Wednesday, November 27, 2013


"China has attempted to stamp its sovereignty on the airspace over islands that Japan also claims, a move that threatens to escalate a longstanding territorial dispute between the two Asian powers. The Chinese defence ministry on Saturday announced that it would establish an “air defence identification zone” over the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known in Japan as the Senkaku and in China as the Diaoyu. It added that in order to protect its territorial rights, China would take “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that entered the zone without identifying themselves. The Japanese foreign ministry lodged an immediate protest with the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, saying it was a “very dangerous” action. A spokesperson for the ministry said China’s unilateral action was “totally unacceptable and completely invalid” and could lead to “an unexpected occurrence of accidents in the area because it tries to restrict flights over high seas”. The US issued a sharply worded condemnation of China’s move. “We view this development as a destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” said defence secretary Chuck Hagel. China’s defence ministry on Monday said it had lodged protests with both the US and Japan over the weekend after they criticised Beijing’s move. In an early test of China’s new zone, which Beijing said went into force on Saturday, the Chinese air force sent early warning aircraft and fighter jets on a sweep of the area later in the day. Japan’s defence ministry said it scrambled fighter jets after detecting Chinese reconnaissance planes near its airspace. Over the past year tensions between the two counties have ratcheted up over the East China Sea. China has routinely flown aircraft over and sent surveillance ships into the territorial waters surrounding the disputed islands, challenging Tokyo’s effective control of a group that Beijing says Japan stole in the late 19th century. Japan has started to take a more assertive stance in response to the Chinese actions, stepping up its coastguard presence and its air defence. Experts warn that the risk of miscalculation has risen alongside the increased frequency of the two militaries’ near-encounters on the East China Sea. Yang Yujun, spokesman of the Chinese defence ministry, said the air identification zone was based on international law. “This is a necessary measure China has taken to exercise its right to self defence,” he said. “It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of flights in the airspace.” Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanic affairs bureau, lodged a protest by phone to Han Zhiqiang, China’s acting ambassador to Japan".
Simon Rabinovitch & Ben McLannahan, "Japan rejects China claim on airspace over disputed islands." The Financial Times. 24 November 2013, in
"Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands on a training mission in the East China Sea without informing Beijing while Japan's main airlines ignored Chinese authorities when their planes passed through a new airspace defense zone on Wednesday. The defiance from Japan and its ally the United States over China's new identification rules raises the stakes in a territorial standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the islands and challenges China to make the next move. China published coordinates for an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone over the weekend and warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly. The zone is about two thirds the size of Britain. "If the United States conducts two or three more flights like this, China will be forced to respond. If China can only respond verbally it would be humiliating," said Sun Zhe, a professor at the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "The concept of the paper tiger is very important. All sides face it." China's Defense Ministry said it had monitored the entire progress of the U.S. bombers through the zone on Tuesday Asian time. A Pentagon spokesman said the planes had neither been observed nor contacted by Chinese aircraft. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, when asked how China would respond to future infractions of the zone, said the country would "make an appropriate response" that depended on the "situation and degree of threat". Qin added that China had informed "relevant countries" before setting up the zone. He would not elaborate. Following a request from the Japanese government, Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings said they stopped giving flight plans and other information to Chinese authorities on Wednesday. Neither airline had experienced any problems when passing through the zone, they added. Japan's aviation industry association said it had concluded there was no threat to passenger safety by ignoring the Chinese demands, JAL said. Both JAL and ANA posted notices on their websites informing its passengers