Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Challenges from an Uneasy, Restive World

"[A] renaissance of classic power politics [increases] the risk of violent conflict between states including in Europe and its neighbourhood, as the example of Russia's actions in Ukraine demonstrate."
"Our increased role in international security policy [leads Germany to accept responsibilities and leadership [as a] reliable partner [in international military missions]."
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government draft document

"[The Japanese election results giving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party a majority] opened the door for a Japan that can go to war [although a rearmed Japan] will also help deter North Korea’s nuclear threat and check the rising military power of China."
Munhwa Ilbo editorial, South Korea
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo on Sunday. His party’s victory could allow Mr. Abe to realize his long-held ambition of revising the Constitution, which strictly limits the role of the military. Credit Toru Hanai/Reuters

Ghosts of the Second World War reborn. A passionately social-democratic Germany and a resolutely democratic and capitalist Japan, one in full rejection of the fascism of the Third Reich and its horrendous legacy, the other determined to continue its trajectory in close relations with the West, discreet for seventy years at the close of the Second World War, as sober allies of capitalist and democratic nations of the world, now find themselves at a crossroads.

A former ally of the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, much diminished in power and influence, has nostalgically envisioned the transitioning of the Russian Federation back to a near facsimile of its Soviet days of control of the neighbourhood and failing that, the extension of threats and aggression of a class sufficient to send shivers of renewed trepidation down the ramrod stiff spines of former satellites calling out for the comfort of security to its latter-day mentors.

And the once-feared aggressor of Korea and China whose historical brutalities have left indelible scars whose scabs fall off from time to time revealing renewed wounds of searing anger and blame, long since tamed with a U.S.-led policy of protection-at-home, where the very sight of its own uniformed military forces were sufficient for ordinary Japanese to become incensed with rage, now 'normalizes' its military as defenders abroad under Shenzo Abe.

In eastern Europe, NATO has mustered its members to give comfort and assurance to nations within Russia's near-abroad, a geography that Moscow considers its sole purview. But since the decision to invade long-suffering Ukraine and transfer its Crimean deep sea port to Russian possession hoping that in time the Donbass will follow, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have been placed on high alert, with the U.S., Germany, Britain and Canada coming to the rescue.

U.S. troops cross the Lithuanian-Latvian border during tactical road march Dragoon Ride II in Subate, Latvia, June 6, 2016.     Reuters/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Germany is preparing itself to take on responsibilities in reference to the white paper's recommendations, to be more fully discussed by Chancellor Merkel's cabinet. The document  supports additional consolidation of Europe's defence industry, outdistancing Germany's previous white paper of 2006, where the country's intention was described as a "reliable partner". The shift in tone and intent recognizes Russia's new threatening assertiveness in Europe.

There are restraining caveats to satisfy the concerns of those whose memory recalls the Germany of World War II. Germany will be acting in full consultation with its European partners. The draft paper speaks to challenges facing all of Europe, from Russia's most recent provocations setting Europe on edge, on to the Middle East situation and the influx of a tide of refugees leaving Europe to cope with a situation that gives comfort to Vladimir Putin.

The issues of arming the Kurdish fighting forces in Iraq, taking part in the U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria, and agreeing to lead a North Atlantic Treaty Organization super-battalion deployed in Lithuania as a deterrent to Russia's geographic territorial ambitions, are all front and centre now in Germany which continues to spend 1.2 percent of GDP on defence, on its way to reach the NATO goal of 2 percent.

By contrast, most other NATO states spend well under even Germany's commitment on defence, while the United States which has been front and centre ensuring security for decades for
Western Europe alone, spent 3.6 percent in 2015. Under Angela Merkel's government, its military suspended conscription in favour of shifting to a fully professional army.

The news of China never stops coming, from its dedication to enlarging and modernizing its fleet of warships to challenging its neighbours over authority over the East and South China Seas. Today's win by the Philippines challenging China's assertion of historical rights in the South China Sea was supported by the international tribunal in The Hague, but celebrations seem premature when China fails to recognize the legal authority of the tribunal's decision.
"In terms of China’s domestic politics [the ruling] is unacceptable to the regime and unfortunately the regime will perceive that the Chinese people view that as unacceptable."
"So there will be huge pressures on Beijing to respond, to save face, to demonstrate with more than just words that it doesn’t abide by and doesn’t credit the ruling with any legal validity and will not adhere to it and will defend its ‘sovereign space’ in the South China Sea."
Ashley Townshend, scholar, University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre

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