(Project of the Kajima Institute of International Peace)

(Proposal I)

The Shocks that shook the Transatlantic World and their Implication for Japan's Foreign Policy

HOSOYA, Yuichi
Professor, Keio University
Senior Associate, SSDP

The EU referendum in the UK in June last year that opted Brexit and the US presidential victory by Donald Trump in November brought a tremendous shock around the world. The impact will be felt not only on the politics of the two countries but also on the world order.

We need to cautiously examine the nature of the shock and how it changes the world order. At the same time, we should recognize that international relations have structurally changed over the past decade: The Emergence of rising economies, the retreat of the US and European forces from military engagements overseas, and public opinion which is strongly affected by nationalism and populism.

The changing power balance undermines the liberal order that the US has long defended, and international cooperation and international institutions have been exposed to severer criticism.

1. What Happened to the Transatlantic World?

"Revolution" has an important meaning when we examine recent big changes in the international order. The Economist, "The World in 2017", published in 2016 reads as follows.

Yet this golden age is coming to an end. This time the first shots are being fired by the right rather than the left, by the Brexiteers in Britain and Donald Trump in America. But the similarities between the collapse of the liberal order in 1917 and today are stark.1

The year 2017 when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the US president coincided with the centenary anniversary of the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks, a small group in the Russian Empire revolutionized Russia 100 year ago. Now it is the right, a minor group in contemporary society that is taking power by excluding "the Washington Establishment". It could be called a revolution.

Stephen Bannon, the closest aide to Trump has insisted the importance of revolution. He once declared proudly in 2013 the following.

I am a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment.2

Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) strongly supported Trump who wanted a revolution. Farage said early this year in Washington," Brexit and the Trump win are 'beginning of global revolution.'"3 In fact, Trump expected during the election campaign that the UK's revolution would come over to the US as "the Brexit plus".

Trump's inward stance (even in diplomacy) was criticized by the right in the Republican party. They are the neoconservatives represented by Robert Kagan, Senior Research Fellow, Brookings Institute. He said, "Think of two significant trend lines in the world today. One is the increasing ambition and activism of the two great revisionist powers, Russia and China. The other is the declining confidence, capacity, and will of the democratic world, and especially of the United States, to maintain the dominant position it has held in the international system since 1945."4

Calling for a revolution in the UK and the US could be described as a counterrevolution against the revolution lead by the neoliberalism that has developed since the 1980's. On the other hand Trump politics based on a counterrevolution against the globalization and the neoliberalism has begun to face severe criticism.

2. What kind of threats is Europe now facing?

Europe is now facing pressing threats other than challenges mentioned above. High Representative of the EU and Vice-President of the EC (HR/VP) Federica Mogherini said, "Our region (EU) is in flames, both to the East and South."5The threat from the East is an assertive Russia with a hybrid warfare it conducts on its borders with the EU, and the threat from the South is the Islamic extremism, military attacks by ISIS, and a huge immigrant flow from the South. It faces also instability in the Middle East and in North Africa.

A third threat the EU faces is an internal threat, the refugee problem, terrorism and negative impacts triggered by Brexit.6

The EU and NATO are now tested the values and missions as European countries now confront the critical threats. US president Trump undermines NATO as he doesn't make clear the US commitment to article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Trump was almost dealing a barter trade with EU, by giving the commitment provided the EU endeavored elimination of the US trade deficit. The Trump's speech at NATO was reported as follows.

When President Donald Trump addressed NATO leaders during his debut overseas trip little more than a week ago, he surprised and disappointed European allies who hoped—and expected—he would use his speech to explicitly reaffirm America's commitment to mutual defense of the alliance's members, a one-for-all, all-for-one provision that looks increasingly urgent as Eastern European members worry about the threat from a resurgent Russia on their borders.7

3. Whither NATO?

First, strengthening the collective defense against Russia is NATO's most important priority. In the summit meeting last year NATO's members agreed to a rotation for stationing of the battalion in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. They put higher priority on the article 5 mission of the collective defense than on the non-article 5 mission of the external military involvement.

NATO's allies, however, must increase their defense budgets to have an effective deterrence. Only 5 member countries have their defense budgets estimated at over 2 percentage of their GDP while the other 23 countries do not reach the 2% level. Tsuruoka, Michito, Associate Professor of Keio University said as follows.

The US is dissatisfied with NATO as the US burdens 70 percentage of the total budget and many of the member states limit their defense budgets at less than 2 percentage of their GDPs while the US keeps the level of 3.5 percentage.8

Not only President Trump but also Secretary of Defense James Mattis have made the same points. It was reported that Trump requested at the NATO summit meeting to delete the words, "strongly supports" for NATO treaty article 5 from the joint communique.

The North Atlantic alliance is therefore now in a state of anxiety. It was noted with great interest that Chancellor Merkel said after the G7 meeting, "The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over"9 with Trump.

4. The Implications for Japan's Foreign Policy

Developments in Europe are pushing Japan to assume greater responsibility. First, Japan should play a role as an advocate for the liberal international order. A Journal, Foreign Affairs, asked an question to foreign policy experts, "Is the liberal order in peril?". In response, 11experts "strongly agree", 14 agree, 4 are "neutral", 3 "disagree", and none "strongly disagree".10

A prominent scholar, John Ikenberry referred to the future of the liberal order saying, "Much will rest on the shoulders of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the only two leaders of consequence left standing who support it." 11

Japan should further make efforts toward self-help under this circumstance. Stewart M. Patrick, from the Council on Foreign Relations, focused on the importance of the return of "self-help".12 Japan should increase the self-defense budget and contribute to regional security.

The economic partnership agreement (EPA) and the strategic partnership agreement (SPA) between Japan and the EU have become important. If Japan and the EU can successfully conclude a free trade zone, this will become the biggest market in the world. The rules and practices of this market might become a global standard. The Paris Agreement from which the US withdrew will be supported by Japan and the EU. Japan has to promote world trade liberalization without the US after the US decided to withdraw from TPP.

This does not mean the creation of a world order without the US, but Japan and the EU will become much more responsible to support US leadership. When the US decides to strengthen relations with Japan and Europe the liberal order restores power and the international situation becomes stable. However, until then Japan should prepare to assume a much bigger responsibility than it ever has.

current topics