of their decision. The flight by the B-52 bombers was part of a long-planned exercise, a U.S. military official said. Some experts have said the Chinese move was aimed at chipping away at Tokyo's claim to administrative control over the area, including the tiny uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The action might have backfired, said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS. "This is confirming the darker view of China in Asia," Glosserman said. "The Chinese once again are proving to be their own worst enemy ... driving the U.S. closer to Japan and (South) Korea closer to the position of Tokyo as well." U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, in her first speech since assuming her post earlier this month, criticized China's "unilateral action" as undermining regional security. Kennedy also said Japan had shown "great restraint this past year" and urged Tokyo to continue to do so. "We
encourage Japan to increase communication with its neighbors and continue to respond to regional challenges in a measured way." Tim Kelly and Phil Stewart, "Defying China, U.S. bombers and Japanese planes fly through new air zone." Reuters. 27 November 2013, in The Chinese government's attempted coup de main, and the allied (Japanese-American) response is one of the more refreshing and happier response and counter-response in International Relations for quite some time. It is by definition the case that Peking is endeavoring, by hook or by crook, to unilaterally change the territorial status quo ante bellum in the Far East. The dispute over the Senkaku is merely the first step in a larger project by Peking towards territorial revisionist project vis-`a-vis most of its neighbors. If left unchallenged, Peking would surely press on each of its neighbors going forward in a similar fashion that it has so far shown towards Japan. The joint Japanese-American response to Peking's bullying tactics is in fact the only response possible. Anything else would merely confirm the PRC that it can increase the pressure on Japan and soon other powers for similar attempted gains. As the usually bien-pensant Financial Times, for once correctly points out in its leader on Monday of this week:
"If Beijing is so convinced that international law is on its side it should seek to take the dispute to international arbitration. Tokyo probably would not agree but – equally convinced of its claim – just might if it could be assured that Beijing would abide by the result. Short of that, the two sides need to move to the status quo ante, by setting the dispute aside for wiser heads to resolve in future. In the meantime, they should seek to share resources, including fishing and oil exploration rights. The suspicion must be that Beijing does not want that. Instead it may see the islands as a way of driving a wedge between the US and Japan. It is an irresponsible game" 1.
1. Leader, "An irresponsible game in the Pacific." The Financial Times. 25 November 2013, in

Friday, November 22, 2013


"Vladimir Putin’s schedule had made Thursday look rather uneventful. But while the Russian president was meeting a group of literary figures he was served a foreign-policy triumph: Ukraine shrank back from an association agreement with the EU, stopping the crumbling of an alliance that Moscow sees as a cornerstone of its fragile empire. “Our government has stressed our trade security risk, but honestly, this is an all-out political fight between Russia and the EU over Ukraine,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russian in Global Affairs, a Moscow-based foreign policy journal. For now, Mr Putin has scored a victory. The decision by Kiev to break off talks with the EU makes Ukraine the second of four “eastern partnership” members that had been expected to reach an agreement with Brussels at next week’s Vilnius summit to be peeled off by Mr Putin. In September, Armenia stunned EU leaders by abruptly announcing it would scrap a similar EU “association agreement” it was to initial at the summit and instead join the fledgling Moscow-led Eurasian customs union. Only Georgia and Moldova are now expected to sign their deals in Vilnius. “The comfortable life of sitting in two chairs is coming to an end,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU. “We’re just offering the real picture of what they should expect. The EU has never promised Ukraine or any of the other ‘eastern partners’ full membership.” EU officials, who thought the deal could still be signed until the moment Kiev announced the freezing of bilateral talks on Thursday, pointed the finger squarely at the Kremlin for pressuring Mr Yanukovich into ditching the deal. “There has been extremely enormous pressure in the last 36 hours,” said one senior EU official briefed on the talks. “That is obvious.” Any attempt to rebuild a deal to link Ukraine to the EU now appears to require Russia at the table. Mr Putin on Thursday said he was ready for tripartite talks on the issue."
