAN next year. We will continue to support ASEAN and work with it, and we will continue to take 10+1 as the foundation, 10+3 as the main vehicle and the East Asia Summit as an important supplement in pursuing East Asian cooperation.

In the last fourth point of his speech, Wen Jiabao said that China will seek to strengthen cooperation through multilateral approach.

Fourth, we should uphold our common Interests in the multilateral field.

Undoubtedly, the main passage of Wen’s stronger new Asian policy is summarized in this sentence: China will never seek hegemony and is opposed to all hegemonic acts.The reference is to the strategic and geopolitical ambitions of the United States in Asia, especially compared to the frequent interference in inter-regional disputes between China, Vietnam, the Philippines over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea between China and Japan in Diaoyu-Senkaku in East China Sea.

South China Sea: core interests and sovereignty

The South China Sea is Beijing’s core interest, with China claiming its ‘indisputable sovereignty’ on the myriad of islands, rocks and vast natural resources, especially hydrocarbures, sited in the subsurface sea. With the Dong Feng-21 D, also called the ‘aircraft carrier killer’, a ballistic missile with range of 3000 km, and the increasing military spending, Beijing government could shift Pacific power balance. China has turned its ‘Continental Policy’ into a new “Oceans Policy”, oriented to shake the balance of powers in the maritime space through a strengthening of military outposts in the South China Sea.

This refinement of Chinese military technology has increased the concern of Japanese and Philippines, who have called upon a U.S. intervention. At the 17th ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010 U.S. State Secretary, Hillary Clinton stated:

The United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.  We share these interests with not only ASEAN members and ASEAN Regional Forum participants but with other maritime nations and the broader international community.

Conclusions
It is difficult to make predictions on the future development of Sino-U.S. relations with regard to the effort to achieve strategic supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region. One thing is certain: participation in regional organizations seems to have become the keystone in establishing a new balance of power in Asia.