Since the last American federal election, I've been trying to come to grips with the potential geopolitical fallout from it. In a nutshell, I think they will be predominantly bad, possibly grievous. Here's why.
Over the past few years, we've seen the emergence of "the Quad," a bloc of Asian major and regional powers emerge, with a common goal of offsetting the enormous economic and geopolitical weight of Communist China. This "Quad", in the opinion of the vast majority of people writing or commenting about it, includes India, Japan, Australia, and the U.S.A. as its major constituents. Indeed, I've blogged about the military logistical assistance pact recently negotiated and formalized by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India's current Prime Minister Narendra Mohdi. In my opinion, this deal symbolizes the thinking that I believe is privately in the minds of those "Quad" powers that are not the U.S.A., namely, that the U.S.A. is no longer a reliable ally. As the Russians put it, it is "not-agreement-capable," though they maintain their public posture and rhetoric of endorsing the U.S.A.'s role as chief member of that emerging "Quad." In my own personal "version" of the "Quad," which I've been calling the "Quadruple Entente," the real fourth member is Russia, not Australia, but that may change, with the U.S.A., and not Australia, being deleted as a member of the group. I needn't rehearse here why I believe Russia may be a kind of "hidden member" of this bloc as I've done so many times previously. What remains to be explained is why I think the U.S.A., while continuing to be a major factor in the geopolitical calculus of the other members of this group, will become a negative factor in those calculations.
This is founded in two facts. The first is that few nations that are neighbors of Communist China really trust it. That's certainly the case with India and Japan, and one can include Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and others in that group. A case can be argued that this group would include Russia, which has recently been deploying more and more missile batteries to Siberia, and which recently stopped sales of sophisticated missile systems to China, while allowing the same system to be sold to India. The second is the incoming administration of Biden himself. Regardless of where one stands with respect to Biden, his family's relationship to Communist China via his son Hunter will be a factor in the geopolitical calculus of those Quad nations, whether one views the Quad in the conventional sense, or views it as including Russia as a quiet member as in my personal version of it, for they cannot escape the implication that perhaps China now has strong influence in the White House. Some of those nations - particularly Japan and India - might even go so far as to view the situation as being one of a Chinese agent of influence occupying the White House. Accordingly, their posture will again be one of public official support, but strong private reservations. And those strong private reservations will only further strengthen the impulse to craft security agreements and arrangements to provide for the "worst case scenario" of the U.S.A. no longer being a reliable "agreement capable" ally. The same sort of geopolitical calculus applies to Russia, especially given the relationship of Biden to the events in The Ukraine that heightened tensions between the U.S.A. and Russia. The view from Moscow is thus likely to be one that reinforces the view that the U.S.A. is even more than previously "not-agreement-capable."
Which brings me to today's article shared by W.G.:
There are a number of "little things" to note about this article, for they're not so little viewed against this geopolitical context. Firstly, the date: January 7, 2021, just last week, and more importantly, a day after the certification of Biden as President-elect. Secondly, the article's author is Russian: Vladimir Terehov. With that in mind, note the opening paragraphs:
The proposed budget posted on the Japanese Ministry of Defense website for this agency for the next financial year, subject to approval during the upcoming regular session of parliament, is worthy of attention for several reasons.
First of all, this is because its main provisions attest to the fact that the entire process of the country’s military development has taken on a new quality. One very important intermediate result of this in the coming years will be the formation of full-fledged armed forces that are capable of fulfilling both of the “traditional”objectives that are set for the armed forces in all “normal” states. These objectives are to ensure the defense of these forces’ own country if there is an armed attack from the outside and to commit attacks (naturally, “pre-emptive” ones) to foil a political opponent’s hostile plans.
Until the beginning of the 2000s, in accordance with the bilateral Security Treaty of 1960 fulfilling both these objectives was chiefly the responsibility of the United States. And this despite the fact that the process of gradually forming its own armed forces, which are still called by the euphemism “Self-Defense Forces” was initiated in Japan in the mid-1950s.
It is worth noting that Japan itself does not have the right to provide military assistance to a key ally, due to the restrictions stipulated in Article 9 in its 1947 Constitution, which is still in force. Incidentally, according to that same article Japan also does not have any armed forces – something which long ago started to look like a blatant absurdity. However, that does not bother the Japanese average citizen at all, who stubbornly refuses to “understand” the desire on the part of the country’s leadership to finally bring the country’s Basic Law in line with reality. (Emphasis added)
In other words, the principal opposition in Japan to a full-scale rearmament and expanded military posture, as in Germany, remains the population, which does not want to repeat the militarism of the Axis powers. But "the reality" Mr. Terehov refers to is far distant from that. The reality, with the decline of the U.S.A., and now a possible strong Chinese influence in the White House, is that it is now essential for Japan to overcome its post-war pacifism, and re-assume its role as a great power.
To this end, as a reading of the article will demonstrate, Japan has developed a number of new weapons systems, some basically cloned from American systems, and some - notably anti-missile missiles and cruise missiles - developed entirely by Japan itself. At the very end of this article however, one encounters two statements, both highly important. The first concerns the potential revival of Japanese militarism:
It would seem that this is the right time to wind up a street organ singing propaganda on the theme of “the revival of Japanese militarism”. But the author is not going to become involved in this, because the set of facts given above is clearly not sufficient for this. Until now, one of the main characteristics in all this has not been pointed out – one which reflects the level of the burden created on the country by defense spending. And although the absolute annual figure looks very considerable (about 50 billion USD on average over the past few years, with a slight uptick), it is only 1% of Japan’s GDP. That is, in terms of its relative indicator the Japanese lag several times behind other participants in the pool of leading world players who are doing more or less the same things in the field of military construction.
In other words, after reviewing the various weapons systems deployed or being developed by Japan, and noting the size of its military budget relative to its (enormous) GDP, Mr. Terehov concludes that there's nothing to worry about on that score. Then, at the end of his article, there's this:
Although having modern armed forces also does not hurt. And the Japanese leadership’s awareness of this fact will play an ever-increasing role in the country’s process of nation-building. There is also no doubt that over subsequent years, as Japan “normalizes”, the issues involved in its defense will increasingly be resolved by it relying on its own potential. (Emphasis added)
Japan "relying on its own potential" means Japan not relying on America's potential, and this, notably, Mr. Terehov does not challenge as being a bad thing.
Putting all this together, my high octane speculation here is that this is a clear, though unofficial, message from Russia saying "go ahead, rearm, we don't mind," because a re-armed Japan will be much less subservient to the USA, a counter-weight to China, and a source of capital and technology for Russia that by-passes China, and can aid Russian designs to build out infrastructure in Siberia. The two nations have already tabled the thorny issue of the northern islands Russia seized from Japan at the end of World War Two. And there's another potential lurking in the article: as Russia can get some of the technology and capital it needs to build out Siberian infrastructure from Japan, so too Japan need not necessarily rely on American technology transfers for its military. Than can just as easily come from Russia. So if one hears of such deals in the future, write it down to geopolitical fallout from this election, and to the game really being afoot.
See you on the flip side...