Kathrin Hille, Peter Spiegel and James Fontanella-Khan, "Ukraine serves Vladimir Putin a foreign policy triumph." The Financial Times. 21 November 2013, in
"Notwithstanding the fact that in some sense, Moskva had some cards to play with, in its endeavors since 2004 to keep Ukraine out of the EU-NATO-Western orbit, the domineering style of Russian diplomacy, with all sticks and very little by way of carrots, appears to have backfired tremendously. With the initial diplomatic success that Putin enjoyed with the current Ukrainian President (viz the agreement on basing Russia's Black Seas Fleet), Viktor Yanukovych being wasted by his inability to modulate his demands upon Kiev. In that respect Putin is a worthy heir of those individuals who historians have assigned the chief role in the Russian debacle in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905: the Bezobrazovschina."
Charles Coutinho, Ph. D. "THE PUTIN REGIME AND UKRAINE: THE FOREIGN POLICY OF STUPIDITY." Diplomat of the Future. 8 November 2013, in
It would appear that for those like myself who a few weeks back were counting out Grazhdanin Putin and his assertive style of foreign policy, were quite mistaken. While of course there were primat der Innenpolitik reasons for Ukrainian President Yanukovich to reject the proposed agreement with the European Union, one has to hand it to Putin that he was able to utilize those reasons in conjunction with his own mixture of diplomatic pressure points to obtain Kiev's apparent concurrence in his own proposed tri-partite customs agreement and forgo the proposed tie-up with Brussels 1. While not perhaps very 'pretty', Russian diplomacy managed to obtain the results it would appear that it was looking for in this particular matter. And, au fond, the tools that Putin did employ in this case, were a world away from say the tools that someone like Skryabin-Molotov would employ in Sovietskaya Vlast 2. In fact, while perhaps excessively one-sided and lacking in very attractive 'carrots', id. est., so-called 'soft power', the tools in Putin's diplomatic toolbox do appear to have been enough. With this undoubted diplomatic triumph under his belt, the second in the past six months, one has to reassess, those (like myself) who were prematurely dismissing the durability and the strength of Russian diplomacy and statecraft under Putinism. The episode with Kiev merely proving that even in our contemporary world, there is still something to be said for the diplomacy of brass tacks `a la Friedrich von Holstein. I will merely conclude, that it is mores the pity that Putin singularly so far has failed to employ such pressure tactics vis-`a-vis Matushka Russia's true enemies in Peking.
1. On the internal reasons that Yanukovich was reluctant to sign the agreement with the European Union, see: Yulia Tymoshenko, "Tymoshenko to Yanukovych: ‘Your fear is so evident." KyivPost. 22 November 2013, in See also the Russian-based analyst, Dmtiri Trenin 'twitter' comments: "Kiev's suspension of AA talks shows that Yanukovych is above all focused on his own future", in Dmitri Trenin @DmitriTrenin.
2. For a vivid example of real Sovietskaya Vlast tactics in action, see: Molotov remembers: inside Kremlin politics : conversations with Felix Chuev. (1993).

Friday, November 08, 2013


"Ukraine on Tuesday signed a deal worth up to $10bn with Chevron to exploit its shale gas reserves – one of the biggest such agreements in Europe to date – as it steps up efforts to break free from its reliance on Russian gas. In what is Ukraine’s second such deal this year, Chevron will gain the rights to explore and eventually produce hydrocarbons in two western Ukrainian regions. They hold an estimated 2.98tn cubic metres of gas reserves, making them among the largest in Europe. Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich said the Chevron agreement, on top of a similar one with Royal Dutch Shell in January, “will allow us by 2020 to become self-sufficient in gas, and, under an optimistic scenario, to become an exporter”. The deal could increase tensions with Russia, which have flared as Ukraine prepares to sign a far-reaching trade and political association agreement with the European Union later this month. Russia has banned Ukrainian products from steel to chocolates and temporarily stepped up border customs controls ahead of the EU agreement.... Ukraine’s efforts to boost domestic gas production follow years of wrangling with Russia’s Gazprom – of which Ukraine is one of the biggest customers. The Russian gas monopoly has twice cut off supplies to Ukraine in midwinter, in 2006 and 2009, amid pricing disputes. Gazprom last week raised the prospect of a new winter shut-off this year when it warned that Ukraine’s cash-strapped state gas monopoly had fallen behind on $882m of payments for gas. Ukraine’s energy minister has said he expects the arrears issue to be settled shortly. Gazprom responded to Ukraine’s deal with Shell in January by sending a $7bn bill for gas which Ukraine was contracted to buy from Gazprom in 2012 but did not use, on which negotiations are continuing. ".
