Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

19
May

Fires in Vietnam could ultimately burn Beijing

Written on May 19, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy, News, Security

The spilling of blood and burning of factories by anti-Chinese rioters sweeping across Vietnamreinforces Beijing’s message to other countries claiming territory in the South China Sea: resistance is costly and ultimately futile.

But a region in which anti-Chinese sentiment grows and where sovereignty disputes disrupt trade and economic growth will burn Beijing as well. Over the long term, a commitment to peaceful dispute resolution in accordance with international law, including some concessions on historic claims, would serve China better than its current path.

China made the provocative first move in this latest incident by deploying a massive oil rig to the contested Paracel Islands. There was no doubt that Vietnam would respond, and China prepared by sending an armada of 80 ships — including seven naval vessels along with the rig. The two countries’ maritime forces are now locked in a standoff with aggressive and dangerous maneuvers, water canons and collisions at sea.

Deploying the oil rig allows Beijing to show that Vietnam is in a lose-lose situation when faced with Chinese aggression. If Hanoi ignores the Chinese move, it allows “new facts on the water” that will bolster China’s legal claims down the road. If it resists, its coast guard and navy will be dragged into a long and costly contest against a stronger force. And if the dispute continues to spark violent protests at home by angry Vietnamese nationalists, investment and international confidence gets disrupted for Vietnam — not China.

vietnam222China does not want open conflict with its neighbors, but when it comes to territorial disputes, the Chinese government has decided it can play hardball with little risk. It can push just enough to advance its own claims, but avoid serious conflict or war by deescalating before things get out of hand.

Beyond the oil rig, Chinese actions in this vein include new construction on contested reefs and shoals occupied by China; patrols and ceremonies on islands claimed by other nations like Malaysia; unilateral fishing bans imposed on other nations while China tolerates illegal fishing and harvesting of coral by Chinese fishermen; and many more. At the same time, China continues to participate in negotiations on a Code of Conduct among the countries it bullies, intended to prevent conflict and prohibit exactly this kind of behavior.

For Chinese leaders committed to defending what they view to be Chinese territory, this aggressive path makes sense for two reasons. First, it teaches the smaller maritime nations of Southeast Asia that they’re better off accommodating Chinese claims than resisting them. In essence, China is saying “we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

Second, China knows that its most important claims — like the nine-dash line covering most of the South China Sea — are not well-founded under contemporary international law. By taking aggressive steps now, Beijing can establish a track record of presence and activity that will position China better if it ever needs to clarify claims in accordance with international law, as called for by the United States and other nations.

But this strategy is bold, not wise. Beijing’s actions carry significant risk, and mask a tension between China’s short and long-term goals. Sailors or airmen in tense standoffs could miscalculate and spark an incident that demands military escalation. Countries like Vietnam could also decide to take a stand and choose to fight rather than give in to Chinese pressure. Yet that decision would be calamitous: the last time China and Vietnam went to war, in 1979, about 60,000 people were killed. China would not benefit from such conflict in Asia, especially if it took the blame for derailing Asia’s long run of peace and progress.

Even if it avoids war, China can overplay this hand to such a degree that Southeast Asian nations defy history and join together to resist domination by a resurgent Middle Kingdom. The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are far from forming an alliance and have no tradition of such banding together, but ASEAN has grown stronger and is welcoming a greater U.S. role in the region, in part because of China’s assertiveness.

For now, Beijing’s refrain seems to be from the Rolling Stones: “don’t play with me ‘cause you’re playing with fire.” Chinese leaders think the fire will only burn their rivals. They are wrong.

 

By Vikram J. Singh; MAY 16, 2014
23
Apr

As with any presidency, Barack Obama’s agenda has been heavily driven by external events. His landmark foreign policy initiative (if one doesn’t count ending the two wars in the Middle East) was supposed to be the so-called pivot to Asia. Instead, events at home — such as the government shutdown — and abroad have repeatedly hijacked the White House’s foreign policy agenda. But rather than bemoaning this, the president should now prioritize the Ukraine crisis in order to also rescue the Asia pivot.

This, of course, is a tough message for Obama to deliver to America’s allies in Asia when he arrives in the region this week. Countries such as Japan and South Korea, who originally welcomed the pivot to Asia with open arms, have lately grown wearier about Washington’s follow-through. They want to see a stronger security and political commitment from the United States.

These Asian allies may now worry that the Ukraine crisis will further jeopardize the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific by consuming valuable time, energy and resources. Obama must therefore use some of his face time with Asian leaders to explain to them why they too have an interest in Washington focusing on Europe at the moment. In fact, there are several good reasons why doing so could be a good thing for the Asia pivot. Let’s consider three of them.