Mark Rachkevych & Neil Buckley, "Ukraine signs shale gas deal with Chevron." The Financial Times. 5 November 2013, in
"It was the Kremlin with its impudence and intimidation that has succeeded in consolidating the conflicting Ukrainian elite clans on a pro-European basis. The recent Moscow trade war with Kiev was a perfect illustration of how the Law of Unintended Consequences works! Ukrainians have to build a monument to Putin surrounded by his team, with Sergey Glazyev at the forefront, acknowledging their input into helping the Ukrainian elite to overcome their doubts as to their country’s trajectory. For Putin the growing readiness of Ukraine to turn to Europe despite the formidable costs of this decision is a real disaster. Putin’s Eurasian Union cannot be a serious entity without the second large Slavic state limping along. It needs Ukraine as an anchor. Eurasia simply cannot exist without Ukraine. And without the Eurasian Union the Kremlin cannot reenergize the system of personalized power which needs satellite states. The new Putin’s Doctrine that he offered the world recently at Valdai is based on the linkage between the Russian “state-civilization” and the Eurasian Union, which is supposed to be like a galaxy with Russia as the pole. The galaxy will be a pathetic one without Ukraine. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Ukraine running away from Moscow will mean a devastating blow to the resilience of the Russian “state-civilization” that Putin tries to build".
Lilia Shevtsova, "How Ukraine Ruins Putin’s Dream." Carnegie Moscow Center. 8 October 2013, in www.
"Our agreement with Japan, dated April 13, 1898, sanctioned the dominating position of that country in Korea. If we had faithfully adhered to the spirit of this agreement, there is no doubt but that more or less permanent peaceful relations would have been established between Japan and Russia. We would have quietly kept the Kwantung Peninsula while Japan would have completely dominated Korea, and this situation could have lasted indefinitely, without giving occasion to a clash.... On the day when the news of the rebellion reached the capital, Minister of War Kuropatkin came to see me at my office in the Ministry of Finances. He was beaming with joy. I called his attention to the fact that the insurrection was the result of our seizure of the Kwantung Peninsula. "On my part," he replied, "I am very glad. This will give us an excuse for seizing Manchuria." I was curious to know what my visitor intended to do with Manchuria, once it was occupied. "We will turn Manchuria," he informed me, "into a second Bokhara."
Count Witte. The Memoirs of Count Witte. (1920). pp. 106-107.
The maladroit and bullying nature of Russian diplomacy under Grazhdanin Putin, would appear to be about to have it just rewards with Ukraine's imminent signing of a partnership agreement with the European Union. As Lilia Shevtsova has correctly pointed out, sans Ukraine, Putin's idea of a resurrected Sovietskaya Vlast in economic form would have little or no substance. Not only would Kiev's failure to adhere to Putin's customs association call into question the significance of the former, but Kiev's tie-up with Brussels would inevitably bring into train a liberalization of the internal political regime in Ukraine as well. And an ongoing democratizing project in Kiev would inevitably call into question the nature of the regime in Russia itself. In short, notwithstanding the fact that in some sense, Moskva had some cards to play with, in its endeavors since 2004 to keep Ukraine out of the EU-NATO-Western orbit, the domineering style of Russian diplomacy, with all sticks and very little by way of carrots, appears to have backfired tremendously. With the initial diplomatic success that Putin enjoyed with the current Ukrainian President (viz the agreement on basing Russia's Black Seas Fleet), Viktor Yanukovych being wasted by his inability to modulate his demands upon Kiev. In that respect Putin is a worthy heir of those individuals who historians have assigned the chief role in the Russian debacle in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905: the Bezobrazovschina.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


"The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is many things, and I am particularly grateful for the comments that His Royal Highness has just made about some media speculation versus the reality of the friendship that we share. Our relationship is strategic, it is enduring, and it covers a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. I want to remind everyone of President Obama’s statement at the United Nations. The President said that he will use all elements of U.S. power, including force, to secure the core interests of the United States in the Middle East. He said the United States will confront external aggression against our partners, as we did for Kuwait in the Gulf War. We will ensure the free flow of energy from this region to the world. We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. These are core U.S. interests, and we share these interests with Saudi Arabia, and we intend to work on these with Saudi Arabia. We also pursue together – Saudi Arabia and the United States have an incredible deep relationship. It goes way beyond one or two countries and one or two efforts. We do joint work in military planning; in enhancing renewable energy supplies; in energy stability and security; in counterterrorism; in critical infrastructure protection; in trade and investment; in science and technology; in enhancing and dealing with and addressing the medical attention to health pandemics; in agriculture and food security; in education and student exchanges. This is a deep relationship and it has endured now for more than 70 years and it will endure well into the future".
American Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry in Riyadh, "Remarks with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal." U.S. Department of State. 4 November 2013, in
It is difficult to not read into the remarks made by the American Secretary of State Senator Kerry on the tarmac in Saudi Arabia that there is a rift in the relations between the two powers. I do believe that the words of welcome made by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal can sotto voce, be read in that sense:
"A true relationship between friends is based on sincerity, candor, and frankness rather than mere courtesy. Within this perspective, it’s only natural that our policies and views might see agreement in some areas and disagreement in others. That’s perfectly normal in any serious relationship that spans a wide range of issues" 1.
And of course looking at matters from a unbiased perspective, it is not altogether unusual that the Saudis would view their relations with the American Administration in not the very best light. Indeed, the Financial Times correspondent David Gardner speaks of:
"the near apoplexy with which Saudi Arabia and Israel, Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, greeted Mr Obama’s decision not to punish the Assad regime for the chemical attack and to pursue detente with Tehran 2."
Given the rather incoherent state of American diplomacy in the area, this disenchantment by Riyadh is hardly unexpected. The very same can of course be said of the Israelis as well. However, notwithstanding these evident signs of discontent by these two close American allies, the fact of the matter is that neither power should be allowed or granted a veto over American policy vis-`a-vis Persia and on the ongoing civil war in Syria. Au fond, neither Saudi Arabia or Israel has the best perspective on the danger or lack thereof as per Persia's nuclear programme. Similarly Riyadh's evident eagerness to over-throw the Assad Regime, should not blind anyone to the fact that the forces that Riyadh and its fellow Gulf Monarchies in Syria are backing are (to put it very mildly indeed) no improvement at all on Bashar Assad. Indeed, one can very well believe that in Syria, the Saudis are making the same erratum, that they committed in Afghanistan in the 1980's and 1990's: supporting extremist forces for reason of internal Saudi politics 3. Simply put: the endemic blindness of Saudi domestic policy, inevitably results in a similar blindness in Saudi foreign policy 4. And while as per Secretary Kerry's recent statement on Egypt seems to show that the two powers are now much more aligned as per policy towards that country, there is a 'rift' indeed insofar as on the other matters discussed above. However, this rift, while indeed 'real' is not substantive or indeed very important in the context of the overall relationship. Since, faute de mieux, Riyadh, like Tel Aviv has no place to go as per regional or indeed supra-regional allies or alliances. Certainly not for example Moskva or for that matter Peking. However much both powers might like to complain about the maladroit style of American diplomacy in the past ten years or so, neither power is willing to go it alone without the benefit of American backing.