First, and perhaps most obvious, the situation in Ukraine is still very tense and can easily take a turn for the worse. The most serious crisis since the Cold War, Ukraine illustrates that Europe is still far from “whole and free.” Countries such as Moldova and Georgia or the Western Balkans may well be next in line for Putin. Unless the United States steps up its efforts, it could risk getting bogged down in potential future crises in the region. Asian allies should therefore welcome efforts to complete the European project once and for all.

At the same time, it’s in the long-term interest of both the United States and its Asian allies to get capable European countries to assume more responsibility for their own neighborhood. Such a “new transatlantic bargain” would allow America to focus its attention elsewhere in the world. Conversely, Europe should support America’s growing role in the Asia-Pacific even if this means less American troops in Europe in the future. In no way does the pivot to Asia mean Washington is pulling back from its commitments to European security. Read more…

Erik Brattberg is a Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

Published on April 22, 2014 in http://www.realclearworld.com

14
Mar

Though it would wish otherwise, Turkey cannot avoid being implicated in the Crimean crisis. The peninsula’s 260,000-strong Tatar population, roughly 15 percent of total Crimean population, creates a strong bond. Ethnically, linguistically and by way of religion (Sunni Islam) Tatars are very close to Turks. Several millions of Turkish citizens can claim Tatar roots thanks to the successive migratory waves since the Russian Empire took over the Crimean Khanate, an Ottoman vassal, in 1783. Yusuf Akçura, one of the founding father of Turkish nationalism, was a Tatar too, (though coming from the Volga region rather than Crimea). These days, the Turkish press abounds with articles and op-eds calling for the government to take a tough stance and protect the Tatar minority, largely favourable to the new government in Kyiv, from Russia‘s incursion. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu heeded the call pledging to extend protection.

The second reason Ankara takes interest in the ongoing crisis is Turkey’s sense of belonging the Black Sea region, however blurry it might be. Although its foreign policy has been firmly tied with the Middle East for the past five years or so, Ukraine is seen as a neighbouring country. A change of the territorial status quo in the area is not to be taken light heartedly. It’s not solely the long-standing concern about its own territorial integrity which is at stake but potentially other tension points across the post-Soviet space such as Nagorno-Karabakh. As the independence referendum tabled by the Crimean Parliament for 16 March draws near, prospects for secession are becoming all too real. Turkey will no doubt have to respond and denounce the outcome of the referendum. The question is how far it is prepared to go in a concerted push-back action against Russia. Read more….

 

By Dimitar Bechev, Published on Mar. 13, 2014 in the European Council on Foreign Relations http://ecfr.eu/blog

12
Mar

Obama Needs a New National Security Strategy

Written on March 12, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, News

US President Barack Obama pauses while s

When you work on the president’s national security staff, you never feel like there are enough hours in the day. Whether you are managing Ukraine, Syria, South Sudan or the South China Sea, even a 15-hour day leaves you feeling like a slacker. But every few years, the White House staff piles one more task on its overflowing agenda: draft, debate and vet a National Security Strategy, a hefty document that explains the president’s foreign policy vision to a demanding Congress, not to mention America’s allies and adversaries around the world.

The task feels overwhelming for any administration. The drafters have to summarize all of the national security concerns of the United States, outline how the administration will address them and then secure buy-in from interagency colleagues — while simultaneously juggling real-time crises all over the globe.

This year’s drafters, as they prepare for this month’s release of the 2014 NSS, have a particularly steep hill to climb. Virtually all of the threats we face have evolved significantly since the administration’s last version in 2010. Polling suggests Americans on the right and the left, tired from over a decade of war and recognizing the limits to U.S. power and resources, increasingly want to focus inward.

How then should the administration craft a strategy to secure and advance U.S. global interests in an increasingly complex world — a world perhaps no more dangerous than in the past but whose dangers manifest in newer, trickier ways? How can the United States reshape its commitments to allow for renewal of the domestic roots of American power without succumbing to the counterproductive and dangerous siren song of “Come home, America”?

The need for a new strategy stems in part from the success of the previous one: The United States has left Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is ending and Osama bin Laden is dead. President Barack Obama and Russian then-President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new nuclear treaty, and the U.S. economy is on the mend. But nobody’s feeling like patting themselves on the back, as this year’s NSS drafters face a long list of intractable problems for which there are no easy answers. Here are six issues that will be especially tough to tackle.

1. Rebalancing

The administration made rebalancing to Asia one of its signature foreign policy initiatives in the first term. That wise and overdue shift has concrete policy attached to it, including bolstering the U.S. military posture in the region, a major trade initiative in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and broader diplomatic ties through programs like the expanded strategic and economic dialogues with China. Those initial moves herald a shift that will take a generation to fully mature — the rebalance should be evaluated over years, not weeks or months.

Now officials must figure out how to devote increasing attention to Asia while simultaneously focusing on the administration’s top three priorities in the Middle East: Iran, Syria and Middle East peace. Adding to the challenge, the recent crisis in Ukraine has forced the administration to review some of its core assumptions about stability in Europe, a region most believed was moving inexorably toward stability and prosperity. Will Russian aggression force the administration to spend more time and money reassuring skittish allies in Central and Eastern Europe going forward? Officials are already hinting, as did the Quadrennial Defense Review, that the rebalancing concept actually applies to more than how the administration balances its resources and attention across various regions. It also applies to a rebalancing of the tools of national power and how the United States will approach problems globally.

2. Counterterrorism

Though the administration has wound down the wars and decimated core Al Qaeda, the terrorist threat has morphed to pose new challenges. Splinter groups have proliferated across the Middle East and North Africa. Syria has become a vast training ground for extremists much like Afghanistan in the 1980s, with more than 5,000 foreign fighters.

None of this is what the administration wanted or expected to be facing in its sixth year in office. The aim has always been to move America off of a permanent war footing and clarify the legal structures that will guide counterterror efforts going forward, from the use of drones to the status of detainees. Both of those goals have proved elusive. The challenge for the administration now will be noting its progress in combating core Al Qaeda but then quickly acknowledging the quantity, potency and geographic dispersion of new affiliates. The NSS will have to reassure the American public and the world that the United States possesses a strategy and the tools to combat today’s threats as well as a renewed commitment to craft a more sustainable counterterror framework. Right now, that’s not so clear.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/white-house-national-security-strategy-104491.html#ixzz2vlUbyhWt

Julianne Smith is senior fellow and director of the strategy and statecraft program at the Center for a New American Security. Previously, she served as deputy national security advisor to the vice president.

 Jacob Stokes is a research associate at CNAS.

As published on March 10th, 2014 in http://www.politico.com

7
Mar

China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

 

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Sheila Smith.

Russia’s de facto assertion of military control in Ukraine’s Crimean region has put China in a bind. Moscow’s actions fly in the face of one of China’s longest held tenets of foreign policy: “no interference in the internal affairs of others.” Yet China is loathe to criticize publicly one of the few countries that never criticizes it. So what is Beijing to do?

Reading media headlines in the United States, it would be easy to assume that China had simply cast its lot with Russia. Referring to commentary in state-run media such as theGlobal Times and Xinhua, many western outlets see Beijing as unequivocally supporting Moscow. And indeed, an editorial in the Global Times is particularly clear in its preference that China stand with Russia. It notes that Russia is China’s “most reliable strategic partner” and urges that China not “disappoint Russia when it finds itself in a time of need.” According to the Global Times, China should prove itself a reliable strategic partner: “This way, we will make friends.” It is tempting to ask what kind of friends China will be making by supporting Russia, but that seems beside the point. As for China’s long-standing commitment to non-interference, the Global Times offers this rather confused commentary: “Some think China’s policy of non-interference will be tested in this matter, and that if China supports Russia, it will become ensnared in a diplomatic trap. This is the mentality of the weak. The West has interfered in the internal affairs of many countries, but never admitted it.”

Yet before we assume that the Global Times is a government mouthpiece, I am mindful of a meeting I had a few years back with officials from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). They were emphatic in arguing that the Chinese media—whether state-funded or not—were not a reliable proxy for official Chinese policy. Indeed, there is nothing to date in statements by the PRC’s foreign ministry to suggest that Chinese president Xi Jinping is prepared to hold hands with Putin and jump off a diplomatic cliff. Here is what MOFA spokesman Qin Gang has said thus far: “It is China’s longstanding position not to interfere in others’ internal affairs. We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” And further, he noted, “We understand the historical background of the Ukraine issue, and the complexity of the current reality. As I have said yesterday, to get to this point today, things happened for a reason. We hope that all parties can, through dialogue and consultation, find a political situation, prevent further escalation and work together to safeguard peace and stability in the region.”

What is behind China’s failure to stand up for Moscow? As Voice of America has reported, China has strong business interests in Ukraine that would undoubtedly be threatened were China to come out in support of Russia. Ukraine is a major source of arms for China and a growing partner in China’s resource quest. For example, Ukraine has agreed to lease 5 percent of its land to China for agricultural purposes in exchange for Chinese infrastructure investment. Of course these deals were struck under ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. It is possible that the new government will not recognize or revoke them if they were struck under terms perceived as unequal by the new government. Certainly, however, Chinese-Ukrainian business relations will suffer more if Beijing overtly backs Moscow. Read more…

 

By Elizabeth Economy, Published on March 5, 2014 in http://blogs.cfr.org