1. Department of State, op. cit.
2. David Gardner, "Middle East balance of power tilts back in Iran’s favour." The Financial Times. 31 October 2013, in
3. On this aspect of Saudi policy, see: Frederic Wehrey, "What to Make of Saudi Hand-Wringing." The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 15 October 2013, in
4. Frederic Wehrey, "The Eastern Province: A Bellwether for the Kingdom." The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 15 August 2013, in www.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


"We are not reassured by the often-heard explanation that everyone spies on everyone else all the time. We are not advocating a return to 1929 when Secretary of State Henry Stimson banned the decryption of diplomatic cables because “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” But there has long been an understanding that international spying was done in pursuit of a concrete threat to national security. That Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations could fall under that umbrella is an outgrowth of the post-9/11 decision by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that everyone is the enemy, and that anyone’s rights may be degraded in the name of national security. That led to Abu Ghraib, torture at the secret C.I.A. prisons, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, grave harm to international relations, and the dragnet approach to surveillance revealed by the Snowden leaks".
Editorial. "The White House on Spying". The New York Times. 28 October 2013, in
"It’s important to make a distinction between the NSA’s collection of bulk foreign Internet and phone data for counterterrorism investigations and the surveillance of political leaders. The former has helped to protect both the United States and its allies, including Germany, from al-Qaeda attacks; when it came to light last summer, Ms. Merkel helped to stifle controversy about it. The latter can be connected to counterterrorism or non-proliferation operations only with a great stretch. While there may be some circumstances where spying on a nominally friendly allied leader may be justified — former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s collaboration with Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin to counter the George W. Bush administration comes to mind — it should be rare. And it should not happen without presidential authorization and disclosure to Congress.".
Editorial, "NSA spying shows how to lose friends and alienate allies." The Washington Post. 29 October 2013, in
The recent hysterics concerning the American National Security Agencies spying programme abroad (as well as at home) has provoked a storm of outrage in both locations 1. Much of which is as per the leader in what is still the leading American broadsheet publication, The New York Times, is silly or mendacious. Since most officials will readily acknowledge privately, that allies have and always will spy on each other. As the equally outraged Financial Times own Paris correspondent wrote in their week-end edition (apropos French un-official nonchalant response to the scandal):
"A foreign diplomat in Paris said: “The French were probably aware of what had been going on. The ground rules are you use as much of what you have as much as you can and try not to miss any opportunities. That’s what all states do 2."
One would imagine that au fond, with a soupcon of Germanic naiveté, that the government in Berlin's own response is not altogether too different. However, in the real (if unfortunate) world of domestic politics and political opinion, there was not much in the way of an alternative for the government in Berlin and elsewhere other than to take the (some-what histrionic) response that it has shown so far. To the public way of mind worldwide, 'allies' do not spy on each other. That is no doubt an ignorant and one-sided way of looking at matters but it is an attitude that all governments have to take into account when responding to this type of incident. In a certain sense, I am much more willing to overlook the Merkel government's response to the entire business because in fact, the entire matter is one which was a result of the fact that the American government and indeed its spying and intelligence apparatus has not shown itself to be in any way shape or form truly 'secure'. The fact that a mere contractor employee as Edward Snowden has been able to reveal such ultra-classified information, more than a year after the previous scandal of Wikileaks, shows that this is undeniable fact. Therefore unlike say Annie Appelbaum, who explains the German response to the business by citing the prior history of the DDR, I would say that regardless of such history, the fact is that it is imperative that the American government make absolutely as secure as possible its intelligence gathering 3. Otherwise, I am afraid that there will diplomatically speaking nothing left to be done but for the American government resurrect some modern-day version of the state of affairs described in Secretary Stimson's famous saying, perhaps along the lines that "gentlemen who are allies, do not read each other’s mail".
1. See for an example: Leader, "US pays a price for spying on Merkel." The Financial Times. 28 October 2013, in
2. Hugh Carnegy, "France, a master at espionage, under few illusions on US spying." The Financial Times. 1 November 2013, in
3. Annie Appelbaum, "Spying for the sake of spying." The Washington Post. 31 October 2013, in